Page images
PDF
EPUB

To Professors and Teachers of Classical Literature in

the Colleges, Academies, and other Seminaries in the United States :

GENTLEMEN,

The very favorable opinion that many of you have expressed, of the plan and execution of this Edition of the works of Virgil, claims my respectful acknowledgments.

Every attempt to facilitate the acquisition of classical literature will, I am persuaded, meet your approbation; I shall, therefore, offer no apology for adding this new edition to the many others, already before the public.

Soon after I commenced the instruction of youth, I became sensible of the impropriety of the use of the editions of Virgil, then in our schools. Those of Ruæus and Davidson were generally, if not exclusively, read; both equally objectionable, the former by affording too little aid to the student in the illustration of the text, the latter by affording him too much. It was at this early period that I formed the plan of the present edition. Except the two last books of the Æneid, it was finished in the year 1815, as you will perceive by the date of several of the recommendations. Since which time, they have been coinpleted, and the whole carefully revised and greatly improved. This delay in the publication gave me a further opportunity to become acquainted with the wants of students, especially in the early course of study, and to collect the opinions of teachers upon this subject. That opinion has uniformly been in favor of my plan; which takes a middle course between the opposite extremes of affording too little, and too much assistance to the student.

The partial ordo is designed to assist him in the more intricate parts of the text; and where recourse otherwise must be had to the teacher. The notes and explanations are copious. They embrace whatever was deemed necessary to elucidate the poet, and to lead the youthful mind to relish his beauties. Some of the more difficult passages I have translated ; and, in general, where a word is used out of its common acceptation, I have given its sense and meaning in that particular place: and where commentators are not agreed upon the meaning of a word or phrase, I have given their respective opinions. In the text, I have adopted the reading of Heyne, except in a few instances, where the common reading appeared preferable.

To the Bucolics, Georgics, and Æneid, I have given, in the first instance, a general introduction; and to each Eclogue, and book of the Georgics and Æneid, a summary or particular introduction: so that the student, knowing beforehand the subject, and anticipating the beauties and excellences of the poet, will proceed with ease and pleasure, and in a manner catch his spirit. To each I have added a number of questions, to be asked by the teacher, and

B

answered by the pupil. They may be increased or modified at discretion This method of instruction, by question and answer, will be found useful. It serves to excite inquiry and attention on the part of the student, and affords the teacher a ready method of discovering the degree of knowledge which he has obtained of the subject. In this particular, I acknowledge my obligation to several eminent teachers, who suggested the improvement.

The commentators, to whom I am principally indebted, are Heyne, Ruæus, Dr. Trapp, Davidson, and Valpy. But it will be seen, in the course of the work, that I have not been confined to these alone. Wherever I found any thing useful, tending either to elucidate the poet, or to interest the student, I have taken it.

Throughout the whole, it has been a principal object with me, to render the poet intelligible, and to elucidate those passages which are obscure and intricate. To the whole is added, a table of reference to the notes, where any particular article is considered or passage explained.

To you, gentlemen, I present it, with the humble trust that it will be found to answer the purposes for which it was designed, namely, to lighten the labor of the teacher, and to facilitate the acquisition of a knowledge of the poet.

J. G. COOPER. New-YORK, Oct. 1827.

THE LIFE OF VIRGIL.

PUBLIUS VIRGILIUS MARO was born at a village called Andes, about three miles from the city of Mantua, on the 15th day of October, in the year of Rome 684, and 70 years before the Christian era. Pompey the Great and Marcus Licinius Crassus were consuls.

His parents were in humble circumstances. His father cultivated a small farm for the maintenance of his family. His mother, whose name was Maia, was related to Quintilius Varus, who rose to be proconsul of Syria, and afterwards was appointed to the command of the Roman army in Germany.

The first seven years of his life were passed under his paternal roof: after which he was removed to Cremona, a town situated upon the banks of the Po, and not far from Mantua. While here, he distinguished himself in those studies suited to his age, and gave presage of his future eminence. In this pleasant retreat he passed ten years, till he assumed the Toga virilis, which, among the Romans, was at the age of 17. At an early period he showed himself to be a favorite of the Muses, and manifested a genius that one day was to rival the author of the Iliad. At this time Pompey and Crassus were in their second consulship.

From Cremona he removed to Mediolanum, a town not far distant, and soon after to Naples. Here he devoted his time to the study of the Greek language, of which he soon became master. By this means he was enabled to read the Greek poets in the original, to enter fully into their spirit, and to discover their beauties and excellencies. This proved of essential service to him in his future labors. With a mind thus stored with literature, and a taste formed by the best models, he entered upon the study of medicine, mathematics, and philosophy. These last, more especially, were his pleasure and delight, as he has intimated in several parts of his works.

He studied the Epicurean philosophy, then in much repute, under one Syro, an eminent teacher. He afterwards composed his Sixth Eclogue, with a view to compliment his preceptor, and to express a grateful remembrance of his instructions. Varus was a pupil with him at the same time. Here they contracted a friendship for each other, which continued during the remainder of their lives. Having finished his studies at Naples, which occupied several years, it is said, he visited Rome; but it is more probable that he returned to Mantua, and retired to his paternal inheritance. Here he acquired that prac. tical information which so eminently qualified him for writing the Georgics.

A person of Virgil's extensive attainments, and above all, of his poetic genius, could not long remain in obscurity. His fame reached the ears of Pollio, who was no less distinguished for his love of literature, and of the muse, than for his military achievements. He was a particular friend of Antony, and under him commanded the troops in Cis-Alpine Gaul; in which Mantua was situated. Here he became acquainted with Virgil, who was introduced to him either by Varus or Gallus ; both of whom our poet has mentioned in his Eclogues, in the most affectionate terms. After the battle of Philippi, which proved fatal to the republican party,

Au. gustus divided the lands in the neighborhood of Mantua among his veteran troops, to whom he was indebted for that victory. Virgil was involved in the common calamity. This circumstance, in all human appearance to be lamented, and which to others proved a heavy calamity, to our poet was th commencement of an illustrious career, and the harbinger of an immortal day.

Pollio, who entertained a sincere friendship for Virgil, and was well qualified to form a correct estimate of his talents and acquirements, becoming acquainted with his case, recommended him to Mæcenas, who was then at Rome, and held the highest place of honor and confidence with his prince. The friend of Pollio found also a friend in Mæcenas. He laid his case before Augustus, and by his influence with his prince, obtained the restoration of his estate. Virgil, at this time, probably was about 29 years of age. He immediately returned with the edict of the emperor for the restoration of his farm, which had fallen into the hands of one Areus, a centurion ; but he was resisted and ill-treated by the new possessor, and forced to swim over the Mincius to save his life. This cruel treatment is the subject of the ninth Eclogue.

He went a second time to Rome upon the subject. But it is probable he never after resided upon his estate. A wider field now opened before him ; and he made the seat of the empire the place of his residence. Here his acquaintance and friendship were sought by the most distinguished men ; and the favorite of the Muses became also the favorite of Augustus.

With a view to compliment his prince, and to express the happy state of the empire under his administration, it is said, he composed the following distich, which, in a private manner, he affixed to the gate of the palace:

Nocte pluit tota, redeunt spectacula mane :

Divisum imperium cum Jove Cæsar habet. Augustus was highly pleased with the compliment paid to him, and the delicate manner in which it was expressed ; and he desired to find out the author. Virgil's modesty and diffidence prevented him from making an avowal. At length, one Bathyllus, a poet of inferior merit, had the hardihood to claim to be the author. The emperor richly rewarded him. This greatly mortified our poet, who wrote the same lines upon the gate of the palace, with the following one under them :

Hos ego versiculos feci, tulit alter honores : together with the beginning of another line in these words,

Sic vos non vobis, repeated three times. Augustus wished to find the author; and as the surest way of doing it, demanded that the lines should be finished. Several attempts were made without effect. Bathyllus was not able to do it; which led to a suspicion of his imposture. At last Virgil finished them, and thus avowed himself the author of the previous distich. The lines are as follow:

Sic vos non vobis nidificatis aves;
Sic vos non vobis vellera fertis oves;
Sic vos non vobis mellificatis apes:

Sic vos non vobis fertis aratra boves.
This detected the impostor, and covered him with ridicule and contempt.

About this time, at the suggestion of Pollio, Virgil commenced writing his Eclogues; which occupied him three years

The first was written to express his gratitude to his prince for the restoration of his lands. This he did in so delicate and modest a manner, that it raised him greatly in the estimation of his friends and countrymen : and the poet conferred a greater favor upon Augustus, by immortalizing this act of his beneficence, than he did by restoring to him his lands. The others were written upon various occasions, and for various purposes.

The Eclogues were extremely popular. So well were they received, that they were several times repeated upon the stage. Cicero, upon hearing them, was so much pleased, that he did not hesitate to say of the author: Magne spes altera Romæ, which words the poet afterwards introduced into the twelfth book of the Æneid, applied to Iülus. Virgil may be considered the first who introduced pastorals among the Romans. It is a fact worthy of notice, that he was the introducer, and at the same time the perfector, of this kind of writing. All succeeding poets have taken him as their model, and found the surest way to success to be, to copy his beauties. It is true, he was much indebted to Theocritus, who was the first pastoral writer of eminence among the Greeks : but he followed him with judgment, and improved upon him so much in correctness of taste, in purity of thought, and delicacy of expression, that we lose sight of the original. So much was he esteemed, that all classes of persons crowded to see him, whenever he appeared in public; and on entering the theatre, the people rose up to do him reverence, no less than to Augustus himself.

During the civil wars, agriculture had been much neglected : and so general had the distress become on that account, that serious apprehensions were entertained for the peace of Italy. All classes of people began to murmur, and to cast the blame upon Augustus, and his administration. In this state of things, it occurred to Mæcenas, that the most effectual method of averting the impending evils, and of restoring peace to the people, and confidence in the administration, was to revive the agricultural interests of the country. For this purpose, he desired Virgil to write a treatise upon agriculture. He well knew no person was better qualified for a work of this kind. He possessed an extensive knowledge of the subject, a correct taste, and could enliven it with the charms of 'poetic numbers; and he already possessed the confidence and affections of his countrymen.

After a short respite, he entered upon the work. That he might be less interrupted in its prosecution, he retired from Rome to Naples, a city more tranquil, and, at the same time, more healthy. In this pleasant retreat, removed from the bustle of the capital, the intrigue of courts, and the jarring interests of politics, he composed the Georgics—a poem, the most perfect and finished of any composition in the Latin language He spent seven years in the work. The public expectation was raised high ; but it was far surpassed: and Virgil conferred a greater blessing upon his country, than if, in the field, he had obtained the most splendid victory over its enemies.

The Georgics were every where well received, and Italy soon assumed a Aourishing appearance. The people found themselves in the enjoyment of peace, plenty, and domestic happiness. The poet dedicated the work to his friend Mæcenas, a statesman distinguished equally for his love of literature and science, the correctness of his politics, and the wisdom of his councils.

Virgil was now forty years of age. At this time, he found himself in the possession of a large estate, chiefly from the liberality of his prince. His fame was coextensive with the empire, and the lovers of the muse courted his society. Among the particular friends of Virgil, may be reckoned Horace, a distinguished

« PreviousContinue »