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Catullus. One Epigram, intituled Votum pro susceptâ Æneïde, will not be ungrateful to the reader:
Si mihi susceptum fuerit decurrere munus,
Jam tandem ut tecum carmine vectus eat:
It is scarcely necessary to distinguish the Catalecta from the Epigrammata. The nature of the Priapeïa it is obviously unnecessary to investigate. The work now extant under that title is, substantially, Augustan, but the character of Virgil forbids us to suppose that his pen has contributed to it in any important degree. The Dire is a poem attributed more correctly to Valerius Cato. The Moretum is a piece of very peculiar beauty; and approaches nearer to Theocritus in spirit than any of the Bucolics. It bears also a remarkable resemblance to Bloomfield's Farmer's Boy. It is a lively description of a rustic's day, and takes its name from a kind of salad, called Moretum, the making of which is described in it. The Copa is a Bacchanalian invitation, in the person of a Copa, or Syrian woman, who attended, as a dancer or singer, on houses of public entertainment" Ambubaiarum collegia."
Of all the minor poems, however, ascribed to Virgil, the Culex is, for many reasons, the best deserving notice. Whatever doubts may be thrown on the genuineness of the others, there seems to be every reason for believing that this poem, allowing for all its gross and manifold corruptions, is the work of Virgil. That Virgil wrote a poem bearing this name cannot be questioned; for, besides the testimony of Donatus and Servius, we have the more respectable evidences of Martial,' Statius," and Lucan," for the fact. Donatus quotes two verses from the poem, and Nonius Marcellus one, which are found in the extant copies. The poem, however, seems to have suffered much from alterations and interpoltations. Allowing for these, it must have been a very beautiful production, and by far the most original effort of Virgil's Muse. It opens with a dedication to Octavius; who this Octavius was is a matter of uncertainty. In the Catalecta mention is made of a certain Octavius who died in a paroxysm of anger occasioned by drinking; if this person be, as some commentators suppose, the
1 viii. 56. and xiv. 185. 2 2 Sylv. vii. 74. Id. Præf. Sylv. lib. i.
3 Suet. Vit. Lucani.
same to whom the Culex is addressed, he cannot be the Octavius of whose opinion Horace speaks so highly in the Xth Satire of his Ist Book, since the Catalecta were, according to Donatus's account, completed when Virgil was fifteen years of age.' From the dedication, the poet proceeds to a most glowing description of sunrise, and a goatherd driving his flock afield: and thence takes occasion to indulge in a long digression on the happiness of rural life, which, though less polished, is more winning and pathetic than the corresponding passage in the Georgics. He has not, indeed, surpassed in intensity of relish for the country his great model Lucretius; but he has amplified him with great taste and independence, and this passage, taken all in all, is one of the most vivid and delicious in the whole range of Latin Poetry. From this, Virgil returns to his short narrative. The noon approaches, and his rustic hero seeks the shelter of a grove to enjoy his siesta. While he is sleeping, a serpent is on the point of destroying him, when a gnat, perceiving his danger, gives notice to him by a timely sting. Enraged with the insect, of whose benevolent intention he is ignorant, he instantly crushes him. At night, however, the shade of the gnat appears to him, and, after a poetical but tedious description of the regions of the departed, reproaches him for his ingratitude. In this passage the reader may trace the sketches from which Virgil afterwards drew his finished pictures of the appearance of Hector, and the descents of Orpheus and Eneas. The goatherd, on awaking, as the only compensation in his power, erects a monument to his benefactor, with an inscription, which concludes the poem :
Parve Culex, pecudum custos tibi tale merenti
The character of Virgil, as drawn by Asconius Pedianus, and preserved to us by Donatus, is eminently pleasing. He is there represented as kind in disposition, attached to the learned and the virtuous, free from all envy, and delighted with the literary success of others no less than with his own; blaming none, and praising the good; and so affable in manner, that none but the most perverse could fail to like, and even love him. He seemed to consider nothing his own; his library belonged as much to his literary friends as to himself; and he often quoted the adage in Euripides, tà tãv Qínwv noivά. By this amiable and conciliatory life, he established himself in the esteem of all the most eminent of his literary contemporaries; especially in that of Horace, Propertius, Varius, Tucca, and Pollio. From Donatus, however, we learn that Anser declined his acquaintance from party considerations, being himseif attached to Antony, in whose praise he composed a poem. Yet the splendour of Virgil's success attracted many to perish in the blaze which they sought to extinguish. On the appearance of his Bucolics, an anonymous author published a dull parody, called Antibucolica; and one
1 Some, however, correct, twenty-five.
Carvilius Pictor, in imitation of his worthy prototype Zoïlus, composed an Eneidomastix. Bavius and Mævius, proverbial names for the impersonation of united dulness, envy, and calumny, attacked Virgil; and Cornificius, also, appears to have written against him. Virgil is said to have retaliated under the name of Amyntas, in his Alexis and Daphnis.1 But the most triumphant refutation of his adversaries has been the judgment of posterity. No writer, probably, ever exercised so wide an influence either in time or space. His works became forthwith, and still remain, text-books and school-books; they were even translated into Greek; they were commented on by a cloud of grammarians ; they were the subject of innumerable epigrams; they were formed into centos; they were used for the purposes of divination. Virgil was the model of the Carlovingian poets; the "Magnus Apollo" of the chivalrous Von Veldeck; Dante exulted in his guidance; and the later poetry of all Europeans has done homage to his supremacy.
In person, according to Donatus, Virgil was tall; his complexion was dark, his expression rustic, his manners shy, and of almost feminine modesty. These particulars may very well be traditional. Allusion has been already made to the magical powers ascribed to him, and, as a matter of curiosity, and illustrative of the ideas which prevailed concerning him in the middle ages, some of these fables may be appended. None of them are probably older than the 11th century. According, then, to his mediæval chroniclers, Virgil became acquainted with necromancy by the assistance of an evil spirit, who promised to instruct him in the art so that he should never be surpassed, on condition of being liberated from a cavern in the side of a hill in which he was confined. Virgil fulfilled the condition, and afterwards defied the spirit to enter the hole at which he came out. The challenge was accepted; but no sooner was the demon in the cave than Virgil closed it upon him. The story is probably derived from an Arabian tradition. Virgil's first necromantic exploit was the erection of the city of Naples, which he built on a foundation of eggs. On a square tower which he constructed there, he so balanced an egg, that, when it stirred, the city would be shaken with an earthquake; and, whenever it broke, the city would sink. He made, and placed on one of the gates of his favourite town, a fly of copper, which prevented all living flies from entering the city. On a mount near that place, he set up a statue of the same metal, with a trumpet in its mouth, which, when the north wind blew, drove the fire and smoke from "the forges of Vulcan" with great noise to the sea. He made a public fire, near which he erected a brazen archer with bended bow, beneath which was inscribed: "Whoever strikes me, I shoot my arrow." A maniac defied the warning, when the statue discharged his arrow into the fire, and extinguished it. He surrounded his house and garden with an mmovable atmosphere, so that it never rained within the charmed enclosure.
Serv. n Ecl. ii. and
Suet. de Ill. Gramm. xvi. Juv. Sat. vii. 227.
He erected statues representing various nations; and, when any nation was about to revolt against the Emperor, the corresponding statue rang a small bell, and gave warning to arm for the contest. As he advanced in years, he became desirous of renovating his youth by enchantment; and, with this view, erected a castle in a lonely spot, in the porch of which he set twenty-four copper statues, armed with iron flails, twelve on each side, which threshed continually, except when he withheld them. Hither he conducted a servant; and, leading him into a room lighted by a perpetual lamp, bade him kill him, cut the body in pieces, and place it in a barrel, for the oil of the lamp to drop upon for nine days, after which Virgil was to come forth a youth. The lamp was, notwithstanding, to be replenished daily. The instructions were complied with. The servant was made acquainted with the method of stopping the flails, and visited the apartment every day to replenish the lamp. At length the Emperor, missing Virgil from court, threatened the servant with death if he did not convey him to his master. When the domestic had led the Emperor to the enchanted room, and had confessed his deed, the prince slew him on the spot. The figure of a little child was forthwith seen running round the barrel, exclaiming, "Cursed be the time that ye ever came here." The replenishing of the lamp being suspended, the renovation was incomplete, and the magician poet died.
Such is a specimen of the extraordinary absurdities wherewith mediæval writers have overlaid the biography of Virgil. It is, however, but a very slight notice of the mythology connected with the subject. Many fabulous inventions are omitted, and those which have been adduced have been merely sketched, as some readers may deem even these slender particulars unworthy of allusion in a serious though compendious biography. They have, however, in the writer's opinion, their value-they show the high reputation which the name of Virgil had attained, even when his works were least appreciated; for magical powers were then ascribed in proportion as intellectual were exhibited; and though Virgil's mathematical and physical studies may have had possibly some influence in originating the fables reported of him, yet the general celebrity of his writings, the judgment of ancient critics, and the estimate which the learned were still able to form of his works, are sufficient to account for the phenomenon. These tales, in truth, only speak the language of one to whom they perhaps were, and their subject certainly was, amply familiar: