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because he was possessed by a burning zeal to make proselytes; Virgil's poetry on the other hand is not primarily intended to teach but to give pleasure. It is true that agriculture was the only form of industry which the Roman nobles thought compatible with Roman dignity,1 and that neither Cato the Censor nor Varro, the most learned of the Romans, disdained to write a formal treatise on the subject;2 it is true also that Virgil's precepts are often eminently practical (see below, p. xxxvii), for he understood farming himself, so that he is continually quoted as a technical authority by Columella and Pliny, and the Romans understood it, nor would they have tolerated nonsense even in poetry; but he was well aware that for the most part his book would not be read because of the excellence of the advice contained in it. The desire too of the Emperor to revive the old Italian love for agricultural pursuits, to renew the sturdy race of yeomen farmers, and to recall the days when the plough lacked no worthy honour '3 may have influenced him in the selection of his subject, about which he is also himself genuinely, though quietly, enthusiastic and anxious that others should share his own devotion to the divine country.' But on the other hand he was perfectly

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1 Cic. de Off. 1. 42 omnium rerum quibus aliquid acquiritur, nihil est agricultura melius, nihil uberius, nihil dulcius, nihil homine libero dignius. Cf. too the names of the Lentuli, Fabii, Pisones, Stolones, etc., all connected with agriculture.

2 Cato's de Agricultura and Varro's Rerum Rusticarum libri tres are extremely interesting, and Virgil was intimately acquainted with both works. See too carefully the praise of agriculture put in the mouth of Cato by Cicero de Sen. 15. 51 seq.

3 G. 1. 506.

conscious that no delicacy of word-painting was likely to make his wealthy and luxurious readers take to practical farming, any more than their admiration for Millet's Angelus' is likely to make Parisian critics take to growing potatoes or going to church.1

The characteristic of the Georgics is indeed their consummate art. They cannot, of course, from the nature of their subject exhibit the dramatic power of the fourth Aeneid or the imaginative grandeur of the sixth, but the artistic perfection of their workmanship is of the highest order. They are written with slow and elaborate care.2 Each line has been polished to the utmost perfection, or, to use a phrase attributed to Virgil, licked into shape like a bear's cub.' Montaigne calls them the most finished work in poetry'4 and

1 This illustration is not taken at random, for the art which from two peasants, a potato field, and a church spire in the distance can create a great picture is strictly parallel with the art which Virgil exhibits in the Georgics.. Professor Sellar quotes from a French critic Travailler et prier, voilà la conclusion des Georgiques,' and I had drawn this comparison between Millet's picture and Virgil before seeing the quotation, nor was I at the time aware that Millet was himself a great student of Virgil.

2 Allowing seven years for their composition we get an average of less than a line a day.

3 carmen se ursae more farere dicens, et lambendo demum effingere: Vita apud Donatum.

4 Il m'a toujours semblé qu'en la poésie Virgile, Lucrèce, Catulle et Horace tiennent de bien loing le premier rang; et signamment Virgile en ses Georgicques, que j'estime le plus accomplis ouvrage de la poésie, à comparaison duquel on peult recognoistre ayseement qu'il y a des endroicts de l'Aeneïde ausquels l'aucteur eust donné encore quelque tour de pigne, s'il en eust eu loisir.' Montaigne, ii. 10 (des Livres),

Dryden emphatically states that they are the best Poem of the best Poet.'1 Others have had an equal love for the country, an equal sympathy with plant and animal life (see below, pp. xxxii, xxxiii), a like sense of the dignity which attaches to the tilling of the ground, and a fuller insight into the philosophic truths which Nature teaches, but no one has dealt with the subject with such affectionate pains or devoted skill as Virgil. Time, irreparable time,' flies with hurrying feet, but the poet with a lover's fondness lingers around each detail of his subject;2 he 'pauses on every charm '3 until it finds its perfect expression in some faultless phrase.

It is needless to do more than refer to the long passages which Virgil has introduced to adorn his subject. The art displayed in the opening invocation, (1. 1-41), in the learned description of the celestial sphere (1. 236-51), or in the highly rhetorical conclusion of the first book (1.462—514) is obvious to

1 Dedication of translation to the Earl of Chesterfield. 2 See G.

3. 284

sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus,

singula dum capti circumvectamur amore,

and compare the swift dactyls of the first line with the slow lingering movement of the second.

3 The Deserted Village

'How often have I loiter'd o'er thy green

Where humble happiness endear'd each scene!
How often have I paused on every charm,

The sheltered cot, the cultivated farm!'

No poem in the English language is more deserving to be set side by

side with the Georgics.

any one; although, as regards the last passage, special attention may be drawn to the skill with which Virgil, by the allusions in ll. 492—4, 506-8, connects it with the main subject of the Georgics. The panegyric on Italy (2. 136—76), the praise of a country life (2. 458—74); and the whole conclusion of the second book are magnificent. The description of a plague which closes the third book, in spite of some marvellous lines (3. 517 seq.), is less in accordance with modern than with ancient taste, which seemed rather to enjoy the gruesome and portentous, as is also the account of breeding bees from a putrefying carcase in Book IV., while even the beauty of the Eurydice episode (4-453527) cannot blind us to its irrelevance, but on the other hand we must recollect that the whole conclusion of this book had to be rewritten (see 4. 315 n.), and the description of the old man of Paestum in the same book (4. 116-48) is beyond praise, as is also the account of the social life of bees (4. 153 seq.).

There are, however, many minor points which are alluded to in the notes, but some of which-especially from the first book-it may be worth while to group together here.

Virgil takes great pains on every possible occasion. to add dignity to his subject by the introduction of mythological, antiquarian, and learned allusions. Observe the number of proper names throughout. Take the references to Tmolus, India, Arabia, the Chalybes,

1 Cf. the special pains which Thucydides spends on his description of the plague at Athens (2. 47 seq.) and Lucretius' treatment of the same theme, the hideous witch-epodes in Horace, or the description of a sacrifice (Lucan 1. 609 seq.).


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Elis, and Epirus 1. 56-9, to the names of the stars I. 138, of the Nymphs 1. 437, 4. 334 seq., of rivers 4. 365 seq. Compare also the allusions to Dodona 1. 149; to the wagons of the Eleusinian mother' 1. 163; the Celeï supellex and mystica vannus Iacchi 1. 165; the 'poppy of Ceres' 1. 212; the kingfishers dear to Thetis 1. 399; the acorns of the Chaonian Father' 2. 67; the olive of Pallas' 2. 181; the bees and thyme that are Cecropian' 4. 177, 270; the spider 'hated by Minerva' 4. 246. A fine horse recalls the steeds of Castor and Achilles, or the image of Saturn as he fled from Rhea 3. 92; a fine fleece resembles that 'snowy gift of wool' with which 'Pan god of Arcady beguiled the Moon' 3. 391. Similarly he seeks to give colouring by local allusion: the traveller does not merely cross the sea but he sails by Pontus' and 'hazards the straits of oyster-bearing Abydos' 1. 207; the lentil is the Pelusiac lentil' 1. 288; withes come from Ameria 1. 265; the sling is 'Balearic,' pitch 'Narycian' or 'from Ida' 2. 438, 3. 450; bows are 'Ituraean' 2. 448, olives Sicyonian' 2. 519, and so on. At times indeed this practice, which is derived from the learned versifiers of Alexandria, is carried even by Virgil to excess. The Italian farmer dreads 'Strymonian' cranes I. 120; the poet brings to Mantua 'Idumaean palms'; the African' shepherd has 'Amyclaean dogs' and a Cretan quiver' 3. 345 ; while it is only necessary to compare 3. 550


cessere magistri,

Phillyrides Chiron Amythaoniusque Melampus

with the four wonderful words of Lucretius

mussabat tacito medecina timore,

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