Virgil Quotation and Ardgrain Motto

Discover why a quote from the Roman poet and author, Virgil, was carved above the Ardgrain doors


The Virgil Quote

Carved into a weathered stone, directly above the main double doors at Ardgrain, is a quotation taken from the classical Roman poet and author, Virgil. Publius Vergilius Maro lived between October 15, 70 BC and September 21, 19 BC, and became known in English as 'Virgil' or 'Vergil'.

According to legend, Virgil was said to be born in the village of Andes, which is now in Northern Italy. Andes was near Mantua in Cisalpine Gaul. However some historians and scholars have maintained that Virgil was of Celtic ancestry, based upon a perceived "Celtic" strain in his verse.

Medieval peoples attributed magical powers to the poet Virgil, and his texts were popular with medieval scholars. Even his name was adapted from Vergilius to Virgil, Virga being Latin for wand. His popularity during the middle ages may explain why a translation of his text was chosen to place above the Ardgrain main entrance:

"How happy would the husbandman be if he knew his own good."

Below which has been added a motto:

"Let improvements and liberty flourish."

The English text which is carved above the door has V place of U. The Virgil original text, in Latin, reads as:

'O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint, agricolas!'

The Georgics

The text itself comes from one of Virgil's epic poems, the Georgics, published in 29 BC, and whose theme revolves around rural life, farming and agriculture. The original text, which appears in the second book, could have been translated and interpreted in various ways. Some examples include:

Ah too fortunate the husbandmen, did they know their own felicity!
O happy husbandmen! too happy, should they come to know their blessings!
Oh! all too happy tillers of the soil, Could they but know their blessedness!
Oh happy, if he knew his happy state! The Swain... (Dryden, 1697)
Oh happy Swains, if their own good they knew! (Ogilby, 1654)
O Happy Swains, if they but knew their Joys (5th Earl of Lauderdale, 1737)

To put the Ardgrain quotation into context, a small excerpt of the translated text reads as:

How happy would the husbandman be if he knew his own good! on whom far from the clash of arms Earth their most just mistress lavishes from the soil a plenteous sustenance.
Though no high proud-portalled house pours forth the vast tide of morning visitants that fill her halls; though they feed no gaze on doors inlaid with lovely tortoise-shell or raiment tricked out with gold or bronzes of Ephyre; though the fleece's whiteness is not stained with Assyrian dye nor the clear olive-oil spoiled for use with cinnamon; but careless quiet and life ignorant of disappointment, wealthy in manifold riches, but the peace of broad lands, caverns and living lakes, and cool pleasances and the lowing of oxen and soft slumbers beneath the tree fail not there; there are the glades and covers of game, and youth hardy in toil and trained to simplicity, divine worship and reverend age; among them justice set her last footprints as she passed away from earth.

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