« PreviousContinue »
Books IV to VI
Partly in the Original and partly in
HEAD MASTER OF ETON
AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
Oxford University Press
THIS book, as is obvious, is not written by a scholar for scholars, but by a schoolmaster for schoolboys and for the less exacting of their instructors. It has seemed to me that in such a book the object should rather be to endeavour to arouse and to encourage a real interest in literary questions, than to inculcate the rules of grammar or to explain recondite allusions. It is obviously very difficult to draw the line, and while some who use the book will, I fear, be insulted by the information it offers, others will with equal justice blame it for its omissions. I have acted on the belief that a teacher whose object is to teach Virgil as he should be taught, as one of the great poets of the world, will prefer to have opinions suggested with which he may disagree, than to be presented with conclusions
Coldly correct and critically dull.
No two persons of intelligence will agree entirely on any literary topic, just as no two persons would select, in an edition like this, the same passages for omission from the text. In selecting the translations I have endeavoured again rather to provide a subject for discussion, than to give the ideal rendering: much may, I think, be learnt by a comparison, aided by the teacher's own powers of criticism, between the different methods adopted. I am very grateful to Messrs. John Murray and Messrs. Longman for allowing me to quote from the versions by Lord Bowen and William Morris, and to Mr. James Rhoades for the generosity with which he has permitted the use of his translation.
It is obvious that in a work like this, where very little is
original, the debt to others must be correspondingly great. I have throughout owed much to the edition by Sidgwick and the translation by Mackail: in the sixth book it is difficult to exaggerate my debt to Mr. Butler, and I have often profited by the literary taste of Mr. Page. In Books IV and V the editions by Mr. Stephenson and Mr. Calvert (Macmillan) have been often referred to with profit. I should like also to mention with gratitude an address by the President of Magdalen given to Oxford University Extension Students (Blackwell).
Nor (in a work where scissors and paste perforce play so large a part) can I omit my tribute of gratitude to the hands that have wielded them, and I should like to thank my pupil Mr. Roger Mynors, exhibitioner-elect of Balliol, for much help with the proofs.
C. A. A.
The pages which follow are not intended to be read without assistance or explanation by the average boy or girl: for them they would no doubt be rather advanced, especially the passages which deal with the criticism of poetry as a whole. It is hoped that in the hands of a teacher who is interested in the subject, and is able from his own knowledge to expand the bare suggestions which they contain, they may afford matter for profitable discussion and exposition, and may make it possible to deal with some such questions as those suggested on p. 22.
'I WISH our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is prose words in their best order;-poetry the best words in the best order.' If this famous dictum of Coleridge is accepted as true there can be no doubt as to the importance of the study of Virgil, for no poet has ever been more careful in the choice of words and in their arrangement: he would never have fallen into the mistake which Wordsworth made, of writing as if words could be theoretically considered apart from the order in which they are placed. Thus it is that he not infrequently gives us lines which can be taken as touchstones of poetry. Professor Bradley, who chooses for this purpose the line
Tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris amore,
shows that its meaning is impossible to express in any but its own words: and that is the mark of all great poetry. We are content to say of it, as Tennyson said of two famous lines of Marvell :
But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near,
'That strikes me as sublime, I can hardly tell why.'
But it is obvious that poetry means more than this, and it is in his famous criticism of Virgil that Coleridge hints at