Mark, when you hear the voice of the crane1
who cries year by year from the clouds above,
for she gives the signal for ploughing and shows the season of rainy winter; but she vexes the heart of the man who has no oxen. Then is the time to feed up your horned oxen in the byre; for it is easy to say: “Give me a yoke of oxen and a wagon,” and it is easy to refuse: “I have work for my oxen.”
The man who is rich in fancy thinks his wagon as good as built already—the fool! he does not know that there are a hundred timbers to a wagon. Take care to lay these up beforehand at home.
So soon as the time for ploughing is proclaimed to men, then make haste, you and your slaves alike,
in wet and in dry, to plough in the season for ploughing, and bestir yourself early in the morning so that your fields may be full. Plough in the spring; but fallow broken up in the summer will not belie your hopes. Sow fallow land when the soil is still getting light: fallow land is a defender from harm and a soother of children.
Pray to Zeus of the Earth and to pure Demeter to make Demeter's holy grain sound and heavy, when first you begin ploughing, when you hold in your hand the end of the plough-tail and bring down your stick on the backs of the oxen as they draw on the pole-bar by the yoke-straps.
Let a slave follow a little behind with a mattock and make trouble for the birds by hiding the seed; for good management is the best for mortal men as bad management is the worst. In this way your corn-ears will bow to the ground with fullness if the Olympian himself gives a good result at the last,
and you will sweep the cobwebs from your bins and you will be glad, I think, as you take of your garnered substance. And so you will have plenty till you come to grey2
springtime, and will not look wistfully to others, but another shall be in need of your help.