Page images
PDF
EPUB

Maxima quaeque manu legeret. Sic omnia fatis
In pejus ruere, ac retro sublapsa referri ;

200
Non aliter quam qui adverso vix flumine lembum
Remigiis subigit, si brachia forte remisit,
Atque illum in praeceps prono rapit alveus amni.

Praeterea tam sunt Arcturi sidera nobis
Haedorumque dies servandi et lucidus Anguis, 205
Quam quibus in patriam ventosa per aequora vectis
Pontus et ostriferi fauces tentantur Abydi.
Libra die somnique pares ubi fecerit horas,

human industry;' that is, homo, in imitation of Lucretius, 5, 208.-199. Sic, in this same way.”—200. In pejus ruere, 'hasten to decay,'

are apt rapidly to degenerate.' This is the historic or absolute infinitive applied to what is accustomed to happen; the same may be said of referri in this verse. Ac retro sublapsa referri, and having gradually slidden back with increasing celerity, are borne back to their original state. Re in referri is strengthened by retro.—201. Adverso flumine subigit, “slowly impels against the stream,' 'urges up the stream.' Lembum, ' pinnace.' Lembus (ném bos) means properly a small boat with a sharp prow. It was especially used by the Illyrians.—202. Brachia, his arms,' «sinewy efforts.'

204. The husbandman must, as well as the sailor, attend to the rising and setting of the constellations: three are here given as examples. A returi sideru, “the stars of Arcturus,' which is here put for Boötes, the constellation to which it belongs. — 205. Haedorum dies, the day on which the kids rise.' These two stars, called igicos by the Greeks, are situated on the arm of Auriga, and also were accompanied with stormy weather (Theocr. 7,53; Arat. 158). Servandi = observandi, Anguis, the Serpent,' called also · Draco,' near the north pole, and again referred to at verse 244. Though the poet here enumerates only three constellations to be dreaded, there were others equally ominous.--206. In patriam vectis, while borne homeward ;' that is, in Italiam, through the Euxine and Hellespont, towards the Aegean Sea. Vectis = dum rehuntur.- 207. Pontus, sc. Eurinus. Ostrifèri fauces Abydi. “The Hellespont'or Dardanelles is here meant, at the narrowest part of which, on the Asiatic shore, in Mysia, stood the city of Abydos, famed for its oysters, which are still found there of excellent quality. Ten'antur, are attempted; that is, sought to be traversed. This verb is well chosen, as implying danger in the attempt. Cf. Ed. 1, 50. The strait here has become famous as the place selected by Xerxes for his bridge of boats, on which to convey across his vast army into Europe; as the scene of the loves of Hero and Leander; and of Lord Byron's poem, entitled The Bride of Abydos.-208. The times of sowing various kinds of seed are now specified. Libra, “the Balance.' When Libra shall have made the hours of the day and of slumber equal;' that is, the hours of day and the night. Here the autumnal equinox is meant. The time mentioned for sowing barley is from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice. In Virgil's time, the former was about the 24th of September, and the latter about the 25th of December. With

Et medium luci atque umbris jam dividit orbem,
Exercete, viri, tauros; serite hordea campis 210
Usque sub extremum brumae intractabilis imbrem;

6

us, barley is sown in spring; but in warmer climates, at the end of the year; whence barley-harvest is much earlier than wheat-harvest. Die, the archaic form of the genitive (and dative of the fifth declension). Somni, an adjunct of night = noctis. In common parlance, the Romans did not apply the word hora to the night. The Roman day was always divided into twelve hours, and the night into four watches; but as both hours and watches depended for their length on the duration of the daylight and the darkness, their hours and their watches were never of the same length except at the equinoxes. Hence horas pares facere could not be applied to our mode of reckoning time, at least in the Roman acceptation of the expression: our expression would be, dies et noctes pares facere.—209. Et medium luci, &c. This verse is applicable to any mode of reckoning time. Luci atque umbris, “between light and darkness. The relation between 'is here elegantly expressed by two datives and a conjunction. Another equally elegant mode is by two accusatives with a conjunction : fas atque nefas discernerunt. A third method is by a dative and an ablative with cum : huic cuin reliquis civitatibus.-210. Exercete tauros (= boves); that is, plough the land.' Hordea. Cf. Ecl. 5, 36.—211. Usque sub, 'until towards, almost to,' within a short time of.' Usque ad expresses a closer proximity: usque ad urbem, all the way to the city.' Extremum. The invariable meaning of extremus, as applied to a period of time, is, 'the end,' or last part of it. On a superficial view of this passage, it would seem that the end of winter is meant, while it is most certain that the end of autumn is the period specified by the poet. By comparing A. 2, 446, this will fully appear:

His se, quando ultima cernunt,

Extrema jam in morte parant defendere telis. The Trojans spoken of in this sense were all alive, and even their bodies unwounded. Still their lives were in peril of being violently taken away, and seemed to be drawing fast to a close. Such being their state, they might well be said to be at the end of life, though not at the extremity of death. At death's extremity would mean that they were already dead. In extrema morte, then, is in parte vitae juxta mortem, or, in extrema parte vitae morti proximā. Hence by resolving the phrase in the text in this manner, we get: Usque sub extremam partem auctumni juxta primum imbrem intractabilis hiemis ; that is, close upon the very end of autumn. Until the signs of the first rains of winter begin to appear, and render the sowing of such crops as wheat and barley impracticable. That usque sub, &c., refers to the end of autumn, is still further plain from the explanation which follows in verse 214: dum sicca tellure, dum nubila pendent ; sicca tellure referring to the continuance of dry autumnal weather, good for the sowing of autumnal crops; and nubila pendent marking the clouds as visible, and almost ready to discharge their contents in the form of rain. Were the end of winter intended, the ground would not have been represented as dry, nor the rains as only ready to fall. With this explication Pliny agrees (18, 7): Hordeum inter equinoctium auctumni et brumam

Nec non et lini segetem et Cereale papaver
Tempus humo tegere, et jamdudum incumbere aratris,
Dum sicca tellure licet, dum nubila pendent.
Vere fabis satio ; tum te quoque, Medica, putres 215
Accipiunt sulci, et milio venit annua cura :
Candidus auratis aperit quum cornibus annum
Taurus et adverso cedens Canis occidit astro.
At si triticeam in messem robustaque farra
Exercebis humum, solisque instabis aristis,

220 Ante tibi Eoae Atlantides abscondantur,

6

6

[ocr errors]

Virgilius jubet seri.—212. Segetem, 'the seed.' Cereale papaver, because Ceres is said to have assuaged her grief for the loss of her daughter by eating its seeds.—215. Fabis satio, 'the time for sowing beans : 'satio = tempus serendi. All the ancient agricultural writers disagree with Virgil'in this, that the time for sowing beans was in the spring.' Varro says the time for sowing them is the end of October; and, according to Columella, it was not right to sow them after the winter solstice; and the spring is of all times the worst. But this difference of opinion is easily explained : Virgil mentions the custom of his native district. In the districts near the Po, beans were always sown in spring, as Pliny himself expressly informs us (18, 12, 30), whereas in the more southerly parts of Italy the autumn was preferred. Medica (sc. herba), “O medic (plant)' = “ undizeń (sc. tóc); the plant meant is the lucern or Burgundy trefoil. According to Pliny, it has its name from Media, whence it was introduced into Greece during the war of Darius. Putres sulci, “the friable furrows,' rendered so by frequent ploughing, manuring, and exposure to cold.—216. Et milio venit annua cura, and for the millet comes its annual care;' that is, the trouble of sowing millet every year. Millet is an annual, strong, coarse grass, bearing heads of fine round seed a little larger than mustard-seed. Though coarse, the plant makes good fodder, and the seed is equally good for cattle. Poultry fatten on it, and bread is even sometimes made from it. Lucern, on being once sown, continues for at least ten years, whereas millet requires to be sown every year.--217. Auratis cornibus, 'with his gilded horns.'-218. Adverso astro, sc. Tauro, dat.; Taurus, from his position on the sphere, directs his horns against Sirius. The image before the poet's mind was a bull defending himself against a dog.--219. At si-aristis, - but if you till the ground for a wheat-crop and substantial grain, and will insist upon crops of corn alone.' Solis aristis, 'bearded grain alone;' that is, wheat and spelt, as opposed to beans, &c., of the preceding verses.--221. Ante tibi, &c., • do not sow till the Pleiades and the Crown of Ariadne have set ;' that is, not till after the middle of November. The cosmic or morning setting of the Pleiades took place on the 11th of November, according to Pliny, 2, 47; and Didymus, Geopon. 2, 14; and according to Ptolemy and Aetius, Corona set from the 15th of November to the 19th of December. Some maintain that Virgil means here the heliacal rising of Corona Borealis, which took place about the middle of October, and accordingly give the forced meaning of emerge,'' depart irom,' or ' leave'the sun's rays, to the verb decedat. The poet's use of

Gnosiaque ardentis decedat stella Coronae,
Debita quam sulcis committas semina, quamque
Invitae properes anni spem credere terrae.
Multi ante occasum Maiae coepere: sed illos 225
Exspectata seges vanis elusit aristis.
Si vero viciamque seres vilemque phaselum,
Nec Pelusiacae curam aspernabere lentis,
Haud obscura cadens mittet tibi signa Boötes :
Incipe, et ad medias sementem extende pruinas. 230

Idcirco certis dimensum partibus orbem
Per duodena regit mundi Sol aureus astra.
Quinque tenent coelum zonae : quarum una corusco

[ocr errors]

this verb, however, is subversive of such interpretation : cf. verse 450 ; 4, 466; and Ecl. 2, 67.—222. Gnosia stella. Ariadne, whose jewelled crown was transferred to the sky by Bacchus, was daughter to Minos, king of Gnossus, in Crete.—224. Invitae, reluctant' as yet to receive it, as the proper season for sowing had not yet come, the ground not being in a fit state to receive the precious trust. Properes credere (for credas, in order to express more strongly hi condemnation of the practice), you hastily commit,'' hurriedly intrust to the ground.' Anni spem, the hope of the year.' The wheat-crop' was the main stay of the ancient farmer. The goodness of all his other crops would never have consoled him for a failure in the wheat-harvest. Vota is applied by Ovid to the crops destroyed by the Deluge in the same figurative manner as Virgil here applies spes to wheat :

Sternuntur segetes et deplorata coloni

Vota jacent. -225. Maiae, ' of Maia, daughter of Atlas, and one of the Pleiades. -226. Vanis aristis, 'with poor empty ears.' — 227. Vilem, cheap,'

common,' on account of their abundance.—228. Pelusiacae ; that is, • Egyptian. Pelusium was a town at the mouth of the most easterly branch of the Nile ; and Egypt was famed for its lentiles.—229. Cadens Boötes, “ Boötes when setting,' which occurred on the last of October. Then was to begin the sowing of lentiles, vetches, kidney-beans, &c.230. Sementem, your sowing' accusative of sementis.

231. Idcirco, for this purpose' (or reason). From the consideration of the uses of the constellations in guiding the labours of the husbandman, the poet is here led to a beautiful digression on the zodiac, zones, and other topics of astronomy: Orbem, sc. annuum, the circle of the year.'—232. Per duodena mundi astra, as he moves through the twelve constellations of the sky. Here mundus denotes the vault of heaven, through which the sun, in Virgil's time, was supposed to move; and of course the duodena astra are the twelve signs of the zodiac. It is not right, as some do, to construct orbem with mundi. The difference between per duodena astra and per duodecim astra, is that the former means, through twelve constellations each returning year,' while the latter merely signifies, 'through twelve constellations, without any allusion to the sun's passing through the signs of the zodiac oftener than once.-233. Quinque, &c. Ancient geographers

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Semper sole rubens, et torrida semper ab igni ;
Quam circum extremae dextra laevaque trahuntur, 235
Caerulea glacie concretae atque imbribus atris :
Has inter mediamque duae mortalibus aegris
Munere concessae divûm ; et via secta per ambas,
Obliquus qua se signorum verteret ordo.
Mundus, ut ad Scythiam Rhipaeasque arduus arces 240
Consurgit, premitur Libyae devexus in Austros.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

divided the meridian semicircle of the earth from north to south into thirty equal parts, of 6° each, of which fifteen divisions were on each side of the equator, and these they again divided into three portions of unequal magnitude, thus forming five zones; for the torrid zone comprehended four parts on each side of the equator, or 24° on each side of the line; while the succeeding five parts, or 30°, from 24° to 54°, commencing at the tropics, formed a zone on each side of the torrid zone, which were called the temperate zones; and six parts, or 36', from this zone to the poles, formed the two frigid zones. It was believed that the temperate zones alone were habitable ; but as the progress of discovery led men further north than the 54', two parts were cut from the frigid and added to the temperate, thus making it extend to the 66° of latitude.—235. Extremae, sc. zonae ; that is, the north and south frigid zones, as these are at the extreme ends of the sphere. We see here that extremus is applicable to both ends of a definite portion of space, though when applied to one of the ends of a definite portion of time, it uniformly means, not the beginning, but the end of it. Trahuntur, 'are drawn ;' taken from the act of describing a circle.—236. Caeruleaatris, congealed by azure ice and gloomy showers. — 237. Has inter by anastrophe for inter has. It is considered an elegant anastrophe when a preposition thus stands between two objects to which it is equally related : inter has, sc. duas extremas zonas, et mediam, sc. zonam, • between these two extreme or frigid zones and the middle or torrid zone.' Duae, sc. zonae ; that is, the north and south temperate zones. Mortalibus aegris, “to wretched mortals.'-238. Munere concessae divům,

conferred by the favour of the gods.' Per ambas, sc. zonas, 'through to both zones ;' that is, through the torrid zone northward till it reaches the north temperate zone, and in like manner southward. Others say, that this is an example of per inter, and interpret per ambus, 'is between both. Cf. verse 245, per duas.-239. Obliquusordo, 'where (qua) the oblique order of the signs might revolve.' By obliquus is indicated the obliquity of the ecliptic = 23° 27' 38" this year (1855). The centenary decrease of the angle is 48"; hence the ecliptic and equinoctial lines will coincide in the year 3615 A.D.240. Mundus, 'the vault of heaven' coelum. Ad Scythiam, 'towards Scythia ;' that is, the whole north: cf. Ecl. 1, 66. Rhipaeas arces, the Rhipaean Mountains;' cf. G. 4, 461 ; and Ov. Met. 1, 467. These " heights were conjectural, and beyond them were supposed to dwell the Hyperboreans. Arduus consurgit, “rises high, is elevated in the northern hemisphere.'-241. Premitur— Austros, .so sloping down, it is depressed towards the southern regions of Africa.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »