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show his affection and gratitude by maintaining them in affluence, his father having become blind. He had lost, besides, by death, two brothers; but a step-brother by the mother, Valerius Proculus, survived him. To him he left one-half of his property, and the remainder, in various proportions, to Augustus, Maecenas, L. Varius, and Plotius Tucca. We cannot doubt that he had been enriched by the liberality of his patrons. According to Aulus Gellius, a refusal which he met with from the people of Nola, a town of Campania, north of Vesuvius, when he wanted a supply of water from their district for an estate of his, led him to alter Nola to Ora in the second Georgic, verse 225. This indicates an early possession of property; and we find more than one instance of the impression made on his successors as to his wealth and its source, as well as the importance of having Maecenases, in order that there may be Virgils. Heyne hints at a conjecture derived from a passage in Propertius, that he may have had a property near Tarentum; and Donatus mentions not only the estate in Campania, but another in Sicily. For these, however, we have but slight, or rather no warrant. Donatus rates his fortune at about ten thousand sestertia,l and states that his house at Rome stood on the Esquiline Hill, near the gardens of Maecenas. It may be noticed that here also lived Horace; and that such was the character of the place-once deemed unwholesomefor its healthiness, in consequence of recent improvements, that Tiberius retired thither to enjoy health and retirement.
We are told that on his deathbed Virgil demanded to see his papers, intending to burn the Aeneid, then in an unfinished state. His friends remonstrated with him, and in his will he left instructions regarding it, of which we have various accounts. He either ordered it to be burned, or he left it to the discretion of L. Varius and Plotius Tucca-both mentioned by Horace as friends of Virgil, and eminently fitted for such a charge-directing them, whatever they suppressed, to add nothing-not even to coinplete unfinished lines. Augustus interfered to save the poem from destruction, and by his directions Varius and Tucca performed the task assigned them, bequeathing it to posterity as we now have it.
It is also said, and from Virgil's own language, as well as his temperament, it is probable enough, that it was his intention, after he had given the last finish to the work, to devote himself to philosophical pursuits. Without giving credence to the absurd fictions contained in his life by Donatus, we have no reason to doubt the statement that the poet had devoted
1 Possedit prope centies sestertium; equivalent, according to the standard mentioned, to £78,125 of our money.
much of his early years to the studies that appertain to natural philosophy
With regard to his personal appearance, Virgil is said to have been tall, and stoutly made, of a swarthy colour, and with the appearance of a farmer. He was slow in speech, and no one could have judged from his conversation that he was the most learned of Roman poets. From his asthmatic tendency, and the weak eyes of Horace, arose the saying attributed to Augustus, that with these poets on either hand, he was sitting between sighs and tears.
Virgil lived on terms of intimacy not only with men politically great, but with those of his contemporaries who were distinguished for their literary attainments, in that bright age of Augustan literature. His biographer remarks that he was utterly free from all literary jealousy, to such a degree, that the successful productions of others afforded him as much pleasure as if they were his own. His library was open to all men of learning; and he often quoted the saying of Euripides, that the property of friends was a common good! Hence towards him the voice of envy was almost silent; and Varius, Tucca, Horace, Propertius, and others who adorned the time were devotedly attached to him. Though, like all other distinguished men, he did not want detractors, his transcendant merits were early acknowledged by the Romans. On one occasion, happening to be in the theatre at a time when some lines of his own were being recited, the people in a body rose and saluted him with the same honours as they were in the habit of rendering to Augustus. His modesty, moreover, was equal to his greatness. He seldom visited Rome. The clear atmosphere and sparkling beauties of Naples attracted him, from considerations both of health and of taste. When he did appear in the streets, crowds followed him with the tribute of admiration ; but this gave him so little pleasure, that he was fain to find, in the shelter of the nearest house, a refuge from the throng. We can trace downwards the progress of his fame.
Ovid, who was a young man of twentyfour when Virgil died, repeatedly takes notice of his writings. Quintilian assigns to him the same place in the study of Latin which he does to Homer in that of Greek—the very highest and most desirable as an introduction. That he had been introduced into the schools of Rome as early as the age of Augustus, we learn from Suetonius. And the practice continued till a late period, as we find it both recommended and mentioned by Augustin and Orosius, who wrote about A.D. 415. Caligula, however, treated alike contemptuously the claims of Virgil and Livy to distinction; and Adrian preferred Ennius to our poet. The popularity of Virgil secured him early a host of commentators,
among whom the principal was Servius, a courtier in the reign of Valentinian, a little after the middle of the fourth century. Aulus Gellius also (about A.D. 143) has copious remarks on our poet in his Noctes Atticae ; and Macrobius (about A.D. 390) devotes four out of the seven books of his Conviviorum Saturnaliorum to a critical examination of Virgil's merits. The most extraordinary of the effects of his reputation, was the belief prevalent in the middle ages that he had been a great magician; and of his feats in this capacity most wonderful things are narrated. Thus a copper fly fixed by him on one of the gates of Naples, for eight years prevented any fly from entering that city. He encompassed his house and garden, in which it never rained, with a wall of air, invisible, but impermeable. Even at this day his name is associated in the minds of the common people of Naples with magic and necromancy.
Critics of more modern times have taken widely different estimates of the merits of Virgil, especially as regards the Aeneid. These opinions were at first founded on a sense of the obligation due to his productions, which, more than any others, attracted attention at the revival of letters in Europe. Hence there was too much inclination to overvalue him as an epic poet, and blindly to compare him, as on equal terms, with Homer. We may take Blair as a late representative of this class. But,' says he, 'notwithstanding these defects, which it was necessary to remark, Virgil possesses beauties which have justly drawn the admiration of ages, and which to this day hold the balance in equilibrium between his fame and that of Homer.' The tendency is now too much perhaps the other way. Niebuhr especially seems unduly to depreciate Virgil, when he says— His Aeneid, on the other hand, is a complete failure; it is an unhappy idea from beginning to end; but this must not prevent us from acknowledging that it contains many exquisite passages.' There is no doubt on the mind of any as to the excellency of the Georgics. Even Niebuhr says— His didactic poem on agriculture is more successful; it maintains a happy medium, and we cannot well speak of it otherwise than in terms of praise.' All, too, are agreed on the service rendered by Virgil to the Latin language and versification. To the former he gave dignity, and as much of sweetness and softness as its structure renders it capable of receiving; and the latter he moulded in a stately and flowing melody unknown to it before. His learning too, his profound skill in the antiquities, the usages, and the history of Italy, are universally acknowledged. In the words of Niebuhr— Virgil displays in it (the Aeneid] a learning of which the historian can scarcely avail himself enough; and the historian who studies the Aeneid thoroughly will ever find new things to admire.'
It is now time to examine very briefly for ourselves the three works contained in this volume. The first is the BUCOLICA, or, as it is popularly called, the Eclogues of Virgil. The early occupations of the poet- partly devoted to rural pursuits, and partly to the cultivation of Greek literature-naturally interested him in the writings of Theocritus, who wrote in Greek verse of the employments of the shepherd. His first thought seems to have been to content himself with an imitation of his master, seeking no other glory than to transfer to his own native stream and fields, and to his own verse, the sentiments of the Syracusan bard. Hence we find passages from the Idyllia, or pastoral poems of Theocritus, almost literally translated by Virgil. Few of the ten Eclogues are strictly pastoral. The life of the husbandman in the north of Italy did not present the poet with opportunities of drawing from the life a representation of the easy and sunny existence of his Sicilian prototype. Accordingly, with the exception of snatches here and there of rural life, we find little to imbue us with a shepherd's feelings or habits of thinking, even in their poetised state. And the avowed transference of Syracusan song to northern Italy leads to a mingling up of scenes, and personages, and deities, which is unfavourable to our sense of the real, and brings the artist too prominently before us. Nevertheless, they are delightful poems. The images are simple and suitable, and so is the language in which they are conveyed. It is not much to say that they never offend; but this is at all events an advance upon Theocritus. The great error of Virgil was to imagine that they could ever be supposed to be a shepherd's representation of scenes in a shepherd's life. They are in reality the pictures of a polished mind, playing, if we may use the expression, at shepherd. And we detect, we think, in the later Eclogues, greater, if not complete, independence of his master, leading to the invention of that pleasing, if not wholly natural school of poetry, where the imagination invests the rural life with the charms of its own refinement. Here, too, Virgil presents us with many specimens of that power of description which we shall best place before the reader in the words of a master, even though it anticipate something of what remains to be said of the Aeneid. In the Epic, character forbids the appearance of descriptions of natural scenes and objects otherwise than as subordinate and accidental features, limited to a very small space: individual localities are not portrayed, but an intimate understanding and love of nature manifest themselves occasionally with peculiar beauty. Where have the soft play of the waves, and the repose of night, ever been more happily described? And how finely do
See for an illustration Ecl. vii. verse 4, compared with 12. 2 Humboldt's Cosmos, vol. ii. p. 19, English translation.
these mild and tender images contrast with the powerful representations of the gathering and bursting tempest in the first book of the Georgics, and with the descriptions in the Aeneid of the navigation and landing at the Strophades, the crashing fall of the rock, and of Aetna with its flames !' In truth, however, individual localities are often portrayed, and that to the life, by Virgil, as any one glancing at the scene described in the first Eclogue will at once admit. In one respect the Eclogues have an original merit, which it becomes us to notice. Without losing sight of that softness which is a leading characteristic of the true Idyl, he gives to some of his themesl a simple grandeur, which is so far from being incompatible with rural images, that the latter twine round the stately stem in most graceful and befitting ornament.
The next work is the GEORGICS. It belongs to that difficult class of poems called Didactic, whose object is to convey instruction pleasingly and invitingly through the medium of poetry. The purpose for which it was written has been already mentioned the revival of agriculture in Italy, devastated by the long and cruel civil wars. It is dedicated to Maecenas, the patron and friend of Virgil. It is divided into four boo each of which treats of a different subject. The first treats of the cultivation of the soil, and the operations of agriculture connected with sowing, and the different occupations that are proper for the different seasons. The second regards the cultivation of trees, especially of the vine. The third treats of the various animals that are more immediately useful in agriculture-horses, oxen, sheep, goats, and dogs. The fourth is occupied with the care of bees. It is impossible to praise too highly the mode in which Virgil has executed this work; and though the subject had before exercised the pens both of Greek and Roman writers, and our poet had especially before him the Opera et Dies of Hesiod, there is little of the close imitation that is to be found occasionally in the Eclogues. Italy was his field, and he confines himself to this; his aim being, in truth, to benefit his countrymen. Taking into view the popularity of Virgil, we are entitled to presume that his verses, passing from mouth
to mouth, contributed materially to effect the object which he had in view. And we know that not only did the ancient writers on agriculture refer to him as an unquestionable authority, but we are told in modern Italy his maxims are found to be as sound as ever. Martyn—no mean authority—even says: Though the soil and climate of Italy are different from those of England, yet it has been found by experience that most of his rules may be put in practice even here to advantage. The dangers to which
See especially the fourth Eclogue.