« PreviousContinue »
ViRGiL is more generally read and less âppreciated than any other classic. His poems are now used almost universally as a text-book, and at such an early period in the course of classical studies, that they appear to the pupil quite as difficult and uninteresting as the grammar and the dictionary. Months, and even years, are bestowed upon the study of them, and the length of the task only adds to its wearisomeness. The associations formed at such an early period in one's education are retained with great tenacity through life, and the consequence is, that these elegant and delightful poems call up, in the minds of most persons, no óther or more pleasant images than those of the spelling-book, the recitation room, and, perhaps, the rod. Horace is usually read at a later period in the course of study, when the pupil has mastered the greatest difficulties ofthe language, and his taste and judgment are somewhat matured. The productions of the lyric poet, therefore, are remembered and quoted, and a recurrence to the study of them often opens a new source of pleasure for the scholar's riper years ; while the poems of Virgil, more pleasing as respects the choice of a subject, and the general characteristics of their execution, are quite generally neglected.
It is more easy to perceive an evil of the kind above mentioned, than to suggest a remedy. It is quite important, that a book put into the pupil's hands at such an early period in his studies should be an unexceptionable model of style, and should offer such attractive qualities, as may most effectually encourage his efforts in a long and arduous undertaking. The poems of Virgil answer these requisites so well, that no one is surprised at the general adoption of them, as a text-book of instruction in the Latin language. But allowance must still be made for the small attainments of the youthful pupil, and, we must add, for the imperfect scholarship of a few instructers. The style of the AEneid is easy, it is said ; so it is, for the advanccd scholar, but not för the boy or girl, who has just finished tho study of the Latin grammar and one or two elementary books. Cannot something be done to secure the advantages, and to obviate the ill effects, of continuing to use Virgil as a class-book in the schools ? The object of the edition now offered to the public is, so far as the Editor is able, to answer this question. The Notes are designedly made very copious. They are intended to afford so much aid, that a pupil of ordinary capacity and diligence, who has studied the usual elementary books in Latin, will be enabled to read and understand Virgil, even without the aid of an instructer. I am aware of the danger ofleaving little to be accomplished by the pupil's own efforts, and thereby of encouraging the formation of careless and indolent habits ; and I have endeavored to obviate it, by confining the translations to the more difficult passages, removing these helps to a separate part of the volume, and presenting them in such a form that, although of little service to the student till he has made good use of grammar and dictionary, they will leave no difficulty in his way, when he has once fairly consulted these manuals. The copious materials afforded by the commentaries of the old grammarians, and by the rich annotations of Martyn, Ruæus, Heyne, and some later German editors, have been carefully revised, and whatever matter they contain, suited for the comprehension of young persons, I have endeavored to present in English, in the most condensed form. With the aid here presented, it is hoped, that the young student may be able to read Virgil as a poet, and find pleasure in the task, instead of poring over the work as a crabbed and difficult exercise in Latin. He will not be disheartened by a continued struggle with difficulties, nor will he find his interest in the poem cooled by the perpetual recurrence of passages, to which he cam attach little or no meaning. He will not be driven to the secret and indiscriminate use of an entire translation. The Notes are also designed to point out, in part, the beauties and defects of Virgil's compositions, and to form the taste and judgment of the pupil, by encouraging him to apply the general principles of criticism with as little hesitation, as if he were reading a modern English poet. Wishing to cultivate the learner's power of discrimination, and aware that unmingled praise only inspires doubt, I have ventured to criticize with freedom, though with a proper distrust of my own judgment, and fully expecting that the taste of others will be found sometimes to differ from my own. Quotations from modern poets have been sparingly introduced, where a passage seemed to invite comparison, in the hope of stimulating the student's curiosity, and of heightening his relish for poetry.