Essential Passage 1: Book I
When Saturn fell to the dark Underworld
And Jove reigned upon earth, the silver race
Replaced the gold, inferior, yet in worth
Above the tawny bronze. Then Jupiter
Curtailed the pristine spring and led the year
Through winter, summer, autumn’s varying days
And brief precarious spring in seasons four.
Then first the blazing sky with torrid heat
Sweltered, and ice hung frozen in the gale;
Then men sought shelter—shelter under caves
And thickets and rough hurdles bound with bark;
Then in long furrows first were set the seeds
Of grain and oxen groaned beneath the yoke.
In the beginning there was nothing but Chaos, a disordered mass of matter. Then Nature began the process of Creation by separating the elements, the air, and ether from the land and water. Plant life and animal life were set forth on the earth, followed by the creation of Man, who looked up to Heaven, as the animals looked down to earth. There were five climatic regions of the earth (equatorial, two temperate, and two polar zones), yet there were still no seasons. Human beings found shelter in caves or rude shelters. Over all this ruled Saturn, the king of the Titans. It was the Golden Age, when all was at peace. No conflict existed between the elements or living things.
However, in the divine realm, there was discord. Saturn was killed by his son Jove (Jupiter). The Golden Age came to an end and gave way to the Age of Silver, with Jupiter as its king. During this age came the seasons of winter, spring, summer, and winter. Mankind was still at peace. They had learned to gain food from toil in the ground, and to build houses. However, their gains came at a cost: freedom for man meant enslavement for animals.
Essential Passage 2: Book II
The Almighty Father made the anxious round
Of heaven’s vast bastions to ensure that none,
Enfeebled by the fire’s assault, should fall;
And seeing all were sound, their strength intact,
Surveyed the earth and the affairs of men.
His own Arcadia was his weightiest care;
Her springs and rivers, fearing still to flow,
He primed anew, gave verdure to the fields,
Leaves to the trees and bade the ravaged woods
Grow green again. And as he came and went,
Busy, there caught his eye a country nymph
Of Nonacris and love flared in his heart.
She was no girl to spin soft skeins of wool
Or vary her hair-style; a buckle held
Her dress, a plan white band her straggling hair.
She carried a light spear—sometimes a bow—
Diana’s warrior; none so high as she
In Dian’s favour on the mountain slopes
Of Maenalus; but favourites soon fall.
One afternoon, the sun still riding high,
She found a glade deep in the virgin woods
And there unstrung her bow, took off her quiver,
And lay down on the grass, the coloured case
A pillow for her head. Jove saw her there,
Weary and unprotected and alone.
‘This prank’, he thought, ‘my wife will never learn,
Or should she, all her scolding’s worth the prize.
Phaeton, the son of the sun god Apollo, has come close to destroying the earth by fire, having taken...
(The entire section is 1394 words.)