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I have also referred to the first volume of Sir George Lewis' Inquiry into the Credibility of Early Roman History. My introductions to the several books of the Aeneid are naturally longer in some cases than those prefixed to the several Eclogues and books of the Georgics: indeed, the Introduction to the Sixth Book has grown into a short Essay. In the general Introduction I have controverted Mr. Gladstone's view of the relation of the Aeneid to the Homeric poems, as expressed in the third volume of his 'Studies.' In my former volume I was thought, I believe, to have disparaged unduly Virgil's claim to originality: I may now be considered to be taking the opposite side, in vindicating his right to be criticized independently of Homer. Both views are, I believe, true, and therefore consistent: but it is possible of course so to maintain either as to appear unmindful of the other.
The translations introduced into the notes of the former volume were intended to a certain extent as specimens or experiments. They have been, I believe, in general favourably received, so as to encourage me to think whether some day they might not be presented to the public in a more extended form; and I have accordingly been less anxious to introduce them in the present commentary.
My obligations to my former colleague, Mr. Goldwin Smith, are unfortunately confined in the present volume almost wholly to the notes on the First Book, which we originally composed together in 1853: and even they have since been so completely recast that it would be difficult now to point to any part of them as specially due to him. I need not say that I have still had the benefit of Mr. Long's assistance.
IN turning from the Eclogues and Georgics to the Aeneid, we are no longer confronted by the opinion which insists on Virgil's claims as a strictly original poet. The days are past when Scaliger could compare Virgil and Homer in detail, and pronounce that the scholar had in almost every instance excelled his master; nor would a modern reader easily tolerate even those less invidious parallels, such as were not infrequent in the last century, where Virgil was measured against Homer on the same principles on which Johnson has measured Pope against Dryden, and with substantially the same results. It is hard to read without a smile the apologetic tone in which Pope himself vindicates Homer against the admirers of Virgil, pleading that the old Greek has at all events the advantage of having written first; that if he had a less cool judgment, he holds the heart under a stronger enchantment, and that to endeavour to exalt Virgil at his expense is much the same as if one should think to raise the superstructure by undermining the foundation'. It is now the turn of the critic of the Aeneid to use the language of extenuation and speak with bated breath. On the one side it is admitted, as it is asserted on the other, that in undertaking the Aeneid at the command of a superior Virgil was venturing beyond the province of his genius, and that all we can expect to find is the incidental success which could not fail to be obtained even on uncongenial ground by the poet of the Georgics. I have elsewhere explained the reasons which lead me to question the appropriateness of the special praise usually given to Virgil's agricultural poetry, and conceded, though with more hesitation, to his pastoral compositions, as if the true bent of his mind were to be found in his sympathy with external nature, at the same time that I have spoken as strongly as it was in my power to speak of the marvellous grace and delicacy, the evidences of a culture - most elaborate and most refined, which shine out in the midst of a thousand incongruities of costume and outward circumstance, and make us forget that we are reading Bucolic poems of which line after line is to be found in Theocritus, and precepts about husbandry which are far more
1 Preface to Homer.