Virgo, from Uranometria by Johannes Bayer                Beneath the Ploughman’s heels
A Maiden holds a golden ear of corn.
Whether, as poets rumor, she was born
The daughter of Astraeus, (who, they say,
First sired the stars) or some god else, I pray
Her coming bring no evil. Some maintain
She used to walk earth and did not disdain
To meet the tribes of mortals face-to-face.
Though born divine, she joined the human race.
Her name was Justice then; packing the squares
And thoroughfares with seasoned counselors,
She promulgated what was fair and right.
Humans had never heard the hiss of spite,
The bellow of quarrel and the cry of war.
The wicked sea churned at a distance; oar
And sail had never shipped our livelihood.
Cows, plows and Justice, giver of the good
And queen of peoples, furnished everything.
So long as land alone was nourishing
The Golden Race, she only lived on land.
Though later stooping low to hold the hand
Of the Silver children, she still tread the earth
Yearning for ways and men of greater worth.

From twilit foothills she would steal alone
And chasten humans in a harsher tone.
While gawkers hunkered on a mountainside
She would give speeches from the peak, deride
Their crimes and swear that she would keep her distance
However much they cried out for assistance:
“What trash your golden fathers have begotten!
O, your descendants shall be still more rotten—
Burdens of blood and war shall bow their backs,
Conscience shall crush them.” She retraced her tracks
Down to the foothills when she had her say,
And all the people watched her walk away.
When they were dead, a fiercer Brazen race
Inherited—the first men to unbrace
Cows from a plowshare so that they might gorge
On flesh instead of grain, the first to forge
Marauders’ trouble-making scimitars.
Justice turned misanthrope and joined the stars.
She still appears in heaven where at night
The Maiden wheels above us, near the bright
Plowman.

Aratus. translated, with an introduction and notes, by Aaron Poochigian. Phaenomena. © 2010 The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Reprinted with permission of The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Image Credit: Johannes Bayer, courtesy of The United States Naval Observatory Library

Aaron Poochigian was born in 1973. He attended Moorhead State University from 1991 to 1996 where he studied under the poets Tim Murphy, Dave Mason and Alan Sullivan. He entered graduate school for Classics in 1997 at the University of Minnesota. After traveling and doing research in Greece on fellowship from 2003-4, he earned his Phd in Classics in 2006. He was a visiting professor of Classics at the University of Utah in 2007-8 and D.L. Jordon Fellow at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia from 2008-2009. He now lives and writes in New York City.

He has recently completed translations, with introduction and notes, of Sappho’s poems and fragments for Penguin Classics. His translations of Aeschylus, Aratus and Apollonius of Rhodes appeared in the Norton Anthology of Greek Literature in Translation, and Johns Hopkins University Press put out his edition of Aratus’ astronomical poem, The Phaenomena, with his introduction and notes, in the Spring of 2010. His original poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Arion, The Dark Horse, Poetry Magazine and Smartish Pace.