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* non tanquàm hominem aliquem de nostro coetu, "sed tanquam DEUM QUENDAM DE COELO DELAPહર SUM INTUEANTUR ET ADMIRENTUR."
16. JURANDASQUE TUUM PER NUMEN PONIMUS ARAS.] On this idea of the APOTHEOSIS, which was the usual mode of flattery in the Augustan age, but, as having the countenance of public authority, sometimes inartificially enough employed, Virgil hath projected one of the noblest allegories in ancient poetry, and at the same time hath given to it all the force of just compliment, the occasion itself allowed. Each of these excellencies was to be expected from his talents. For, as his genius led him to the sublime; so his exquisite judgment would instruct him to palliate this bold fiction, and qualify, as much as possible, the shocking adulation, implied in it. So singular a beauty deserves to be shewn at large.
The third GEORGIC sets out with an apology for the low and simple argument of that work, which, yet, the poet esteemed, for its novelty, preferable to the sublimer, but trite, themes of the Greek writers. Not but he intended, on some future occasion, to adorn a nobler subject. This was the great plan of the Aeneïs, which he now prefigures and unfolds at large. For, taking advantage of the noblest privilege of his art, he breaks away, in a fit of prophetic enthusiasm, to foretel his successes in this projected enterprize, and, under the imagery of the ancient triumph, which comprehends, or
suggests to the imagination, whatever is most august in human affairs, to delineate the future glories of this ambitious design. The whole conception, as we shall see, is of the utmost grandeur and magnificence; though, according, to the usual management of the poet (which, as not being apprehended by his critics, hath furnished occasion, even to the best of them, to charge him with a want of the sublime) he hath contrived to soften and familiarize its appearance to the reader, by the artful manner, in which it is introduced. It stands thus:
tentanda via est, qua me quoque possim. Tollere humo, VICTORQUE virúm volitare per ora.
This idea of victory, thus casually dropped, he makes the basis of his imagery; which, by means of this gradual preparation, offers itself easily to the apprehension, though it thereby loses, as the poet designed it should, much of that broad glare, in which writers of less judgment love to shew their ideas, as tending to set the common reader at a gaze. The allegory then proceeds:
Primus ego patriam mecum (modo vita supersit) Aonio rediens deducam vertice Musas.
The projected conquest was no less than that of all the Grecian Muses at once; whom, to carry on the decorum of the allegory, he threatens, 1. to force from their high and advantageous situation on the summit of the Aonian mount; and, 2. bring captive with him into Italy: the former circumstance
intimating to us the difficulty and danger of the enterprize; and the latter, his complete execution of it.
The palmy, triumphal entry, which was usual to victors on their return from foreign successes, follows:
Primus Idumaeas referam tibi, Mantua, palmas. But ancient conquerors did not hold it sufficient to reap this transient fruit of their labours. They were ambitious to consecrate their glory to immortality, by a temple, or other public monument, which was to be built out of the spoils of the conquered cities or countries. This the reader sees is suitable to the idea of the great work proposed; which was, out of the old remains of Grecian art, to compose a new one, that should comprize the virtues of them all: as, in fact, the Aeneïd is known to unite in itself whatever is most excellent, not in Homer only, but, universally, in the wits of Greece. The everlasting monument of the marble temple is then reared:
Et viridi in campo templum de MARMORE ponam. And, because ancient superstition usually preferred, for these purposes, the banks of rivers to other situations, therefore the poet, in beautiful allusion to the site of some of the most celebrated pagan temples, builds his on the MINCIUS. We see with what a scrupulous propriety the allusion is carried on. Propter aquam, tardis ingens ubi flexibus errat MINCIUS, et tenera praetexit arundine ripas.
Next, this temple was to be dedicated, as a monument of the victor's piety, as well as glory, to some propitious, tutelary deity, under whose auspices the great adventure had been atchieved. The dedication is then made to the poet's divinity, Augustus: In medio mihi CAESAR erit, templumque tenebit. TEMPLUM TENEBIT. The expression is emphatical; as intimating to us, and prefiguring the secret purpose of the Aeneïs, which was, in the person of Aeneas, to shadow forth and consecrate the character of Augustus. His divinity was to fill and occupy that great work. And the ample circuit of the epic plan was projected only, as a more awful enclosure of that august presence, which was to inhabit and solemnize the vast round of this poetic building.
And now the wonderful address of the poet's artifice appears. The mad servility of his country had deified the emperor in good earnest and his brother poets made no scruple to worship in his temples, and to come before him with handfuls of real incense, smoking from the altars. But the sobriety of Virgil's adoration was of another cast. He seizes this circumstance only to embody a poetical fiction; which, on the supposition of an actual deification, hath all the force of compliment, which the fact implies, and yet, as presented through the chast veil of allegory, eludes the offence, which the naked recital must needs have given to sober and reasonable men. Had the emperor's popular divinity been
flatly acknowledged, and adored, the praise, even under Virgil's management, had been insufferable for its extravagance; and, without some support for his poetical numen to rest upon, the figure had been more forced and strained, than the rules of just writing allow. As it is, the historical truth of his apotheosis authorizes and supports the fiction, and the fiction, in its turn, serves to refine and palliate the history.
The Aeneïs being, by the poet's improvement of this circumstance, thus naturally predicted under the image of a temple, we may expect to find a close and studied analogy betwixt them. The great, component parts of the one will, no doubt, be made, very faithfully, to represent and adumbrate those of the other. This hath been executed with great art and diligence.
1. The temple, we observed, was erected on the banks of a river. This site was not only proper, for the reason already mentioned, but also, for the further convenience of instituting public games, the ordinary attendants of the consecration of temples. These were generally, as in the case of the Olympic and others, celebrated on the banks of rivers.
Illi victor ego, et Tyrio conspectus in ostro, Centum quadrijugos agitabo ad flumina currus. Cuncta mihi, Alpheum linquens lucosque Molorchi, Cursibus et crudo decernet Graecia caestu.
To see the propriety of the figure in this place, the reader needs only be reminded of the book of games in the Aeneïd, which was purposely introduced in