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LIKE its predecessor, this volume is the result of considerable labour, labour too of a kind which tends to diminish an author's confidence in his work. A commentator on Virgil is not likely to feel that those difficulties which weighed heavily on him while engaged on the Eclogues and Georgics have become fewer or less formidable when he passes to the Aeneid. To grapple with his subject thoroughly, he is still required to be an aesthetical judge of language, a Latin scholar, if not a philologer, a competent textual critic; and though no longer expected to display a knowledge of agriculture and rural life, he has to exhibit instead an acquaintance with mythology and legend, with Roman antiquities and Roman history. Virgil is confessedly one of the most learned of poets: and a commentator who would do him justice ought to be still more learned. The learning of a poet, even when extensive and multifarious, may be desultory, uncritical, inexact: he may show ignorance as well as knowledge, but he will be a learned poet still. It is the business of a commentator to understand both that knowledge and that ignorance and his learning accordingly ought to be accurate, searching, and profound. I need not say how little I profess to approach the ideal which the nature of my work keeps of necessity continually before my mind. Virgil interests me
chiefly because he is a Latin poet: as a student of poetry, I take delight in tracing, word by word, his delicate intricacies of expression, which stimulate curiosity while they baffle analysis, as well as in endeavouring to appreciate the broader features of his work as a whole and its place in the history of literature: as a student of Latin, I am interested in comparing his language with that of his predecessors and successors, and in observing the light which his use of his native tongue throws on the various unsolved or half-solved problems in Latin grammar. Other questions, whatever may be their relative importance to the scholar, I have ventured to regard as subordinate: they appear to me to be less immediately connected with the interpretation of Virgil, as they certainly have less affinity to my own tastes and the course of my studies. I have not neglected them: when they have crossed my path, as they have in almost every page, I have sought to obtain the requisite information about them: but I have generally been content to trust the knowledge which has been accumulated by others without trying to add to it, or indeed affecting to form an independent judgment.
Among the various notices (the generality of them, I may be allowed to say, very kind and appreciative) with which my first volume has been honoured, the only one to which I need advert here is that in the Journal of Classical and Sacred Philology by my friend Mr. H. A. J. Munro, of Trinity College, Cambridge. It is a really valuable and instructive piece of criticism, and I am truly grateful to a writer who has pointed out my shortcomings in such a manner as to raise my conception of the standard to which I must endeavour to attain. I hope to profit by some of his remarks in the event of a new edition of the first volume: I have, I trust, profited by others in preparing the present. In one respect indeed, as he is himself now aware, he has misunderstood the object which I proposed to myself. I spoke in my preface of
having followed the orthography of Wagner's small edition, meaning that published with short Latin notes for the use of schools: he supposed me to be speaking of the fifth volume of the larger work, which contains the text reformed orthographically. I fear that the further insight which I have obtained into the subject from the perusal of his article and from a private correspondence with him has only convinced me that it is one which I had better leave as I have hitherto left it, so far as the present work is concerned. The question is one for special study; and appears to me to present peculiar difficulties, though the research necessary for mastering them will doubtless be greatly abridged for the future by the publication of the great work on Latin inscriptions, of which the first part is just issued at Berlin, as it has been already abridged to some degree by the critical editions of Latin authors which have appeared during the last twenty years on the continent. At any rate, though scholars may tolerate and even desire a thorough reform, ordinary students will probably be better satisfied with a gradual change: and of a compromise of this sort Wagner's school edition is probably a fair specimen. Even as it is, I find considerable dissatisfaction has been felt at the spelling 'Vergilius,' though not greater than, I trust, is likely to be removed by a little familiarity with the innovation. In this volume then I have followed Wagner's guidance not generally but invariably, withdrawing the very few alterations which, while unaware of the difficulty of the subject, I had ventured to introduce from my own sense of fitness. I ought to say that I am speaking of the former editions of Wagner's school work, not of the latest, which only came into my hands after I had begun to print. Mr. Munro is unquestionably right in insisting on the necessity of being "awake to the enormous advances which have been made during the last twenty or thirty years in so many branches of Latin criticism and grammar." One whose tastes lead him to the
careful study of a very few classical authors rather than to the diffusive reading of a large number is in danger of overlooking precepts about Latinity which are to be found only in commentaries on particular books, and have not yet filtered through into the best accredited grammars and dictionaries. I trust this volume will show that I have not been wanting in attention to Lachmann's commentary on Lucretius, and that I have weighed carefully the various remarks on Virgil that are scattered through that masterly work. Perhaps there are some minds which may not at once appreciate the obiter dicta of a critic who, even in the typography and external arrangement of his notes, seems to profess that he writes only for the initiated, and who rather provokes dissent by the trenchant and dogmatic brevity of his imperial rescripts. Sometimes he seems to make too little allowance for the exceptional usages of individual authors: sometimes, on the other hand, he perhaps tends to merge general considerations in the variety of individual usage. But no one, I think, can study his observations without being instructed and enlightened in no common degree, or without feeling that he has to do with a really commanding intellect, which, like Bentley's, can walk erect under a weight of erudition beneath which others stoop, and must have possessed in an extraordinary measure that power of asking the right question, which has been truly said to constitute one half of knowledge.
Much of what was said in the Preface to the first volume holds equally true in the case of the present. I have however had some advantages in the latter case which I had not in the former: and of these I must say something.
Since I last wrote, the criticism of the text of Virgil has been placed on a new basis by the publication of Ribbeck's edition, of which the third volume, completing the Aeneid, has just appeared. Previously, as I observed in my former Preface, though we had reports of the readings of a great variety of copies, we were unhappily