« PreviousContinue »
often to poetize at second-hand,' and sometimes to misapply his borrowed similes. Again, Virgil, consummate narrator as he is, never attains that living spontaneity of epic narrative which is Homer's always, and no other man's. Further, in naturalness, in creating personalities, in making every epic incident display the character of its actors,' Homer is incomparable; though in solemn grandeur of tone, the Roman is the equal of the Greek; and yet the tone is different."
But to realize these matters and then to dispel them from view are first essentials to an appreciation of Virgil's greatness, which is his own and not Homer's. If Homer's epics are splendidly Greek, the Eneid is monumentally Roman, composed with deep patriotic and religious motive. Virgil expresses the sentiments of a mature age, Homer those of a simpler time, the sentiments of each age
I Homeric battles are real; one can see and hear the men. Virgil through the second part of the Æneid attempted to copy Homeric fighting; but Virgil's fighting lacks vividness; it is monotonous and flat, most of it producing the impression of matter perfunctorily introduced to fill out the story.
For instance, Æn., i, 497, etc., where Virgil applies to Dido accompanied by the Sidonian youth a translation of the simile of Diana and her nymphs, with which Homer describes Nausicaa and her girls. Virgil is not happier in Æn., i, 588, etc., with the simile descriptive of Æneas's first appearance to Dido. Nor is it easy for us to conceive how such a true poet as Virgil could have begun Dido's passionate reproach to Æneas, Æn., iv, 364, with a direct translation from Iliad, xvi, 33, etc., where Patroclus reproaches Achilles with hard-heartedness.
3 Virgil, in the fifth book of the Æneid, certainly tells a stirring story of the games. But Homer, in the twenty-third book of the Iliad, not only gives a vivid narrative of the games, but makes his narrative and every incident of the games, and every word uttered by the contestants or the onlookers, set forth the character of his heroes.
4 Every line of the Eneid feels the weight of the destinies of Rome. The poet, conscious throughout of the grandeur of his general theme and its portentousness, fails to let his style drop suitably in minor passages. But how majestically roll the lines (Æn., i, 254, etc.) in which Jupiter tells Venus the destinies of Æneas's race.
* The grandeur of Achilles is totally unlike anything in the Æneid. So is the height of his reply refusing to spare Lycaon (I., xxi, 97–113), or the height of his consoling speech to Priam (77., xxiv, 599–620).
heightened into greatness by the genius of its poet. It is in the deeper sense of life, which comes to Virgil through modes of feeling, that may be found most instructive differences between him and Homer, as well as matter deeply illustrative of the change coming over men's hearts in the Augustan age. Youth does not appreciate the pathos of life, a sense of which comes to men through living. The sweet-tempered wisdom of maturity looks upon all life with tenderness. So in the ages of the world. Homer, writing in its youth, tells splendid things and things most pitiable, himself moved at times by sad events, but not enduing all life, all human acts, with pathos. Virgil, as no human soul before him, felt infinite pagan tenderness and the unutterable sadness of life:
Tu Marcellus eris-manibus date lilia plenis.
The Eneid is touched with feeling and with modes of pathos unexpressed in Homer, and not fully expressed by any writer before Virgil. For Virgil is the master of pathos high and ethical, arising, not from the passing sad event alone, but from broad thought softened by tender feeling, pathos broadened into universality and ennobling the heart.
As Homer was a perfect epic narrator, and as his narratives embraced the sorrows and tragic phases of life, he told many sad events, and in a way greatly Homeric to move the reader. And, matchless poet as and Virgilhe is, when telling an event constituting the ian Pathos. triumph of one side and the climax of woe to the other, as he heightens the exultation, so he intensifies the pathos. The pathos of Hector's death could not be increased, he, his country's stay, falls by the hands of the cruel foe who will devote even his dead body to contumely; he dies before the eyes of his own parents, whose hope he was; and his wife reaches the city's wall to fall senseless at the sight of his body dragged at Achilles' chariot wheels. No fitting circumstance of woe is absent. But even in this crowning
instance may be noticed this general characteristic of Homeric pathos: it springs from the concrete sad event; it is immediate, and limited, not made to appear just a touch of the whole woe of the world. If the poet makes a reflection, it is a natural and apparent one, which may intensify but does not necessarily extend the pathos of the event, nor relate it to human sadness in general.' Another characteristic, as it were, of the youth of Homer, is that whenever an event can be told from other interesting points of view, he does not dwell on its pathetic elements; he does not notice the pathetic unless the palpable nature of the event suggests it; nor does he introduce pathetic incidents for the sake of pathos. For instance, Homer tells the night expedition of Diomede and Odysseus to spy out the Trojan camp' as the story of a heroic and successful deed. The Trojan spy, Dolon, is captured and deliberately killed by them, yet his fate is not moving; the poet lays no emphasis upon its pathos. Again, a very different example, Odysseus' sight of the infernal regions and the shades is weird and terrible, but there is little pathos in it.'
1 For instance when the dead Hector is dragged at Achilles' chariot wheels the poet says:
τότε δὲ Ζεὺς δυσμενέεσιν
δῶκεν αεικίσσασθαι ἑῇ ἐν πατρίδι γαίῃ.
II., xxii, 403. And notice the reflection of the poet when Achilles receives the body of Patroclus: Him he had sent into the fight with horses and chariot, nor received him again returning. I., xviii, 237. But these considerations do not imply that Homeric pathos is not universal in the sense of embodying the universal in the concrete, which is quite different from broadening the pathos by conscious reflections upon it. For instance, Hector's famous phrase, ev yap ¿yo ròdɛ oïda, etc, Il., vi, 447, has come to many noble souls: the younger Scipio is said to have uttered it in tears gazing at Carthage which he had destroyed, thinking of his own great Rome which also might not some day escape; just as Æneas's exclamation when he sees the rising towers of Carthage, O fortunati quorum iam monia surgunt! has found echo in the hearts of thousands whose circumstances resembled not at all those of the leader of the Trojan remnant.
2 Il., x.
Od., xi. Likewise the tragic adventures of Odysseus in the Cyclops' with the Læstrygonians, with Sylla, are not told in a pathetic way.
In the main, the unreflecting pathos of Homer rises from incidents of physical suffering, wounds, and death. Yet he has ready heart for the pathos of finer feeling when the occasion suggests it. He felt the woe of Helen breaking in words of sadness as she speaks of Paris and herself, "upon whom Zeus has placed such evil fate that we shall be a theme of song to men in times to come ";' he felt the welling memories of Odysseus when that hero veiled his head and wept at the blind bard's song of the deeds done in the wide Troy land; he knew how tears would flow as the loathsome swine forms fell from the comrades of Odysseus, and they raised their voices and wept till even the goddess was moved to pity;' and supreme is the pathetic beauty of those simple lines, when Helen looks in vain among the Grecian heroes for her brothers and wonders why they shun the war. Finally, well knew the poet how the visible woe of a grief-stricken comrade would call to others' eyes tears for their own like sorrows. Indeed, both Iliad and Odyssey have, as it were, leading motives of woe, strains which pervade the poems or recur again and again: as in the Odyssey recur the lines," thence we sailed onward smitten in heart, glad to escape death, lamenting our dear comrades";' while throughout the Iliad one cannot but feel the sublime pathos of Achilles' early fate, which the poet does not bring to pass, but keeps ever before the eyes of the hero whom he loves most of all, but smites with grief and loneliness transcending the comprehension of the host. And yet, in fine, though Homer knows that life is short and may be bitter, life is with him an eager course, and unpervaded with the sense of sadness with which the contemplative spirit of Virgil tinged all its scenes.'
One may think that between the time of Homer and
1 Il., vi, 357.
2 Od., viii, 83.
8 Ib., x, 388.
♦ II., iii, 243.
5 Ib., xix, 338.
* Homer speaks of the eager or raging arrow έπιπτέσθαι μενεαίνων, Il., iv, 126; Virgil speaks of non felicia tela, Æn., x, 196, which are burned with the dead; these epithets show well the contrast between the two poets.
Virgil, men had come to realize more fully the sorrow of life. Euripides' dramas were full of tears, and there is much pathos in later Hellenic literature. At Rome Lucretius knew life's pathos, and Catullus, the sadness of the near event. Yet the way was but prepared for Virgil. None before him had his high and tender heart, and the broad unembittered sadness of loving wisdom still awaited expression, as well as the high epic pathos of noble endeavor, endeavor frustrated and then again successful, but endeavor always saddened by reflection on the struggle of it all and the sorrow of the sacrifice which attainment ever calls for.
With Virgil the sadness which palpably belongs to the pathetic events and phases of human life, is through the poet's meditation extended to events and phases which are not sad apparently, but may be thought and felt to be sad through reflection on the uncertainty and transitoriness of the happiest conditions of life. The fair youth stricken by a wound is palpable pathos: but it is only through thoughtfulness that a youth in the full flush of joyous life may seem pathetic. Virgil's mood perceives elements of pathos everywhere, and shades the bright sides of life with thought of toil and misfortune, it may be. Viewing all events as possibly containing pathetic elements, seeing all things tinged with sadness, leads to regarding particular events as instances of the world's whole woe, and to generalizing the expressions suggested by a sad event, a generalizing which may be of two different modes: thoughts may be stated in the form of a general principle, as mentem mortalia tangunt, or the pathetic event or situation may be brought out through incidents or words suggestive of the all-pervading pathos of mortal life. For instance: all sad yearning of human hearts is brought to expression in the lines telling of the shades who wander by the Stygian bank,
Tendebantque manus ripe ulterioris amore;'
1 Æn., vi, 314.