Wednesday Quotes
Fields Bereft of Tillers
June 24, 2015

Field with Oilwell

“For right and wrong change places; everywhere
So many wars, so many shapes of crime
Confront us; no honor attends the plow,
The fields, bereft of tillers, are all unkempt…” Virgil, The Georgics

So many wars; so many different shapes of evil. Right and wrong themselves have changed places. What was once seen as unacceptable, even perverse, has become acceptable, even praised, while what was sacred has been trampled, and what should be most protected has been defiled.

Virgil yokes great social and moral evils with how we care for the land. Fields that are empty—or in any case empty of ’tillers’—are a sign of devastation. The honor we give the plow—the noble even if sometimes misused instrument of one who cares for and cultivates the earth—is taken as a gauge of our moral compass.

These are challenging, even confusing, connections. We are not used to thinking in these terms. Yet last week a letter from a religious leader in Rome made connections notably akin to Virgil’s. Are we able, are we willing to consider anew a line of thinking that is as ancient as it is urgent?

Virgil (70-19 B.C.) is the great Roman poet, author of The Aeneid and The Georgics. In the Divine Comedy Virgil appears as Dante’s guide through hell and purgatory.

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  1. Dr. Cuddeback, I hope you will write more of your thoughts on Laudato Si. Someone who has an actual life experience of respect for the environment would be most helpful to understanding the document. Catholic commentaries I’ve read all seem to have an axe to grind politically.

    1. Patricia, Thank you very much. I will indeed be writing about Laudato Si after I study it for a little while. You will be able to find it here.

      1. I am looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on the encyclical. Sounds like a good topic for the Institute of Catholic Culture!!

  2. Elizabeth Perdomo

    Wonderful piece! This is a bit more modern poem I wrote which touches on the subject, at least upon the fields:

    Abandoned Fields

    Fields lie fallow,
    Far from intended purpose,
    Pastures now an unfenced history,
    A widowed elder with no safe passage

    & asphalt town sprawl
    Comes just across a once
    Rural two lane highway; rolling into
    An opportunistic heir’s nonprotective trust.

    It speaks promised lines
    In past tense; foretells futures
    Sealed in crumbled harvests, flattened,
    Into an unfertile concrete destiny.

    Field of dreams,
    But no more of birdsongs,
    Nor of secret spring burrows rich with life,
    Not for dragonfly who danced her last eggfall,
    Precariously trusting a marshy edge.

    Once fertile fields
    Where rich rain pledges fell
    Often too plenty or came too late,
    A cracked season sown & lost,

    Now an impudent army
    Of small cedar & sapling pines
    Advance in bold protest, all perimeter
    Lines past forgotten like old survey posts.

    Volunteer trees set up camp,
    A rooted yet undisciplined company,
    An ironic scattered witness; persistent
    Squatters, temporary growth

    Awaiting some inevitable victory
    Soon to come, soil rolled under by some
    Large yellow dozer, here to claim
    Another fallen field’s wealth.

    Elizabeth Perdomo

    1. This is lovely, Elizabeth. .

  3. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20 I so fear for our country and the direction we are headed.

    God Bless

  4. Kirsty Cardinale

    Thinking how relevant your first paragraph is to the most recent, terrible Court ruling.

    I really enjoy your musings. Just wish they were longer!

    Kirsty Cardinale