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spoken of in the opening of this essay as the great corruptor of pastoral poetry, if by pastoral poetry is meant a truthful dramatic representation of one of the simplest forms of life. How far it vitiates the character
of the Eclogues as pure poetry, irrespective of the class to which they profess to belong, is a further question, and one which ought not to be decided till we have seen how much it may involve. If the Eclogues are to be condemned on this ground, it is hard to see how we are to excuse a work like Cymbeline. If the somewhat broad shield of the romantic drama is sufficient to cover the latter, room may perhaps be found under it for the former. No incongruity of which Virgil has been guilty can be so glaring or so fatal to those notions of reality in which the very form of historical knowledge suggests as that produced by the juxtaposition of the modern Italian, not only with the legendary Briton, but with the Roman of the earlier empire. It is not that the laws of time and circumstance are simply violated, but that they are violated in such a way that the result appears to us inconceivable as well as false, two types belonging to different periods of the same nation, and as such forming the subjects of an obvious historical contrast being imagined for the moment to co-exist, not in the other world, as in the various Dialogues of the Dead, where this incongruity enters into the very idea of the composition, but in a world which, if not our own, resembles it in all its essential features as a theatre for human action and passion. Yet criticism seems now to be agreed that the very glaringness of such incongruities, though doubtless attributable as much to ignorance or recklessness as to any profound design, ought only to teach us to divest ourselves of all extraneous prepossessions, and examine the piece as a representation of human nature apart from the conditions of time, just as when we look at some of the early paintings our sense of beauty need not be ultimately disturbed by our consciousness that the actions pourtrayed in the two parts of the picture are obviously not simultaneous but successive. Virgil, of course, according to our ordinary nomenclature, is a classical, not a romantic poet; but the fact will hardly be held to exclude him from the benefit of a similar plea, if indeed it should not suggest fresh matter for consideration with regard to the laws generally, and probably with justice, supposed to distinguish the two great schools of Ancient and Modern Art.
This, however, is not the only kind of confusion by which the pastoral reality of the Eclogues is disturbed or destroyed. Not only is the Sicilian mixed up with the Italian, but the shepherd is mixed up with the poet. The danger was one to have been apprehended from the first. So soon as pastoral poetry came to be recognized as a distinct species, the men of letters who cultivated it, perhaps themselves grammarians or professional critics, were likely to yield to the temptation of painting
themselves in bucolic colours, instead of copying the actual bucolic life which they saw or might have seen in the country. They started from the position that shepherds, besides being subjects for poetry, were themselves singers and lovers of song; it was not difficult to convert the proposition, and assume that a pastoral singer might be spoken of as a shepherd. A symptom of this failing appears even in Theocritus, in whose seventh Idyl the speaker, describing himself as being in company with a poetical goatherd, modestly declines a comparison with the professed poets Asclepiades and Philetas, thereby intimating that he is himself a professed poet in disguise'. In Moschus the identification is more consciously realized'. Bion is bewailed as the ideal herdsman, for whom Apollo and the wood-gods wept, whose strains drew looks of love from Galatea, and whose pipe even the lips of Pan may scarcely touch. Those, however, who wish to see to what extent it may be interwoven with the texture of a series of poems, should look for it in the Eclogues. They will not have very far to seek; indeed, it meets them at the very threshold. Nothing but the extreme awkwardness of the manner in which it is introduced into the first Eclogue could have prevented the critics from recognizing it at once. As it is, they have passed it over in their search for something more recondite and more creditable to Virgil. Their view, as elaborated by the latest commentators2, is that Tityrus is a supposed farm-slave, perhaps a bailiff of Virgil's, who, going to Rome to purchase his freedom, receives the welcome assurance that his master's property is to be undisturbed in the general unsettlement; the obvious truth is (I am stating not my own discovery but that of my former coadjutor) that the notions of the enfranchized slave and the poet secured in his farm, the symbol and the thing symbolized, are actually blended together, so that the narrative is at one time allegorical, at another historical, Tityrus going with his earnings to his master, and receiving for answer "You shall not be dispossessed by my soldiers." The same conventional conception reappears in other places, though it is no where else so clumsily managed. Menalcas, the poet-shepherd of the ninth Eclogue, whose strains were so nearly lost to the world, is admitted on all hands to be Virgil himself. In the opening of the sixth Virgil is once more the shepherd Tityrus, who is taught by Apollo that a shepherd's duty is to make his sheep fat and his verses thin. If Virgil
οὐ γάρ πω, κατ' ἐμὸν νόον, οὔτε τὸν ἐσθλὸν
1 ÖTTI Biwv TÉOvakεv ò Bovкóλog. (Moschus, 3. 11: but see the whole context.)
2 See, for instance, Wunderlich, quoted by Wagner at the end of Heyne's Argument of Ecl. 1.
is a shepherd because he is a poet, his friends, as being poets themselves, or at least friends of a poet, must be shepherds too, and the times upon which he has fallen must be described by pastoral images. Gallus, the soldier and elegiac poet, already introduced among the heroes of mythology in the sixth Eclogue, appears in the tenth as the dying shepherd of Theocritus, languishing under the shelter of a rock, and consoled by the rural gods; he is at the same moment in Italy and in Arcadia, acting with Octavianus against Sex. Pompeius, and bewailing his lost love in the ears of ideal swains. Whatever may be the ultimate source of the inspiration which animates the fourth Eclogue, and whoever the child shadowed forth as the king of the peaceful world, the poem is evidently a description of the new era supposed to be inaugurated in Pollio's consulship by the peace of Brundisium; but the golden age is represented as a golden age of pastoral life, where art is to be nothing and nature everything, a recollection of the legendary past in Hesiod converted into an anticipation of the historical future. So the Daphnis of the fifth Eclogue is evidently the great Julius, as the similarity of the images to those in the preceding poem is sufficient to show; it is a pastoral poet that celebrates him, and therefore he must be celebrated as a shepherd, wept by all nature in his death, powerful and honoured as a rural god in his immortality. Even where the poems appear at first sight to be purely dramatic and impersonal, the poet is still visible. Menalcas, an actor in the fifth Eclogue, announces himself at the end of it as the author of the second and third; in the ninth an intimation is made from which we infer that the fifth also is really his work, the song of Mopsus no less than his own. The second Eclogue is one which we should gladly believe to be purely ideal, instead of sifting the tradition which professes to verify it: nor need we be anxious to think with Servius that the song of Silenus to the shepherds is really an epicurean lecture delivered by Syro to his pupils. But when we find shepherds rivalling each other for the favour of Pollio, and lampooning Bavius and Maevius, we feel that jealousy for the poet's credit as a painter of life is rather a misplaced sentiment3.
It is as an artist that Virgil appears chiefly to challenge our admiration, as in his other works, so also in the Bucolics. The language, indeed, which he puts into the mouths of his pastoral personages is for
3 It may be said that in Milton's Lycidas the Virgilian confusion of shepherd and poet is turned into mere chaos by the introduction of a third element, the Christian shepherd or minister. There is however this difference, that the object, no less than the effect, of the poem is not to describe pastoral life, but to paint student life in pastoral colours. The tenth Eclogue might take the benefit of the same distinction, if we could separate it in our judgment from the rest. Milton's use of mythology might afford another ground for comparison with Virgil: but the subject is too large for a note.
the most part as undramatic as the thoughts which that language expresses are conventional and unreal. In a very few instances he attempts. to produce an appearance of rusticity by an archaism, a proverb, a conversational ellipse, a clumsy circumlocution; even there, however, he seems to be copying Theocritus, rather than following the nature which he had seen around him, and the strain in which his shepherds usually converse is scarcely less elaborate than the ordinary diction of the Georgics or the Aeneid. So in the practice of the Greek poets the bucolic hexameter had a structure of its own': as handled by Virgil it does not differ from the didactic or the epic. Yet a more poetical people than the Romans might be pardoned if they forgot their sense of dramatic propriety in the delight with which they welcomed such specimens of language and versification as those which the Eclogues every where exhibit. The tedious labour of the file, the absence of which is deplored by Horace as fatal to the excellence of Roman poetry, had at last found an artist who would submit to it without complaining. The finished excellence of his workmanship is a fact which will not be readily
4 See Gebauer's 'De Poetarum Graecorum Bucolicorum, imprimis Theocriti, Carminibus in Eclogis a Vergilio adumbratis: particula prima' (Leipsic, 1856), pp. 8 foll., a valuable monograph, of which I have not availed myself as fully as I could wish, as it did not appear till after the bulk of these remarks was written.
There is a passage in Wycherley's recommendatory lines on Pope's Pastorals which is worth quoting, not only for its own ingenuity, but as expressing the view taken by Pope and his friends of the language in which pastoral poetry should be written-a view probably not very unlike Virgil's own, mutatis mutandis.
"Like some fair shepherdess, the silvan Muse
Should wear those flowers her native fields produce,
And the true measure of the shepherd's wit
Should, like his garb, be for the country fit:
Yet must his pure and unaffected thought
More nicely than the common swain's be wrought:
So with becoming art the players dress
In silks the shepherd and the shepherdess,
Yet still unchanged the form and mode remain,
See also Pope's Discourse on Pastoral Poetry, prefixed to his Pastorals, where he lays down practical rules for bucolic writing, and his ironical comparison of his own Pastorals with Philips' (Guardian, No. 40), where the doctrine that shepherds ought to deal in proverbs is not forgotten.
5 See Gebauer, pp. 44 foll., where too much is perhaps made of the instances-not more than 240 lines out of the whole number-in which the bucolic caesura is preserved. It is evident that Virgil set no store by it whatever as a necessary law of composition: that he should have employed it in the Eclogues more frequently than in the other two poems, is no more than is natural in a young writer just beginning to form his versification, and at the time familiar with the cadence of Theocritus.
6 Hor. 2 Ep. 1. 167. Ars Poet. 290.
impeached or overlooked, though its importance may easily be underrated. We are apt, perhaps, not sufficiently to consider what is involved in the style or diction of poetry. We distinguish sharply between the general conception and the language, as if the power which strikes out the one were something quite different from the skill which elaborates the other. No doubt there is a difference between the two operations, and one which must place a poet like Virgil at a disadvantage as compared with the writers whom he followed; but it would be a mistake to suppose that imagination may not be shown in the words which embody a thought as well as in the thought which they embody. To express a thought in language is in truth to express a larger conception by the help of a number of smaller ones; and the same poetical faculty which originates the one may well be employed in producing the other. It is not merely that the adaptation of the words to the thought itself requires a poet's sense, though this is much; but that the words themselves are images, each possessing, or capable of possessing, a beauty of its own, which need not be impaired, but may be illustrated and set off, by its relative position, as contributing to the development of another and more complex beauty. It is not necessary that these words, in order to be poetical, should be picturesque in the strict sense of the term; on the contrary, it may suit the poet's object to make a physical image retire into the shade, not advance into prominent light: but the imagination will still be appealed to, whatever may be the avenue of approach—by the effect of perspective, by artful juxtaposition, by musical sound, or perhaps, as we have already seen, by remote intellectual association. The central thought may be borrowed or unreal, yet the subordinate conceptions may be true and beautiful, whether the subordination be that of a paragraph to an entire poem, a sentence to a paragraph, or a phrase or word to a sentence. It is, I conceive, to a perception of this fact, and not to a deference to any popular or mechanical notion of composition, that the praise of style and execution in poetry is to be referred. Poetry is defined by Coleridge' to be the best words in their right places; and though at the first statement his view may appear disappointing and inadequate, it will perhaps be found that further consideration will go far towards justifying its truth.
If the Augustan age is, as it is allowed to be by common consent, the epoch of the perfection of art as applied to Latin poetry, that perfection is centred in Virgil and Horace. Ovid, the third great representative poet of his time, sufficiently indicates that even then a decline had begun; and Tibullus and Propertius, though free from his faults, are scarcely of sufficient eminence to be regarded as masters in the school of style. But Virgil and Horace, like Sophocles among
7 Table Talk.