« ForrigeFortsæt »
THE EPIC OF ENEAS.
THE Æneid has stood for many centuries as a model of Epic Poetry Properly speaking, however, an Epic consists of a body of immemorial tradition, which has taken form in the mind and language of a people ; and which, while the traditions were yet living and believed in, has been worked up in a single poem, or group of poems, whose antiquity and national character have made them, in some sense, sacred books. This is what the poems of Homer were to the Greeks, the Mahabharata and Ramayana to the Hindoos, and the Niebelungen to the Germans.
The Eneid is an Epic in a very different sense, in what, for the sake of distinction, may be called the literary sense. Though it has the foundation of traditions, and all the divine machinery of the true Epic, yet the traditions are no longer living; the divine machinery is no longer a matter of belief. The traditions are dug out by antiquarian
research. The machinery is manufactured to order, as it were, in a modern workshop. Many of the incidents are labored invention, while the whole is written with a definite purpose, as a work of art. These things put it in a widely different class from the Iliad and Odyssey, which serve in some sense as its models, and with which it has been oftenest compared.
Still the purpose for which it was written distinguishes it clearly from other artificial Epics and raise it more nearly to the level of the Epic proper. It was not written merely as a work of art, nor from a casual poetic inspiration. It is the product of a patriotic national sentiment and a belief in the divine origin and destiny of the Roman State. It is said that the poem was written at the request of Augustus. But it is no mere flattery of a reigning house. The supremacy of the Julian family was identified in the mind of the poet and his readers with the culmination of the Roman State in victory and peace, the predestined consummation of ages of vicissitudes and struggles.
The subject of the Eneid is the destruction of Troy, the seven years' wandering of Æneas, and his settlement in Italy, with the wars raised against him by the native princes, all of which events finally resulted in the establishment of the city of Rome. The line of tradition followed by Virgil was somewhat as follows: The city of Troy had for many ages been under the special care of the gods. Its walls had been built by Poseidon (Neptune) and Apollo, and were impregnable, except under the conditions strictly prescribed by the edict of the gods. Prince Ganymede had been borne by an eagle to Olympus to serve as cupbearer at the celestial banquets. Tithonus, brother of Priam, was the husband of Eos (Aurora). Priam and Anchises had both in their youth been renowned for beauty.
But the royal house had fallen into the oriental vices of luxury and treachery. Laomedon, father of Priam, had incensed the hero Hercules by withholding the sacred horses, the promised reward for the rescue of his daughter, and was slain by the hand of Telamon. The royal palace had become a seraglio, where Priam's fifty sons, by his numerous wives, made one great pampered household. Hector, the eldest, was noble, patriotic, and brave. But Paris was vain and false. Ilis mother Hecuba had dreamed that she bore a firebrand; and at birth he was exposed to perish in the forests of Mount Ida. Being preserved, and living as a shepherd on the mountain, he was visited by the three great goddesses — Hera (Juno), Pallas, and Aphrodite to award the prize of beauty among them, the golden apple of discord. His reward for bestowing the prize on Venus should be the most beautiful of living women for his bride. This was Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, daughter of Zeus (Jupiter) and Leda; and a wrong to her was to be revenged by all the heroes and chiefs of Greece, who had been her suitors. Paris visited Sparta, "with flower-embroidered raiment and bright in gold," and carried her away to Troy. Hence the famous ten years' siege, and the destruction of the sacred city.
About the tale of Troy had gathered a vast body of legendary adventure, contained in the "Cyclic Poets," the festal Odes, the Attic Tragedies, and above all in the great Homeric poems, the ILIAD and ODYSSFY. The Iliad is but an episode of the war. It tells the disasters which befell the Grecian
army from the wrath of Achilles, its most famous champion, against Agamemnon, brother of Menelaus, and leader of the host. Achilles' absence brings the other heroes to the front, — the aged Nestor, wisest of men; Idomeneus of Crete; the wily Odysseus (Ulysses), king of Ithaca; Ajax Oileus; the mightier Ajax, son of Telamon; his brother Teucer; and Diomed (Tydides), youngest and bravest of them all; with the sons of Atreus, Menelaus and Agamemnon, "lord of men." The poem ends with the death and burial of Hector, the noblest champion of Troy, who is slain by Achilles in revenge for the death of his friend Patroclus. The return of Ulysses to Ithaca, after his long wanderings, is the subject of the Odyssey; which contains also the story of the capture of Troy by the stratagem of the wooden horse, and the fate of several others of the Grecian chiefs beside Ulysses.
Among the various and conflicting traditions, there was a story that Æneas, after escaping from the sack of Troy, had taken refuge in Italy. How old this tradition was, and whence it was derived, is uncertain. It is not found in Homer or the Cyclic poets, or in any Greek form. The story, including the episode of Dido, is treated by Nævius (B.C. 235), who could hardly have invented it. It was alluded to by Ennius (born B.C. 240), and had been adopted as a favorite theory before the time of Augustus. Virgil supplements it with details drawn from local tradition, and with many of his own manufacture; and in this way has connected the imperial times with the age of gods and heroes, and formed a sort of background on which the later history is briefly sketched.
BOOK I.-THE LANDING IN AFRICA.
THE wrath of Juno, jealous for the glory of Carthage, compels the long wanderings of Æneas, and detains the Trojan exiles from destined Italy (vv. I-33). She beholds them glad on their voyage, and solicits olus, god of winds, to overwhelm them with a tempest: the storm bursts forth (34-91). The Trojan fleet is scattered and in peril: but Neptune lifts his head and stills the waves (92-156). Eneas, with seven ships, reaches the coast of Africa, where he finds food and rest (157-222). Jupiter comforts Venus by promise of the coming glories of Rome, and sends Mercury to move the Tyrian colonists to hospitality (223-304). Eneas, with Achates,
is met by Venus in the guise of a huntress, who tells him of Dido's flight from Tyre and her founding of a city on the African shore, and then directs him to the rising towers of Carthage, first making them invisible by a miraculous mist (305-417). He admires the new city; sees in the temple of Juno the pictured story of the Trojan war; and at length (still unseen) beholds Queen Dido, attended by some of his own companions whom he thought lost, who come as envoys from the scattered ships (418-519). The appeal of the shipwrecked men moves the compassion of Dido: upon which the mist dissolves, and Eneas appears before the queen (520–593). He declares himself, recounts his losses, and greets his restored companions: Dido receives him to royal hospitality in her halls (594-642). Achates is despatched to the fleet for the young Ascanius; but, by a strat agem of Venus, the god Cupid is brought instead, disguised in the likeness of the boy prince: at the banquet he inspires in the queen a fatal passion for Æneas (643-722). The night passes in feasting and song, when Dido requests of Eneas the connected story of his wanderings (723-756).
RMA virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
vi superum saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram; multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem, inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum, Albanique patres, atque altae moenia Romae.
Musa, mihi causas memora, quo numine laeso, quidve dolens, regina deum tot volvere casus insignem pietate, virum, tot adire labores impulerit. Tantaene animis caelestibus irae?
URBS antiqua fuit, Tyrii tenuere coloni, Karthago, Italiam contra Tiberinaque longe ostia, dives opum studiisque asperrima belli ; quam Iuno fertur terris magis omnibus unam posthabita coluisse Samo; hic illius arma, hic currus fuit; hoc regnum dea gentibus esse, si qua fata sinant, iam tum tenditque fovetque. Progeniem sed enim Troiano a sanguine duci 2 Lavinaque. Eds.
audierat, Tyrias olim quae verteret arces;
Talia flammato secum dea corde volutans nimborum in patriam, loca feta furentibus austris, Aeoliam venit. Hic vasto rex Aeolus antro luctantes ventos tempestatesque sonoras
41 Oili. R. 45 conripuit. II. 49 imponat. H.
53 luctantis. H.