Coming Storm

“That day when Turnus raised the flag of war…
The high commanders…
From every quarter drew repeated levies
And laid the wide fields waste of their field hands.”
Virgil, The Aeneid

I have always been alarmed by the ease with which a sand castle is stomped down by a bully.

We usually do not think of field hands when we think of war. Not so for Virgil, that lover of cultivated fields: in singing of war he reminds us of husbandmen. A close look at war, its past and its present, makes clear who often suffers the most—the poor, the laborers, those whose work with their hands sustains human life in its daily needs.

We might with Virgil consider especially the farmers. Their fields are themselves laid waste; or the jolt to the ‘economy’ might hit them, who are usually close to the margin, the hardest. And of course they are levied, conscripted, leaving their fields behind to fight a war that often is remote from their own immediate concerns.

What husbandmen do and build is so vulnerable; of necessity it is always ‘outside the walls,’ open to the plunder of those passing by.

Many of the most important things in our life are like a farmer’s fields. It takes years, tears, and love to cultivate them. But we cannot keep them from harm. They make us vulnerable.

And yet they can be surpassingly beautiful. And fruitful.

A ‘husband’ can never hide his life’s work. Nor can he simply lock it within walls. But he labors on, with confidence. That is how it should be.

Many young men dream of being strong, of having power, and perhaps of defending their home. These can be noble aspirations. But life itself is really in cultivating something, something that is worth defending. And while we won’t always be in a position to defend it, the world will never be the same, for our having done what we did.

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

Image: The Coming Storm, by George Innes (1825-1894)

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns

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John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is baconfromacorns.com.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent.

    John, I may have mentioned this previously, but are you familiar with the UK publisher Little Toller Books? They are quietly reprinting many rural and nature classics from earlier times, as well as publishing some new works also. The books are handsomely done and reasonably priced. They have to do largely with English environs, situations, etc., but many of the insights are quite applicable to us here in the U.S.

    http://littletoller.co.uk/

    • Rob, I don’t think you have mentioned it. That looks great, and I am very happy to know about it. Thanks very much.

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