« PredošláPokračovať »
just as Verona is identified with Catullus." His father, a wealthy yeoman, sent him to the adjoining town of Cremona to receive the rudiments of education, and afterwards, for maturer studies, to Mediolanum and Neapolis. It was thus that he earned the title of "the most learned poet that ever wrote," which Niebuhr has so justly applied to him. At Neapolis he was instructed in Greek literature by Parthenius: at Rome (where he arrived a. u. c. 707) he attended the lectures of an Epicurean philosopher, Syro, a friend of Cicero's. But not "in the kitchen" with Epicurus was the philosophy of Virgil; it was rather with Plato in the "shades of Academe." In fact "the Plato of poets" is a name which Alexander Severus assigned to Virgil: chiefly, we may suppose, from the mythological doctrines in the sixth book of the Eneid (See Heyne Exc. xiii.)
It is conjectured that Virgil returned to Andes about the year a. u. c. 709 b. c. 45, and then composed those minor pieces the Culex, Moretum, Copa, &c., which have received from ancient Grammarians a praise which the extant poems, bearing those titles, by no means deserve. Accordingly, the best judges have pronounced them to be counterfeits by other and less able pens than Virgil's."
1 Ovid. Am. iii. 15, 7, "Mantua Virgilio gaudet, Verona Catullo." Comp. Virg. Georg. iii. 12, and his well-known epitaph, beginning "Mantua me genuit."
2 Cic. ad Fam. xv. 18.
3 As for the Moretum, some scholars suppose it to be a translation by Virgil of a Greek poem. (MUTTwrós) by his teacher Parthenius.
The distribution of land made to the soldiers by Octavian in B. c. 41, after the battle of Philippi, drove many possessors from their estates by military violence. Among the sufferers, thus dislodged, was Virgil, who lost, for a time, his patrimony: the territory of Cremona not sufficing for the wants of the cohorts, so that Mantua was compelled to supply the deficiency. On the circumstances attending alike his expulsion and his restoration some confusion prevails. This much seems certain that the lyre regained what the sword had robbed: his first poetical essays winning him the favour of Asinius Pollio and Mæcenas, and subsequently that of Octavian himself, who replaced the poet in the possession of his property. Thus admitted to the society and—what is more— honoured by the esteem, of men of the highest rank, friends of the new established empire, Virgil might possibly have risen to power, to pension, and to place: but modesty and ill-health combined to keep him remote from Rome and the imperial court, and induced him to dedicate his leisure to the calmer pursuits of agriculture, the higher aspirations of poetry.
In the years 43-37 B. c. 711-717 a. u. c. i. e. from the 27th to the 33d year of his age, Virgil wrote 10 Bucolica (Bovкoλíká i. e. pastoral poems, Bucolics as he called them himself, or Ecloga, ('EkXoyaí i. e. collections of short selected poems, as they were called by the Grammarians) in the following chronological order :
1 Eclog. x. 28, "Mantua væ miseræ nimium vicina Cremona.
1. Spring of B. C. 43 (711 A. U. C.) 2. Spring of B. C. 42 (712 A. U. C.) 3. Latter half of B. C. 42 (712 A. U. C.) 4. Autumn of B. C. 41 (713 a. u. c.) of B. c. 40 (714 A. U. C.) of B. C. 40 (714 a. u. C.) of B. c. 39 (715 A. U. C.) of B. C. 39 (715 A. U. C.) of B. C. 38 (716 A. U. C.) of B. C. 37 (717 a. u. c.)
6. Autumn 7. Summer 8. Autumn
9. Spring 10. Spring
1 Georg. iii. 40:
2d Bucolicon. 3d Bucolicon. 5th Bucolicon.
9th Bucolicon. 4th Bucolicon. 6th Bucolicon. 8th Bucolicon. 7th Bucolicon. 10th Bucolicon.
In these poems the imitation of Theocritus is sometimes carried so far as to be almost a literal translation. But very different are the Idylls of the Greek from those of the Latin poet. The shepherds and shepherdesses of Virgil, like those we see in Watteau's paintings, are of a thoroughly artificial character. Pastoral life had no place in the Roman heart, no hold on Roman sympathies. Accordingly, in Virgil's Bucolics, nature is more the pretext, than the text; the pretext for introducing statesmen of the day, or allusions to passing or passed historical events of his eventful era.
Immediately, or at furthest, only a few years after the Bucolics (37-30 в. c. 717-724 a. u. c. 33–40 ætat.) Virgil wrote the rural poem Georgica at the suggestion of Mæcenas.1 What was the background of the Bucolics, is the foreground of the Georgics. Agriculture was his theme: and it gives us the highest opinion of Virgil's powers to find him cloth
Interea Dryadum silvas saltusque sequamur
1 Georg. ii. 176,
ing in such matchless verse, the dry and ungrateful subject he had to handle. In this respect the author of the Georgics has never been equalled, much less surpassed. He confesses himself, indeed, indebted to Hesiod, but the debt is repaid with interest. The versification is masculine without being rugged, and never palls when it is most refined. In the Georgics, in short, Virgil's claims to being a poet of high order are least open to attack. When still occupied with this rural poem, Virgil determined to compose a national epic, the Æneis, for which he appears to have made the most extensive studies on the history and antiquities of different parts of Italy. In this point of view, the poem is an invaluable repertory of information for the inquirer into the primitive history of the Peninsula. Niebuhr condemns the Æneid because its subject is a Latin story mixed up with Greek traditions, and he finds in it a want of Italian nationality. But when we consider the deep root which the traditional connection between the Trojans and the Romans had taken in the minds of that people-so deep, that we find in Cicero the people of Segesta, a town founded by Æneas, boasting that on that account they had ties of kindred with the people of Rome-so deep that both Cæsar and Augustus are said to have projected the rebuilding of Troy, the mother city of Rome-we may venture to doubt whether Niebuhr's condemna
tion was deserved. More than ten years (29-19 B. C., 725-735 A.U.c.) were devoted to this noble task. In order to accomplish it, he intended to have sojourned for a considerable time in Greece: but when at Athens, he was invited by the Emperor Augustus, on his return from Asia, to accompany him to Italy; and the infirmity of his constitution being aggravated by the fatigues of his passage and sea-sickness, he died at Brundusium, a few weeks before finishing the 51st year of his age, on the 22d September (A. D. x. Kal. Oct.) in B. C. 19 (735, a.u.c.), and was buried on the Via Puteolana, now Mount Posilipo, near Neapolis. This premature death of the poet should modify our judgment on the Æneis, for it was left in an imperfect state-so imperfect that the author himself on his death-bed requested that it might be burnt: but Augustus charged his friends Varius and Tucca to revise the manuscript, taking care to change as little as possible, and in no case to add anything that Virgil's own pen had not indited. This task they conscientiously executed: hence the great quantity of incomplete verses of the Epos, some of them containing only the first two or three feet of the Hexameter.
It may here be of use to the young student to give him, as briefly as possible, a general outline of the Æneid, so that he may come to the perusal of the
1 Plin. 7, 30, 31, 2 114: Divus Augustus carmina Virgilii cremari contra testamenti ejus verecundiam vetuit majusque ita vati testimonium contigit, quam si ipse sua probavisset.