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P. VERGILI MARONIS
THE main subject of the Second Book is the culture of trees, especially of the vine. But there is no great regularity in the mode of treatment. Virgil opens with an enumeration of the different ways of propagating trees, natural and artificial, so as to give some notion of the magnitude of the theme; then shows how art can improve upon nature, and recurs again to the manifoldness of his subject, dwelling especially on the innumerable varieties of vines. Without much relevancy he talks of the trees which are indigenous to different countries, and is thence drawn off into an eulogy of Italy, which he does not fit with any practical application. The question of the aptitudes of various soils is treated far more widely than the subject of the book requires, embracing the choice of corn and pasture land, as well as of ground for planting vines and other trees. For the next 160 lines the poet seems to be thinking exclusively of the vine or of the trees planted in the 'arbustum' as its supporters. He does not distinguish between the different modes of rearing the vine, but in general appears to assume that the 'arbustum' will be the means adopted. He speaks of the vine and its supporters almost indifferently, as objects more or less of the same culture, so that while keeping the former prominently before him he feels himself at liberty to use general language, or even to confine his language to the latter, as metrical convenience or poetical variety may suggest a manner of speaking which renders this part of the book peculiarly difficult, at least to an unprofessional commentator. The olive, which was put forward prominently in the programme of the book, is actually disposed of in a very few lines, as requiring hardly any culture at all, while the other fruit-trees are dismissed even more briefly. The remaining trees receive a very hasty recommendation to the cultivator, backed however with an assurance that they are even more useful to man than the vine. In the celebrated digression which concludes the book the laborious aspect of a country life, elsewhere so prominent, is studiously kept out of sight, and we hear only of ease, enjoyment, and plenty. Its interest as bearing on the tastes of the poet himself has been noticed in the general introduction to the Georgics.
The beauties of this book have always been admired, and deservedly so. They are most conspicuous in the digressions; but the more strictly didactic part contains innumerable felicities of expression, though it may be doubted whether in general they do not obscure the practical meaning as much as they illustrate it—whether in fact they do not constitute the strongest condemnation of that school of poetry of which they are so illustrious an example.
As in the case of Book 1, we can say nothing of the date. All that we know is that vv. 171, 172 seem to have been written just after the battle of Actium; but the passage to
which they belong is precisely one which may have been introduced after the rest of the poem was composed.
HACTENUS arvorum cultus et sidera caeli,
Nunc te, Bacche, canam, nec non silvestria tecum
1-8.] Thus far of tillage and seasons: now of the vine, the trees of the plantation, and the olive. May the patron of the vine assist me, helping the poet as he helps the vine-dresser.'
1.] Arvorum cultus' is the general subject of Book 1. 'Sidera caeli' refers to vv. 204-258, and perhaps also to the prognostics which occupy the latter part of the book, down to the conclusion. 6 Hactenus,' sc. 'cecini.' Comp. Aesch. Cho. 143, uv μὲν εὐχὰς τάσδε, τοῖς δ ̓ ἐναντίοις Λέγω, κτλ.
2.] Silvestria virgulta:' Voss and Wagn. have rightly observed that the forest trees are introduced principally as forming the supporters of the vine, so that there may be a special propriety in tecum.' 'Virgulta' for 'virguleta,' a number of twigs, hence applied to bushes or low or young trees, which here seem to be taken as the type of such trees as the husbandman cultivates. Silvestria' " seems to be used vaguely, as elsewhere in this book.
3.] Hesiod, as reported by Pliny 15. 1, said that the 'sator' (perhaps the sower) of an olive never saw its fruit. Theophr. De Caus. Plant. 1. 9 called the olive dvoavens, contrasting it as such with the vine. For this reason Varro 1. 41 recom. mends that it should not be raised from seed (see below, v. 56 foll.).
4.] Huc' may be elliptical, like dɛupo: but veni,' v. 7, smooths over the ellipse, which is at least unusual in Latin. Pater :' "Omnem deum necesse est inter sollennes ritus patrem nuncupari; quod Lucilius in deorum concilio irridet (Sat. 1. 3, Gerlach): Ut nemo sit nostrum quin pater optimu' divum, Ut Neptunu' pater, Liber, Saturnu' pater, Mars, Ianu', Quirinu' pater, nomen dicatur ad unum," Lactant. 4.3. Compare or contrast the equally general application of avag to the gods of Greece. Virgil, while
showing his ritual learning, and giving the invocation an air of pontifical solemnity, doubtless thought of Bacchus as patron of men and giver of increase to the fruits of the earth. Tuis hic omnia plena muneribus :' Virgil fancies himself surrounded by the gifts of autumn, of which he is going to sing. To conceive of him as meaning that he actually writes in autumn would be less natural, though a modern poet (Keats at the opening of his Endymion is an instance) might introduce such a personal specification.
5.] Tibi:' comp. Lucr. 1. 7 foll. 'Tibi' can hardly be taken in these two passages as the dative of the agent, but in each case it seems to express the acknowledgment of nature to its author and sustainer. See on 1. 14. It is a question whether autumno is temporal, or constructed with 'gravidus ' in the sense of the fruits of autumn, like οπώρα.
6.] The vintage is foaming in the brimming vats.'
Tingue,' like ẞáπтw, means both to immerse' and 'dye.' For mecum compare "Ignarosque viae mecum miseratus agrestis," 1. 41, and 'una,' v. 39 below. 'Dereptis' is the reading of four MSS. The common reading is 'direptis.' 'De' and 'di' are often confounded in MSS. 'Cothurnis:' Paterc. 2. 82, of Antonius, "Cum redimitus hedera coronaque velatus aurea et thyrsum tenens cothurnisque succinctus curru velut Liber pater vectus esset Alexandriae." Bacchus was represented with hunting buskins, which would naturally form part of his fawn-skin dress. Virgil, professing to write with a view to practice, identifies the poet with the husbandman, and invokes Bacchus at the opening of his subject, as if the assistance he actually required were in the vine-dresser's occupation.
Principio arboribus varia est natura creandis.
9-34.] 'Trees are propagated in various ways, some natural, some artificial.'
9.] Varia est natura' includes all the modes by which trees are generated, down to v. 34. Of these modes there are two divisions, v. 10-21 and v. 22-34. The first division, generation without the help of man, is subdivided into spontaneous generation (v. 10-13), generation by seed (v. 14–16), and generation by suckers (v. 17-19). 'Nullis hominum cogentibus' really specifies the first division, though it nominally belongs only to its first subdivision.
'Arboribus creandis,' like "habendo pecori," 1. 3 note. 'The law of the production of trees is various.'
10.] Virgil is supposed by Heyne and others to refer here to production by invisible as distinguished from visible seeds, agreeably to a distinction made by Varro 1. 40, but from v. 49 it seems as if he believed in strictly spontaneous generation.
11.] Ipsae' and 'sponte sua,' in spite of a subtle distinction attempted by Voss, are a tautology. 'Veniunt' for ' proveniunt,' 1. 54.
12.] 'Curva,' by calling attention to the bends of the river, shows that the trees grow along its side. The scanty notices of the 'siler' do not enable us to identify it; but it is conjectured to be the osier. See Keightley, Flora Virg. s. v. Salicta' = 13.] saliceta,' for 'salices.' 14.] Posito de semine,' from seed deposited casually, dropping from trees. The words themselves, like 'seminibus iactis,' v. 57, might refer to any kind of sowing, but in each case they are determined by the context. At the same time, as Virgil says nothing in the rest of the passage about
sowing by the hand, we may suppose that he regarded it as virtually mentioned in the mention of dropped seed, and not worth particularizing separately, being the lowest form of human co-operation with nature.
15.] Nemorum' is either partitive, maxuma nemorum being equivalent to maxuma arborum nemorensium,' or constructed as a kind of local genitive, 'chief over the woods,' like жатоç xúрaç, Aesch. Ag. 509. See on v. 534 below. Iovi' like tibi,' v. 5.
16.] Quercus,' the oakgroves of Dodona. The oracles were drawn either from the murmuring of the foliage or from the notes of the pigeons.
17.] Pullulat ab radice,' &c.: propagation by natural suckers, called 'pulli' by Cato 51, 'pulluli' by Pliny 17. 10.
19.] 'Se subiicit,' E. 10. 74.
20.] 'Primum,' 'in the first instance,' i. e. before man had tried experiments. Natura' here seems used strictly, opposed to 'usus,' not generally, as in v. 9, where it means the natural principle of growth, whether assisted by cultivation or not; or we may lay the stress on 'dedit' and make the contrast between what is asked or extorted from nature, and what she gives unsolicited. Lucretius (5. 1361 foll.) speaks similarly, though in less detail, of sowing and planting as suggested by nature. His,' 'by these modes. To these they owe their verdure.'
21.] Fruticum,' 'shrubs,' that is, trees without trunks. 'Nemorumque sacrorum does not denote a botanical, but merely a poetical division.
22.] Artificial modes-suckers, sets, lay
Hic plantas tenero abscindens de corpore matrum
Nil radicis egent aliae, summumque putator
Et saepe alterius ramos inpune videmus
ers, cuttings, pieces of the cleft wood, and
23.] Plantas,' 'suckers.' Heins. and Heyne read abscidens,' but the MSS. authority (including Med.) is in favour of abscindens.' Wagn. supposes that there is a distinction in the sense of the words, the former being restricted to separation by the knife, while the latter is equivalent to 'avellere.' 'Tenero' is not for 'teneras,' but expresses the violence done to the tree by the artificial separation, thus contrasting it with natural propagation by suckers, vv. 17-19; as we might say, 'from the bleeding stem.'
24.] "Hic altius deponit validiores cum radicibus plantas" is Servius' paraphrase of hic stirpes obruit arvo.' Stirpes' may, however, be used merely for stipites,' and in this case 'stirpes,' sudes,' and 'vallos' may denote the same thing diffe
rently treated. 'Quadrifidas' implies that the bottom is cut across to form a root, acuto robore' that it is brought to a single point.
26.] Some forest-trees yearn for the arch of the depressed layer, and for slips which partake of their life, and spring from their soil.' Silvarum' for arborum :' see on v. 15. 'Arcus,' the bow which the depressed layers form.
Viva,' unseparated from the parent stem. Sua,' in which they themselves grow. 'Plantaria' seems to be from 'plantare' ("exiguis laetum plantaribus horti," Juv. 13. 123), though it may possibly be from 'plantarium,' which might very well stand in poetry for 'plantae.'
28.] Putator,' the gardener, only called putator' here because he has lopped the shoot from the tree.
29.] Referens,' restoring it to its native earth. 'Summum cacumen,' a cutting from the very top of the tree. Palladius 3. 25 (§ 28), [Morus] serenda est taleis vel cacuminibus."
30.] Caudicibus sectis' = concisione.' 'When you have lopped off the roots and branches and left the mere stump.'
31.] Radix oleagina' is mentioned as a specimen of the several kinds of trees which are grown in this manner-the myrtle is mentioned by Servius as one of them. Comp. A. 3. 21, 46, the prodigy of the bleeding myrtle. "Pliny (16. 43) tells us that olivewood wrought and made into hinges for doors has been known to sprout when left some time without being moved." Keightley. 'Sicco ligno' is a further description of 'caudicibus sectis.'
32.] 'Inpune,' without damage to the quality of either tree. We might render "by harmless magic.'
34.] Pirum' is the subject of 'ferre.'
Quare agite o, proprios generatim discite cultus,
Prunis,' on prunes. The epithet 'lapidosa'
35-46.] 'Listen to me then, husbandmen, bend to the work, and learn to subdue this part of nature also; and you, Maecenas, join me in coasting along this boundless main.'
35.] Having opened out the subject in its manifoldness, he seizes that as an opportunity for bespeaking his readers' and patron's attention. For this and the following lines comp. Lucr. 5. 1367, "Inde aliam atque aliam culturam dulcis agelli Temptabant, fructusque feros mansuescere terra Cernebant indulgendo blandeque colendo." Generatim,' after the kinds of trees; a Lucretian word.
37.] Neu segnes iaceant terrae:' comp. 1. 124, where the feeling is the same. 'Iuvat:' Virgil is exhorting to exertion, and accordingly stimulates enthusiasm by pointing to two great triumphs of industry Mount Ismarus, planted all over with vines, Mount Taburnus, with olives. Comp. v. 260, "magnos scrobibus concidere montis,' and note on 1. 63. Thus the words 'conserere,'' magnum,' 'vestire,' are emphatic. 'Iuvat' then will have its full sense, expressing a delightful occupation, not as Keightley and Bothe seem to think, a mere repayment of labour. 'What joy to plant Ismarus all over with the progeny of the wine-god, and clothe the mighty sides of Taburnus with a garment of olives !'
39.] Heyne has remarked the propriety of separating the invocation to Maecenas from that to Bacchus. There is, however, the obvious difference that while Bacchus, like Augustus in G. 1, is invoked as a god to give his aid, Maecenas, like Memmius in
Lucretius, is invited as a patron and reader
40.] The words imply an acknowledgment, to which 'merito' refers. Comp. Epictetus 15, diws Oɛloi Te noav Kai Xeyovro. So Prop. 2.1. 74 calls Maecenas "Et vitae et morti gloria iusta meae.'
41.] 'Da vela,' set sail; 'pelago patenti' on or over the open sea. The metaphorical reference of the epithet may possibly be to the unbrokenness of the field (comp. v. 175) rather than to its extent; but, however understood, it still clashes with the imagery of vv. 44, 45. 'Volans,' at full speed. So A. 1. 156, curruque volans dat lora se- cundo," which shews that Burm. and Voss are wrong in preferring 'volens' here, the reading of one MS.
42.] Cuncta,' the whole subject. Comp. v. 103. Opto' seems to be used here of undertaking boldly, as apparently A. 6. 501, "Quis tam crudeles optavit sumere poenas?” where' optavit' seems equivalent to ërλŋ.
43.] An obvious imitation of Homer, Il. 2. 488. Macrobius, Sat. 6. 3, says that Hostius, a contemporary of Julius Caesar, had already made a translation of the passage, from which he quotes "non si mihi linguae Centum atque ora sient totidem vocesque liquatae." 'Non,' sc. 'optem amplecti,' or 'amplectar.'
44.] Primi litoris oram = 'primam litoris oram.'