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Among the various and conflicting traditions, there was a story that Æneas, after escaping from the sack of Troy, had taken refuge in Italy. How old this tradition was, and whence it was derived, is uncertain. It is not found in Homer or the Cyclic poets, or in any Greek form. The story, including the episode of Dido, was treated by Nævius (B.C. 235), who could hardly have invented it. It was alluded to by Ennius (born B.C. 240), and had been adopted as a favorite theory before the time of Augustus. Virgil supplements it with details drawn from local tradition, and with many of his own manufacture; and in this way has connected the imperial times with the age of gods and heroes, and formed a sort of background on which the later history is briefly sketched.


VIRGIL'S EARLY FAME. Even before the composition. of the Æneid, Virgil had gained a place among the first in Roman literature. Horace speaks of him as a personal friend, with love and admiration. The fame of the Æneid began even before the work was completed. And after his death, Virgil speedily became, next to Homer, the great poet of antiquity. His influence shows itself in all succeeding Latin literature, as well in prose as in poetry. Almost every writer refers to him as the great genius of the nation. His writings became one of the chief instruments of a liberal education. "From the time of his death till the extinction of ancient classical culture, there was a regular series of rhetoricians and grammarians who lectured and wrote treatises on his various poems." The interest in his works survived in some degree the decay of classical learning. They preserved the spark that at the revival of letters was to burst out into a flame to light and warm the world.

VIRGIL'S LATER FAME. Though Ovid was the favorite Latin poet of the Middle Ages, yet Virgil was never wholly neglected. The Æneid was held in high esteem not so much for its artistic perfection as for the information which it furnished concerning the "matter of Troy," one of the main branches of medieval romantic material. The fact that some of the leading nations of Western Europe thought themselves descended from the Trojans assured the Æneid of an interested reading wherever there was culture enough to understand it. In the twelfth century the story was worked over into the old French "Romance of Æneas," which, though it seems to us like a parody, enjoyed considerable popularity, and was not without influence on European literature.


Virgil himself was transformed by the ignorance of the Middle Ages into a mythical person endowed with magical powers. His works were used for lots (sortes Vergilianae), as indeed they had been even in later classical times. name, popularly etymologized as from virga, "magic wand," and his mother's name, Magia, helped the propagation of the idea. He became a wonderful sorcerer, but, contrary to the ordinary idea of such personages, one of beneficent disposition. On the strength of his fourth Eclogue he was regarded as a prophet. The method of allegorical interpretation was also applied to the Æneid. Bernard of Chartres, a teacher of the 12th century, declares that Virgil “inasmuch as he is a philosopher, describes human life under the guise of the history of Æneas, who is the symbol of the soul." In accordance with these views Dante calls Virgil "the sea of all knowledge" and "the sage who knew all things."

It was this belief in Virgil as a philosopher and prophet, as well as admiration for his art, that made Dante select him for his guide through the world below, the most famous use of his name in all (later) literature.

Ever since the revival of letters, and indeed ever since his death, partly through the spell of his name and partly from real appreciation of his greatness, his works have exercised a wider and deeper influence on literature than any other book, except perhaps the Bible.

From the time of Chaucer (1340?-1400) the influence of Virgil on English literature has been almost continuous. Chaucer, who was a student of Dante and an admirer of Petrarch and Boccaccio, the leaders of the revival of learning in Italy, is outspoken in his admiration for Virgil. He summarizes a large part of the Æneid at the beginning of his House of Fame. In his Legend of Good Women he tells the story of Dido, treating it in true mediæval fashion as an episode of faithless chivalric love. The perfection of form and sense of artistic restraint which distinguish the best poetry of Chaucer are doubtless in some measure due to his enthusiastic study of Virgil.

The second period of Italian influence in our literature shows the influence of Virgil in the most signal manner. The Earl of Surrey (1517?-1547) translated books II. and IV. of the Æneid into blank verse (an early specimen of this metre), and throughout the Elizabethan age the greatness of Virgil was never questioned. His influence on the literature of this time was exerted both directly and also indirectly through the medium of the Italians of the Renaissance. Spenser (1552-1599), who was in many ways a marked contrast to Virgil, but who resembled him in the seriousness of his moral and religious purpose and in the purity of his ideals, not only imitated his Eclogues (in the Shepherds Calendar), but continually reproduces bits of the Æneid in his Faery Queen. The heroic and the bucolic poets of the seventeenth century, much affected by the Italians and by Spenser, acknowledged Virgil as their mas


Even the unsuccessful attempt to reconstruct English

metre on classical models testifies to the reverence in which Virgil was held. This attempt (with which the names of Gabriel Harvey and Sir Philip Sidney are inseparably associated) reached the acme of absurdity in Stanihurst's translation of a part of the Æneid in hexameters. The great epic of Milton was composed according to principles drawn from the Æneid, though Milton was also a careful student of Homer.

In the Restoration period Dryden (1631-1700) not only translated Virgil, but imitated him often. It was the sanity of Virgil's art, the finish of his versification, the precision and felicity of his diction that affected Dryden, rather than any higher qualities of artistic and moral earnestness or of imagination. The same qualities that appealed to Dryden made Virgil rather than Homer the favorite poet of the English Augustan age-the age of Addison and Pope and Swift. The artificiality of the time took peculiar pleasure in his Pastorals a kind of poetry in which highly conventionalized states of society have often delighted.

The Romantic revival, beginning obscurely in imitations of Spenser and of Milton's minor poems, and gaining strength from the unique genius of Gray (1716-1771), prepared the way for the great Romantic movement of the present century. This movement was so revolutionary that it would not have been strange if, in the almost passionate repudiation of other eighteenth century ideals, Virgil too had been neglected. But, though the present century has made into an article of faith what was at one time an article of convention — the superiority of Homer in the higher qualities of poetry - the position of Virgil still remains secure. The general abandonment by modern poets of the machinery of classical mythology has resulted in his being less often imitated, but he still serves as a standard of chaste and self-restrained art by which, consciously or un

consciously, we judge all works in the grand style, and, through the effect he produced on our older literature, his works and his spirit have become a part of the intellectual inheritance of our race.


The early popularity of Virgil has secured the transmission of his works to us in a larger number of manuscripts than those of almost any other ancient writer. The history of the text is too long for this place, but it may be found well set forth in Ribbeck's Prolegomena to Virgil. The oldest and most important MSS. are seven, written in capitals, varying in extent from a few leaves to the almost complete works. The practically complete ones are:

The Medicean, 5th century, now in Florence (M).
The Palatine, 4th to 5th century, now in the Vatican (P).
The Vatican, 4th to 5th century, now in the Vatican (R).

The incomplete ones are:

Schedae Vaticanae, 2d century, now in the Vatican (F).
Schedae Sangallenses (G).

Schedae Veronenses (V).

Three Berlin Leaves (A).

Of the incomplete, the best is F. manuscripts, in cursive hand, are:

Codex Gudianus, 9th century (y).

Other good, but later,

Three Berne MSS., 9th to 10th century (a, b, c).
Codex Minoraugiensis, 10th to 12th century (m).

Besides these, there are a host of later cursive manuscripts. All are supposed to have come from one source, being copied from an archetype, not of the best, and filled with glosses and interpolations.

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