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stores which have been accumulated by successive generations of able commentators. In all cases where I am indebted to any one, either for information, or for felicity of expression, I have endeavored to give due credit. The Arguments of the different Books have been taken from Bryce, with occasional additions and modifications; and parts of the Life of Virgil are compiled from Ladewig, Wagner, Thompson, Schmitz, and Long.
I congratulate those who shall study this volume upon their introduction to one of the most charming of poets, who will delight them in their youth, and still more, if possible, when they read him anew in after-days. Let them dwell long and lovingly upon his graceful verses, committing some of his choicest passages to memory, and they will find on every perusal old beauties that never pall, and new ones continually presented from an exhaustless store.
RVDOLPHO B. HVBBARD
SCHOLAE LATINAE VIGORNIENSIS
GRATI ANIMI MONVMENTO
HIC LIBELLVS ESTO.
LIFE OF VIRGIL.
PUBLIUS VERGILIUS MARO (for so, and not Virgilius, the best MSS. give his name) was born at Andes, a little village about three miles below Mantua, on the 15th Oct., B. C. 70. His father, a comfortable farmer, spared no pains to give his son & liberal Greek and Latin education, sending him to school at Čremona, and, after he had assumed the manly gown at the beginning of his sixteenth year, to Milan, and finally to Naples, where he was instructed by the poet and philosopher Parthenius. After several years' residence at Naples, Virgil betook himself to Rome (B. C. 47), where he took lessons of the Epicurean Syron, the friend of Cicero, in philosophy, mathematics, and physics. His love of letters and of a country-life, as well as his feeble health, ill adapted for the strifes of the forum, or the hardships of military service, prevented his indulging an ambition for a public career, and caused him to withdraw to his farm at Andes, where he occupied himself with husbandry, and with the study of the Greek poets, especially Theocritus. In this period he wrote a number of short poems, some of which may have descended to our times; although the authenticity of the minor poems ascribed to Virgil is doubtful. `In the year 42 he began to write his Bucolics, to which the name Eclogues was afterwards given by the critics. These are short pastoral poems, ten in number, and were probably all written before the year 37. They at once attracted attention and gained him fame and friends. Some lines from them being recited on the stage, when Virgil happened once to be in the theatre, the whole audience rose to do him honor. Their merit consists in their versification, which was smoother and more polished than the 'hexameters which the Romans had yet seen, and in many natural and simple touches. John Dryden, in the Dedication of his translation of the “Pastorals,” says: “[Virgil] found the strength of his genius betimes, and was, even in his youth, preluding to his Georgics and his Aeneës. He could not forbear to try his wings, though his pinions were not hardened to maintain a long laborious flight. Yet sometimes they bore him to a pitch as lofty as ever he was able to reach afterwards. But when he was admonished by his subject to descend, he came
down gently, circling in the air, and singing, to the ground; like a lark, melodious in her mounting, and continuing her song till she alights, still preparing for a higher flight at her next sally, and tuning her voice to better music.”
After the battle of Philippi (B. C. 42) Octavianus assigned to his soldiers lands in various parts of Italy; and the neighborhood of Cremona and Mantua (which had adhered to the cause of Brutus and Cassius) was one of the districts in which the soldiers were planted, and from which the former possessors were dislodged. Virgil was thus deprived of his property. It is said that it was seized by a veteran named Claudius or Clodius; that Asinius Pollio, who was then governor of Gallia Transpadana, advised Virgil to apply to Octavianus at Rome for the restitution of his land, and that Octavianus granted his request. It is supposed that Virgil wrote the Eclogue which stands first in our editions (but was fourth in the order of composition) to express his gratitude to Octavianus Caesar. There is an uncertain tradition of a subsequent dispossession from his estate, when he was obliged to flee before the sword of an angry soldier, and of a final restoration of his property after the peace of Brundusium.
Virgil gained early the friendship of Maecenas, the confidential friend and counsellor of Augustus, and the munificent patron of men of letters, “whose house, whose table, and whose gardens, were the resort of all the wits, virtuosi, actors, joyous spirits, and agreeable idlers of Rome.” * With the Emperor himself, with Maecenas and Pollio, and with all the members of the brilliant coterie of men of genius who surrounded the court of Augustus, he lived on terms of cordial intimacy. The successful productions of others afforded him as much pleasure as if they were his own. His large library was open to all men of learning; and he often quoted the saying of Euripides that “the property of friends is a common good,” (rà rã pidwv souvá.)
The most finished work of Virgil, his Georgica, an agricultural poem, was undertaken at the suggestion of Maecenas. Its object was “to recommend the principles of the ancient Romans, their love of home, of labor, of piety, and order; to magnify their domestic happiness and greatness; to make men proud of their country on better grounds than the mere glory of its arms and extent of its conquests. To comprehend the moral grandeur of the Georgics, in point of style the most perfect piece of Roman literature, we must regard it as the glorification of Labor." of While writing this poem, Virgil composed many verses in the morning, but by evening reduced them to a very few; so that he used to compare himself to a bear, which licks its shapeless offspring into form.
• Wieland (quoted by Dean Milman, in his Life of Horace.)
His epic poem, the Aeneid, had long been meditated. To its composition he gave the last eleven years of his life; he purposed devoting three years more to polishing and elaborating the poem; but he died without having given it his final touches. On this account, it is said, he wished, in his last illness, to burn it; but his friends would not allow him, and it was preserved and published, without alteration, by Varius and Plotius. While composing his epic, Virgil occasionally recited passages from it to his companions, and the highest expectations were raised of the greatness of the work. (Cf. Propert. Eleg. II. 34, 65.)
In the year 23 B. C. died Marcellus, the son of the Emperor's sister, Octavia, by her first husband; and as Virgil lost no opportunity of gratifying his patron, he introduced into the sixth book of the Aeneid (861–887) the well-known allusion to the virtues of this youth, who was cut off by a premature death. Octavia is said to have been present with the Emperor, when the poet was reciting this allusion to her son, and to have fainted from her emotions. She rewarded the poet munificently.*
“ The fortunes of a man, who, fleeing from a burning city and a kingdom overthrown, and borne by the fates over boundless and unknown seas, founds, on a foreign soil, held by men the most warlike, and most fiercely defended, a new realm, – that realm destined to become the greatest and the most enduring empire which the world has seen,” – what grander argument could poet have? Nor is the execution of the task unworthy of the theme. In language always elegant, often grand and sublime, in feeling sweet, pure, and noble, - it is to no happy accident, but to its own intrinsic perfections, that the Aeneid owes the immortality of its fame. Needless complaint has been made that Virgil imitates Homer. Dryden gallantly denies that the Roman poet copies his master, and says “the Grecian had only the advantage of writing first.” As Seneca well puts it, Virgil never stole, but only openly imitated. Whatever he took, he wrought over and made his own; it is the unmistakable air of Rome that breathes from every page; the stamp of Virgil is on the whole work. Again; had Homer himself no models? Nay, was he not a magnificent freebooter in the domain of the balladmakers who preceded him? Is Dante any the less original, in that he confesses to our Virgil, “ Thou art my master, and my author thou”?
“Virgil imitated Homer, but imitated him as a rival, not as a disciple.”+ Next to Honier, his mind was powerfully influenced by the study of the Athenian drama, “ wbich was in fact the only instance of a genius and culture commensurate with his own, operating in a sphere analogous to his." +
* It is said that Octavia sent Virgil ten sestertia for each of the lines referring to Marcellus, making a total sum of a hout ten thousand dollars. † Conington.
After finishing the first draft of his epic, Virgil contemplated a tour in Greece and Asia, that he might perfect it among the scenes in which many of its incidents are laid. With a dread almost prophetic, Horace prays for his safe return, in the beautiful ode addressed to the ship which bore his departing friend on his way. At Athens the poet met with Augustus, who was returning from Samos to Rome. Changing his former intention, Virgil determined to accompany his patron. On a visit to Megara, he was seized with a sudden indisposition, which his voyage increased, and he died a few days after his arrival at Brundusium, on the 22d of Sept., B. C. 19, in his fifty-first year. In accordance with his request his body was conveyed for burial to Naples, which had been his favorite place of residence, both on account of the extreme beauty of the scenery, and the mildness of the climate, congenial to his delicate health. His tomb still stands on the hill of Posilipo, and is visited by pilgrims from every land.
In person, Virgil is said to have been tall, and stoutly made, of dark complexion, and with the appearance of a farmer. He was slow in speech, and his manners were shy and of almost feminine modesty. We are told that he read with great sweetness, and imparted even to dull matter a charm which gave it a life not its own. From his asthmatic tendency, and the weak eyes of Horace, arose the saying attributed to Augustus, that, with these poets on either hand, he was sitting between sighs and tears.
His parents lived long enough to enable him to show his affection and gratitude by maintaining them in affluence, his father having become blind. Donatus rates his fortune at about ten thousand sestertia, (nearly four hundred thousand dollars,) and states that his house at Rome stood on the Esquiline Hill, near the gardens of Maecenas and the house of Horace.
His fame, which was established in his life-time, was cherished after his death, as an inheritance in wbich every Roman had a share; and his works became school-books even before the death of Augustus, and have continued such ever since. In the Middle Ages, the belief was prevalent that he had been a great magician; and of his feats most wonderful things were related. But it needs not fiction to attest his powers of enchantment; for till civilization is no more, successive generations of readers shall confess a genuine magic in the spell of that
“Spirit of Mantua,