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1946.) Comparison of Virgil and Theocritus.

41 feeling for something better) as in the pastoral. We can better bear a defective palace than a justly represented field. Suppose a painter to draw a landscape with Damon and Phillis sitting under a tree, and suppose the accompaniments to be what may naturally be expected in real life-two or three toads shall be around them, a rattle-snake shall be coiled in the rear, caterpillars falling from the boughs and a drove of pigs shall be rooting up the soil. This would be pure nature, but who does not see that it would destroy the illusion ?

Such then is the design of pastoral poetry. The history of literature shows us that it arises long after the rural age has passed away, that it takes those distant views of country life which please the patricians of literature in their palaces and gardens; that it delights in those embellishments of nature which exaggerate its beauties and conceal its defects; that it is allied to fiction; and paints a mode of life pleasing to the readers because conscious, on reflection, that it never existed; and though it may be said that something of this is the aim of all poetry, yet it is eminently true, that the Bucolic writer snatches us to the mountains brow,

Where sits the shepherd on the grassy turf
Inhaling, healthful, the descending sun;
Around bim feed his many-bleating flock
Of various cadence; and his sportive lambs
This way and that convolved, in frisking glee,

Their frolics play. From this view, it will follow that the most polished writer-he that throws an air of refinement over his vernal scenes is the best. Virgil is, in our opinion, eminently happy in his pastorals. He wrote them at the right time and place; and was actuated by the night spirit. We like even his Greek names. He wished his pictures to have an historical remoteness. We have seen contrasts between him and Theocritus; giving the palm of art to one and of simplicity to the other. The truth, is they are both of the same school. They both held a polished mirror to the reeds and rushes of nature. Perhaps Theocritus had a little advantage in the directness of his path front high life back to simplicity. Virgil had peculiar difficulties to encounter; but the skill with which he surmounted them restores the balance and equals him in reputation to his more lauded competitor.

This view of the nature of pastoral poetry may prepare us, in some degree, to find the design of the Pollio.

The poem opens then by informing us that the poet intends to

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strike a loftier strain; if he sings of woods they must be worthy of a consul's ear;—the groves and humble tamarisks delight no more. Thus to the usual fictitious character of this kind of poetry, something additional is to be expected. We are not to look for truth in the literal direction. The poem was written Urbe conditâ, 714, four years after the death of Cicero and about nine before the battle of Actium which gave Octavius the undisputed empire of the world. It was made just after the peace of Prusina, when Antony and Octavius held the empire between them. The star of the latter was rising to its predominance. He was about twenty-three years old. Now the suggestion of Servius is, that Pollio, consul that year, was about to have a son; and that the poet sung the blessings he was to see, not without allusion to Augustus. But this has been questioned, as such a son must have been a very inadequate personage, to meet the splendid predictions of this poem. Drusus and Marcellus have been brought forward, but neither of them was then in existence. Some have supposed that the poet alluded to the pregnancy of Scribonia, the wife of Augustus; and that Virgil prophesied, in hope that the birth would prove a son, which, however, turned out to be a daughter, the infamous Julia. We can hardly conceive, however, that a writer of such severe judgment as Virgil would hazard the ridicule of having his splendid predictions thus confuted.

In opposition to all these absurdities, Mr. Granville Penn has brought forth a new hypothesis. He supposes that Octavius himself is the progeny alluded to. He compares the Eclogue with the sixth book of the Æneid and finds a striking resemblance. See lines 780–807. But as Augustus was not born in the year when Pollio was consul, (that is, he was born twenty-three years before,) Mr. Penn supposes that the whole Eclogue, after the first four lines, is spoken not by the poet, but by the Sibyl, who being a long-lived, prophetic being, may be imagined to recount by retrospection, what she foretold of Augustus during the pregnancy of his mother. Such supernatural beings are not circumscribed by our modes of succession, and the Eclogue's being pubished in the name of Pollio, has no emphasis, no reference to his son; it is merely a note of time.

Now this hypothesis seems to me partially true, though as a whole, attended with unproved assumptions and great objections. It seems clear to me that Augustus is the subject of this prophecy; though we cannot agree that after the fourth line the speaker is the Sibyl.

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1846.) Mr. Penn's Theory in reference to this Eclogue. 43

In the first place, the transition is too violent from the close of the first four lines to the rest of the Eclogue; no notice being given of this important change of persons. The last age of the Cumaean Song has noro come ; there arises a new and illustrious course of ages. Who would conjecture that between these two lines the poet was sunk in the Sibył? It is remarkable that in the sixth book of the Æneid, where the Sibyl really does speak, we have sufficient notice of her presence, as she accompanies Æneas through the infernal shades and teaches him the wonders of the scene. Why not the same explicitness here? In the second place, all the ancient grammarians and critics have un derstood it otherwise. Neither Servius nor Macrobius hints such a construction. Is it not wonderful that such a meaning should escape the Latins themselves, to be revealed to an Englishman? In the third place, some of the sentiments of the Eclogue seem natural in the mouth of the poet, and are very much out of place in that of the Sibyl. O that I might live long enough to sing thy deeds; neither Linus nor Thracian Orpheus should surpass me in song ; although Calliope was parent to one and beautiful Apollo to the other. Pan, if he were to contend with me, Arcadia being judge; even in the judgment of Arcadia, Pan would confess himself conquered. Does this sound like the language of the Sibyl? Would the long-lived Sibyl doubt the continuance of her life, and enter into competition with these mortal poets? The humanity of the feelings here expressed is very striking. It suits Virgil and no other; and although Mr. Penn suggests that the Sibyls were mortals yet they were mortals of a peculiar kind. Such wishes hardly become them, and are the very expressions by which a youthful bard might pant after immortality.

Rejecting this part of Mr. Penn's theory, I should be inclined to adopt the other part, namely; that Augustus is undoubtedly the subject of this poem; and that the birth spoken of is a mystical one; his birth into the ranks of the celestials; the poetic way in which he became a god; or a figurative account of his Apotheosis; or in other words, his destination to the Roman Empire.

Nothing was more common than for the Romans to deify their Emperors, and for the ancients to deify all their great heroes. This was done in several ways; first by a decree of the senate; secondly in the strains of some flattering poet, and lastly, by tradition. In the case before us, the poet steps in; and at a time when the genius of Augustus was rising, and yet the result is somewhat doubtful, the bard by his well-timed flattery helps him to the

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empire. He threw the golden weight of his Muse into a trembling balance. But how is a mortal to be made a god but by a fictitious birth? It was well known that he had a mortal father and mother. But the poet gives him a kind of celestial birth and thus brings him into the class of divine heroes.

But you demand evidence. Did the ancients ever have these fictitious births ?

Pliny, in his natural history, Lib. II. c. 25, speaks of the comet which appeared after the death of Caesar, and says, while others were alarmed, Augustus beheld it with secret joy, interiore gaudio; because he interpreted it as born for himself and he himself BORN IN IT. Here we have an express mentioning of the mystic birth. Suetonius tells of several prodigies at the real birth of Augustus, such as his being snatched from his cradle into a high tower, lying exposed to the rays of the rising sun, i. e. Apollo. While he was dining in a wood, an eagle came and seized his bread out of his hand and restored it again. Quintus Catulus after the dedication of the Capitoline temple, dreamed that he saw boys playing around the altar, one of them was secreted and bore the sign of the republic on his bosom; and afterwards this boy was found in the arms of the statue of Jupiter; and when Catulus commanded him to be taken away, he heard a voice saying that he was to be there educated for the protection of the republic; and the next day meeting Augustus, he was astonished to find that he looked exactly like the boy which he had seen in his dream; Vita Oct. 9 45. What is this but a kind of celestial adoption? The same author tells us of a supper, where all the guests were habited like a god or goddess, and Augustus like Apollo; to which the Eclogue may allude when it says-tuus jam regnat Apollo. In the second ode of Horace we find Augustus impersonated in one of the deities.

Sive mulata juvenem figura
Ales in terris imitaris, almae
Filius Maiae, patiens vocari

Caesaris ultor. Lastly Virgil himself is authority. The Æneid was expressly written to compliment Augustus. Its hero is his emblem, and he is goddess-born, Natus Deå. Now if we recollect that some of the ancients made a distinction, (for Plutarch tells us that the Egyptians' held that it was not impossible for a woman to be impregnated by a divine spirit, but that a man can have no cor

I Life of Numa.

1846.)

Deification of Heroes by the Ancients.

45

poreal intercourse with a goddess) we may conclude that the very impossibility of the thing would give propriety to the fiction. Every reader saw that it must be figuratively understood.

In the poem itself, we find several indications that the birth is not literal. It is a law of celestial imagery that it must be like and unlike earth; it must resemble and excel the operations of time and sense. It must resemble, or we should not understand it; it must excel in order to exalt our ideas of the upper world. Thus Christ was clothed in white raimnent, yet it was so as “no fuller on earth could white them.” Before the throne of God there is a sea, but it is a sea of glass. Heaven is a city with golden streets and pearly gates. This rule is followed by all writers sacred and profane from Homer down to John Bunyan; and the same indication is given here that the birth is mystical and supernatural.

Jam nova progenies demittitur alto-

-incipient magni procedere mensesIpsa tibi blandos fundent cunabula flores

Matri longa decem tulerunt fastidia menses. The last line is remarkable; it indicates no mortal mother. A hue of supernaturalism is thrown over the whole description, to make the flattery more delicate and the design more clear.

Horace has given us a view of these poetical deifications. By this art, i. e. by valor and firmness of mind, Pollux and wander. ing Hercules became gods, among whom, reclining, Augustus shall drink nectar with purple lips. By such merits Bacchus was drawn by tigers, and thus Quirinus escaped from Acheron on the horses of Mars; Lib. III. Ode 3d. That is, they were adopted deities. The closing ode of Horace to the second book is remarkable, not only as it shows this mystic and allegorical way of speaking, but as it approaches the very imagery which it is here contended has been used by Virgil. The sentiment, in simple prose, which he wishes to express is, that his works will be universally read and he shall be immortal. But he thus adorns it. Already half transformed, I am borne through the liquid air with no mortal or slender wing. I shall not much longer linger on the earth ; victoriaus over envy, I shall leave cities behind me.

Not, I the progeny of poor parents; not I, whom you call friend, am doomed to die ; and be imprisoned by the Stygian wave. Even now my wrinkled skin subsides. I am changed to the white bird; and the downy plumes are expanding through my fingers and shoulders. Now when he denies his parentage-Not I the progeny of poor parents—what is

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