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many references to familiar passages in the Aeneid: Martial, among other tributes of admiration, says that Virgil might have surpassed Horace in lyric and Varius in dramatic poetry (viii. 18. 5-9) and Pliny the Younger tells us (Ep. iii. 7) that among the busts, statues, etc. possessed by the poet Silius Italicus were those 'Vergilii ante omnes, cuius natalem religiosius quam suum celebravit, Neapoli maxime, ubi monumentum eius adire ut templum solebat.' Passing on through the Middle Ages to modern times we read of the fascination which Virgil's poems had for theologians such as Augustine and Bede, no less than for scholars like Scaliger, for critics like Voltaire, for politicians like Burke, for poets, essayists, orators, statesmen, without number. Two striking testimonies, above all, have been paid by great genius to his influence. One is the frequent imitation of his style in the language of Tacitus, the one great literary genius of Imperial Rome, and one of the greatest masters of expression in all literature. The other is the homage, as of a disciple to his master, which Dante pays to the genius of his countryman :

'O degli altri poeti onore e lume,

Vagliami, 'l lungo studio e 'l grande amore,

Che m' han fatto cercar lo tuo volume.

Tu se' lo mio maestro, e 'l mio autore:

Tu se' solo colui, da cu' io tolsi

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Lo bello stile, che m' ha fatto honore (Inferno i. 85-87).

9. Two strange chapters in Virgil's posthumous renown are the association of his name with Christian teaching and with magic powers. The first arose from the supposed relation of Ecl. iv. (the 'Messianic Eclogue') to prophecies of Christ, and obtained a strong hold on the imagination of Christendom. 'In every age of Christianity (says Mr. Myers), from Augustine to Abelard, from the Christmas sermon of Pope Innocent III. to the "Praelectiones Academicae" of the late Mr. Keble, divines and fathers of the Church have asserted the inspiration of this marvellous poem. It was on the strength of this poem that Virgil's likeness was set


'Glory and light of all the tuneful train!

May it avail me, that I long with zeal

Have sought thy volume, and with love immense

Have conn'd it o'er. My master thou, and guide!

Thou he, from whom alone I have derived
That style, which for its beauty into fame
Exalts me (Cary's Translation).

2 Fortnightly Review,' Feb. 1879, p. 190.

among the carven seers in the Cathedral of Zamora. It was on the strength of this poem that in the Cathedrals of Limoges and Rheims the Christmas appeal was made, "O Maro, prophet of the Gentiles, bear thou thy witness unto Christ”... The poet Statius, the martyr Secundianus, were said to have been made Christians by its perusal. And the Emperor Constantine in his oration, inscribed to the Assembly of Saints, and dedicated to the Church of God, commented on this poem in a Greek version as forming a link between the old and the new faiths'.' In a mass sung in the church of St. Paul at Mantua at the end of the 15th century was the following stanza, lamenting Virgil's fate in not having lived to be converted by St. Paul:

'Ad Maronis mausoleum
Ductus fudit super eum

Piae rorem lacrimae;
"Quem te," inquit, "reddidissem
Si te vivum invenissem

Poetarum maxime !2"'

This semi-Christian aspect of the poet in popular belief may also have contributed to Dante's choice of him as guide through the 'Inferno' and 'Purgatorio.'


Popular traditions likewise represented Virgil as an enchanter or magician a notion which may have been originally suggested partly by the account of the Sibyl and the world below in Aen. vi, partly by Ecl. viii (Pharmaceutria), partly perhaps by his mother's name Magia. Hence, perhaps, the peculiar mode of divination known as the 'Sortes Virgilianae'-i. e. opening the poems at random to find some omen for the future-a striking instance of which is noted on Aen. iv. 615. This strange invocation 'has been addressed to Homer, Virgil, and the Bible alone:' and it is a singular illustration of the spell exercised by Virgil's name that when Christianity substituted for the pagan mode of divination an equally superstitious divination through the Bible or the Psalms, the Roman poet should have kept his place side by side with the Bible as an oracle of life.

10. The unbroken ascendancy of eighteen centuries is a fact which, in spite of the disparaging criticism3 (mainly German) of

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1 Quoted by Prof. Sellar (p. 65) from Comparetti's 'Virgilio nel medio Evo,' on which is based an interesting article in the 'Quarterly Review' for July, 1875. 2 Quarterly Review,' l. c. 3 e. g. by Niebuhr, Hegel, Mommsen, Teuffel, Richter, and others. See Sellar, Virgil,' p. 73, and Bernhardy, 'Grundriss der Römischen Litteratur,' §§ 80, 81.


the present century, establishes Virgil's claim to be reckoned among the great poets of the world. It is 'as great a fortune as that which has ever fallen to the lot of any writer1'-not excepting Homer himself. For though to Homer it was given to influence the whole intellectual development of Greece, and through Greece the civilised world, while his poems retain the undying freshness of an originality which springs but once into being; yet the sphere of Virgil has in some respects been wider still, inasmuch as the period of his ascendancy in literature, in education, and in politics has been marked by more important developments, and fruitful of greater issues than even the golden age of Greece. He is the exponent of that spirit of Roman ascendancy and that far-reaching grasp of Roman civilisation, which has left its mark all over modern Europe; so that it has been truly observed that neither in law, nor in politics, nor in literature, nor in society, can we ever escape from the shadow of the Seven Hills. The majestic sweep of Virgil's rhythm, the stately metrical roll which reflects the pomp and pride of the imperial city,' the magical charm of a music which can be felt rather than described, the power of language which touches the noblest and deepest feelings of the heart, and stamps in clear-cut phrases the associations and the thoughts of every mood of man-all this has given Virgil a hold upon men's ninds which is simple matter of history. 'No poet (says Mr. Myers) has lain so close to so many hearts; no words so often as his have sprung to men's lips in moments of excitement and self-revelation, from the one fierce line2 retained and chanted by the untameable boy who was to be Emperor of Rome, to the impassioned prophecy of the great English statesman as he pleaded till morning's light for the freedom of a continent of slaves.' Prof. Sellar expresses another side of the same truth when he points out ('Virgil,' p. 412) that 'the words of no other poet, ancient or modern, have been so often heard in the great debates of the English Parliament, which more than any other deliberations among men have reproduced the dignified and masculine eloquence familiar to the Roman Senate:' or when he suggests (p. 68) that the importance long attached to Virgil in English public schools, and the turning over in early life, as

1 Sellar, p. 68.

2 Arma amens capio; nec sat rationis in armis,' Aen. ii. 314. I give this reference to Clodius Albinus from Mr. Myers' note; he does not give his authority.

3 Pitt; see note to G. i. 250.

models for Latin verse, of 'lines which stamp some grave or magnanimous lesson in imperishable characters upon the mind,' may have helped to form the high spirit of English statesmen, and to shape the history of England'.

11. For questions affecting the literary criticism of the poems, so far as they are not discussed in the Notes, I must refer students to Professor Sellar's volume, to Professor Conington's Introductions, and to Professor Nettleship's 'Suggestions,' merely offering a few remarks upon one of the frequent criticisms passed upon Virgil that of want of originality. This is the easiest criticism of all, for the borrowed element lies upon the surface. The Eclogues reflect-nay, they reproduce Theocritus; the Georgics are, as Virgil himself calls them, Ascraeum carmen, a reminiscence of Hesiod; the Aeneid from end to end is full of imitation, often crude and external enough, of Homer. And so we have such epigrammatic criticisms as 'Virgil is Homer-and-water,' or 'Homer wrote Virgil ;' the latter of which drew from Voltaire the retort 'Homère a fait Virgile, dit-on; si cela est, c'est sans doute son plus bel ouvrage.' Such criticism is easy, but it is also superficial for as Prof. Nettleship remarks ('Suggestions,' Preface, p. iii), ‘it is clear that a poet who won the ear of his nation so soon as Virgil, and became at once one of the most popular poets and the most classical poet of Rome, could not have gained this position without great original power.' A poet whose genius could absorb the admiration of Dante, and whose influence probably helped more than any other to inform the poetical spirit and verse of Milton, must have had some wider and more solid qualities than mere technical skill in versification—something more than the dignity of expression, exquisite rhythm, and delicate tenderness of handling, which all allow. 'Mere rhetorical skill has never made and can never make a work immortal.' It is in the present century, more than at any time since the Aeneid appeared, that Virgil's claim to a foremost place among great poets has been



e. g. 'Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito' (Aen. vi. 95); 'Disce, puer, virtutem ex me verumque laborem, Fortunam ex aliis;' 'Aude, hospes, contemnere opes, et te quoque dignum Finge deo, rebusque veni non asper egenis' (viii. 364). However this may be, we may regret that the words of the chastest poet (as Bacon calls him) and royalest, Virgilius Maro, that to the memory of man is known' are so little heard or appreciated in the modern House of Commons; and that modern educational requirements have rendered difficult, if not impossible, the old-fashioned thorough knowledge of such a teacher.

questioned; a change of feeling towards him, which is rightly referred by Prof. Sellar to the great advance made by Greek scholarship in modern times. Just as in Virgil's own time increased familiarity with Greek masterpieces made the Romans depreciate their own earlier efforts (as may be seen e. g. in Hor. Epp. ii. 1), so in our own day increased familiarity with the older literature has produced a reaction against what at first sight is only a reproduction of Greek originals. As the debt which Virgil owes to his Greek masters became more apparent, the individuality of his own genius was for a time obscured. Comparison with Homer, which was probably the secret of Virgil's own dissatisfaction with the Aeneid, has produced the disparaging criticisms of modern scholars. Niebuhr thought the whole of the Aeneid 'a misconceived idea:' Coleridge asked what was left to Virgil, if diction and metre were removed: Carlyle considered that the matter of his writings 'must have appeared frigid and shallow to a mind so susceptible' as Schiller's: Keble asks admiration for him only as a poet of outward nature and even the late Professor Conington, to whom English students of Virgil owe a deep debt of gratitude, while holding Virgil 'heavily chargeable' for the corruption of pastoral poetry, is inclined (against Keble) to suspect the reality of his sympathy with external nature in the Georgics, and takes it for granted that 'in undertaking the Aeneid at the command of a superior, Virgil was venturing beyond the province of his genius.' Still more formidable is the battery of German criticism (see above, p. xxii. note).

12. Now if we look at the literary standpoint of Virgil's own time, it seems that the imitation which is so obvious a feature in his work was not so much the result of any want of original power as an inevitable accident of his time and literary surroundings. No poet or artist of any kind can ever leave out of count the works of his predecessors. However great his own creative power, he cannot keep clear of the antecedents of his own art: and no one, for example, would blame Milton for absorbing into his poetry much of the form and spirit of classical and of Italian writings. It is not the imitation of other poets that offends us in Virgil, but the fact that his imitations seem often to modern taste so crude and obvious. Prof. Nettleship truly points out that 'the kind of crude and external imitation which we find in Virgil is characteristic of all the serious Roman poetry: Ennius imitates

1 'Virgil,' pp. 69 sqq. The instances cited are all or nearly all given by Mr. Sellar.

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