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ourselves to interrogate that nature which underlies the many varieties of art. Yet we may realize something of the feeling if we go back to the time when the office of a translator ranked as high in English estimation as that of an original poet—when he that drew Zimri and Achitophel was thought to have added to his fame by his versions of Juvenal and Virgil, and the preparation of the English Iliad and Odyssey occupied ten of the best years of the mind which had produced the Essay on Criticism and the Rape of the Lock.
But whatever may be its susceptibility of explanation or illustration, the fact is one which requires to be borne in mind by every student of the Eclogues. Without the spirit of allowance which we are ready to entertain as soon as we perceive that a peculiarity is not individual or occasional, but general, we should hardly be able to moderate our surprise at the numberless instances of close and indeed servile imitation which an attentive perusal shows us at once. It is one thing to accept broadly the statement that Virgil is a copyist, and quite another to follow him line by line and observe how constantly he is thinking of his guide, looking to him where a simple reliance on nature would have been not only far better, but far more easy and obvious, and on many occasions deviating from the passage immediately before him only to cast a glance on some other part of his model?. Tityrus, Galatea, Amaryllis, Corydon, Thestylis, Menalcas, Damoetas, Amyntas, Aegon, Daphnis, Thyrsis, Micon, Lycidas, are all names to be found in the muster-roll of Theocritus; and of those not included therein there is not one (if we except, what are really no exceptions, actual historical personages) which is not referable to a Greek, perhaps a bucolic original. Corydon addresses Alexis in the language used by Polyphemus to Galatea; boasts in the same way of his thousand sheep and his neverfailing supply of milk: answers objections to his personal appearance in the same way by an appeal to the ocean mirror: paints in similar colours the pleasures of a rural life : glances similarly at the pets he is rearing for his love; and finally taxes himself for his folly, and reminds himself that there are other loves to be found in the world, in language which is as nearly as may be a translation from the eleventh Idyl. Menalcas and Damoetas rally each other in words borrowed from two neighbouring Idyls: two others supply the language in which they make their wages : while a large proportion of the materials for their amoebean display is to be found in the same or other parts of Theocritus, scattered up and down. In the friendly rivalry of Menalcas and Mopsus the depreciation of Amyntas, the grief of the wild beasts for Daphnis, the epitaph, the apotheosis in most of its circumstances, the compliments which shepherd
2 References to the various imitations from Theocritus will be found in the Commentary.
pays to shepherd, and the exchange of presents, are all modelled more or less closely after the Doric prototype. Corydon and Thyrsis are perhaps more original: yet even they owe something to Menalcas and Daphnis, as well as to one or two other Sicilian shepherds, not only in the antecedents, but in the contents of their songs; and the eminence to which Corydon is lifted by his success is similar, though inferior, to that attained by Daphnis. The dying Damon, or rather the lover whom Damon personates, recalls in the first part of his complaint the dying Daphnis, in the last the slighted Polyphemus: the enchantress who is represented by Alphesiboeus is the same who in the second Idyl employs even more charms to bring back Delphis, though the success which this time crowns her efforts is new. Moeris and his companion, like Meliboeus and Tityrus, talk about a subject which, being part of Virgil's personal history, could not but be his own: yet even they supply us with reminiscences from Sicily, partly in the things which they say to each other, partly in their quotations from the poet's unpublished verses. The dying Daphnis reappears once more in the dying or despairing Gallus : the complaint of the lover is indeed his own, but the circumstances which surround him are copied minutely from that song which Thyrsis, the sweet songster from Aetna, sang to the goat-herd in the hot noon under the elm. Even this enumeration must fail to give any notion of the numberless instances of incidental imitation, sometimes in a single line, sometimes in the mere turn of an expression, which fill up as it were the broader outlines of the copy. And yet there can be no doubt that Virgil ranked as an original poet in his own judgment no less than in that of his contemporaries, and that on the strength of those very appropriations which would stamp a modern author with the charge of plagiarism. His Thalia, he proudly reminds us, was the first who deigned to disport herself in the strains of Syracuse, as that was her first employment. And in the ninth Eclogue, where he grieves by anticipation, tenderly and gracefully enough, over the loss which the pastoral world would have sustained had he died prematurely, of the four fragments of his poetry which are singled out for admiration two are copies from Theocritus, and one of them, the first, so close a copy, and so slight, not to say trivial, in itself, that it can hardly have been instanced with any other view than to remind the reader of his success in borrowing and skilfully reproducing. It is, in fact, an intimation, made almost in express words, that he wished to be considered as the Roman Theocritus.
The impression left by such passages on the mind of a considerate reader is very much that which a modern author, writing without the restraint of verse, would seek to produce by a quotation or a direct reference. It is the common place of the art, used by a young artist;
the writing at the bottom of the picture for fear the picture should not be recognized: the tones of the master imitated by the pupil because he thinks that there is no other way of speaking correctly. Theocritus might talk generally of the Muses and of bucolic song: to Virgil the Muses must be the Muses of Sicily, and the
of Maenalus. Even Bion and Moschus, coming after Theocritus, had to appeal to Sicilian associations : how much more one not in possession of the links of sympathy imparted by a common country and common language, and an almost hereditary transmission of the poetical gift? And what is true of Virgil's relation to Theocritus is true to a certain extent of his relation to Greek writers generally and to the whole body of learning which he possessed. He had doubtless lived from boyhood in their world : and their world accordingly became a sort of second nature to him—a storehouse of life and truth and beauty, the standard to which he brought conceptions and images as they rose up within him, the suggestive guide that was to awaken his slumbering powers, and lead him to discover further felicities yet possible to the artist. This habit of mind perhaps strikes us most in cases where it is most slightly and, it would almost seem, unconsciously indicated. More than one writer has remarked on Virgil's practice of characterizing things by some local epithet, as a peculiarity by which he is distinguished from the earlier Latin poets. Doubtless in many instances there is some special reason for the choice of the word : it may point to some essential attribute of the thing, or some accidental connection with time and place which has a real significance in the context. But there are others where it is not easy to perceive any such relevancy. What appropriateness can there be in describing the hedge which separates Tityrus' farm from his neighbour's as having its willow-blossoms fed upon by the bees of Hybla*, or in the wish that the swarms which Moeris has to look after may avoid the yews of Corsica'? The epithet here is significant not to the reader but to the poet, or to the reader only so far as he happens to share in the poet's intellectual antecedents: it appeals not to a first-hand appreciation of the characteristics of natural objects, such as is open to all, but to information gained from reading or travel, and therefore confined to a few. And from what we know of the facts of Virgil's life we
λής νύ τί μοι, Λυκίδα, Σικελόν μέλος αδύ λιγαίνειν,
(Bion, 2. 1.)
(Moschus, 3. 8.) Moschus, however, was himself a Syracusan. 4 Ecl. 1. 55.
5 Ecl. 9. 30.
may safely conclude that, at the time of the composition of the Eclogues at any rate, his associations were those of a student, not those of a tourist. Nor would it be just to stigmatize the predilection which this indicates as merely conventional. It may be narrow, but within its limits it is genuine. There are some minds which are better calculated, at least in youth, to be impressed by the inexhaustibleness of Art than by the infinity of Nature. They may lack the genial susceptibility which in others is awakened immediately by the sight of the world without, and they may not have had time to educate their imperfect sympathies into a fuller appreciation; but they respond without difficulty to the invitations of natural beauty as conveyed to them through an intervening medium, adapted by its own perfection for the transmission of the perfection which exists beyond. They see with the eyes of others, not with their own; but their soul nevertheless receives the vision. Over such minds the recollection of a word in a book has the same power which others find in a remembered sight or sound. It recalls not only its own image, but the images which were seen in company with it: nay, it may touch yet longer trains of association, and come back
: upon the memory with something like the force of the entire body of impressions originally excited by the work which happens to contain it. Even those who have held more direct intercourse with nature are not insensible to the operation of this secondary charm. Can any one who reads Milton doubt that the mere sound of the stately names of classic history and mythology exercised a real influence on the poet's fancy? And Mr. Tennyson has lately given us a testimony to the constraining magic of Virgil's own language, where he speaks of himself as haunted during his journey from Como not by the thought of the overflowing lake, but by the ballad-burthen music' of Lari Maxume.
It is not, however, the existence of imitation alone, considered merely as imitation, that makes us speak of the Eclogues as unreal. Imitation involves the absence of reality, just as translation does, simply because the thing produced is not original: but it need not imply its destruction. But with the Eclogues the case is different. It is not merely that Virgil formed his conception of pastoral poetry from Greek models, but that he sought to apply it to Roman life. In the vocabulary of poetry, as he understood it, a shepherd was a Sicilian, or perhaps an Arcadian ; therefore an Italian shepherd must be spoken of as an Italian Sicilian, and pastoral Italy as Sicilian Italy. Instances of this historical and geographical confusion meet us in every page of the Eclogues. The very fact that the names of the shepherds are invariably Greek would naturally be sufficient to warn us what we are to expect. The introduc
6 In his poem “ The Daisy."
tion of men called Meliboeus and Tityrus talking about Rome leaves us no room to wonder at any further mixture of incongruities. Yet, so far as I am aware, the lengths to which this confusion is pushed have not been perceived or explained by the scholars of the continent. It has been reserved for the practical good sense and independent judgment of Mr. Keightley', assisted by a personal knowledge of Italian scenery, to set the matter in its true light. When Castelvetro, in the sixteenth century, asserted that the favourite trees of the Eclogues, the beech, the ilex, the chestnut, and the pine, do not grow about Mantua, subsequent critics were ready to reply that the features of the country may have changed in the lapse of centuries, and that surely Virgil must know best. But such reasoning will hardly avail against the absence of the green caves in which the shepherd lies, or the briary crags from which his goats hang, or the lofty mountains whose lengthening shadows remind him of evening. These are the unmistakeable features of Sicily, and no illusion of historical criticism will persuade us that they have changed their places, strange as it is to meet them in conjunction with real Mantuan scenery, with the flinty soil of Andes, and the broad lazy current of the Mincio. The actual Mantua is surrounded by a lake: its pastoral counterpart, like Shakspeare's Bohemia, seems to be on the sea, the stillness of whose waters enables the shepherds to sing undisturbed, as in Theocritus it forms a contrast with the unresting sorrow of the lovesick enchantress. The same rule, if rule it can be called, is observed in the manners and institutions of the shepherds: there is the Italian element, and there is the Sicilian, added as it were, to make it bucolic. The Pales of the Italians and the Apollo Nomios of the Greeks, as Mr. Keightley again points out, retire together from the country, which the death of Daphnis has left desolate: the two highdays of the shepherds' calendar are the Greek festival of the Nymphs and the Roman Ambarvalia. It seems not improbable that a similar account is to be given of the social position of the shepherds themselves, who, though living on terms of Arcadian equality, appear to be sometimes slaves or hirelings, sometimes independent proprietors: but the status of their brethren in Theocritus is itself a point which is apparently involved in some uncertainty.
Such a systematic confusion of time, place, and circumstance, it will be readily admitted, goes far to justify the way in which Virgil has been
? Notes, p. 15.
8 " Fagum dicit pro natura loci : prope Mantuam et in agris Virgilii erant veteres fagi. Cf. Ecl. 2. 3., 9. 9. Haeserunt nonnulli, quod hodie nullae sunt prope Mantuam, ut Holdsworth et alii. Sed non meminerunt XVIII saecula interjecta esse. In Libano hodie cedrorum exigua silva : olim omnis iis abundabat.” Spohn, quoted by Wagner on Ecl. ). 1.