May 26, 2021

—for Prof. George Mason, who tried to teach me Latin

Time permits this: early summer, and on the little deck
with the round table, just wide enough for a book
and my mug of coffee, I find pleasure in an hour before the heat,
in the washed-air freshness that stays from last night’s long rain,
and read a few lines from the Georgics (which Dryden calls
“the best poem of the best poet,” and I think he might be right).
On mornings like this, Virgil says, the bees build nests
and cherish their young, nescio qua dulcedine laetae.
The translator of the crib in the Loeb edition, usually precise
and graceful, calls the bees, “glad with some strange joy.”
That is fair enough, but on this rare morning I prefer
something humbler, more literal, at ease with the frank
noting of human limit in Virgil’s nescio.
Here the bees are “happy with I don’t know what sweetness.”