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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Virgil (70–19 B.C.)
Critical and Biographical Introduction by William Cranston Lawton (1853–1941)
 
PUBLIUS VERGILIUS MARO, purest, sweetest, gentlest, best beloved among all poets since the dawn of civilization, was born at Andes, a village near Mantua. His birthplace, his name, perhaps too his wealth of romantic imagination, may indicate Keltic origin. At any rate, his father was a man of humble station, some say a potter, who married his master’s daughter, Magia. (This name of Virgil’s mother helped on the wild mediæval invention of Virgil the magician.) As Transpadanes, the family naturally shared the general gratitude toward the great Julius, always their especial champion, who in 49 B.C. conferred full Roman citizenship upon the provincials. Virgil apparently never had personal relations with Catullus, Calvus, and their brilliant group of young aristocrats and anti-Cæsarian poets.  1
  His education was not defective, certainly. He studied both at Milan and in Rome. A doubtful tradition makes him the fellow-student of Antony and Augustus. In a youthful poem, perhaps authentic, he takes reluctant farewell of verse, when devoting himself to philosophy as the pupil of the Epicurean sage Siron:—
  “Begone, O Muses: ay, begone,—although
Sweet Muses; for we will the truth confess,
Sweet have ye been! And on my pages look
Ye yet again,—but modestly, nor oft.”
The undertone of doubt in these words proved doubly prophetic. Much in the tranquil Epicurean acceptance of life,—and much indeed of Lucretius’s grandest harmonies and large view of nature’s eternal pageant,—the Augustan poet-laureate always retained. Perhaps he even envies that most fearless and lofty of atheistic philosophers:—
  “Happy the man whose steadfast eye surveys
The whole world’s truth, its hidden works and ways,—
Happy, who thus beneath his feet has thrown
All fears and fates, and Hell’s insatiate moan!”
(‘Georgics,’ ii. 490–492, translation of Frederic William Henry Myers.)    
These lines are generally supposed to be a direct tribute to Lucretius. But Virgil’s intensely religious and even mystical spirit clung most anxiously to those two beliefs which Lucretius puts scornfully behind him: the faith in all-wise, all-powerful Divine beings, and in the soul’s existence after death.
  2
  Virgil was certainly no untutored child of the soil, like Burns. Even more than his friend Horace, he everywhere reveals the loftiest refinement, and lifelong loving familiarity with the best in literature and art. He turns away, indeed, like Lucretius, and far more heartily than worldly-minded Horace, from the splendor and the noisy throng of clients in ministerial palaces, to seek refreshment on nature’s heart.

  “Oh, happy beyond all happiness—did they
  Their weal but know—those husbandmen obscure,
Whose life, deep hidden from strife of arms away,
  The all-righteous earth and kind doth well secure.
What though for them no towering mansion pours
At early morning, forth of its haughty doors
  And halls, a surge of courtiers untold,
Gaping on the rich portals, as they pass,
  Fair with mosaic of tortoise-shell, the gold
Of broidered vestments and the Corinthian brass?…
  
“But they are at peace in life, in guile untaught,
  And dowered with manifold riches. Theirs the ease
Of acres ample, and many a shady grot,
  And slumber of sweetness under sheltering trees,
And living lakes, and the cool of Tempe’s valley,
And the lowing of herds are theirs continually;
Theirs are the haunts of game on the wooded hill;
  And theirs a hardy youth, unto humble ways
Attempered, and patient in their toil; and still
  The old have honor of them, and the gods have praise.
Justice, methinks, when driven from earth away,
Left her last footprint among such as they.”
(‘Georgics,’ ii. 458–474, version of Harriet Waters Preston.)    

There is abundant evidence here (as in the pictures of Carthaginian splendor in ‘Æneid,’ Books i. and iv.) that Virgil knew the luxury of courts as thoroughly as he did the better beloved rural peace he craves. The last phrase just quoted, furthermore, reminds us of the melancholy tone, the vein of pathos, which all lovers of our poet remember so well. There was much in the conditions of the time to justify this; indeed, that sturdy patriot Livy, in his prelude, strikes a more disconsolate note than any single passage in the epic.
  3
  In truth, the best stage of the national life had already passed with the age of the two Africani. The lordship of Italy fully attained, Rome passed on to more fatal successes. She overthrew Carthage and Corinth in a single year (146 B.C.); but Cato was more than half right,—the national character was rapidly undermined by foreign wealth, and by culture too easily and swiftly won from without, not bred steadily from within. Doubtless Ennius’s historical poem, or versified chronicle, if ever it shall come again to light, will seem rugged and inartistic to us, as it certainly did to most of the later Romans. Yet it was more truly an epic of manly freedom and patriotic pride than was possible under the early empire.  4
  The empire itself indeed was generally, and rightly, welcomed. But it was—
  “As he who, with distressful breath,
Forth issued from the sea upon the shore,
Turns to the water perilous and gazes.”
Augustus’s rule came as the only hope of peace and order after a century full of civic strife, beginning with the death of the generous far-sighted patrician radical, Tiberius Gracchus, under the clubs of an aristocratic mob (133 B.C.).
  5
  If ever conditions were such that the stanchest republican, who was a true and wise patriot as well, must welcome “the man on horseback,” it was in the year after the great Julius’s death (43 B.C.); when the Roman State,—that is, the civilized world,—already rudely shaken and drained of its life-blood by previous civil wars, now lay utterly helpless, and rent asunder between the dissolute rapacity of Mark Antony, and the impracticable imperious selfishness of would-be reactionists like Cassius and Brutus. Rome and civilization seemed about to sink together into that rift of civic strife, too wide for any Curtius to close. It was at this juncture that the cold-hearted, long-headed boy Octavian—heir to Julius’s name and fortune, far more than heir to his self-control and mastery of other men—came upon the scene. Pretending to side with the assassins of Julius Cæsar, he presently threw himself into Antony’s arms; perhaps because he saw that Antony could more easily be first utilized and then dispatched.  6
  The next dozen years were to cost the commonwealth much bloodshed still, in war and peace; many of her noblest lives were yet to be cut short by the soldier’s or the bravo’s sword: for we can hardly set earlier than the decisive battle of Actium (31 B.C.), the end of the century of turmoil opened by the death of Tiberius Gracchus under Nasica’s bludgeon. Yet even so, the mighty emperor Augustus could point to a reign of fully forty-five years, marked by prosperity and union within, and by foreign wars in the main successful, when he passed on the firm-held sceptre to his unloved and unloving kinsman, and took his own place beside Julius among the deities of Rome. Did the august Augustus ever forget, as we are prone to do, his own identity with the dissolute stripling Octavianus Cæsar, the murderer of his tutor Cicero? Through this long period,—this cardinal half-century of the world’s life,—the restoration of civic order, the rebuilding of the city and especially of the temples, the revival, so far as might be, of popular faith in the national gods, the glorification of Rome (and of his own house) in art and literature, were all purposes dear to Augustus’s heart, all fused in the steady central purpose of his life. In all these efforts, Virgil the poet was as loyal and helpful as Agrippa and Mæcenas the soldier and diplomatist; and he met quite as generous appreciation as they, both from his imperial master and from the Roman people.  7
  Horace never forgot, nor ceased to be proud, that he had led his battalion in the last hopeless struggle against the incoming despotism. Nor did he ever wholly surrender his sturdy independence. Those who love him best may well regret that his life fell in a time when his genuine manliness and liberty-loving frankness must be so largely hidden under the courtier’s mask and cloak.  8
  Virgil, on the contrary, more largely than any other great poet, we evidently owe to the sunshine—or perhaps more truly, to the hot-house warmth—of imperial favor. The marvelous charm of his verse, the exquisite commingling of clear-cut meaning and thousand-fold haunting suggestion, is indeed the unique and inexplicable gift of his genius. Yet his languid Theocritean mock-pastorals might have perished with him,—at best he would probably have remained the idle singer of a rather ignoble provincial life,—had Mæcenas not summoned him before a far greater audience, and urged him on to more ambitious themes.  9
  Quite unlike Horace or any other Roman poet down to their day, Virgil in his first undoubted utterance strikes the note of utmost servility and adulation.
  “Yea, for a god shall he be evermore unto me, and his altar
Often a tender lamb of our fold shall stain with his heart’s blood!”
cries the shepherd Tityrus in the first Eclogue. It is the voice of Virgil himself,—one of the first to deify the half-reluctant Emperor. The cause for gratitude was most inadequate. Virgil’s little farm by Mantua, wrongfully wrested from its loyal owner and bestowed on one of Octavian’s veterans, had been tardily and reluctantly restored. Moreover there is a tradition of a second expulsion, attended with danger to the poet’s life; and the urgent intercession of three powerful friends,—Varus, Gallus, and Pollio,—as well as Virgil’s own appeal at Rome to the dictator, were required to secure this act of scanty justice (41 B.C.). Indeed, some scholars doubt if Virgil ever returned to his old home. Perhaps Augustus never lost sight of the gifted and pliant youth whose value he promptly realized.
  10
  We cannot hope to find in this timid courtly poet the exultant manliness and free stride of an Æschylus, an Ennius, or even of a Dante, unbending in homeless exile, fearless of speech even under imminent peril of death. More perhaps than any other artist, the heroic poet needs to breathe the air of freedom. Virgil the man, like his hero, is always conscious that his actual lot is, at best, but a second choice. Æneas tells Dido:—
  “If fate permitted me to shape my life
To my desire, and freely end my woes,
The precious remnant of my folk, and Troy,
I then would cherish. Priam’s halls would rise;
With home-returning band I would have built
Again our citadel,—for vanquished men.”
This note of mild regret for vanished hopes is so recurrent and constant as to impress every listener at last. It is indeed the tone not merely of the poet but of his whole race and generation. But submission to fate, the merging of the individual life in the larger and more lasting current of destiny, is in all ages a peculiarly Roman ideal. Perhaps his very limitations have helped Virgil to crystallize into epic, more than any other artist has ever done, the whole national life of so many centuries.
  11
  Honored and beloved though he was by all, Virgil’s own earthly life hardly seems to have been a happy one. His health was delicate, his nature shy and sensitive, he had the bitterest misgivings as to his ability to master the high themes assigned him; and his life ends naturally with that unavailing appeal to his friends to destroy the uncompleted and unsatisfying national epic on which so many years of toil had been spent. But indeed the living Virgil is less real to us than the stately shade, so gladly descried by the Florentine pilgrim in the gloom of the Valley, the
          “courteous Mantuan spirit,
Of whom the fame yet in the world endures,
And shall endure eternal as the world.”
  12
  The ten brief pastorals known as the ‘Bucolics’ or ‘Eclogues’ were published at Rome in 37 B.C. They are often mere paraphrases from the more sincere Greek pastorals of the school of Theocritus. The shepherds’ names are Greek; Sicily and Arcadia are often mentioned, but commingled with the scenery and life of Lombardy, or again, with thinly veiled allusions to Roman politics! The allegory is hopelessly confused with realism, and there is for the most part no adequate or serious purpose in the poems. These affectionate or abusive dialogues of Græco-Roman shepherd-courtiers, their responsive songs or contests for some rustic prize, are, none the less, rich in beautiful phrases and tender thoughts. Already the hexameter takes a more delicate and varied cadence than Lucretius or Catullus could give it. Even the imitation of the Greek originals, though recurrent, is never slavish. It is, at its closest, such free, joyous, artistic translation as delights us in Shelley’s ‘Homeric Hymns.’ Some of these poems date apparently from the earlier time of Virgil’s obscurity. Others allude to passing events in the years 41 to 37 B.C. The tenth and latest is actually dedicated to Virgil’s friend, the soldier-poet Gallus,—who is a gallant but incongruous figure, lying under the shadow of an Arcadian rock, among the Hamadryads and piping shepherds, Silenus, Pan, and all their company.  13
  The most important among the Eclogues is the fourth, addressed to Pollio, announcing the recent or approaching birth, in Pollio’s consulate, of a child who shall bring back the golden age. Professor Sellar thinks the actual child alluded to was the daughter of Augustus, the brilliant and infamous Julia. The imagery of the poem is often astonishingly like that of the Hebrew prophets. That the widespread expectation of a Messiah may have been known to the scholarly poet seems possible. Still there is no single touch in the poem which points unmistakably to Isaiah’s influence. Every image can be paralleled in earlier Greek or Latin literature.  14
  The next seven years of Virgil’s life (37–30 B.C.) were devoted to the ‘Georgics.’ The general purpose of these four books is the revival of agriculture in Italy; or as Merivale and Conington agree to put it, the “Glorification of Labor.” Instead of Theocritus, Hesiod’s ‘Works and Days’ was most largely influential here, though Lucretius’s large and majestic treatment of natural scenery has also been closely studied. The four sections treat of tillage for grain, of tree culture, of cattle breeding, and the care of bees. Mythological digressions are gracefully introduced, the poetic and religious tone of the whole work is most perfect and harmonious, and in general no serious didactic purpose was ever more perfectly accomplished in delightful verse. Virgil is now the complete master of the hexameter. Its alien origin, its inherent difficulty, are forgotten. There are many noble and historic Latin words, even, which cannot be used in its frame. So much the worse for them. The sway of this rhythm became for centuries as tyrannous as the heroic couplet under Dryden and Pope. Well might Tennyson end his loyal greeting to the Mantuan with the words:—
  “Wielder of the stateliest measure ever molded by the lips of man.”
  15
  The fourth Georgic closes with the story of the Greek shepherd Aristæus and his quest for bees. But Servius, the learned ancient commentator, says of the poet Cornelius Gallus, mentioned several times above: “He was so much the friend of Virgil, that the fourth book of the Georgics, from the middle to the close, was taken up with praise of him. This, at Augustus’s bidding, the poet afterward altered into the tale of Aristæus.” The first part of this statement is made quite probable by the Eclogue already outlined: the latter is, it is to be feared, quite credible—though not creditable, either to patron or poet. Gallus’s fall from favor and consequent suicide occurred in 27 B.C., so the earlier form of the poem must have been in full circulation for years; yet no other trace of it survives save this allusion. At present the fourth book opens with a renewed appeal to Mæcenas by name; and it closes with a half-dozen lines of modest autobiographical tone. By the parallel allusions, however, in this closing passage, to Augustus’s victories in these same years, the poet contrives to intimate a lofty claim for his own task and accomplishment; perhaps as bold a claim as Horace’s “monument more lasting than bronze.” Indeed, we are faintly reminded of Pindar’s proud greeting to Hiero at the close of the first Olympian.  16
  As a rule, however, the allusions to Augustus, and also to Mæcenas, in the Georgics, voice the humility and adulation of the courtier. Mæcenas’s patronage is the poet’s chief claim to honor or happiness. “Cæsar” is the especial care of the gods, among whom he is to take his place. This ascription of divinity to Julius and Augustus is particularly repugnant to our instincts. Full sincerity in these matters we can hardly claim for our poet. We could wish Virgil might have heard Tiberius’s calm words: “I, conscript Fathers, call you to witness that I am but a mortal, and am performing human duties, and consider it enough if I fill the foremost place.” Perhaps in perfect freedom of utterance, Virgil would have confessed that only the imperial task of keeping a world in order seemed to him divine. We may recall that Cicero’s popular orations, and Horace’s public odes, are full of orthodox piety; but the familiar satires and epistles of the one, the private letters of the other, utterly ignore the divinities of the folk! In Virgil’s case we have only his poems, however; and they indicate that the poet, if not the man, made a lifelong effort, at least, to acquire full belief in that overcrowded Græco-Roman pantheon wherein every generation sets up new figures,—whether dead rulers, vague abstractions like Faith, Honor, Necessity, or grotesque special guardians, from Roma herself down to Volutina the goddess of corn-husks! Much of allegorical meaning or poetic beauty he himself elicited from the faded forms of ancestral belief. Moreover, the patriotic poet is not an analytical critic nor a radical. His task is not to tear down whatever is traditional, popular, conservative, but to revive, complete, and beautify it.  17
  These questions cannot be separated from any account of the great national epic, the Æneid, to which Virgil devoted the remaining years of his life (30–19 B.C.). The tale of the lonely Trojan survivor, Venus’s son, escaping from the doomed city, and reaching Italy after worldwide wanderings, had been made familiar by poets and popular tradition for centuries. The direct descent of the Julii from this demigod Æneas was not to be questioned. A courtly national epic could build on no other foundation than this. The wonder is, that even under these cramping conditions the poet rose to the full dignity of his true theme. Larger than imperial patron or mythical ancestral hero, there marches through the epic the Roman people itself,—that rude martial clan, that strides ever on and on to the lordship of Latium, of Italy, of the Mediterranean, of the civilized world!  18
  Even if we be inclined to regret that Virgil employed again the divine machinery, already familiar from Homer, to set his action in movement, we must all feel the noble scope of the long prophecy uttered by Jupiter early in the poem. Here Æneas becomes a mere link in the mighty chain. He is not even to be victorious nor long-lived in Italy. He shall reign in his own city for three years, his son for thirty, their Alban posterity through three centuries,—the younger Romans forever.  19
  Again, even the tragedy of Dido’s approaching death is forgotten in the memory of an infinitely grander drama, when from her dying lips, as an imprecation on her faithless lover, comes the prophecy of a deadly scourge for his descendants, destined to arise from her line, and more and more boldly the figure of Hannibal shapes itself in her vision.  20
  Perhaps the most effective passage to be cited here, however, is the apostrophe of Anchises in the underworld to his descendants:—
  “Others may mold more deftly the breathing bronze, I concede it,
Others out of the marble the living features will summon;
They shall surpass us in pleading of causes, delineate better
Motions of heavenly bodies, and tell of the stars and their risings.
Thou, O Roman, remember to curb with thy empire the peoples.
These thine arts shall be, and of peace to impose the conditions,
Sparing them that yield, but quelling in battle the haughty.”
  21
  Though uncompleted in many details, the Æneld is no fragmentary work. Its whole plan lies clear before the reader, all the salient episodes are completely worked out. The after-world may read it by preference in parts, and even the poet himself set the fashion in his own lifetime. We could well spare, in truth, some of the rather petty and wearisome battle scenes in the later books; and in general, the Italian episodes can no longer interest us as they may have done the original auditors. Yet it is a pity that such stately figures as royal Evander and the maiden Camilla should ever become unfamiliar. The latter seems to have appealed especially to Francesca’s grim Tuscan poet, and she is the first of Virgil’s characters named in the Commedia. Upon the whole, however, the sack of Troy, the loves of Dido and Æneas, and the pageant of future Roman heroes, defiling like Banquo’s posterity before Æneas’s eyes, will doubtless always hold the supreme place in the hearts of Virgil’s lovers. Perhaps this superiority of the part over the whole is inevitable in any poem of ten thousand verses. Certainly in this case we are justified, since the poet himself selected these three books (ii., iv., vi.) to read in Augustus’s presence.  22
  Professor Sellar, in his copious study of Virgil, is too rarely epigrammatic; but he makes in a single sentence a striking antithesis, calling Virgil perhaps the most imitative, yet one of the most original, among the great classic poets. This suggests a few words upon the striking position held by Virgil between the two most independent and creative of all poets, Homer and Dante.  23
  It was apparently a general feeling among the Greeks, and especially with the Romans, that a thought once ideally well uttered, a phrase rightly turned, could no longer be improved, but became in large degree common property, belonging at last to him who could set it in its fittest association. This high privilege is used above all by Virgil. He borrows royally from nearly every older master of style. Yet the result, if a mosaic, at least remains clear, beautiful, even harmonious, in its general design and effect. His philosophic and antiquarian lore, again, is much more completely fused into pure and limpid poetry than Milton’s similar treasures in ‘Paradise Lost.’  24
  Virgil’s debt to Homer is especially heavy, and includes much that is essential, even, in the main framework of the plot. Of course there is no reproach of “plagiarism” in this statement. Virgil’s audience was perhaps absolutely more familiar with Greek poetry than with Latin. Horace actually began his poetical career with Greek verses, as Dante and Petrarch did with Latin,—but sensibly reverted to his own speech. A Roman gentleman’s son went to Athens as naturally as we go to college, to finish his education, which had usually been begun by a Greek tutor, slave or free. The striking confession in the oration for the poet Archias will be remembered: “For if any one supposes less fame is acquired through Greek poetry than through Latin, he is greatly in error; since Greek is read among nearly all nations, whereas Latin is confined within our own rather narrow boundaries.”  25
  When Virgil, then, in his general plot, his incidents, his scenery, his similes, constantly follows closely in Homer’s footsteps, it can only be regarded as a loyal acknowledgment of his supremacy. He often reminds us intentionally that his hero is retracing the route of Odysseus: as, for instance, Æneas picks up on the Sicilian shore a Greek of the Ithacan crew, left behind in their hasty flight from the Cyclops’s cave a few weeks before; and he even catches a terrified glimpse of the blinded ogre Polyphemus himself. When the Trojan wanderer hurries by the Sirens’ shore or Circe’s isle without pausing, it may well be interpreted as a confession of Homer’s unapproachable mastery there. In the Virgilian account of Troy’s downfall, such a verse as
  “The final day, the inevitable hour
Of Troy is come!”
is clearly an echo of Hector’s foreboding—
  “The day shall come when sacred Troy shall perish.”
  26
  In the seventh year of his wanderings Æneas comes unexpectedly upon Andromache, in her Grecian home of exile. She faints at the sight, and the whole interview is saddened with bitter memories. In the scene of farewell, Andromache’s tenderest words are addressed to the boy Ascanius, cousin of her own son by Hector: that son who was murdered in the sack of Troy.
  “O sole surviving image of my boy
Astyanax! Such eyes, such hands, had he,
Such features; and his budding youth would just
Have equaled thine in years.”
  27
  Now, Virgil does not feel that the pathos of these words needs the slightest hint of explanation: and rightly; for every Roman reader had present before him in imagination the immortal group of Hector with his wife and child, from the parting scene in Iliad vi.  28
  Virgil often—but not always—justifies his claim to what he has borrowed. Thus the description of Achilles’s shield in the Iliad is a beautiful series of idyllic pictures, but they form a mere digression and interruption, while the stage waits; whereas Virgil’s genius has filled Æneas’s shield with some of the most striking and noble scenes in Roman story. So the idea of taking his hero to the underworld is frankly borrowed from the Odyssey; but here again the ghostly array of future Roman heroes is wholly Virgil’s own addition. To be sure, the general superiority of this grand Augustan picture of the Inferno to the mere pallid replica of earthly life offered us in the Greek poem, is largely due to the influence of Plato’s splendid visions and noble philosophy. Still we may say in general that Virgil never merely borrows,—and at the worst he is always the most interesting of translators.  29
  Dante’s reasons for taking Virgil as his guide cannot be adequately discussed here. Above all else, indeed, the belief in the empire, in a supreme temporal power as a necessity to the orderly government of the world, glowed far more fiercely, as a lifelong unattained desire, in Dante’s homeless heart, than in the more contented breast of the poet who could see Augustus daily in the flesh. This very descent of Æneas to Hades, just mentioned, suggested many details to Dante. The later poet is indeed too loyal in saying that he learned from his master “the fair style which has won him honor.” The style, like the metre, of Dante, is very remote from the more sweeping cadences of the Latin epic; and it owes astonishingly little to any master. But next only to Virgil’s own poems (as Mr. Myers has remarked), the ‘Inferno’ and ‘Purgatorio’ will help us to an adequate appreciation of the Roman poet.  30
  This peculiar position of Virgil between two of the world’s greatest poets,—who never knew each other,—is one of his many claims to our tender regard. The general opinion agrees with Mr. Norton’s statement on an earlier page, that Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare stand alone. Each belongs to the world, not to a nation; for each in a large sense created an ideal world of art. In his own class, however, as a poet in whose work a great nation’s life, at least, has been worthily typified and interpreted, the Roman Virgil will doubtless long maintain the foremost position; perhaps until our own freer and fuller life shall deserve, and receive, an adequate artistic expression in epic.  31
 
Note

  IT is impossible to cull, even, out of the countless loving tributes to Virgil’s genius; extending from Propertius’s prophecy of a masterpiece to surpass the Iliad, to the eager cry of affection uttered in old age by the last laureate, in whom so many of our poet’s traits were repeated. Not only as a mage, but as “prophet of the Gentiles,” he was honored, all but sainted, in the Middle Ages. He has never been a lost author. Indeed, it is almost literally true, that had all his manuscripts vanished, Virgil’s poems could have been recovered entire from the citations in later works of antiquity. There is, however, an abundance of MSS., even those illustrated by drawings, beginning in the fourth or fifth century.
  32
  Perhaps the one indispensable edition to-day is Conington’s, in three volumes in the ‘Bibliotheca Classica,’ especially since the editor’s generous taste has been reinforced by the more minute erudition of Nettleship. The latter is also the authority on ‘Ancient Lives of Virgil’ (Oxford, 1879). The ancient Virgilian commentators alone make a small library; and Servius, especially, is more readable and valuable than most modern editions.  33
  Sellar’s volume on Virgil in his ‘Roman Poets’ is diffuse but excellent. The most appreciative brief essay is by F. W. H. Myers, in his book ‘Essays, Classical.’ From these writers, or from Tyrrell’s ‘Latin Poetry,’ abundant further references will be obtained. The French have a high appreciation of this first Romantic poet. Mention of Sainte-Beuve’s early volume, and Boissier’s delightful work, must suffice here. Comparetti’s ‘Virgil in the Middle Ages’ opens a curious chapter of popular superstition.  34
  Much of Virgil’s greatest charm evaporates in any transfer to alien speech. He is, like all allusive artists, extremely difficult to translate at all; and no version can be satisfying to the classical critic. Longfellow has experimented in hexameter on one or two Eclogues. Miss Preston’s ‘Georgics’ have a very free rhythm, and far more of the Virgilian charm than any other version. Among translators of the Æneid, Conington again claims the first place, with two notable renderings. We must protest against the brisk trot of “The stag at eve” when forced upon the stately Roman Muse, yet the sense is wonderfully well packed in. His prose rendering, again, is by no means prosily literal; and for many a famous phrase it almost achieves the impossible. Countless other versions there are, before and since Dryden’s; but no accepted favorite. Morris’s skillful performance disappointed his (and Virgil’s) admirers. It is generally felt that the method of the translator and the spirit of the original are somewhat at variance. The version of Sir Charles Bowen, cited largely below, has much of the Virgilian spirit and grace; and is also an interesting experiment metrically, lacking only the last syllable of the dactylic line.  35
  Every lover of literature will complete this catalogue for himself. The essayist desires to acknowledge especially his constant debt, here and elsewhere, to Schanz, and also to Von Christ (in the ‘Handbuch der Alterthumswissenschaft’).  36
 
 
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