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Ipsae consident medicatis sedibus, ipsae
loquence, curiously contrasting with our use of the key and warming pan. The reference is to the mythological story which is indicated more fully v. 150 foll. The ancients were divided on the question whether the bees were frightened or pleased by the sound, Varro (3. 16), Col. (9. 8. 12) holding the former opinion, which is accepted by Lucan (9. 288, 289), Pliny (11. 20) and the writer in Geopon. (15. 3) the latter. Aristot. (H. A. 9. 40) says that they appear to be pleased, but adds, ἔστι μέντοι ἄδηλον ὅλως εἰ ἀκούουσιν, καὶ πότερον δι' ἡδονὴν τοῦτο ποιοῦσιν (as semble after swarming) ἢ διὰ φόβον.
65, 66.] Medicatis sedibus,' on the branches so rubbed. 'Cunabula' probably refers to the hive to which the bees are to be transferred, as 'intima' seems to show. If the reference to the branches were continued, more suo' might point to their method of taking rest by clustering together, "pedibus per mutua nexis" (A. 7. 66), which would account for 'cunabula.'
67-87.] 'When there are two kings in the hive there is a battle. First there are hoarse murmurs, alarms as if of a trumpet: then the bees form round their king, issue forth into the air, and the action begins, and lasts until one or the other party is routed. You may stop it however by sprinkling a little dust among the combatants.'
67.] Virgil evidently intended to give directions as to what should be done by the bee-keeper in the case of a battle, as he has just now laid down a rule to meet the case of swarming; but he strikes at once into a parenthesis which swells into a regular description, forming a paragraph of itself, and we can only collect what the apodosis would have been from vv. 86, 87, and the following paragraph, where he returns from the bees to their owner. This ir regularity of structure, as Forb. remarks, has doubtless a design of its own, the poet throwing himself into the enthusiasm of
the subject, and sympathizing with his heroes. 'Exierint' refers to what has been said previously (v. 58, &c.) about their leaving the hive, so that ' ad pugnam' is emphatic, as is also shown by its position. 'If it be for battle that they have left the hive;' if their going out be for battle.'
68.] Regibus' is doubtless to be connected with incessit,' as in Sall. Cat. 31, mulieres, quibus . . . timor insolitus incesserat," and other passages quoted in Kritz's note there. Other reasons for these conflicts are assigned by ancient and modern authorities beside the claims of rival monarchs, such as rivalry in getting honey (Pliny 11. 17) and actual want, when the inhabitants of one hive will attack another (Aristot. H. A. 9. 40), and if one nation loses its queen, the vanquished will combine with the victors (London Encyclopaedia, Apis'). The error of the ancients in supposing the queen bee to be a king is well known.
69.] Trepidantia bello :' " alacritate pugnandi; non timore," Serv., rather a bold expression, so that in default of a parallel it seems better to regard 'bello' as dative with Voss. Comp. A. 7. 482, "belloque animos accendit agrestis.”
71.] Canor' occurs Lucr. 4. 181, where it is applied to the note of the swan. 'Martius aeris canor' is explained by the next line to mean a sound as of a trumpet.
Ille' seems to mean 'well known to warriors,' not 'well known to bee-keepers.' This noise is made by the bees not only when preparing for a battle but before swarming out, &c. Varro (3. 16) says, "Hique duces conficiunt quaedam ad vocem ut imitatione tubae, tum id faciunt, cum inter se signa belli et pacis habeant."
72.] Fractos' expresses the successive short blasts of a trumpet.
73.] Corusco' is used with an ablative, like mico,' 3. 84, 439, to which it is equivalent in sense. So Ov. M. 4. 494,
Spiculaque exacuunt rostris, aptantque lacertos,
Ingentis animos angusto in pectore versant,
"linguaque coruscant" (of serpents), where another reading is 'linguas.'
74.] 'Rostris,' probably i. q. 'rostrorum,' Virgil expressing himself with intentional or unintentional accuracy, as if the bees wounded by their bite (comp. morsibus,' v. 237). The words might also mean 'they sharpen their stings against their beaks,' which again would be a mistaken statement, as Keightley says. Aptant,' get in order for action,' a word rather common in Virgil for putting on arms, A. 2. 672., 11. 8, &c.
75.] Praetoria,' properly the general's tent in the Roman army, seems here to mean the royal cell, which would naturally be more sacred than even the person of the monarch, as being the abode of his privacy. 77.] 'Sudum,' more commonly an epithet of the sky, is here applied to the season, which it distinguishes from "imbriferum ver," 1. 313. Comp. "aestatem liquidam" above, v. 59. The bees avoid rain instinctively, very few stragglers being caught in showers. Camposque patentis,' A. 5. 552, of the ground cleared for tilting, here of the air, the battle-field of the bees, ⚫ patentis' apparently meaning cleared from storms, like "caelo aperto "A. 1. 155, and the expression in v. 52 above, "caelum reclusit." 'Nactae' is used as a finite verb, not as a participle, as Heyne would have it. Wagn. comp. 3. 235, "ubi collectum robur viresque refectae."
78.] It is difficult to decide whether 'aethere in alto' belongs to 'concurritur' or to fit sonitus,' either of which clauses might stand well alone, the former as in Hor. 1 S. 1. 7, the latter as in v. 188 below. Perhaps the former punctuation is to be preferred, as more clearly differencing this from ordinary encounters, as Virgil may have wished to do even while describing it in regular military language.
79.] Orbis' is not infrequently used of a mass of men (Forcell. s. v.): here it signifies the mêlée' of the two armies.
80.] It matters little whether a verb substantive be supplied for 'densior' or 'pluit' from the next line. Serv. opportunely reminds us that in the encounters of bees slayers perish as well as slain.
81.] This line is apparently referred to by Valerius Probus in Cathol. (p. 1444 and 1464 Putsch), when he says that Virgil uses 'haec glandis' as a nominative; Priscian however (6. 96, Keil) rightly connects • tantum glandis, τοσοῦτον βαλάνου, though he admits there is a doubt.
82.] Wagn. makes a difficulty here, because nothing has been specified to which 'ipsi' can be referred, unless it be 'regem,' v. 75. But the whole paragraph turns on the two rival chiefs (v. 68), who are further pointed out by the words 'insig. nibus alis' = 'insignes alis' (comp. A. 5. 130 foll., where the commanders are mentioned as distinguished from the rest by their accoutrements). Nor is there any thing harsh in 'per medias acies,' as the notion of movement is easily supplied. The real distinction between the wings of the queens and those of the rest is that the former are shorter; but Virgil can scarcely have meant this. Col. however (9. 10) says that the 'reges' have wings "pulcri coloris."
83.] Virgil may have thought, as Serv. supposes, of Homer's description of Tydeus (II. 5. 801), μipòc μèv eŋv déμas, ảλλà paxητns. Versant' need be no more than a poetical equivalent for 'habent;' but it may also refer to the plans which the generals are supposed to form, like "animum per omnia versat," A. 4. 286; 'partis animum versabat in omnis," ib. 630.
84.] Adeo' with 'dum,' as in Plaut.
Aut hos versa fuga victor dare terga subegit.
Verum ubi ductores acie revocaveris ambo,
Merc. 3. 4. 71, ib. prol. 75, cited by For-
85.] Fuga dare terga,' A. 12. 463. 'Subegit' restored by Heins. from most MSS. for coegit.'
86.] In this and the following line Virgil's humour breaks out, relieving what would otherwise be felt to be mere exaggeration. The rhythm of the present line is evidently intended to be ultra-heroic as well as the expression.
87.] So Varro 1. c., Pliny 11. 17. Serv. says that the dust frightens them as apparently prognosticating a storm, and a modern writer (Lond. Encycl.) thinks that they probably mistake the dust for rain. 'Quiescunt,' Med. and others, preferred by Heyne to the old reading' quiescent.'
next clause' vacua' is emphatic, implying the removal of the rival. Aula' is not to be pressed, as it evidently does not signify either the hive, which would not be ' vacua,' or the royal cells, of which each monarch would have one.
91.] He is beginning to distinguish the two as 'alter... alter,' when he breaks off that he may do it more formally. 'Maculis auro squalentibus,' spots rough with gold, apparently meaning that the spots seem to be laid on like scales of gold: "tunicam squalentem auro,' A. 10. 312.
Erit' implies that these two varieties will be found to exist when there has been a battle, and this agrees substantially with Varro 3. 16, "Praeterea ut animadvertat, ne reguli plures existant: inutiles enim fiunt propter seditiones, et, ut quidam dicunt, tria genera cum sint ducum in apibus, niger, ruber, varius, ut Menecrates scribit duo, niger et varius; qui ita, melior; ut expediat mellario, cum duo sint eadem alvo, interficere nigrum, quem scit cum altero rege esse seditiosum et corrumpere alvum, quod fuget aut cum multitudine fugetur."
92.] Insignis et ore' seems to refer to form, as distinguished from colour.
93.] Rutilis squamis' ='maculis auro squalentibus.' 'Ille... alter,' 2. 397, where however 'hic' has not preceded. In introducing the pleonasm here, Virgil may have meant to point not only to the previous line, but to the unfinished contrast v. 91. 'Horridus desidia' seems to express the squalor arising from inaction, its hair rough &c. Col. (9. 10) distinguishes the better sort as leves ac sine pilo,' from the worse, which are hirsuti.'
94.] 'Latam... alvum:' with an unwieldy paunch, and slow in its movements; consequently less adapted to lead the swarm to victory or successful labour ('inglorius '). So Aristot. (H. A. 9. 4) makes the darker monarch twice the size of the other.
Ut binae regum facies, ita corpora plebis.
At cum incerta volant caeloque examina ludunt,
95.] 'Plebis :' Heins. from Med. and many others, as well as the better MSS. in Col. 9. 10, for the old reading 'gentis.' It should be remembered, though Virgil was not aware of the fact, that the queens are not only the monarchs, but the parents of their subjects. 'Binae' seems to be the predicate.
96.] Horrent' is explained by 'horridus,' v. 93. From the words of Col. 1. c. "Nam deterior sordido sputo similis, tam faedus quam pulvere . . . viator," it would seem as if he doubted whether the comparison was to the dusty traveller or to his spittle. The commentators seem to take the former view, but the latter is not impossible, in spite of the harshness with which the simile would then be worded, as there would then be some point in 'terram spuit,' which otherwise is a needlessly offensive detail. 'Alto:' the dust rising as it were in a column; "pulvere caelum Stare vident," A. 12. 407.
97.] 'Terram' 'pulverem,' only with a further notion of solidity.
99.] Auro et guttis:' drops of gold. 'Paribus,' like “paribus nodis," E. 5. 90, symmetrical.
100.] Caeli tempore,' like "caeli menses 1. 335, "caeli tempore " 3. 327. The seasons meant are spring and autumn, v. 231.
supposing him to hover between two modes of expression, nec tantum dulcia, sed liquida,' and 'non tam dulcia quam liquida.' This use of 'tantum for tam with adjectives is not very common.
102.] The reference is to 'mulsum,' for which see note on 1. 344, and Dict. A. 'vinum.'
103-115.] 'If your bees are given to flying far rather than working in the hive, the remedy is to clip their chief's wings. There should be a garden to attract them, and you should not grudge planting near the hive the herbs and trees they like, nor yet tending and watering them.'
103.] Incerta,' 'vaguely,' 'without an object,' as opposed to their issuing forth to collect honey. So 'ludunt,' of expatiating idly in the air, as explained by v. 105.
104.] Frigida:' opp. to the warmth imparted to the hive by their presence ('fovere' v. 43) and their labour ('fervet opus' v. 169).
105.] Instabilis animos,' like kovovówv opviewv, Soph. Ant. 343, where there seems a mixture of moral and physical lightness. Comp. also Aristoph. Birds 169, avepwπоs ὄρνις ἀστάθμητος πετόμενος, ̓Ατέκμαρτος, οὐδὲν οὐδέποτ ̓ ἐν ταὐτῷ μένων.
106.] Tu' gives force to the precept, as in 2. 241., 3. 163. In the former passage, as here, there may be a contrast between human labour and the natural result, 'do you act thus: nature will do the rest.' 'Alas eripe:' this is to be done, according to Col. 9. 10, by first rubbing the hand with balm, which will prevent the bees from flying off. Didymus (in Geop. 15. 4) and Pliny (11. 17) speak merely of clipping the wings, which is all that Virgil need have meant, though Col. (9. 10) says “spoliandus est alis."
Eripe; non illis quisquam cunctantibus altum
Et custos furum atque avium cum falce saligna
Ipse thymum pinosque ferens de montibus altis
107.] Altum,' like 'caelo ludunt,' as opp. to flying near the flowers. The rhythm and language of this and the next line are an echo of 1. 456, 457, "Non illa quisquam me nocte per altum Ire, neque a terra moneat convellere funem," though there is no similarity in the subject.
109.] Another way of keeping bees near the hive is to provide a garden for them. 'Croceis :' "coloured [and perfumed] flowers, the def. for the indef." (Keightley.) 110.] 'Let there be a garden, placed under the guardianship of Priapus,' seems to mean,Let there be a regular garden, complete in its appointments,' the following verses also directing that no labour is to be spared. At the same time the bees are of course meant to share in the protection extended to the garden, whatever that may have been worth. The thieves might have an eye to the honey as well as to the fruit, and the birds might carry off the bees, v. 16. 'Custos' here with a gen. of the thing guarded against, like puλakỳ kakoй, perhaps to be explained on the analogy of sipyo and sipyw, 'keeping in' and 'keeping out' being correlative notions. The falx saligna' was carried in the hand of the figure.
keep up the general tone of the Georgics, enforcing the necessity of personal labour, and the dignity arising from it. So'de montibus altis,' a picture perhaps intended to remind us of the arrival of Peneus the river god at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (Catull. 62 (64). 285 foll.) with trees plucked up by the roots, which he plants round the bridal dwelling. Comp. also 1. 20. For the pine on the mountains see A. 5. 449, for the pine in the garden E. 7. 65, and below, v. 141.
115.] Inriget imbris:' like "quietem inrigat," A. 1. 691. Keightley, comparing Col. 10. 147, "Primitiis plantae modicos tum praebeat imbris Sedulus inrorans olitor," argues that the watering-pots of the ancients had probably roses like ours.
116-148.] Were my space less confined, I would gladly treat gardens as a separate branch of my subject, telling of the cultivation of roses, of endive and parsley, of gourds, of narcissus and acanthus, of ivy and myrtle. I remember seeing an old man in southern Italy, who had turned an otherwise impracticable spot into a garden, rearing his herbs and flowers, as happy as a prince, and living on his produce. Every thing was in season with him, nay, he would anticipate the season: his honey was ready the first the blossoms on his trees all came to fruit: his largest trees were transplanted with success.
But I must leave the theme to other pens.' A graceful interposition, been a fifth Georgic, and connecting the sketching the plan for what might have subject with his own personal observations.
116.] He recurs to the metaphor of 2. 41 foll. Equidem' refers to the precept just given. As I recommend the beekeeper to cultivate flowers, I should myself write on the subject.'