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imperial Rome was ill suited to convey the unpremeditated effusions of unlettered herdsmen. If Virgil, therefore, has fallen very far short of his great prototype, the difficulty of his attempt must not be forgotten. Indeed, he appears not insensible of it himself; and, by the nature of the language in which he composed, he has been compelled to abandon his original intention, and to attempt loftier flights than the nature of pastoral poetry strictly justifies.
The Eclogues of Virgil possess one remarkable characteristic; they are allegories. This at once introduces a great difference between them and the Theocritean Idyl. The allegorical veil is sometimes allowed to fall, and the shepherds who represent the poet and his friends converse like scholars and philosophers. It has been a great question, whether the Alexis partakes of this figurative character; many are of opinion that it is merely an imitation of the 'Epaons of Theocritus. All the grammarians, however, identify the poet with Corydon; and there is the higher authority of his contemporary, Propertius, as well as those of Martial and Apulejus, on the same side; but the real name of Alexis is a matter of considerable doubt. The opinion mentioned by Servius, that Augustus was intended, scarcely deserves to be noticed. Some make Alexis to have been Alexander, a slave of Pollio; but most probably he belonged to Mæcenas. Painful doubts overhang this portion of Virgil's history; but Juvenal most assuredly did not make any allusion to the subject in the following lines, which Dryden has most grossly amplified and perverted :—
si Virgilio puer et tolerabile deesset
Hospitium, caderent omnes è crinibus hydri,—
Surda nihil gemeret grave buccina,
There is difficulty in believing this to have been the first of Virgil's compositions, on the supposition of Alexis being the slave either of Mæcenas or Augustus; inasmuch as, in that case, it must have been written before we have any account of Virgil's acquaintance with either.
But the most extraordinary composition of Virgil is his Pollio, a poem which
Prop. 2 Eleg. xxiv. 73; Mart. v. 16; viii. 56; Apul. Apolog. i. 13.
2 Donatus observes, "Boni ita eum pueros amâsse putaverunt, ut Socrates Alcibiadem, et Plato suos pueros."- Vit. Virg. 20. Charity "hopeth all things;" but the state of heathen morality, even among the most intellectual and refined, was such as to allow and indulge abominations which, in any professedly Christian society, however rude, would cover their perpetrators with nfamy: and whatever may have been the conduct of Virgil, Horace, Catullus, Tibullus, and others, they have not hesitated to follow Greek examples of this nature in their writings. It is, however right to observe that the Roman poets generally claimed the privilege of bad morals on paper, while they renounced it in act. See in particular Catull. xvii.; Ovid. Trist. ii. 154; Mart. i. 15 Plin. Epist. iii. 5; iv. 14; and Hadrian's epitaph on Voconius. Profligate literature was no disgrace, rather otherwise, even when a profligate life would have been iníamous. The peculiarity of Virgil's case, however, is, that he makes no such apology for himself, and, indeed, needs it less, perhaps, than any of his extant contemporaries; while yet his identity with his "Corydon" appears, from external evidence, to be indubitable. On this account his memory bears a stain, which those of Horace and Tibullus, who have written as offensively, have commonly escaped. 8 Sat. vii. 69
has been the subject of endless conjecture. The much litigated and unsettled question, "whom was it intended to commemorate?" we shall pass over, as not materially connected with our subject; only observing that this honour has been ascribed to the young Marcellus, to a son of Pollio, to a son of Augustus, to Asinius Gallus, to Drusus, and lastly, even to Augustus himself. What is principally worthy of notice is, that this poem exhibits a coincidence with the Sacred Writings too close to be fortuitous. That the Greeks had acquired indirectly some acquaintance with the histories of the Hebrew Scriptures is not to be doubted; as Hesiod and Ovid, the expounders of their theology, have clearly discovered it; and it is probable that Theocritus, at the court of Ptolemy, had seen the Sacred Volume, and even borrowed its phraseology. But in this poem Virgil only imitated Theocritus in the structure of the composition; for, with one or two exceptions, there is no similarity in details, which in Virgil resemble an epitome of Scripture prophecies of the Messiah. Though much of the fabulous history of the early world is corrupted from Holy Scripture, the Greeks in general were ignorant of its source, and were too much possessed with a contempt for "barbarian" literature to study, much less to imitate, the Hebrew writers. The universal contempt entertained for the Jews at Rome made it still less probable that their literature would meet imitation, or even perusal, there. An intelligent writer, indeed, imagines that he has discovered an avowal, on the part of Virgil, of his intention to avail himself of the treasures of Hebrew poetry, in the line1
Primus Idumæas referam tibi, Mantua, palmas;
but to this it is only necessary to reply, that the line cited was not written until after the Pollio was composed. The inquirer must, therefore, advance on other ground than that of supposing that Virgil accommodated the prophetic Scriptures to his purpose. The poet has, indeed, given us a clue in our inquiries; he has asserted that his prophecies are taken from the verses of the Cumaan Sibyl. The fable of the Sibyl's interview with Tarquin is well known. The books which she was supposed to have given to the Romans were destroyed in the conflagration of the Capitol during the Marsian war; emissaries were then despatched by the Senate throughout Italy, Greece, Asia, and the coasts of Africa, to collect the best authenticated prophecies of the various Sibyls; and the collection thus made was called "Cumæum Carmen," because it was compiled to supply the loss of the writings of the Cumaan Sibyl. In this miscellany it is nothing improbable that prophecies of the great Person then about to appear should be found ; especially when it is recollected that Tacitus and Suetonius have borne witness to
The last opinion is maintained at great length, n a work entitled, "Observations in Illustration of Virgil's celebrated Fourth Eclogue." London, 1810.
2 Comp. Id. xviii. 30, with cant. i. 9.
3 Notes on the "Caliph Vathek."
4 Georg. iii. 12.
the general expectation of such a Person then prevalent in the East. It is also remarkable that Ælian mentions the JEWISH SIBYL, together with the Cumæan ;2 her oracles, therefore, which were probably in substance the same as the prophetical writings, were likely to be in the collection. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, on the authority of Varro, asserts that such of the prophecies as were not genuine were written in acrostichs.3 Eusebius has preserved a pretended acrostich oracle of the Erythræan Sibyl, the initial letters of which form the words IHΣOYE ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΘΕΟΥ ΥΙΟΣ ΣΩΤΗΡ ΣΤΑΥΡΟΣ; but this is evidently a forgery on the bare inspection. We have cap used for mankind, daha for idols, and in one place the very words of Scripture have been quoted: "Opvós d'èx πάντων έσται καὶ βρύγμος ὀδόντων.” Constantine, in his “ Λόγος τῷ τῶν żyíwv ovnnóyw,” gives a very elaborate interpretation of the Pollio, with a Greek translation of the greater part of it, and asserts that the oracle, whence it was taken, was translated by Cicero into Latin verse, and annexed to his poems. We have now no trace of this translation, if it ever existed; but it is a curious circumstance, that Cicero informs us that the Sibylline oracles did predict a king, and were written in acrostichs. If any name were mentioned in them, it must have been Cornelius; as the pretence which Lentulus adduced for his connection with Catiline was a Sibylline prophecy, portending that the empire of Rome was to be given to three Cornelii Cinna and Sylla having been the two former, the third was to be himself. It is by no means improbable that, among the prophecies copied from the Jewish Scriptures, or gleaned from Jewish tradition, which were in all probability found among the Sibylline writings, the great Subject of prediction was called, the power of God, which would assuredly have been translated Cornelius by the Romans.
The author of the ingenious and elaborate Observations, who conceives that Virgil meant to refer the Sibyl's prediction to Augustus, imagines the whole poem to be a metrical horoscope, and discovers a clear explanation of every expression and allusion contained in it, by a reference to the phraseology of astrological art. How far this author is bigoted to hypothesis, may be conjectured from his application of the following lines to the sign Aries:
5 Cic. 3 Cat. iv.; Sall. Bell. Cat.; Plutarch, in Vit. Cic.
6 Christ is called "the power of God," in 1 Cor. i. 24; and zipœs (171) owenpías in St. Luke i. 69. The number three thus applied may have been derived from some Old Testament intimations of the Holy Trinity.
and there can be no doubt that the same ingenuity, had this line followed those above cited, would have given an equally convincing interpretation of Tauris. Any mind unsophisticated by hypothesis cannot fail to perceive that the poet is describing a time of universal opulence and rest, when agriculture and commerce should be alike unnecessary: and when the ram in the meadows (not in the skies), should wear his fleece, without the dyer's labour, attired in the most costly and splendid colours.1
That the Daphnis was composed, like Milton's Lycidas, to commemorate the death of some real person, is scarcely to be doubted. That Menalcas represents Virgil is evident from the conclusion, wherein he states himself to be the author of two of Virgil's Eclogues. Mopsus, according to Servius, is Æmilius Macer of Verona, who wrote a poetical history of serpents, plants, and birds, in imitation of Nicander, and a supplement to the Iliad, called Antehomerica and Posthomerica. Bernhardy, Bähr, and others, after Wernsdorf, attribute, however, the epic and didactic poems to different writers of the same name. 2 If Daphnis be a personification, Julius Cæsar is the only person whom the character can pourtray, as Heyne justly observes: although he believes the poem to be merely a commemoration of the celebrated Sicilian shepherd. Servius and Donatus make Daphnis the poet's brother Flaccus. An uncertain epigrammatist has the following distich:
Tristia fata tui dum fles in "Daphnide" Flacci,
Virgil concluded his Bucolics with an elegant compliment to Cornelius Gallus, a celebrated contemporary poet, born at Forum Julii, in Gaul, about Virgil's own age, and his fellow-pupil under Syron, consoling him for the loss of his Lycoris, whom the old commentators assert to have been an actress, whose real name was Cytheris. She was the freed woman of Volumnius Eutrapelus, and took the name of Volumnia. As she was familiar with Antony, the old commentators have supposed that she deserted Gallus to accompany Antony on his Gallic expedition. Heyne, however, in his argument of the Gallus, has shown, from chronological considerations, that this could not be the case. The genuine poems of Gallus, with the exception of a few fragments, are lost. They consisted of four books of elegies, called Amores or Lycoris, and a translation of Euphorion, as we learn from Servius. A pretended edition of the works of Gallus was published by Pomponio Gaurico, at the beginning of the sixteenth century; but the fraud was soon detected in Italy, and Tiraboschi attributes these poems, accord1 The reader desirous of prosecuting subject of Virgil's Pollio is referred to the following works: Heyne's Virgil; Cudworth's Intellectual System, book i. c. iv. sec. 16; Martyn's Virgil; and Blondel, De Sibyllis.
2 Bernhardy, Grundriss der Röm. Lit. Anm. 434; Aeussere Geschichte, 83. Bähr, Geschichte der Röm. Lit. § 83; Wernsdorf, Poett. Latt. Minn. tom. iv. p. 579.
3 Storia, part. iii. lib. iii. sec. 27.
ing to common report, to a certain Maximinian, who flourished in the time of Boëtius. As an elegiac poet, Gallus ranked very high in public opinion. Ovid speaks of his fame as universal; Propertius and Martial have borne testimony to his excellence; and Virgil, in his beautiful and extraordinary VIth Eclogue, has panegyrized his Euphorion in the noblest strains of mythological eulogy. Virgil had also, according to Servius, celebrated his praises in the conclusion of his Georgics. Gallus was no less distinguished as a warrior than as a poet; he was of great service to Augustus in the Egyptian war, and assisted in securing the person of Cleopatra. He was, in consequence, constituted the first prefect of Egypt. Here he appears to have conducted himself with arrogance and insolence. He was afterwards condemned to banishment by the command of Augustus, on suspicion of having conspired against him; a sentence which, however, the poet anticipated by a voluntary death, U.c. 728; and Virgil, at the instance of the emperor, substituted for his eulogy on Gallus the fable of Aris
The publication of Virgil's Bucolics created a powerful sensation in literary Rome. The grammarians tell us that they were recited on the stage;1 and that, on one occasion, when Cicero was present in the theatre, and heard some verses of the Silenus recited by Cytheris, he called for the whole eclogue, and, when he had heard it through, exclaimed, “Magnæ spes altera Romæ.' This cannot be true, for Cicero was then dead: but we have better authority for the truth of the honours publicly lavished on Virgil. From the author of the Dialogue de Oratoribus we learn that, when some verses of Virgil were recited on the stage, and the poet happened to be present, all the spectators rose, and paid him the same marks of respect which they would have shown to Augustus. Propertius has celebrated the conclusion and publication of the Bucolics, and Ovid has foretold their immortality.
The poetical power which the Bucolics discovered induced Mæcenas, almost as soon as they were finished (about U.c. 717), to request Virgil to undertake the Georgics. The neglected state of agriculture, in consequence of the civil wars, might be the reason why Mæcenas chose this subject for Virgil's Muse: and indeed this condition of the country is graphically described by the poet himself: 5
Ubi fas versa atque nefas; tot bella per orbem,
But we must not suppose the statesman to have conceived that the military settlers could be moved by an exquisite poem to the cultivation of their estates.
1 Donat. in Vit. Virg.; Serv. in Ecl. vi. 11.
3 ii. 34.
2 Dial. de Orat. xiii.
5 Georg. i. 162.