i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

Cato, The Farmer's Son

April 26, 2005

The first thing I noticed in Elizabeth Bishop's The Farmer's Children were the names of the farmer's two sons from his prvious marriage. I'm already familiar with Emerson, but I didn't know Cato. Here's what I found:

"Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman statesman, orator, writer, and defender of conservative Roman Republican ideas who lived between 234 and 149 BC. He was born into a wealthy family of Roman landholders during the early Republican period on a farm in the city of Tusculum, southeast of present–day Rome. His early farm upbringing resulted in a lifelong interest in agriculture and the writing of his De Agri Cultura in 160 BC which is the oldest Latin literary encyclopedia in existence today."

Oh, hey! This is interesting:

"Cato served as a quaestor under Scipio Africanus in 204 BC."

A quaestor is "any of various public officials in ancient Rome responsible for finance and administration in various areas of government and the military." But that's not the interesting part: We read The Parliment of Fowles & The Nun's Priest's Tale in Chaucer this semester, both of which mention Scipio Africanus.

"Cato lived modestly on a simple farm, ate with his servants, acted moderately and did not believe in overworking his slaves, though they were sold when they became old or ill and were no longer wanted."

Turns out the name Cato is pretty appropriate for a farmer's son, eh? Neat.

Moira at 04:29 PM :: Comments (2) :: « :: »

That is very interesting. I hadn't really given much thought to the names of the boys. It is interesting how a name keeps a secret in a story and then when you find out the meaning it fits in like a puzzle piece.

Posted by: Mary Anderson at April 28, 2005 09:50 PM

Good call, Moria.

It used to be that all educated speakers of English had a common intellectual heritage, gained through the classical books that were taught as part of the liberal arts curriculum.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at April 29, 2005 09:27 AM
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