University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Abstract: Bök

"Colony Collapse Disorder: A translation of 'The Georgics (Book IV)' by Virgil"

Colony Collapse Disorder is a long, dark poem that translates Book IV of The Georgics by Virgil—(a “pastoral nocturne,” which provides Virgil a pretense for retelling the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice). Virgil addresses his patron, the Roman general, Gaius Maecenas, offering him advice about beekeeping, only to digress by retelling the story of Aristaeus, a shepherd, who must undergo a quest to recuperate his empty hives, saving his lost bees, all destroyed, as punishment, for him having caused the death of Eurydice.

 Virgil retells the story of the poet Orpheus, who sets off to rescue his lover Eurydice from Hell, but in a crisis of faith, fails to bring her back; likewise, Virgil retells the story of Aristaeus who sets off to rescue his bees from Hell, expiating a sin through rituals of sacrifice. Given that Virgil portrays the bees, as kind of army in the poem, I cannot help interpret his manual about beekeeping as a kind of allegory about the expiations required of a general who sends his troops to Hell, but finds himself unable to bring them home.

Book IV of The Georgics also takes on special meaning for a modern reader in an era, when the bees are threatened with extinction. Like Aristaeus, we have condemned our hives to Hell, all the while remaining uncertain about whether or not we can even bring them back—and if we cannot rescue the bees, then we may, be damning humanity itself to Hell, doing so at the very time, when there may not exist enough animals to sacrifice so as to appease our angered deities, before we ourselves disappear from the planet.

Wednesday, March 4, CHD 420 at 3:00pm