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poet of that age, and a friend equally of Pollio and Mæcenas. Between these two favorites of the Muses there subsisted, during their lives, the most cordial friendship. How sincerely they esteemed each other, we may learn from an ode which Horace afterwards composed upon the occasion of Virgil's setting sail for Greece, on account of his health.
Having completed the Georgics, our poet soon commenced the Eneid an epic or heroic poem. This is the noblest species of poetic composition requiring a correct judgment, a lively imagination, and an universal knowledge. Virgil possessed them all in a high degree. It is supposed that he had the subject in contemplation for several years previous, and that he alludes to it in the sixth Eclogue in these words:
Cùm canerem reges et prælia, Cynthius aurem
He probably had something of the kind in view; but whether it was, what the Eneid afterwards proved to be, is uncertain.
The subject of the poem is the removal of a colony of Trojans from Asia Minor, under the conduct of Æneas, and their settlement in Italy. The Iliad and Odyssey undoubtedly suggested to Virgil the idea of the Æneid; and without the former we should not have had the latter.
It has been supposed by some, that the Eneid was designed merely as an encomium upon Augustus, who was now raised to the highest temporal power. But if this had been his only object, the poet might have saved much time and labor, by composing short pieces, or brief panegyrics upon his prince, as Horace did on several occasions. It is true, Virgil was very fond of compli menting the Cæsars, and in several parts of his works, he has done it in the most extravagant manner.
The Æneid was undoubtedly designed for the benefit and instruction of the Roman people generally, who were now happily enjoying the blessings of peace, after having suffered, for a series of years, all the calamities of civil war. The poet wished these blessings to be perpetuated. He, therefore, endeavors to dissuade his countrymen from further attempts to restore the republic, and advises them to submit to the authority of a man who derived his origin from the gods, and under his auspices, to cultivate harmony, and the arts of civilized life. This is the moral of the poem, and an object worthy of the patriotism and benevolence of the poet.
Virgil wrote with a wonderful degree of exactness. Every thing which he mentions is founded upon historical truth; and the voyage and adventures of his hero are given with geographical precision. He has also given us a full and perfect account of the religious rites and ceremonies of the age. The whole so artfully blended with the subject, and so skilfully interwoven into it, as to become an essential part of the poem. And while he is delighting the fancy with the harmony of his numbers, he informs the understanding, and enlarges, the bounds of our knowledge.
As soon as it was known that Virgil had commenced the Eneid, the public expectation was raised very high; and so great was the general enthusiasm on the occasion, that Sextius Propertius did not hesitate to say:
Codite, Romani scriptores, cedite Graii;
His delicate health caused considerable interruption in his labors; and he found himself under the necessity of travelling, to sustain his feeble constitution He visited Sicily, and several parts of Italy; but Naples was his favorite place of residence.
He spent seven years in composing the first six books of the Æneid. gustus wished to hear what he had written, and desired him to recite them to him. The poet complied with the request of his prince; and for this purpose, selected the second, fourth, and sixth books. Into this last, he had incorpo rated, with an ingenious hand, the funeral rites of Marcellus, who died a short time before, and whom Augustus designed for his successor in the empire. He was a very promising youth, the darling of his mother, Octavia, and the favor. ite of the people. When the poet came to this part, Octavia, who was present, was so much affected, that she fainted away and Augustus was so highly pleased with the compliment paid to his nephew, that he ordered ten sestertia to be given for every line of the eulogium. This amounted to a very large sum. The verse 165, had been left in an unfinished state, and in the heat of fancy, occasioned by the recital, it is said, the poet added the words, Martemque accendere cantu, which complete the measure.
In four years afterwards, he finished the remaining six books, so that the poet spent eleven years in writing the Æneid. At this time, he was in the fiftyfirst year of his age, and his health considerably impaired. He had revised the Eclogues and the Georgics, and continued to improve them till the year before his death, as appears from some passages, particularly the closing verses of the last Georgic. Augustus was on the banks of the Euphrates, in the year of Rome 734. At this time Virgil was fifty years of age, and the Georgics had been published ten years.
It was the intention of Virgil to revise the Æneid also, before it was published. And for this end he visited the classic soil of Greece, where he purposed to devote three years to the poem: and, this being done, to turn his attention to philosophy. This, from his earliest years, had been his darling study, as he informs us in the latter part of the second Georgic; and he wished to spend the remaining years of his life in contemplating the works of nature, and in elevating his mind to its divine Author.
But soon after his arrival, his health became so delicate, and his strength so much exhausted, that he was obliged to relinquish it; and Augustus being on his return from Asia, Virgil thought proper to accompany him. At Megara, a town not far from Athens, he became seriously indisposed, and apprehensions were entertained of his recovery. He hastened his return to Italy, but continued to decline, and a few days after his arrival at Brundusium, a town in the eastern part of Italy, he expired, on the 22d day of September, being nearly 51 years of age. He died with that composure and resignation, which became so good and virtuous a man. He wished to be interred at Naples, the favorite place of his residence; and Augustus ordered his body to be removed thither, according to his desire; where it was buried with every testimony of respect and esteem. Just before his death, he wrote the following lines, as his epitaph:
Mantua me genuit: Calabri rapuere: tenet nunc
This was inscribed upon his tomb; and it is characteristic of the modesty of t great poet and distinguished philosopher. It is said his tomb is to be seen at the present day on the road from Naples to Puteoli, about two miles from the former place.
Virgil left a will. By it, he directed the Æneid to be burned, as being imperfect and unfinished. But this was countermanded by Augustus, at whose desire, it is said, it was undertaken; and we are indebted to him for the preservation of one of the greatest efforts of human genius. The manuscript was put into the hands of Varus, Tucca, and Plotius, all friends of Virgil, and poets of some distinction, with direction to expunge whatever they deemed improper:
but to make no additions themselves. To this circumstance it is probably owing that we find so many imperfect lines in the Æneid.
Virgil died in the possession of a large estate, the half of which he bequeathed to Valerius Proculus, his half-brother, on his mother's side. Of the rest, he gave half to Augustus, and the remainder to Mæcenas, Tucca, Varus, and Plotius.
Virgil was tall and of a brown complexion, extremely temperate and regular in his habits. His constitution was feeble, and his health often delicate. He was much afflicted with a pain in his head and stomach; and often with the spitting of blood. He was extremely modest, and even bashful to a fault, attended with a hesitation in his speech. Like other great men he had his enemies and detractors: but their aspersions only served to increase his fame, and add new lustre to it.
Virgil has been emphatically styled the prince of Latin poets; and it has not been decided whether the palm should be awarded to the Roman or Grecian poet. It is true, Virgil was much indebted to Homer, who may be considered the master; but the pupil had the happy talent of making every thing that passed through his hands, his own.
The condition of these two great favorites of the Muses was very different in their lives. Homer, as his name implies, was blind; and so humble was his birth and parentage, that the place of his nativity has not been ascertained He wrote the Iliad and Odyssey in detached pieces, and recited them in the va rious cities of Greece, to obtain a subsistence. Virgil wrote under the auspices of one of the greatest of princes, and nothing was wanting that could contribute to his ease and comfort. His friends were the best and the greatest men of the age. He was honored in his life, and lamented in his death. Homer left no friend to point the traveller to his monument; and nearly four centuries rolled away, before his countrymen sufficiently appreciated his merits, to collect his scattered productions, and rescue them from oblivion. The world is indebted to Pisistratus, an Athenian, for the preservation of these inimitable poems; which are, and will ever be, the delight, and, at the same time, the wonder and admiration of civilized man.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BUCOLICS.
Or the several kinds of poetry, none is more generally admired than the pastoral. Its subjects, the variegated scenes of the country, the innocent employment of shepherds and shepherdesses, possess charms which never fail to please and interest our minds. But this species of poetry is difficult in execution; which may be the reason that there have been so few, who excelled in it.
If the poet were to make his shepherd talk like a courtier, a philosopher, or a statesman, we should immediately perceive the impropriety; or were he to make him utter low and vulgar sentiments, we should turn from him with disgust. The medium is the true course. To maintain this, however, at all times, is no easy matter.
Theocritus was the only pastoral writer of eminence among the Greeks, and Virgil among the Romans. The former denominated his pastorals Idyllia, the latter Ecloga. Virgil, however, cannot so properly be called an original pastoral writer, as an imitator of Theocritus. Many of his finest touches are taken from the Grecian. He imitated him, however, with judgment, and in some respects improved upon him, particularly in preserving the true character of pastoral simplicity; in which the other on many occasions failed.
The word Bucolica is of Greek derivation, and signifies pastoral songs, or the songs of shepherds. Virgil denominated his Bucolica, Ecloga; which is also from a Greek word signifying to choose or select out of. The Eclogues are, then, a selection of choice pieces, such as he thought worthy of publication.
He began this part of his works in the twenty-ninth year of his age, and in the year of Rome 713; and finished it in the space of three years. The Eclogues were so well received by his countrymen, that they were pronounced publicly on the stage. After hearing one of them, Cicero, it is said, did not hesitate to say of him: Magna spes altera Roma.
It appears to have been the design of Virgil in writing his pastorals, to cele brate the praises of Augustus, and of some other of his friends at Romo, par. ticularly Mæcenas and Pollio.
What are the subjects of pastoral poetry? Does this kind of poetry possess any peculiar charms?
What did he call his pastorals?
Is it difficult in execution?
Who among the Greeks was the first pas- the Eclogues? toral poet of eminence?
At what age did he begin this part of his works?
In what year of Rome?
In what light are we to consider Virgil, as a pastoral poet?
How many years did he spend in writing
Were they well received by his country
What was probably the reason of his writing the Eclogues?