« PreviousContinue »
The text of this edition of Virgil is mainly adopted from that of the school edition of Wagner, published at Leipzig in 1845. In certain matters of orthography, the mode usually pursued in this country, and to which our dictionaries are adapted, has been employed, instead of that to which Wagner has been led, from his faithful adherence to manuscript authority. Thus, for conponere, saepes, maestus, temptabunt, we have given componere, sepes, moestus, tentabunt. Without entering into the complicated questions which arise on this topic, it has appeared to us that the battle must be fought elsewhere; and that it is our province not to lead in such matters, but to follow. The punctuation, on which so much depends for the right understanding of an author, has been carefully attended to, and adjusted so as best to bring out the meaning, without that minute subdivision which serves to perplex rather than to guide.
In the notes, the Editor has of course availed himself of the inost distinguished commentators, ancient and modern. At the same time he has exercised an independent judgment in selecting and adapting them, and in bringing before the reader such views of his own as he deemed to be useful. The great object has been to give such information and guidance on points grammatical, critical, mythological, geographical, and historical, as may lead the learner to understand and to feel the aim, the thoughts, the allusions, and the beauties of the author, without interfering with the exercise of his own powers and industry. Peculiarities and anomalies in prosody are duly pointed out. Some attention has been given to illustrate Virgil by a comparison with passages in our own poets; and these the judicious teacher will do well to multiply. Indeed one great aim has been not only to inform the scholar, but to guide the less-experienced instructor as to the points to which it is desirable he should direct the attention of his pupils. Hence it will be observed that the geographical and mythological notices are of the briefest kind, and enter only into
such explanations as tend to elucidate the passage in which thoy
More than this is left to the dictionary. Some pains have also been taken to make the Arguments as full as possible, that a clear exposition of the author's main object may awaken a corresponding intelligence on the part of the reader. To understand the current of a writer's thought, is the only way to understand and relish his single passages, his choice of epithets, and his skill in weaving a consistent whole.
It will be observed that a running commentary has not been given on the whole of the Georgics. They are seldom read throughout in schools; not for their want of beauty, but because a didactic poem is not so well fitted to interest the young as a narrative or a dialogue. But there are some passages in the Georgics which universal consent points out as among the finest efforts of Virgil's muse, and which are eminently captivating even to a young mind. These are the praises of Italy in the First, and of a rural life in the Second Book, and the story of Aristaeus in the Fourth. To these notes have been given.
In conformity with the plan pursued in the various works of this series, a life of the Author has been prefixed, in which an attempt is made to bring the learner into contact with him, and thus prepare the mind to appreciate his excellencies, and to account for his defects.
EDINBURGH, July 20, 1848
the great Epic Poet of Rome, was born on the 15th of October, B.O. 70, in the consulship of Cn. Pompeius, and M. Licinius Crassus, the men who, ten years afterwards, combined with Julius Caesar to form what is sometimes called the First Triumvirate.' Horace, destined to be his bosom friend, was born five, and Octavianus, afterwards Augustus, on whom so
much of his life depended, seven VIRGIL
years after him.
His native place was Andes, in Cisalpine Gaul, a
few miles from Mantua, to which latter town his birth is often ascribed, as when he is termed the Mantuan bard.' Mantua is situated on a marshy lake formed by the Mincius (the modern Mincio), about twelve miles above the place where it joins the Po, on the north bank. The Mincius flows from the Lacus Benacus, a noble lake (now the Lago di Garda), which Virgil has not left unsung. About three miles below Mantua is the birthplace of our poet. Tradition, as early at least as the time of Dante, identified, as it does still, this spot with the modern Piétola, a small but neat village in a flat though fertile and well-wooded country, still waving with the spreading beech and lofty elm. Here a farm is still called Virgiliana, which is said to have been that possessed by the poet; but the features of the country in the neighbourhood, which is low and unpicturesque, do not bear out the hints which we can gather from the poet of his residence; while the Min cius, with its reedy banks and lazy course, is by him faithfully and graphically described."
There are various accounts of the occupation of his father; and these are so blended with manifest absurdities regarding the "Georg. ii. 160. Purgatorio, xviii. 82.-Ecl. vii. 12; Georg. iii. 14.
omens which at his birth predicted the future greatness of the wonderful infant, that we are induced to doubt the whole. This much seems certain, that his mother's name was Maia, and that his parents, though obscure, were possessed of some property, and were neither unable nor unwilling to impart to their son a liberal education. This, according to the traditions regarding him, preserved by Donatus,' was carried on at Cremona, Mediolanum (Milan), and afterwards at Neapolis (Naples). It has been conjectured that Virgil received instructions from Catius, an Insubrian professor of the Epicurean philosophy. But this rests on no other foundation than what we learn from Cicero-that Catius was alive about this time, and that Mediolanum, in which it is possible that Virgil then lived, was an Insubrian town.
We have better authority for believing that at Naples he studied Greek under Parthenius, a native of Nicaea, in Bithynia, one of whose prose works has come down to us, and who, as a writer of poetry," was a great favourite of the noble Romans of his time. It seems certain that he enjoyed at Rome, to which he removed from Naples, the instructions of Syron, an Epicurean philosopher, much commended by Cicero.
If we may credit Donatus, Virgil assumed the toga virilis at Cremona, on his birthday, when he had completed his fifteenth year; in the consulship again of Pompey and Crassus, B. c. 55. During the interval between his birth and this event, Pompey and Caesar had both consolidated their power. The former had conducted to a successful termination the Piratic and Mithridatic wars; and the latter had exhibited in Gaul his extraordinary skill as a general, prompt, brave, and politic. During this time also Catiline and Clodius had, the one succumbed to, and the other triumphed over, the eloquence of Cicero. It was in this year likewise that Caesar first invaded Britain-tota divisos orbe Britannos.3
We are compelled to conjecture the incidents of our author's life after he had finished his early studies at Rome. It is probable that his health (which we learn incidentally from Horace, as well as directly from his biographer, to have been infirm, in consequence of a feeble stomach and an asthmatic tendency) prevented him from aiming at distinction by the usual means by which obscure men of talent then rose
A biography of Virgil, bearing this name, is generally prefixed to the larger editions. We know nothing of the author. It is conjec. tured that he was a grammarian of the fifth century, who collected the floating traditions on the subject; and that his account was interpolated by subsequent and ignorant writers.-- Virgil is said to have borrowed from him; and one line, Georg. i. 437, is particularly men. tioned. Macrob. v. 17; A. Gellius, ix. 9, xiii. 26.- Ecl. i. 67.