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the writers just mentioned, several others were recognised by their contemporaries as poets of high excellence, though there is
to doubt that the works which have reached our time were the most distinguished by original genius and finished execution. These works, though differing much in spirit and character as well as in value, have some common characteristics which mark them off from the literature of the Republic. It seems remarkable, if we consider the short interval which divides the Ciceronian from the Augustan Age, and the enthusiasm with which poetry was cultivated by the younger generation in the years immediately preceding the battle of Pharsalia, that so few of the poets eminent in that generation lived on into the new era. The insignificant name of Helvius Cinna is almost the only poetic link between the age of Catullus and the age of Virgil '. Perhaps also the Quintilius whose death Horace laments in the twenty-fourth Ode of Book I. may be the Varus of the tenth poem of Catullus. The more famous name of Asinius Pollio also connects the two eras; but in Catullus he is spoken of, not as a poet, but simply as
Disertus puer et facetiarum?,
Quos neque pulcher
Nil praeter Calvum et doctus cantare Catullum“.
2 Catullus, xii. 8. 3 Munro's Lucretius, Introduction to Notes, ii. page 305. 4 Hor. Sat. i. 10. 17-19.
the principles and practice of their art, that the new poets are separated from, and antagonistic to, the old. Had Calvus and Catullus survived the extinction of liberty, it would have been impossible for them to have adopted the tone of the poets of the following age. By birth, position, and all their associations and sympathies, they belonged to the Senatorian party. If they could have yielded an outward submission to the ascendency of Julius Caesar and Augustus, they never could have become sincerely reconciled to the new order of things, nor could they have employed their art to promote the ideas of the Empire. On the other hand, L. Varius, the oldest among the poets of the new era, seems first to have become famous by a poem on the death of Julius Caesar. Virgil, in thé poem placed first in order among his acknowledged works, speaks of Octavianus in language which no poet of the preceding generation could have applied to a living contemporary :
O Meliboee deus nobis haec otia fecit. In the Georgics, planned, and, for the most part, composed before the establishment of the monarchy, the person of Caesar is introduced, not only as the centre of power in the world, but as an object of religious veneration; and the national and ethical teaching of that poem is entirely in harmony with the objects of his policy. And, although Horace in the Satires and Epodes, composed between the years 40 and 30 B.C., is so far true to the cause of his youth as to abstain from any direct declaration of adherence to the winning side, yet he attributes to his adviser Trebatius the counsel “Caesaris invicti res dicere ;' and his whole relation to Maecenas is one of the most characteristic marks of the position in which the new literature stood to the State and to its leading men.
Yet, while separated from the literature of the Republic in many of its ideas, and in the personal and political feelings on which it is founded, the poetry of the Augustan Age is, in form and execution, the mature development of the
1 Hor. Sat. ii. 1. II.
efforts of the previous centuries. Much of its literary inspiration is derived from the age immediately preceding it, and from still older native sources. The thought of Lucretius acted upon the mind of Virgil through the force both of sympathy and antagonism, as a strong original nature acts upon one which is at once receptive of influence and possessed of firm native convictions. The national sentiment of Ennius and the censorious spirit of Lucilius reappeared in new forms in the Augustan poetry; while the more humane and social feelings, and the enjoyment of beauty in Nature and art, fostered by Greek studies, as well as the taste for less elevated pleasures, stimulated by the life of a luxurious capital, are elements which the poetry of the early Empire has in common with that of the last years of the Republic.
But the poetry of the new era has also certain marked characteristics, the result not so inuch of antecedent as of concomitant circumstances, which proclaim its affinity with great literary epochs of other nations rather than with any period of the national literature. By Voltaire the Augustan Age at Rome is ranked with the Age of Pericles at Athens, that of Lorenzo de Medici at Florence, and that of Louis XIV. in France, as one of four epochs in which arts and letters attained their highest perfection. The affinity between the Augustan Age and those of Pericles and Lorenzo is more superficial than real. They were all indeed periods in which the cultivation of the arts to the highest degree of perfection was fostered by the enlightened patronage of the eminent men who have given their name to their eras. But the position of Augustus, as an absolute ruler, acted more directly and potently, as a modifying and restraining power, on the thoughts and feelings expressed in his age, than that of the leading men of a republic; and the unique position of Rome as the mistress and lawgiver of the civilised world gives to the literature of the Augustan Age an imperial character and interest, which the national literature of no other city or country, even though superior in other respects, can possess. Those who regard all Latin poetry as exotic and imitative have, with some plausibility, attempted to establish a parallel between the Alexandrine poetry of the third century B.C. and that of the Augustan Age. Nor can it be denied that the relation of the Augustan poets to the Emperor was somewhat parallel to that of the scholars and poets of Alexandria to the Ptolemies. The Alexandrine science and literature were also important factors, in Roman culture; and the most eminent poets both of the Augustan Age and of that immediately preceding it, with the exception of Horace and Lucretius, acknowledged, in the form as well as the materials of their art, the influence of this latest development of Greek poetry. The nature and amount of the debt incurred to the learned school of Alexandria will be considered later, and it will be seen that it does not seriously affect the originality of the best Roman writers. The age of Queen Anne and of the first George, again, has been called the Augustan Age of English literature. The parallel between the two eras consists in the relation which poets and writers held to men eminent in the State, and also in the finished execution and moderation of tone common to both. The writers of Enga, land in our Augustan Age had the advantage over those of Rome in the freedom with which they could express, their thoughts; but, even with this advantage, and with the still greater advantage that the English race, in the long course of its literary annals, has given proof of a richer poetical faculty than any other race except the Hellenic, the blindest national partiality would scarcely claim as general and as durable an interest for any poetical work of that era as that claimed for the Georgics and Aeneid of Virgil and for the Odes and Epistles of Horace.
On the whole the closest parallel, in respect not so much of the substance and form of composition as of the circumstances and conditions affecting the lives and tastes of poets and men of letters, is to be sought in the age of Louis XIV. of France. The position and the policy of
Augustus and of Louis XIV. were alike in some important features. As absolute rulers, the one over a great empire, the other over the most powerful and enlightened nation then existing, they each played the most prominent part in history during more than half a century. They were each animated by a strong passion for national and personal glory, and encouraged art and literature, not merely as a source of refined pleasure congenial to their own tastes, but as the chief ornament of their reigns, and as important instruments of their policy.
And not only the political but the purely literary conditions of the two epochs were in some respects parallel. They were both times, not of growth, but of maturity; not so much of the spontaneous inspiration of genius, as of systematic effort directed in accordance with the principles of art and the careful study of ancient models. In each time circumstances and mutual sympathies brought men of letters into close and familiar contact both with one another and with men of affairs and of social eminence. And, while the relation of patronage to literature is not in any circumstances favourable to original invention, and though, except under most advantageous conditions, its tendency is to produce a tameness of spirit, or even an insincerity of tone, yet it has its compensating advantages. It imparts to literature the tone of the world
of the world not only of social eminence, but of practical experience and conversance with great affairs. The good taste, judgment, and moderation of tone which have enabled the Augustan literature to stand successfully the criticism of nineteen centuries, as well as its deficiency in the highest creative power, when compared with such eras as the Homeric Age, the Age of Pericles, and the Elizabethan Age in England, mark the limits of the good influence which this relation between the great in worldly station and the great in genius can exercise on literature.
A further parallel might be drawn between the material conditions of the Augustan Age and those of the Age of Louis XIV. The aspect which the world they lived in