Reference > Quotations > S. Austin Allibone, comp. > Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay
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S. Austin Allibone, comp.  Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay.  1880.
 
Virgil
 
  The greatest modern critics have laid it down as a rule, That an heroic poem should be founded upon some important precept of morality, adapted to the constitution of the country in which the poet writes. Homer and Virgil have formed their plans in this view.
Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 70.    
  1
 
  Thus Cowley in his poem on the Resurrection, mentioning the destruction of the universe, has these admirable lines:
        Now all the wide extended sky,
And all th’ harmonious worlds on high,
And Virgil’s sacred work, shall die.
Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 166.    
  2
 
  I need not tell my reader that I here point at the reign of Augustus; and I believe he will be of my opinion, that neither Virgil nor Horace would have gained so great a reputation in the world, had they not been the friends and admirers of each other. Indeed, all the great writers of that age, for whom singly we have so great an esteem, stand up together as vouchers for one another’s reputation, But at the same time that Virgil was celebrated by Gallus, Propertius, Horace, Varius, Tucca, and Ovid, we know that Bavius and Mævius were his declared foes and calumniators.
Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 253.    
  3
 
  Virgil falls infinitely short of Homer in the characters of his poem, both as to their variety and novelty. Æneas is indeed a perfect character; but as for Achates, though he is styled the hero’s friend, he does nothing in the whole poem which may deserve that title. Gyas, Mnestheus, Sergestus, and Cloanthes, are all of them men of the same stamp and character.
Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 273.    
  4
 
  Nor is it sufficient for an epic poem to be filled with such thoughts as are natural, unless it abound also with such as are sublime. Virgil in this particular falls short of Homer. He has not indeed so many thoughts that are low and vulgar; but at the same time has not so many thoughts that are sublime and noble. The truth of it is, Virgil seldom rises into very astonishing sentiments, when he is not fired by the Iliad. He everywhere charms and pleases us by the force of his own genius; but seldom elevates and transports us where he does not fetch his hints from Homer.
Joseph Addison: Spectator, No. 279.    
  5
 
  Virgil and Horace, spying the unperfectness in Ennius and Plautus, by true imitation of Homer and Euripides, brought poetry to perfection.
Roger Ascham.    
  6
 
  A top may be used with propriety in a similitude by a Virgil, when the sun may be dishonoured by a Mævius.
William Broome.    
  7
 
  Virgil, after Homer’s example, gives us a transformation of Æneas’s ships into sea-nymphs.
William Broome.    
  8
 
  This tendency, however, to ascribe an universality of genius to great men, led Dryden to affirm, on the strength of two smart satirical lines, that Virgil could have written a satire equal to Juvenal. But, with all due deference to Dryden, I conceive it much more manifest that Juvenal could have written a better epic than Virgil than that Virgil could have written a satire equal to Juvenal. Juvenal has many passages of the moral sublime far superior to any that can be found in Virgil, who, indeed, seldom attempts a higher flight than the sublime of description. Had Lucan lived, he might have rivalled them both, as he had all the vigour of the one, and time might have furnished him with the taste and elegance of the other.
Charles Caleb Colton: Lacon.    
  9
 
  I have studied Virgil’s design, his disposition of it, his manners, his judicious management of the figures, the sober retrenchments of his sense, which always leaves somewhat to gratify our imagination, on which it may enlarge at pleasure; but, above all, the elegance of his expression, and the harmony of his numbers.
John Dryden: Dedicat. Æneid.    
  10
 
  There is an inimitable grace in Virgil’s words, and in them principally consists that beauty which gives so inexpressible a pleasure to him who best understands their force. This diction of his (I must once again say) is never to be copied; and since it cannot, he will appear but lame in the best translation.
John Dryden.    
  11
 
  Virgil is so exact in every word that none can be changed but for a worse: he pretends sometimes to trip, but it is to make you think him in danger when most secure.
John Dryden.    
  12
 
  Virgil, above all poets, had a stock, which I may call almost inexhaustible, of figurative, elegant, and sounding words.
John Dryden.    
  13
 
  I looked on Virgil as a succinct, majestic writer; one who weighed not only every thought, but every word and syllable.
John Dryden.    
  14
 
  This exact propriety of Virgil I particularly regarded as a great part of his character, but must confess that I have not been able to make him appear wholly like himself. For where the original is close, no version can reach it in the same compass.
John Dryden.    
  15
 
 
 
  Virgil, more discreet than Homer, has contented himself with the partiality of his heroes, without bringing them to the outrageousness of blows.
John Dryden.    
  16
 
  [Tasso] is full of conceits, points of epigram, and witticisms. Virgil and Homer have not one of them.
John Dryden.    
  17
 
  The morality of a grave sentence, affected by Lucan, is more sparingly used by Virgil.
John Dryden.    
  18
 
  There is a difference betwixt daring and foolhardiness: Lucan and Statius often ventured them too far; our Virgil never.
John Dryden.    
  19
 
  Mæcenas recommended Virgil and Horace to Augustus, whose praises helped to make him popular while alive, and after his death have made him precious to posterity.
John Dryden.    
  20
 
  Two lines in Mezentius and Lausus are indeed remotely allied in Virgil’s sense, but too like the tenderness of Ovid.
John Dryden.    
  21
 
  Virgil observes, like Theocritus, a just decorum both of the subjects and persons, as in the third pastoral, where one of his shepherds describes a bowl, or mazor, curiously carved.
John Dryden.    
  22
 
  Virgil if he could have seen the first verses of the Sylvæ would have thought Statius mad in his fustian description of the statue on the brazen horse.
John Dryden: Dufresnoy.    
  23
 
  Virgil could have excelled Varius in tragedy, and Horace in lyric poetry, but out of deference to his friends he attempted neither.
John Dryden.    
  24
 
  We read in the Life of Virgil how far his natalitial poplar had outstripped the rest of his contemporaries.
John Evelyn.    
  25
 
  The warmest admirers of the great Mantuan poet can extol him for little more than the skill with which he has, by making his hero both a traveller and a warrior, united the beauties of the Iliad and the Odyssey in one composition; yet his judgment was perhaps sometimes overborne by his avarice of the Homeric treasures; and for fear of suffering a sparkling ornament to be lost, he has inserted it where it cannot shine with the original splendour.
Dr. Samuel Johnson: Rambler, No. 121.    
  26
 
  It is therefore necessary to inquire after some more distinct and exact idea of this kind of writing. This may, I think, be easily found in the pastorals of Virgil, from whose opinion it will not appear very safe to depart, if we consider that every advantage of nature, and of fortune, concurred to complete his productions; that he was born with great accuracy and severity of judgment, enlightened with all the learning of one of the brightest ages, and embellished with the elegance of the Roman court; that he employed his powers rather in improving than inventing, and therefore must have endeavoured to recompense the want of novelty by exactness; that, taking Theocritus for his original, he found pastoral far advanced towards perfection, and that, having so great a rival, he must have proceeded with uncommon caution.
Dr. Samuel Johnson: Rambler, No. 37.    
  27
 
  Several lines in Virgil are not altogether tunable to a modern ear.
Sir Samuel Garth.    
  28
 
  The hypallage, of which Virgil is fonder than any other writer, is much the gravest fault in language.
Walter Savage Landor.    
  29
 
  The Roman Epic abounds in moral and poetical defects; nevertheless it remains the most complete picture of the national mind at its highest elevation; the most precious document of national history, if the history of an age is recorded in its ideas, no less than in its events and incidents.
Charles Merivale: History of the Romans under the Empire, c. xli.    
  30
 
  I agree with you in your censure of the sea terms in Dryden’s Virgil, because no terms of art, or cant words, suit the majesty of epic poetry.
Alexander Pope.    
  31
 
  Virgil exceeds Theocritus in regularity and brevity, and falls short of him in nothing but simplicity and propriety of style.
Alexander Pope.    
  32
 
  I came home a little later than usual the other night; and, not finding myself inclined to sleep, I took up Virgil to divert me until I should be more disposed to rest. He is the author whom I always choose on such occasions; no one writing in so divine, so harmonious, nor so equal a strain, which leaves the mind composed and softened into an agreeable melancholy: the temper in which, of all others, I choose to close the day. The passages I turned to were those beautiful raptures in his Georgics, where he professes himself entirely given up to the Muses, and smit with the love of poetry, passionately wishing to be transported to the cool shades and retirements of the mountain Hæmus.
Sir Richard Steele: Spectator, No. 514.    
  33
 
  Virgil was so critical in the rites of religion that he would never have brought in such prayers as these, if they had not been agreeable to the Roman customs.
Edward Stillingfleet.    
  34
 
 
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