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As Virgil is the first Latin poet with whom most students become acquainted, some general suggestions to the learner may not be out of place.

The poetry of the ancients depends for its rhythm not upon accent, but upon quantity. That is, it was in a manner sung, and not read. A long vowel was to the ancients really such, and occupied in speech as well as in verse- twice the time of a short one. Much may be gained by constantly bearing this in mind, and never reading a line without preserving its metrical form. Once acquire the movement of the "strain," and the line may be read metrically without thinking at all of the quantity of particular syllables; for the rhythm will then become perfectly natural, and the prosody will cause no trouble, except in a few cases, especially if at first the time is beaten as in music. Thus the first five lines of the First Eclogue may be represented as follows:

1. Tityrě tü pătă | lãe rěců

bāns sub tegmině fagi

2. Silves trēm těnů i Mu sam mědi tāris ă


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NOTE. -It must be remembered, however, that the long quantity marks as here given do not always indicate long vowels but long syllables. Many of the long syllables have short vowels, but are made long by the distinct pronunciation of the consonants following the vowels.


The effect is to us, and must have been to the ancients, somewhat monotonous. But it is relieved by the variety of dactyls and spondees, and also by the interruption of feet at the end of words (Casura). One of these interruptions at the end of some principal word, or at some pause in the sense (in the third foot, or less commonly, the fourth), is more marked than the rest, and is called The Casura (see Grammar, § 362, b). This main cæsura is often a great help to the sense, and must be observed as an important part of the structure of the verse. It may be remarked that the verses most agreeable to the ear are those in which dactyls are more numerous, or alternate with spondees; while in the opposite case — especially if the last foot but one is a spondee ("Spondaic verse") a slow and labored movement is given to the verse, which is often very expressive (see Ecl. iv. 49; Æn. ii. 463-466).

It is not known with certainty how elided syllables were treated in reading. It is probable, however, that the vowels and diphthongs were so slurred over as to make them equivalent to y and w, and that when m was cut off it left a nasal sound, which was still audible enough to give a nasal character to the syllable. Where, as in Ecl. i. 13, elision interferes with the main cæsura, the line may be read without any main cæsura, or the sense may be sacrificed to the form of the verse.

This metre is not native to the Latin language, but is borrowed from the Greek. Hence all poetry written in it has more or less an artificial character, and requires a conventional poetic diction. The rules of the metre exclude very many words: all words, for example, in which a single short syllable comes between two long ones (as in all the cases of aequitas, longitūdo, and similar words; all except the nom. sing. of insula, unless the last syllable can be removed by elision; and many forms of verb-inflection, as fecerant), or where more than two short syllables come together (as in fuerimus, itĭněris, and in gladius, nom., acc., and voc.). The necessities of the metre often give rise to elisions which hurt the flow of the verse (as in Ecl. ii. 25), or to artificial arrangements (as in Ecl. i. 14, 70).

The Syntax of Virgil, in general, is much easier and simpler than that of most prose writers, and there are few difficulties of construction except where the ellipsis of words produces obscurity. The quantity of syllables, as shown by the metre, is often an easy guide to the construction: as in Ecl. i. 38, the long a in suã at once con

nects it with arbore; the long i in sătīs (Ecl. iii. 82) shows it to be the participle of sero; the long i in omnis (id. 97) shows it to be the accusative plural; the long o in pōpulus (vii. 61) shows its meaning to be poplar. These examples might be multiplied to almost any extent.

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There are, however, many peculiarities of form and construction. The most frequent of these besides Greek forms of inflectionare: 1. the omission of prepositions, especially with the locative ablative; 2. the free use of the dative in preference to other constructions; 3. the genitive (of specification) with adjectives; 4. the constant use of the infinitive (instead of the gerund or a clause) to express purpose and result. In general, we may say that more is demanded of the cases than the more highly developed construction of prose will admit. Some of these forms and constructions seem to be archaic, retained by a traditional poetic dialect, as, for example, the omission of prepositions. Some of them are directly copied from the Greek, as many cases of synecdochical accusative. The greatest number, however, are due to both these causes combined, as the infinitive constructions.

The main difficulty in reading poetry is to determine exactly what image or idea was in the poet's mind, for it is to be remembered that poetry requires a more vivid and picturesque use of words than prose. The learner should therefore not be satisfied with a loose conception or translation, but should try to see and express precisely the meaning of the poet's words.

* So in English. "The trumpet spake not to the armed throng is not antiquated for poetry; although we should not write in a letter, 'He spake to me,' or say, 'The British soldier is armed with the English rifle.' "— Matthew Arnold, Last Words, p. 21.



THIS Eclogue is founded on historical facts; namely, the ejection of Virgil from his farm and his recovery of it through the favor of Augustus. (See Life.) Tityrus represents the poet himself, and Meliboeus his less fortunate neighbors. Though the subject is treated in the conventional pastoral style, yet the poem gives a lively picture of the distress caused by the assignment of land to the veterans of the civil war.

The scene represents Tityrus, late in a sunny afternoon, reclining at the roadside by his cottage near Mantua, with Amaryllis busy near by, in household cares, while Meliboeus passes, driving his goats from the farm of which he has been dispossessed by the soldiers. An ancient (200 to 400 A.D.) conception of the scene is given in Fig. 1, from a Vatican manuscript.

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Verse 1. Tityre: this, with most of the other proper names, is Greek, borrowed from Theocritus. It is the Doric form of the word Satyr, also signifying goat; and, like most of the names in the Eclogues, is a conventional name for a shepherd. -tu: notice as soon as this word appears that it is emphatic and must be opposed to something coming later, to wit, nos. -patulae (root in pateo), wide-spreading, a characteristic of the beech, suggesting at the same time the comfort of its shade. [It is a common position in Latin poetry for words belonging together, or contrasted words, to be in corresponding parts of the verse, as at the beginning, or before

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