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literature had always been imitative; Pacuvius and Attius had set themselves to make the best they could out of Sophocles and Aegchylus 8 ; and it was doubtless in his own judgment, as well as in that of eulogistic critics, that Ennius appeared to be wise and brave, and a second Homer'. But the period which witnessed the establishment of the empire generated new hopes and aspirations among the poets of Rome. The fervour of an age, half revolutionary, half organic in its character, had produced intellectual activities which the imperial system was not slow to welcome and cherish. The writers of the new era saw that Greece had as yet yielded but few of her spoils to her semibarbarous invaders ; and they planned fresh expeditions, which should be undertaken under more exalted auspices, and return crowned with greener and more luxuriant laurels. The ebullition of anticipated triumph which opens the Third Georgic doubtless represents the real feeling of the poet, though the vision which he there professes to see does not correspond in its details with that which his better genius afterwards revealed to him. Greece was to be conquered, and conquered with her own weapons. The games were to be the veritable Olympic games, transplanted to the banks of the Mincio, those games of which the race and the caestus are the type; and the ceremonial of the day is to be varied with the accessories of a Roman triumph. It was in this spirit that he addressed himself to the task of reproducing Homer. The imitation of externals was a thing not to be avoided or dexterously concealed, but to be openly and boldly embraced; and it was the hitherto unapproached excellence of the model which was held to constitute the glory of the success. Even in his own day there appear to have been critics, probably rival versifiers, who reproached him with having taken so much from Homer; and the answer which he is said to have made shows the light in which he wished his own labours to be regarded '. “Let them try to steal for themselves as they say I have stolen for myself, and they will find that it is easier to rob Hercules of his club than to rob Homer of a single verse.” It was an act of high-handed brigandage, which, rightly appreciated, carried with it its own justification. In the long hours of laborious days, paring down and refining the verses which had been poured out in the exuberance of the morning?, he bad grappled with the Grecian Hercules, and had again and again wrested from 8 Hor. 2 Ep. 1. 161 foll.
Hor. 2 Ep. 1. 50 foll. The somnia Pythagorea’ are evidence enough of what he thought of his relation to Homer.
Donatus, $ 16. 64, who gives the authority of Asconius Pedianus. He adds, however, something about Virgil resolving to yield to the pertinacity of his critics ; but the precise meaning is not clear, as the words seem to be corrupt.
. Gellius 17. 10, Donatus, § 9. 33. Quinctilian, Inst. 10. 3, cites Varus for the statement that the number of verses composed by Virgil daily was very small.
him that weapon which had so long been the terror of meaner freebooters'. I have elsewhere remarked on Virgil's absolute silence about Homer, who, throughout the Aeneid, is never named or even indicated; but no one would interpret it as the silence of a writer anxious to ignore or conceal his obligations. Even were epic narrative as favourable to the introduction of personal notices as pastoral dialogue or didactic disquisition, it would have been superfluous to mention Homer in a poem which invites comparison with the Iliad and Odyssey in its whole external form, and even in its very title, and contains an imitation or translation from Homer in almost every page.
This avowed rivalry, I venture to think, should be borne in mind in estimating, not only the similarity of the Homeric and Virgilian epics, but their discrepancies. When we require that Virgil, drawing as he does his characters from the circle of Homeric legend, should exhibit them as they are exhibited in Homer, we are not only forgetting what Virgil could scarcely have forgotten if he would, the changes which those characters underwent as they passed under the hands of Attic and Alexandrian schools of poetry, but we are mistaking the whole attitude assumed by Virgil with reference to his illustrious predecessor. Homer, in his eyes, is not the father alike of history and of poetry, the sole authority for all our knowledge about the Greeks and the Trojans, their ethnology, their polity, their moral relations to each other; be is the rival poet of a rival nation, the party chronicler of a quarrel which the Trojans had bequeathed to their successors, and those successors, after many centuries, had pushed to a victorious issue. Was it likely that a Trojan would have accepted the Homeric estimate of bis nation and his nation's cruel enemies ? and was it to be expected that the heir of the Trojans should dwarf his representation of Trojan worth and Trojan valour to a Homeric standard ? The lions had at last come to be the painters; and though they could not represent their progenitor as victorious over the man in that great legendary struggle, they could pourtray it as a contest of fraud and cruelty with heroic endurance and genuine bravery ; they could poise the event more doubtfully in the balance, and call down indignation on the crimes that stained the hour of triumph; they could point to the retribution which fell, even within the period of the legend, on the homes of those who had made others homeless, and shadow forth in prophetic vision the yet more terrible recompense which history was to bring in the fulness of time. Aeneas
3 That this view of the character of Virgil's imitations was taken by the ancients themselves is shown by a passage in the Third ‘Suasoria’ of the elder Seneca (quoted by Heyne, Dissertatio de Carmine Epico Vergiliano), who says, speaking of a supposed appropriation of Virgil's words by Ovid, "fecisse quod in multis aliis versibus Vergilius fecerat, non surripiendi causa sed palam imitandi, hoc animo ut vellet adgnosci."
is drawn by Homer at a time when, from the nature of the case, he could only play a secondary part in the action; yet Homer admits his reputation among his countrymen, and grudgingly concedes his real prowess, while he makes the Trojan hero's future the special concern of destiny, provided for even by those gods who are the fiercest enemies of Troy. Virgil takes up his story when he is left alone as the one surviving protector of his country, the forlorn hope of those who sought to resist, during the sack of the city, the recognized leader of the Trojan migration. Worsted as he had been by Achilles, and even by Diomed, it was no less true that he had been a terror to the lords of the Danaans and the armies of Agamempon; nor was there any reason why he and his Trojans should not prove too strong for the Italian nations, though they had proved too weak for the forces of Greece. Even in Homer it is easy to see that the character of Ulysses has more sides than one: he is the prince of policy, because with him every species of fraud is lawful; and it is natural that his stratagems should be differently estimated by those in whose favour they are exercised and those to whom they brought havoc, exile, and death. Virgil, it is true, represents his Ulysses as engaging in crimes from which the Homeric Ulysses would probably have shrunk ; but we must not judge a poet as we should judge a historian who were to invent actions in order to support a preconceived theory of character. If the right of independent treatment be conceded, it must be allowed to extend, not only to the interpretation of character, but to the invention of incident. Regarding Homer as a party chronicler, Virgil was not bound to assume that he has recorded all the actions of his hero, any more than that he has given a true colour to those actions which he has recorded. And so the poet of Troy, having taken such a measure as it was in the nature of a Trojan to take of Troy's subtlest enemy, might fairly avail bimself of any post-Homeric tradition which might serve the cause that he had to advocate, or even create for himself new traditions, so long as they were plausible and consistent. “Aut famam sequere, aut sibi convenientia finge.” To be plausible and consistent are a poet's sole historical duties; and in this instance plausibility and consistency are to be estimated, not according to the view which sets up Homer as the one record of historical truth, but according to that which regards his poems as pieces of advocacy, the answers to which have been lost. The image is indeed something more than a mere metaphor. We know that in the Greek schools of rhetoric attempts were frequently made to overturn the verdict, not only of history, but of fable; and we may recall with a smile the fact that it was not merely sophistical acumen, but real sympathy with a friendly nation, which led Greek orators to rehabilitate Busiris, and purge Egypt from the stain of a legendary participation in the guilt of human sacrifices. Virgil bas obtained leave to reargue the case of his countrymen; and all that is required of him is that his facts and inferences should be such as would have been credible to a Trojan warrior. Bearing this in mind, we may remember that if Aeneas calls Ulysses “fell," " relentless,” and “the inventor of crime,” it is when he is speaking of the sack of Troy, or of the carrying off of the statue which made Troy impregnable. If Sinon represents him as a treacherous, artful glozer, it is when he is describing plots laid against bis friend's life and bis own. If Deiphobus knows him only as the counsellor of deeds of wrong, we may pardon the one-sided judgment of a person who has been hewn by him as a carcase fit for hounds, and remains mangled even in his ghostly body. Such men were not likely to sympathize with the admiration expressed by the Homeric Antenor, as on the day that was to bring the war to a peaceful close, he recalled the impression made on bim by his illustrious guest in by-gone years, before the war began. Nor is it less perfectly in keeping that the Rutulians should disparage the wiles of Ulysses in comparison of their own more daring exploits, at the same time that it leads us to admire the art of the poet, who has thus condemned the most formidable enemies of Troy out of the mouth of other enemies, who were destined to prove less formidable. As little could it be expected that the Aeneas of Virgil should appreciate the lights and shades distributed over the character of the Homeric Helen. How he regarded her during the siege we are not told; he may have shared the mixed feeling of admiration and dis. approval which the old men on the wall express in their hour of respite; he may have partaken of the sense of repulsion with which, as she tells us in her wail over Hector, she was looked upon by all in Troy; but as his eye fell upon her at the moment of the sack of the royal palace, and the savage slaughter of the good old king, thoughts of hatred and vengeance could hardly fail to be uppermost in his mind; and he may well have needed a supernatural interposition to teach him to distinguish between the authors of so terrible a ruin and its wretched instrument. Let us once fix in our minds that Homer is the poet of the Greeks, and that his action is laid during the siege, that Virgil is the poet of the Trojans, and that his action is laid after the burning of the city, and we shall not, I think, be disposed to charge Virgil with mere wanton depravation of the Homeric characters.
The same notion of independent rivalry will explain Virgil's neglect of Homeric traditions in other matters where patriotic feeling or dramatic propriety was not concerned. Virgil doubtless held himself bound to follow Homer's narrative only so far as that narrative had taken hold of the popular mind of Rome. He was not the interpreter of an ancient record, bound to minute and painstaking accuracy; he was the reviver of an old story, which in its broad features was familiar to all lovers of poetry. The relative position of the various members of the royal family of Troy, the distinctions of races among the hosts that respectively made up the Greek and Trojan armies, the extent of the names Pergamus, Ilion, and Dardania, the comparative importance of the Scamander and the Simois, the geographical details of countries which few Romans had ever visited,—these were not points that interested the Roman readers of the Iliad and Odyssey, nor were they likely to be scrutinized by Roman readers of the Aeneid. The very care which Virgil has taken to construct his own catalogue of the Italian forces, might naturally be thought to absolve him from the duty of minutely studying catalogues with which even an educated Roman felt he had no concern. The indifference of the Romans to the history of other countries is a known feature in their character“; curious about the antiquities of their own nation, they had but little of that historical spirit which impels a student to investigate records entirely unconnected with himself; and Virgil was a type of his countrymen, alike in his learning and in his carelessness or ignorance. Besides, the body of knowledge already existing at Rome, and the habits of ordinary speech, would have been a serious impediment to Virgil, even if he had wished to follow Homer faithfully. As he was obliged to talk of Jupiter, Juno, and Mars, to a nation which had agreed to identify the Greek gods with those whom they were themselves worshipping daily, so he could hardly have avoided calling the Greeks by that generic name by which the Romans knew them, though it had no existence in Homer's time, and had never really belonged to more than an infinitesimally small part of the Greek people. If we, with our appreciation of historical criticism, find it impossible not to talk of Greece and the Greeks, what would it bave been to a Roman, to whom the name was a contemporary fact, and who spoke of 'Graecia' and Graeci' as we speak of Germany and Germans ? With this cardinal offence against history and ethnology staring him in the face, Virgil would have found it in vain to affect or aim at accuracy. Accordingly, he appeals indifferently to all the associations of his readers, whether vague or exact. Here he takes advantage of an obscure tradition; there, of a loose popular identification. He talks of Dorians at a time when the Dorians were scarcely known, and confers on the Trojans the name of their Phrygian neighbours. He generalizes from a part to the whole, and then comes down from the whole to some other part; just as where, in describing the Trojan horse, he first speaks of it as pine-wood, then as maple, and lastly as oak; not, I think, from confusion or forgetfulness, but as an assertion of the poet's privilege to