Eighteenth-century English poetry, epic in technique and idiom even when not epic in scale, has some unusual ways of telling stories on a multicontinental scale—stories, that is, that are not confined to localities nor even to nations. This is a feat that novels struggle to replicate. The georgic is especially interesting in this regard, since the genre is officially agrarian and provincial—the poetry of a certain crop or USDA growing zone. And yet georgic poems in English almost always take an epic and planetary turn. William Cowper's The Task shows how a poem seemingly rooted in place can nonetheless begin to map much larger systems.

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