Balance and Proportion

Georgic mimesis is also deliberately contrastive. As Wilkinson observes, Virgil is a master of vivid relief, and the versatile mode he invented is distinguished by "artistic principles of balance and contrast, interplay of great and small, chiaroscuro of light and shade, striking juxtapositions . . .of gaiety and grimness, humor and pathos, mythology and modernity, [native] and foreign" (1969: 72).

Georgic, then, is devoted to picking out contrasts in a conjunctive vein, passing easily from one subject to another "by association of ideas" (Rothstein 1981: 148). Yet its discursive manner is deceptive, or rather artful: georgic only ostensibly rambles. In fact the poet may usually be relied on to pick his way methodically as he demonstrates basic principles of balance and proportion, teaching how to avoid or temper extremes — the cardinal lessons of georgic instruction. Using the demonstration of basic principles as a structuring device, the poet implicitly invites figurative applications and topical readings. For instance, in Philips's passage contrasting his exemplary Virgilian "frugal Man" with fraudulent ciderists (Cyder, ii. 115—45) the reader recognizes a familiar pattern in which frugality is shown first in a state of well-tempered proportion and then, by contrast, gone wrong. The Virgilian ciderist ripens prematurely fallen apples in hay-wreathed tumps, illustrating frugality in its benign aspect. Unscrupulous dealers, on the other hand, eke out their cider by mixing in turnip juice. Worse still, Devonshire cider-makers boil the must, killing the fruit's "spirit";

extraneous yeasts would then be added to ferment an unnaturally strong drink. These bad ciderists illustrate avarice, or "frugality" in its malign aspect. Contrasts and parallels support the structural logic. The artificial heat of the cider-cooker contrasts with "the Sun's mellowing Beams." The fraudulent blenders and cider-makers of Cyder, Book II, counterbalance the avaricious soil-improvers of Book I, who were rebuked for importing foreign soils (ll. 119—25). This underscores Philips's injunction, variously reiterated throughout his poem, to honor the native material — a moral which, coupled with references to things "foreign" in a pejorative sense, easily suggests a hostile allusion to the Hanoverian succession. Britain's various soils represent, like the nation's constitution, mixture in its benign aspect (Fairer 2003a: 93), while "Foreign Vintage, insincere, and mixt" (Cyder, i. 531) is censured.

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