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Vergil by Tenney Frank

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Tua stetisse (dicit) in voragine,
Tua in palude deposisse sarcinas
Et inde tot per orbitosa milia
Iugum tulisse, laeva sive dextera
Strigare mula sive utrumque coeperat

* * * * *

Neque ulla vota semitalibus deis
Sibi esse facta praeter hoc novissimum,
Paterna lora proximumque pectinem.
Sed haec prius fuere: mine eburnea
Sedetque sede seque dedicat tibi,
Gemelle Castor et gemelle Castoris.

[Footnote 4: See _Classical Philology_, 1920, p. 114.]

The other epigram referred to (_Catalefton II_) also attacks a creature
of Antony's, Annius Cimber, a despised rhetorician who had been helped
to high political office by Antony. Again Cicero's _Philippics_ (XI. 14)
serve as our best guide for the background.

Corinthiorum amator iste verborum,
Iste iste rhetor, namque quatenus totus
Thucydides, Britannus, Attice febris!
Tau Gallicum min et sphin ut male illisit,
Ita omnia ista verba miscuit fratri.

It might be paraphrased: "a maniac for archaic words, a rhetor indeed, he
is as much and as little a Thucydides as he is a British prince, the
bane of Attic style! It was a dose of archaic words and Celtic brogue, I
fancy, that he concocted for his brother."

There seem to be three points of attack. Cimber, to judge from Cicero's
invective, was suspected of having risen from servile parentage, and of
trying, as freedmen then frequently did, to pass as a descendant of
some unfortunate barbarian prince. Since his brogue was Celtic (_tau
Gallicum_) he could readily make a plausible story of being British.
Vergil seems to imply that the brogue as well as the name Cimber had been
assumed to hide his Asiatic parentage. The second point seems to be that
Cimber, though a teacher of rhetoric, was so ignorant of Greek, that
while proclaiming himself an Atticist, he used non-Attic forms and
vaunted Thucydides instead of Lysias as the model of the simple style.
Finally, it was rumored, and Cicero affects to believe the tale, that
Cimber was not without guilt in the death of his brother. Vergil is, of
course, not greatly concerned in deriding Atticism itself: to this school
Vergil must have felt less aversion than to Antony's flowery style; it is
the perversion of the doctrine that amuses the poet.

Taken in conjunction with other hints, these two poems show us where the
poet's sympathies lay during those years of terror. There may well have
been a number of similar epigrams directed at Antony himself, but if
so they would of course have been destroyed during the reign of the
triumvirate. Antony's vindictiveness knew no bounds, as Rome learned when
Cicero was murdered.



Vergil's dedication of the _Ciris_ to Valerius Messalla was, as the poem
itself reveals, written several years after the main body of the poem.
The most probable date is 43 B.C., when the young nobleman, then only
about twenty-one, went with Cicero's blessing[1] to join Brutus and
Cassius in their fight for the Republic. Messalla had then, besides
making himself an adept at philosophy--at Naples perhaps, since Vergil
knew him--and stealing away student hours at Athens for Greek verse
writing, gained no little renown by taking a lawsuit against the most
learned lawyer of the day, Servius Sulpicius. Cicero's letter of
commendation, which we still have, is unusually laudatory.

[Footnote 1: Cicero, _Ad Brutum_, I, 15.]

The dedication of the _Ciris_ reveals Vergil still eager to win his place
as a rival of Lucretius. We may paraphrase it thus:

"Having tried in vain for the favor of the populace, I am now in the
'Garden' seeking a theme worthy of philosophy, though I have spent many
years to other purpose. Now I have dared to ascend the mountain of wisdom
where but few have ventured. Yet I must complete these verses that I
have begun so that the Muses may cease to entice me further. Oh, if only
wisdom, the mistress of the four sages of old, would lead me to her tower
whence I might from afar view the errors of men; I should not then honor
one so great with a theme so trifling, but I should weave a marvelous
fabric like Athena's pictured robe ... a great poem on Nature, and into
its texture I should weave your name. But for that my powers are still
too frail. I can only offer these verses on which I have spent many hours
of my early school-days, a vow long promised and now fulfilled."

It is apparent that the student still throbs with a desire to become
a poet of philosophy, and that he is willing to appease the muses of
lighter song only because they insist on returning. But there is another
poem addressed to Messalla that is equally full of personal interest.

Messalla, as we know from Plutarch's _Brutus,_ drawn partly from the
young man's diary, joined Cassius in Asia, and did noteworthy service in
helping his general win the Eastern provinces from the Euxine to Syria
for the Republican cause. Later at Philippi he led the cavalry charge
which broke through the triumvirate line and captured Octavius' camp.
That was the famous first battle of Philippi, prematurely reported in
Italy as a decisive victory for the Republican cause. Three weeks later
the forces clashed again and the triumvirs won a complete victory.
Messalla, who had been chosen commander by the defeated remnant,
recognized the hopelessness of his position and surrendered to the

Vergil's ninth _Catalepton_ seems to have been written as a paean in
honor of Messalla on receipt of the first incomplete report. The poem
does not by any means imply that Vergil favored Brutus and Cassius or
felt any ill-will towards Octavian. Vergil's regard for Messalla
was clearly a personal matter, and of such a nature that political
differences played no part in it. The poet's complete silence in the
poem about Brutus and Cassius indicates that it is not to any extent the
_cause_ which interests him. Nor can a eulogy of a young republican at
this time be considered as implying any ill-will toward Octavian, to whom
Vergil was always devoted. At this early day Antony was still looked upon
as the dominating person in the triumvirate, and for him Vergil had no
love whatever. He may, therefore, though a Caesarian and friendly to
Octavian, sing the praises of a personal friend who is fighting Antony's

The ninth _Catalepton,_ like most eulogistic verse thrown off at high
speed, has few good lines (indeed it was probably never finished), but it
is exceedingly interesting as a document in Vergil's life.

Since it has generally been placed about fifteen years too late and
therefore misunderstood, we must dwell at length on some of its
significant details. The poem can be briefly summarized:

"A conqueror you come, the great glory of a mighty triumph, a victor on
land and sea over barbarian tribes; and yet a poet too. Some of your
verses have found a place in my pages, pastoral songs in which two
shepherds lying under the spreading oak sing in honor of your heroine to
whom the divinities bring gifts. The heroine of your song shall be more
famous than the themes of Greek song, yes even than the Roman Lucrece for
whose honor your sires drove the tyrants out of Rome."

"Great are the honors that Rome has bestowed upon the liberty-loving
(Publicolas) Messallas for that and other deeds. So I need not sing of
your recent exploits: how you left your home, your son, and the forum, to
endure winter's chill and summer's heat in warfare on land and sea. And
now you are off to Africa and Spain and beyond the seas."

"Such deeds are too great for my song. I shall be satisfied if I can but
praise your verses."

The most significant passage is the implied comparison of Valerius
Messalla with the founder of the Valerian family who had aided the first
Brutus in establishing the republic as he now was aiding the last Brutus
in restoring it. The comparison is the more startling because our
Messalla later explicitly rejected all connection with the first Valerius
and seems never to have used the cognomen Publicola. The explanation of
Vergil's passage is obvious.[2] The poet hearing of Messalla's remarkable
exploit at Philippi saw at once that his association with Brutus would
remind every Roman of the events of 509 B.C., and that the populace would
as a matter of course acclaim the young hero by the ancient cognomen
"Publicola." Later, after his defeat and submission, Messalla had
of course to suppress every indication that might connect him with
"tyrannicide" stock or faction. The poem, therefore, must have been
written before Messalla's surrender in 42 B.C.

[Footnote 2: The argument is given in full in _Classical Philology_,
1920, p. 36.]

The poet's silences and hesitation in touching upon this subject of civil
war are significant of his mood. The principals of the triumph receive
not a word: his friend is the "glory" of a triumph led by men whose names
are apparently not pleasant memories. Nor is there any exultation over
a presumed defeat of "tyrants" and a restoration of a "republic." The
exploit of Messalla that Vergil especially stresses is the defeat of
"barbarians," naturally the subjection of the Thracian and Pontic tribes
and of the Oriental provinces earlier in the year. And the assumption is
made (1. 51 ff.) that Messalla has, as a recognition of his generalship,
been chosen to complete the war in Africa, Spain, and Britain. Most
significant of all is Vergil's blunt confession that his mind is not
wholly at ease concerning the theme (II. 9-12): "I am indeed strangely at
a loss for words, for I will confess that what has impelled me to write
ought rather to have deterred me." Could he have been more explicit in
explaining that Messalla's exploits, for which he has friendly praise,
were performed in a cause of which his heart did not approve? And does
not this explain why he gives so much space to Messalla's verses, and why
he so quickly passes over the victory of Philippi with an assertion of
his incapacity for doing it justice?

To the biographer, however, the passage praising Messalla's Greek
pastorals is the most interesting for it reveals clearly how Vergil came
to make the momentous decision of writing pastorals. Since Messalla's
verses were in Greek they had, of course, been written two years before
this while he was a student at Athens. Would that we knew this heroine
upon whom he represents the divinities as bestowing gifts! Propertius,
who acknowledged Mesalla as his patron later employed this same motive
of celestial adoration in honor of Cynthia (II. 3, 25), but surely
Messalla's _herois_ was, to judge from Vergil's comparison, a person of
far higher station than Cynthia. Could she have been the lady he married
upon his return from Athens? Such a treatment of a woman of social
station would be in line with the customs of the "new poets," Catullus,
Calvus, and Ticidas, rather than of the Augustans, Gallus, Propertius,
and Tibullus. Vergil himself used the motive in the second _Eclogue_ (l.
46), a reminiscence which, doubtless with many others that we are unable
to trace, Messalla must have recognized as his own.

The pastoral which Vergil had translated from Messalla is quite fully

Molliter hic _viridi patulae sub tegmine quercus_
Moeris pastores et Meliboeus erant,
Dulcia jactantes alterno carmina versu
Qualia Trinacriae doctus amat iuvenis.

That is, of course, the very beginning of his own _Eclogues_. When he
published them he placed at the very beginning the well-known line that
recalled Messalla's own line:

Tityre, tu _patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi_.

What can this mean but a graceful reminder to Messalla that it was he who
had inspired the new effort?[3]

[Footnote 3: Roman writers frequently observed the graceful custom of
acknowledging their source of inspiration by weaving in a recognizable
phrase or line from the master into the very first sentence of a new
work: cf. _Arma virumque cano_--[Greek: Andra moi ennepe] (Lundstroem,
_Eranos_, 1915, p. 4). Shelley responding to the same impulse paraphrased
Bion's opening lines in "I weep for Adonais--he is dead."]

We may conclude then that Vergil's use of that line as the title of his
_Eclogues_ is a recognition of Messalla's influence. Conversely it is
proof, if proof were needed, that the ninth _Catalepton_ is Vergil's. We
may then interpret line thirteen of the ninth _Catalepton:_

pauca tua in nostras venerunt carmina chartas,

as a statement that in the autumn of 42, Vergil had already written some
of his _Eclogues_, and that these early ones--presumably at least numbers
II, III, and VII--contain suggestions from Messalla.

There was, of course, no triumph, and Vergil's eulogy was never sent,
indeed it probably never was entirely completed.[4] Messalla quickly made
his peace with the triumvirs, and, preferring not to return to Rome in
disgrace, cast his lot with Antony who remained in the East. Vergil, who
thoroughly disliked Antony, must then have felt that for the present, at
least, a barrier had been raised between him and Messalla. Accordingly
the _Ciris_ also was abandoned and presently pillaged for other uses.

[Footnote 4: It ought, therefore, not to be used seriously in discussions
of Vergil's technique.]

The news of Philippi was soon followed by orders from Octavian--to be
thoroughly accurate we ought of course to call him Caesar--that lands
must now, according to past pledges, be procured in Italy for nearly
two hundred thousand veterans. Every one knew that the cities that had
favored the liberators, and even those that had tried to preserve their
neutrality, would suffer. Vergil could, of course, guess that lands in
the Po Valley would be in particular demand because of their fertility.
The first note of fear is found in his eighth _Catalepton_:

Villula, quae Sironis eras, et pauper agelle,
Verum illi domino tu quoque divitiae,
Me tibi et hos una mecum, quos semper amavi,
Si quid de patria tristius audiero,
Commendo imprimisque patrem: tu nunc eris illi
Mantua quod fuerat quodque Cremona prius.

It is usually assumed from this passage that Siro had recently died,
probably, therefore, some time in 42 B.C., and that, in accordance with a
custom frequently followed by Greek philosophers at Rome, he had left his
property to his favorite pupil. The garden school, therefore, seems to
have come to an end, though possibly Philodemus may have continued it
for the few remaining years of his life. Siro's villa apparently proved
attractive to Vergil, for he made Naples his permanent home, despite the
gift of a house on the Esquiline from Maecenas.

This, however, is not Vergil's last mention of Siro, if we may believe
Servius, who thinks that "Silenum" in the sixth _Eclogue_ stands for
"Sironem," its metrical equivalent. If, as seems wholly likely, Servius
is right, the sixth _Eclogue_ is a fervid tribute to a teacher who
deserves not to be forgotten in the story of Vergil's education. The poem
has been so strangely misinterpreted in recent years that it is time to
follow out Servius' suggestion and see whether it does not lead to some

[Footnote 5: Skutsch roused a storm of discussion over it by insisting
that it was a catalogue of poems written by Gallus (_Aus Vergils
Fruehzeit_.) Cartault, _Etude sur les Bucoliques de Virgile_ (p. 285),
almost accepts Servius' suggestion: "un resume de ses lectures et de ses

After an introduction to Varus the poem tells how two shepherds found
Silenus off his guard, bound him, and demanded songs that he had long
promised. The reader will recall, of course, how Plato also likened his
teacher Socrates to Silenus. Silenus sang indeed till hills and valleys
thrilled with the music: of creation of sun and moon, the world of
living things, the golden age, and of the myths of Prometheus, Phaeton,
Pasiphae, and many others; he even sang of how Gallus had been captured
by the Muses and been made a minister of Apollo.

A strange pastoral it has seemed to many! And yet not so strange when we
bear in mind that the books of Philodemus reveal Vergil and Quintilius
Varus as fellow students at Naples. Surely Servius has provided the key.
The whole poem, with its references to old myths, is merely a rehearsal
of schoolroom reminiscences, as might have been guessed from the fine
Lucretian rhythms with which it begins:

Namque canebat, uti magnum per inane coacta
Semina terrarumque animaeque marisque fuissent
Et liquidi simul ignis; ut his exordia primis
Omnia et ipse tener mundi concreverit orbis;
Tum durare solum et discludere Nerea ponto
Coeperit, et rerum paulatim sumere formas;
Iamque novum terrae stupeant lucescere solem.
Altius atque cadant summotis nubibus imbres;
Incipiant silvae cum primum surgere, cumque
Rara per ignaros errent animalia montis.

The myths that follow are meant to continue this list of subjects, only
with somewhat less blunt obviousness. They suggested to Varus the usual
Epicurean theories of perception, imagination, passion, and mental
aberrations, subjects that Siro must have discussed in some such way as
Lucretius treated them in his third and fourth books of the _De Rerum

It is, of course, not to be supposed that Siro had lectured upon
mythology as such. But the Epicurean teachers, despite their scorn
for legends, employed them for pedagogical purposes in several ways.
Lucretius, for instance, uses them sometimes for their picturesqueness,
as in the _prooemium_ and again in the allegory of the seasons (V. 732).
He also employs them in a Euhemeristic fashion, explaining them as
popular allegories of actual human experiences, citing the myths of
Tantalus and Sisyphus, for example, as expressions of the ever-present
dread of punishment for crimes. Indeed Vergil himself in the _Aetna_--if
it be his--somewhat naively introduced the battle of the giants for its
picturesque interest. It is only after he had enjoyed telling the story
in full that he checked himself with the blunt remark:

(1. 74) Haec est mendosae vulgata licentia famae.

Lucretius is little less amusing in his rejection of the Cybele myth,
after a lovely passage of forty lines (II, 600) devoted to it.

Vergil was, therefore, on familiar ground when he tried to remind his
schoolmate of Siro's philosophical themes by designating each of them by
means of an appropriate myth. Perhaps we, who unlike Varus have not heard
the original lectures, may not be able in every case to discover the
theme from the myth, but the poet has at least set us out on the right
scent by making the first riddles very easy. The _lapides Pyrrhae_ (I.
41) refer of course to the creation of man; _Saturnia regna_ is, in
Epicurean lore, the primitive life of the early savages; _furtum
Promethei_ (I. 42) must refer to Epicurus' explanation of how fire came
from clashing trees and from lightning. The story of Hylas (I. 43)
probably reminded Varus of Siro's lecture on images and reflection,
Pasiphae (I. 46) of unruly passions, explained perhaps as in Lucretius'
fourth book, Atalanta (I. 61) of greed, and Phaeton of ambition. As for
Scylla, Vergil had himself in the _Ciris_ (I. 69) mentioned, only to
reject, the allegorical interpretation here presented, according to which
she portrays:

"the sin of lustfulness
and love's incontinence."

Vergil had not then met Siro, but he may have read some of his lectures.

Finally, the strange lines on Cornelius Gallus might find a ready
explanation if we knew whether or not Gallus had also been a member
of the Neapolitan circle. Probus, if we may believe him, suggests the
possibility in calling him a schoolmate of Vergil's, and a plausible
interpretation of this eclogue turns that possibility into a probability.
The passage (II. 64-73) may well be Vergil's way of recalling to Varus a
well-beloved fellow-student who had left the circle to become a poet.

The whole poem, therefore, is a delightful commentary upon Vergil's
life in Siro's garden, written probably after Siro had died, the school
closed, and Varus gone off to war. The younger man's school days are
now over; he had found his idiom in a poetic form to which Messalla's
experiments had drawn him. The _Eclogues_ are already appearing in rapid



It has been remarked that Vergil's genius was of slow growth; he was
twenty-eight before he wrote any verses that his mature judgment
recognized as worthy of publication. A survey of his early life reveals
some of the reasons for this tardy development. Born and schooled in
a province he was naturally held back by lack of those contacts which
stimulate boys of the city to rapid mental growth. The first few years at
Rome were in some measure wasted upon a subject for which he had neither
taste nor endowment. The banal rhetorical training might indeed have
made a Lucan or a Juvenal out of him had he not finally revolted so
decisively. However, this work at Rome proved not to be a total loss.
His choice of a national theme for an epic and his insight into the
true qualities of imperial Rome owe something to the study of political
questions that his preparation for a public career had necessitated. He
learned something in his Roman days that not even Epicurean scorn for
politics could eradicate.

However, his next decision, to devote his life to philosophy, again
retarded his poetic development. Certainly it held him in leash during
the years of adolescent enthusiasms when he might have become a lyric
poet of the neoteric school. A Catullus or a Keats must be caught
early. Indeed the very dogmas of the Epicurean school, if taken in all
earnestness, were suppressive of lyrical enthusiasm. The _Aetna_ shows
perhaps the worst effects of Epicurean doctrine in its scholastic
insistence that myths must now give way to facts. Its author was still
too absorbed in the microscopic analysis of a petty piece of research
to catch the spirit of Lucretius who had found in the visions of the
scientific workshop a majesty and beauty that partook of the essence of

In the end Vergil's poetry, like that of Lucretius, owed more to
Epicureanism than modern critics--too often obsessed by a misapplied
_odium philosophicum_--have been inclined to admit. It is all too easy
to compare this philosophy with other systems, past and present, and
to prove its science inadequate, its implications unethical, and its
attitude towards art banal. But that is not a sound historical method of
approach. The student of Vergil should rather remember how great was the
need of that age for some practical philosophy capable of lifting the
mind out of the stupor in which a hybrid mythology had left it, and how,
when Platonic idealism had been wrecked by the skeptics, and Stoicism
with its hypothetical premises had repelled many students, Epicurean
positivism came as a saving gospel of enlightenment.

The system, despite its inadequate first answers, employed a scientific
method that gave the Romans faith in many of its results, just at a time
when orthodox mythology had yielded before the first critical inspection.
As a preliminary system of illumination it proved invaluable. Untrained
in metaphysical processes of thought, ignorant of the tools of exact
science, the Romans had as yet been granted no answers to their growing
curiosity about nature except those offered by a hopelessly naive faith.
Stoicism had first been brought over by Greek teachers as a possible
guide, but the Roman, now trained by his extraordinary career in world
politics to think in terms of experience, could have but little patience
with a metaphysical system that constantly took refuge in a faith in
aprioristic logic which had already been successfully challenged by
two centuries of skeptics. The Epicurean at least kept his feet on the
ground, appealed to the practical man's faith in his own senses, and
plausibly propped his hypotheses with analogous illustrations, oftentimes
approaching very close to the cogent methods of a new inductive logic. He
rested his case at least on the processes of argumentation that the Roman
daily applied in the law-courts and the Senate, and not upon flights of
metaphysical reasoning. He came with a gospel of illumination to a race
eager for light, opening vistas into an infinity of worlds marvelously
created by processes that the average man beheld in his daily walks.

It was this capacity of the Epicurean philosophy to free the imagination,
to lift man out of a trivial mythology into a world of infinite visions,
and to satisfy man's curiosity regarding the universe with tangible
answers[1] that especially attracted Romans of Vergil's day to the new
philosophy. Their experience was not unlike that of numberless men of
the last generation who first escaped from a puerile cosmology by way
of popularized versions of Darwinism which the experts condemned as

[Footnote 1: It is not quite accurate to say that the Romans made a dogma
of Epicurus' _ipse dixit_ which destroyed scientific open-mindedness.
Vergil uses Posidonius and Zeno as freely as the Stoic Seneca does

Furthermore, Epicureanism provided a view of nature which was apt in the
minds of an imaginative poet to lead toward romanticism. Stoicism indeed
pretended to be pantheistic, and Wordsworth has demonstrated the value
to romanticism of that attitude. But to the clear of vision Stoicism
immediately took from nature with one hand what it had given with the
other. Invariably, its rule of "follow nature" had to be defined in terms
that proved its distrust of what the world called nature. As a matter of
fact the Stoic had only scorn for naturalism. Physical man was to him a
creature to be chained. Trust not the "scelerata pulpa; peccat et haec,
peccat!" cries Persius in terror.

The earlier naive animism of Greece and Rome had contained more of
aesthetic value, for it was the very spring from which had flowed all the
wealth of ancient myths. But the nymphs of that stream were dead, slain
by philosophical questioning. The new poetic myth-making that still
showed the influence of an old habit of mind was apt to be rather
self-conscious and diffident, ending in something resembling the pathetic

Epicureanism on the other hand by employing the theory of evolution was
able to unite man and nature once more. And since man is so self-centered
that his imagination refuses to extend sympathetic treatment to nature
unless he can feel a vital bond of fellowship with it, the poetry of
romance became possible only upon the discovery of that unity. This is
doubtless why Lucretius, first of all the Romans, could in his prooemium
bring back to nature that sensuousness which through the songs of the
troubadours has become the central theme of romantic poetry even to our

Nam simulac species patefactast verna diei ...
Aeriae primum volucres te diva tuumque
Significant initum perculsae corda tua vi,
Inde ferae pecudes persultant pabula laeta.

Vergil, convinced by the same philosophy, expresses himself similarly:

Et genus aequoreum, pecudes, pictaeque volucres
amor omnibus idem.

And again:

Avia tum resonant avibus virgulta canoris
Et Venerem certis repetunt armenta diebus
Parturit almus ager Zepherique trementibus auris
Laxant arva sinus.

It is, of course, the theme of "Sumer is icumen in." Lucretius feels so
strongly the unity of naturally evolved creation that he never
hesitates to compare men of various temperaments with animals of
sundry natures--the fiery lion, the cool-tempered ox--and explain the
differences in both by the same preponderance of some peculiar kind of

Obviously this was a system which, by enlarging man's mental horizon and
sympathies, could create new values for aesthetic use. Like the crude
evolutionistic hypotheses in Rousseau's day, it gave one a more soundly
based sympathy for one's fellows--since evolution was not yet "red in
tooth and claw." If nature was to be trusted, why not man's nature? Why
curse the body, any man's body, as the root-ground of sin? Were not the
instincts a part of man? Might not the scientific view prove that the
passions so far from being diseases, conditioned the very life and
survival of the race? Perhaps the evils of excess, called sin, were after
all due to defects in social and political institutions that had applied
incorrect regulative principles, or to the selfishly imposed religious
fears which had driven the healthy instincts into tantrums. Rid man of
these erroneous fears and of a political system begot for purposes
of exploitation and see whether by returning to an age of primitive
innocence he cannot prove that nature is trustworthy.[2]

[Footnote 2: Lucretius, III, 37-93; II, 23-39; V, 1105-1135.]

There is in this philosophy then a basis for a large humanitarianism,
dangerous perhaps in its implications. And yet it could hardly have been
more perilous than the Roman orthodox religion which insisted only upon
formal correctness, seldom upon ethical decorum, or than Stoicism with
its categorical imperative, which could restrain only those who were
already convinced. The Stoic pretence of appealing to a natural law could
be proved illogical at first examination, when driven to admit that
"nature" must be explained by a question-begging definition before its
rule could be applied.

Indeed the Romans of Vergil's day had not been accustomed to look for
ethical sanctions in religion or creed. Morality had always been for them
a matter of family custom, parental teaching of the rules of decorum,
legal doctrine regarding the universality of _aequitas_, and, more than
they knew, of puritanic instincts inherited from a well-sifted stock. It
probably did not occur to Lucretius and Vergil to ask whether this new
philosophy encouraged a higher or a lower ethical standard. Cicero, as
statesman, does; but the question had doubtless come to him first out of
the literature of the Academy which he was wont to read. Despite their
creed, Lucretius and Vergil are indeed Rome's foremost apostles of
Righteousness; and if anyone had pressed home the charge of possible
moral weakness in their system they might well have pointed to the
exemplary life of Epicurus and many of his followers. To the Romans this
philosophy brought a creed of wide sympathies with none of the "lust
for sensation" that accompanied its return in the days of Rousseau and
"Werther." Had not the old Roman stock, sound in marrow and clear of
eye, been shattered by wars and thinned out by emigration, only to be
displaced by a more nervous and impulsive people that had come in by
the slave trade, Roman civilization would hardly have suffered from the
application of the doctrines of Epicurus.

Whether or not Vergil remained an Epicurean to the end, we must, to be
fair, give credit to that philosophy for much that is most poetical in
his later work,--a romantic charm in the treatment of nature, a deep
comprehension of man's temper, a broader sympathy with humanity and a
clearer understanding of the difference between social virtue and mere
ritualistic correctness than was to be expected of a Roman at this time.

It is, however, very probable that Vergil remained on the whole faithful
to this creed[3] to the very end. He was forty years of age and only
eleven years from his death when he published the _Georgics_, which are
permeated with the Epicurean view of nature; and the restatement of this
creed in the first book of the _Aeneid_ ought to warn us that his faith
in it did not die.

[Footnote 3: This is, of course, not the view of Sellar, Conington,
Glover, and Norden,--to mention but a few of those who hold that Vergil
became a Stoic. See chapter XV for a development of this view.]



The visitor to Arcadia should perhaps be urged to leave his microscope at
home. Happiest, at any rate, is the reader of Vergil's pastorals who can
take an unannotated pocket edition to his vacation retreat, forgetting
what every inquisitive Donatus has conjectured about the possible
hidden meanings that lie in them. But the biographer may not share that
pleasure. The _Eclogues_ were soon burdened with comments by critics who
sought in them for the secrets of an early career hidden in the obscurity
of an unannaled provincial life. In their eager search for data they
forced every possible passage to yield some personal allusion, till the
poems came to be nothing but a symbolic biography of the author. The
modern student must delve into this material if only to clear away a
little of the allegory that obscures the text.

It is well to admit honestly at once that modern criticism has no
scientific method which can with absolute accuracy sift out all the
falsehoods that obscure the truth in this matter, but at least a
beginning has been made in demonstrating that the glosses are not
themselves consistent. Those early commentators who variously place the
confiscation of Vergil's farm after the battle of Mutina (43 B.C.),
after Philippi (42) and after Actium (31), who conceive of Mark Antony
as a partizan of Brutus, and Alfenus Varus as the governor of a province
that did not exist, may state some real facts: they certainly hazard many
futile guesses. The safest way is to trust these records only when they
harmonize with the data provided by reliable historians, and to interpret
the _Eclogues_ primarily as imaginative pastoral poetry, and not, except
when they demand it, as a personal record. We shall here treat the
_Bucolics_ in what seems to be their order of composition, not the order
of their position in the collection.

The eulogy of Messalla, written in 42 B.C., reveals Vergil already at
work upon pastoral themes, to which, as he tells us, Messalla's Greek
eclogues had called his attention. We may then at once reject the
statement of the scholiasts that Vergil wrote the _Eclogues_ for the
purpose of thanking Pollio, Alfenus, and Gallus for having saved his
estates from confiscation. At least a full half of these poems had been
written before there was any material cause for gratitude, and, as we
shall see presently, these three men had in any case little to do with
the matter. It will serve as a good antidote against the conjectures of
the allegorizing school if we remember that these commentators of the
Empire were for the most part Greek freedmen, themselves largely occupied
in fawning upon their patrons. They apparently assumed that poets as a
matter of course wrote what they did in order to please some patron--a
questionable enough assumption regarding any Roman poetry composed before
the Silver Age.

The second _Eclogue_ is a very early study which, in the theme of the
gift-bringing, seems to be reminiscent of Messalla's work.[1] The third
and seventh are also generally accepted as early experiments in the more
realistic forms of amoebean pastoral. Since the fifth, which should be
placed early in 41 B.C., actually cites the second and third, we have a
_terminus ante quem_ for these two eclogues. To the early list the tenth
should be added if it was addressed to Gallus while he was still doing
military service in Greece, and with these we may place the sixth,
discussed above.

[Footnote 1: See Chapter VIII.]

The lack of realistic local color in these pastorals has frequently been
criticized, on the supposition that Vergil wrote them while at home in
Mantua, and ought, therefore, to have given true pictures of Mantuan
scenery and characters. His home country was and is a monotonous plain.
The jutting crags with their athletic goats, the grottoes inviting
melodious shepherds to neglect their flocks, the mountain glades and
waterfalls of the _Eclogues_ can of course not be Mantuan. The Po Valley
was thickly settled, and its deep black soil intensively cultivated. A
few sheep were, of course, kept to provide wool, but these were herded by
farmers' boys in the orchards. The lone she-goat, indispensable to every
Italian household, was doubtless tethered by a leg on the roadside. There
were herds of swine where the old oak forests had not yet been cut, but
the swine-herd is usually not reckoned among songsters. Nor was any
poetry to be expected from the cowboys who managed the cattle ranches
at the foot hills of the Alps and the buffalo herds along the undrained
lowlands. Is Vergil's scenery then nothing but literary reminiscence?

In point of fact the pastoral scenery in Vergil is Neapolitan. The eighth
_Catalepton_ is proof that Vergil was at Naples when he heard of the
dangers to his father's property in the North. It is doubtful whether
Vergil ever again saw Mantua after leaving it for Cremona in his early
boyhood. The property, of course, belonged not to him but to his father,
who, as the brief poem indicates, had remained there with his family. The
pastoral scenery seldom, except in the ninth _Eclogue_, pretends to be
Mantuan. Even where, as in the first, the poem is intended to convey
a personal expression of gratitude for Vergil's exemption from harsh
evictions, the poet is very careful not to obtrude a picture of himself
or his own circumstances. Tityrus is an old man, and a slave in a typical
shepherd's country, such as could be seen every day in the mountains near
Naples. And there were as many evictions near Naples as in the North.
Indeed it is the Neapolitan country--as picturesque as any in Italy--that
constantly comes to the reader's mind. We are told by Seneca that
thousands of sheep fed upon the rough mountains behind Stabiae, and
the clothier's hall and numerous fulleries of Pompeii remind us that
wool-growing was an important industry of that region. Vergil's excursion
to Sorrento was doubtless not the only visit across the bay. Behind
Naples along the ridge of Posilipo,[2] below which Vergil was later
buried, in the mountains about Camaldoli, and behind Puteoli all the
way to Avernus--a country which the poet had roamed with observant
eyes--there could have been nothing but shepherd country. Here, then,
are the crags and waterfalls and grottoes that Vergil describes in the

[Footnote 2: The picturesque road from Naples to Puteoli clung to the
edge of the rocky promontory of Posilipo, finally piercing the outermost
rock by means of a tunnel now misnamed the "grotto di Sejano." Most of
the road is now under twenty feet of water: See Guenther, _Pausilypon_. To
see the splendid ridge as Vergil saw it from the road one must now row
the length of it from Naples to Nesida, sketching in an abundance of
ilexes and goats in place of the villas that now cover it.]

And here, too, were doubtless as many melodious shepherds as ever
Theocritus found in Sicily, for they were of the same race of people as
the Sicilians. Why should the slopes of Lactarius be less musical than
those of Aetna? Indeed the reasonable reader will find that, except for
an occasional transference of actual persons into Arcadian setting--by an
allegorical turn invented before Vergil--there is no serious confusion
in the scenery or inconsistent treatment in the plots of Vergil's
_Eclogues_. But by failing to make this simple assumption--naturally due
any and every poet--readers of Vergil have needlessly marred the effect
of some of his finest passages.

The fifth _Eclogue_, written probably in 41 B.C., is a very melodious
Daphnis-song that has always been a favorite with poets. It has been and
may be read with entire pleasure as an elegy to Daphnis, the patron god
of singing shepherds. Those, however, who in Roman times knew Vergil's
love of symbolism, suspected that a more personal interest led him to
compose this elegy. The death and apotheosis of Julius Caesar is still
thought by some to be the real subject of the poem, while a few have
accepted another ancient conjecture that Vergil here wrote of his
brother. The person mourned must, however, have been of more importance
than Vergil's brother. On the other hand, certain details in the
poem--the sorrow of the mother, for instance--preclude the conjecture
that it was Caesar, unless the poet is here confusing his details more
than we need assume in any other eclogue.

It is indeed difficult to escape the very old persuasion that a sorrow
so sympathetically expressed must be more than a mere Theocritan
reminiscence. If we could find some poet--for Daphnis must be that--near
to Vergil himself, who met an unhappy death in those days, a poet, too,
who died in such circumstances during the civil strife that general
expression of grief had to be hidden behind a symbolic veil, would not
the poem thereby gain a theme worthy of its grace? I think we have such
a poet in Cornificius, the dear friend of Catullus, to whom in fact
Catullus addressed what seem to be his last verses.[3] Like so many of
the new poets, Cornificius had espoused Caesar's cause, but at the end
was induced by Cicero to support Brutus against the triumvirs. After
Philippi Cornificius kept up the hopeless struggle in Africa for several
months until finally he was defeated and put to death. If he be Vergil's
Daphnis we have an explanation of why his identity escaped the notice of
curious scholars. Tactful silence became quite necessary at a time when
almost every household at Rome was rent by divided sympathies, and yet
brotherhood in art could hardly be entirely stifled. From the point of
view of the masters of Rome, Cornificius had met a just doom as a rebel.
If his poet friends mourned for him it must have been in some such guise
as this.

[Footnote 3: Catullus, 38.]

In this instance the circumstantial evidence is rather strong, for we are
told by a commentator that Valgius, an early friend of Vergil's,
wrote elegies to the memory of a "Codrus," identified by some as

Codrusque ille canit quali tu voce canebas,
Atque solet numeros dicere Cinna tuos.

[Footnote 4: _Scholia Veronensia_, Ecl. VII, 22. The evidence is
presented in _Classical Review_, 1920, p. 49.]

That "shepherd" at least is an actual person, a friend of Cinna, and
a member of the neoteric group; that indeed it is Cornificius is
exceedingly probable. The poet-patriot seems then, not to have been
forgotten by his friends.

All too little is known about this friend of Catullus and Cinna, but what
is known excites a keen interest. Though he was younger than Cicero by
nearly a generation, the great orator[5] did him no little deference as
a representative of the Atticistic group. In verse writing he was of
Catullus' school, composing at least one epyllion, besides lyric verse.
According to Macrobius, Vergil paid him the compliment of imitating him,
and he in turn is cited by the scholiasts as authority for an opinion of
Vergil's. If the Daphnis-song is an elegy written at his death--and it
would be difficult to find a more fitting subject--the poem, undoubtedly
one of the most charming of Vergil's _Eclogues_, was composed in 41 B.C.
It were a pity if Vergil's prayer for the poet should after all not come

Semper honos, nomenque tuum laudesque manebunt.

[Footnote 5: See Cicero's letter to him: _Ad Fam_. XII, 17, 2.]

The tenth _Eclogue_, to Gallus, steeped in all the literary associations
of pastoral elegies, from the time of Theocritus' Daphnis to our own
"Lycidas" and "Adonais," has perhaps surrounded itself with an atmosphere
that should not be disturbed by biographical details. However, we must
intrude. Vergil's associations with Gallus, as has been intimated, were
those, apparently, of Neapolitan school days and of poetry. The sixth
_Eclogue_ delicately implies that the departure of Gallus from the circle
had made a very deep impression upon his teacher and fellow students.

What would we not barter of all the sesquipedalian epics of the Empire
for a few pages written by Cornelius Gallus, a thousand for each! This
brilliant, hot-headed, over-grown boy, whom every one loved, was very
nearly Vergil's age. A Celt, as one might conjecture from his career,
he had met Octavius in the schoolroom, and won the boy's enduring
admiration. Then, like Vergil, he seems to have turned from rhetoric to
philosophy, from philosophy to poetry, and to poetry of the Catullan
romances, as a matter of course. It was Cytheris, the fickle actress--if
the scholiasts are right--who opened his eyes to the fact that there were
themes for passionate poetry nearer home than the legendary love-tales;
and when she forgot him, finding excitement elsewhere during his months
of service with Octavian, he nursed his morbid grief in un-Roman
self-pity, this first poet of the _poitrinaire_ school. His subsequent
career was meteoric. Octavian, fascinated by a brilliancy that hid a
lack of Roman steadiness, placed him in charge of the stupendous task
of organizing Egypt, a work that would tax the powers of a Caesar. The
romantic poet lost his head. Wine-inspired orations that delighted his
guests, portrait busts of himself in every town, grotesque catalogues of
campaigns against unheard-of negro tribes inscribed even on the venerable
pyramids did not accord with the traditions of Rome. Octavian cut his
career short, and in deep chagrin Gallus committed suicide.

The tenth _Eclogue_[6] gives Vergil's impressions upon reading one of the
elegies of Gallus which had apparently been written at some lonely army
post in Greece after the news of Cytheris' desertion. In his elegy the
poet had, it would seem, bemoaned the lot that had drawn him to the East
away from his beloved.

"Would that he might have been a simple shepherd like the Greeks about
his tent, for their loves remained true!" And this is of course the very
theme which Vergil dramatizes in pastoral form.

[Footnote 6: This is the interpretation of Leo, _Hermes_, 1902, p. 15.]

We, like Vergil, realize that Gallus invented a new genre in literature.
He had daringly brought the grief of wounded love out of the realm of
fiction--where classic tradition had insisted upon keeping it--into the
immediate and personal song. The hint for this procedure had, of course,
come from Catullus, but it was Gallus whom succeeding elegists all
accredited with the discovery. Vergil at once felt the compelling force
of this adventuresome experiment. He gave it immediate recognition in his
_Eclogues_, and Tibullus, Propertius, and Ovid became his followers.

The poems of Gallus, if the Arcadian setting is real, were probably
written soon after Philippi. Vergil's _Eclogue_ of recognition may have
been composed not much later, for we have a right to assume that Vergil
would have had one of the first copies of Gallus' poems. If this be true,
the first and last few lines were fitted on later, when the whole book
was published, to adapt the poem for its honorable position at the close
of the volume.



The first and ninth _Eclogues_, and only these, concern the confiscations
of land at Cremona and Mantua which threatened to deprive Vergil's father
of his estates and consequently the poet of his income. There seems to be
no way of deciding which is the earlier. Ancient commentators, following
the order of precedence, interpreted the ninth as an indication of a
second eviction, but there seems to be no sound reason for agreeing with
them, since they are entirely too literal in their inferences. Conington
sanely decides that only one eviction took place, and he places the ninth
before the first in order of time. He may be right. The two poems at any
rate belong to the early months of 41.

The obsequious scholiasts of the Empire have nowhere so thoroughly
exposed their own mode of thought as in their interpretations of these
two _Eclogues_. Knowing and caring little for the actual course of
events, having no comprehension of the institutions of an earlier day,
concerned only with extracting what is to them a dramatic story from
the _Eclogues_, they put all the historical characters into impossible
situations. The one thing of which they feel comfortably sure is that
every _Eclogue_ that mentions Pollio, Gallus and Alfenus Varus must have
been a "bread and butter" poem written in gratitude for value received.
Of the close literary associations of the time they seem to be unaware.
To suit such purposes Pollio[1] is at times made governor of Cisalpine
Gaul, and at times placed on the commission to colonize Cremona, Alfenus
is made Pollio's "successor" in a province that does not exist, and
Gallus is also made a colonial commissioner. If, however, we examine
these statements in the light of facts provided by independent sources we
shall find that the whole structure based upon the subjective inferences
of the scholiasts falls to the ground.

[Footnote 1: See Diehl, _Vitae Vergilianae_, pp. 51 ff.]

We must first follow Pollio's career through this period. When the
triumvirate was formed in 43, Pollio was made Antony's _legatus_ in
Cisalpine Gaul and promised the consulship for the year 40.[2] After
Philippi, however, in the autumn of 42, Cisalpine Gaul was declared
a part of Italy and, therefore, fell out of Pollio's control.[3]
Nevertheless, he was not deprived of a command for the year remaining
before his consulship (41 B.C.), but was permitted to withdraw to the
upper end of the Adriatic with his army of seven legions.[4] His duty was
doubtless to guard the low Venetian coast against the remnants of the
republican forces still on the high seas, and, if he had time, to subdue
the Illyrian tribes friendly to the republican cause.[5] During this
year, in which Octavian had to besiege Lucius Antony at Perusia, Pollio,
a legatus of Mark Antony, was naturally not on good terms with Octavian,
and could hardly have used any influence in behalf of Vergil or any one
else. After the Perusine war he joined Antony at Brundisium in the spring
of 40, and acted as his spokesman at the conference which led to the
momentous treaty of peace. We may, therefore, safely conclude that Pollio
was neither governor nor colonial commissioner in Cisalpine Gaul when
Cremona and Mantua were disturbed, nor could he have been on such terms
with Octavian as to use his influence in behalf of Vergil. The eighth and
fourth _Eclogues_ which do honor to him, seem to have nothing whatever
to do with material favors. They doubtless owe their origin to Pollio's
position as a poet, and Pollio's interest in young men of letters.

[Footnote 2: Appian, IV. 2 and V. 22.]

[Footnote 3: Appian, V. 3 and V. 22.]

[Footnote 4: Velleius Paterculus, II. 76.2; Macrobius, _Sat_. I. XI. 22]

[Footnote 5: A task which he performed in 39.]

With regard to Alfenus and Gallus, the scholiasts remained somewhat
nearer the truth, for they had at hand a speech of Callus criticizing the
former for his behavior at Mantua. By quoting the precise words of this
speech Servius[6] has provided us with a solid criterion for accepting
what is consistent in the statements of Vergil's earlier biographers and
eliminating some conjectures. The passage reads: "When ordered to leave
unoccupied a district of three miles outside the city, you included
within the district eight hundred paces of water which lies about the
walls." The passage, of course, shows that Alfenus was a commissioner on
the colonial board, as Servius says. It does not excuse Servius' error
of making Alfenus Pollio's successor as provincial governor[7] after
Cisalpine Gaul had become autonomous, nor does it imply that Alfenus had
in any manner been generous to Vergil or to any one else. In fact it
reveals Alfenus in the act of seizing an unreasonable amount of land.
Vergil,[8] of course, recognizes Alfenus' position as commissioner in his
ninth Eclogue where he promises him great glory if he will show mercy to

Vare, tuum nomen, superet modo Mantua nobis ...

And Vergil's appeal to him was reasonable, since he, too, was a man of
literary ambitions.[9] But there is no proof that Alfenus gave ear to
his plea; at any rate the poet never mentions him again. Servius'
supposition that Alfenus had been of service to the poet[10] seems
to rest wholly on the mistaken idea that the sixth _Eclogue_ was
obsequiously addressed to him. As we have seen, however, Quintilius
Varus has a better claim to that poem.

[Footnote 6: Servius _Dan_. on _Ecl_. IX. 10; ex oratione Cornelii in
Alfenum. Cf. Kroll, in _Rhein. Museum_ 1909, 52.]

[Footnote 7: Servius _Dan_. on _Ecl_. VI. 6.]

[Footnote 8: Vergil, _Eclogue_ IX, 26-29.]

[Footnote 9: See _Suffenus and Alfenus, Classical Quarterly_, 1920, p.

[Footnote 10: On _Eclogue_. VI. 6.]

The quotation from the speech of Gallus also lends support to a statement
in Servius that Gallus had been assigned to the duty of exacting moneys
from cities which escaped confiscation.[11] For this we are duly
grateful. It indicates how Alfenus and Gallus came into conflict since
the latter's financial sphere would naturally be invaded if the former
seized exempted territory for the extension of his new colony of Cremona.
In such conditions we can realize that Gallus was, as a matter of course,
interested in saving Mantua from confiscation, and that in this effort
he may well have appealed to Octavian in Vergil's behalf. In fact his
interpretation of the three-mile exemption might actually have saved
Vergil's properties, which seem to have lain about that distance from the

[Footnote 11: Servius _Dan_. on _Ecl_. VI. 64.]

[Footnote 12: Vita Probiana, _milia passuum_ XXX is usually changed to
III on the basis of Donatus: _a Mantua non procul_.]

Again, however, there is little reason for the supposition that Vergil's
_Eclogues_ in honor of Gallus have any reference whatever to this affair.
The sixth followed the death of Siro, and the tenth seems to precede the
days of colonial disturbances, if it has reference to Gallus as a soldier
in Greece. If the sixth _Eclogue_ refers to Siro, as Servius holds, then
Vergil and Gallus had long been literary associates before the first and
ninth were written.

The student of Vergil who has once compared the statements of the
scholiasts with the historical facts at these few points, where they
run parallel, will have little patience with the petty gossip which was
elicited from the _Eclogues_. The story of Vergil's tiff with a soldier,
for example, is apparently an inference from Menalcas' experience in
_Eclogue_ IX. 15; but "Menalcas" appears in four other _Eclogues_ where
he cannot be Vergil. The poet indeed was at Naples, as the eighth
_Catalepton_ proves. The estate in danger is not his, but that of his
father, who presumably was the only man legally competent of action in
case of eviction. Vergil's poem, to be sure, is a plea for Mantua, but it
is clearly a plea for the whole town and not for his father alone. The
landmark of the low hills and the beeches up to which the property was
saved (IX.8) seems to be the limits of Mantua's boundaries, not of
Vergil's estates on the low river-plains. We need not then concern
ourselves in a Vergilian biography with the tale that Arrius or Clodius
or Claudius or Milienus Toro chased the poet into a coal-bin or ducked
him into the river.[13] The shepherds of the poem are typical characters
made to pass through the typical experiences of times of distress.

[Footnote 13: See Diehl, _Vitae Vergilianae_, p. 58.]

The first _Eclogue, Tityre tu_, is even more general than the ninth in
its application. Though, of course, it is meant to convey the poet's
thanks to Octavian for a favorable decree, it speaks for all the poor
peasants who have been saved. The aged slave, Tityrus, does not
represent Vergil's circumstances, but rather those of the servile
shepherd-tenants,[14] so numerous in Italy at this time. Such men, though
renters, could not legally own property, since they were slaves. But in
practice they were allowed and even encouraged to accumulate possessions
in the hope that they might some day buy their freedom, and with freedom
would naturally come citizenship and the full ownership of their
accumulations. Many of the poor peasants scattered through Italy were
_coloni_ of this type and they doubtless suffered severely in the
evictions. Tityrus is here pictured as going to the city to ask for his
liberty, which would in turn ensure the right of ownership. Such is the
allegory, simple and logical. It is only the old habit of confusing
Tityrus with Vergil which has obscured the meaning of the poem. However,
the real purpose of the poem lies in the second part where the poet
expresses his sympathy for the luckless ones that are being driven from
their homes; and that this represents a cry of the whole of Italy and
not alone of his home town is evident from the fact that he sets the
characters in typical shepherd country,[15] not in Mantuan scenery as in
the ninth. The plaint of Meliboeus for those who must leave their homes
to barbarians and migrate to Africa and Britain to begin life again is
so poignant that one wonders in what mood Octavian read it. "En quo
discordia cives produxit miseros!" was not very flattering to him.

[Footnote 14: See Leo, _Hermes_, 1903, p. 1 ff., questioned by Stampini,
_Le Bucoliche_,'3 1905, p. 93.]

[Footnote 15: Capua and Nuceria were two of the cities near Naples where
Vergil could see the work of eviction near at hand.]

The very deep sympathy of Vergil for the poor exiles rings also through
the _Dirae_, a very surprising poem which he wrote at this same time,
but on second thought suppressed. It has the bitterness of the first
_Eclogue_ without its grace and tactful beginning. The triumvirs were in
no mood to read a book of lamentations. "Honey on the rim" was Lucretius'
wise precept, and it was doubtless a prudent impulse that substituted
the _Eclogue_ for the "Curses." The former probably accomplished little
enough, the latter would not even have been read.

The _Dirae_ takes the form of a "cursing roundel," a form once employed
by Callimachus, who may have inherited it from the East. It calls down
heaven's wrath upon the confiscated lands in language as bitter as ever
Mt. Ebal heard: fire and flood over the crops, blight upon the fruit, and
pestilence upon the heartless barbarians who drive peaceful peasants into

The setting is once more that of the country about Naples, of the
Campanian hills and the sea coast, not that of Mantua.[16] It is
doubtless the miserable poor of Capua and Nuceria that Vergil
particularly has in mind. The singers are two slave-shepherds departing
from the lands of a master who has been dispossessed. The poem is
pervaded by a strong note of pity for the lovers of peace,--"pii cives,"
shall we say the "pacifists,"--who had been punished for refusing to
enlist in a civil war. A sympathy for them must have been deep in the
gentle philosopher of the garden:

O male deuoti, praetorum crimina, agelli![17]
Tuque inimica pii semper discordia ciuis.
Exsul ego indemnatus egens mea rura reliqui,
Miles ut accipiat funesti praemia belli.
Hinc ego de tumulo mea rura nouissima uisam,
Hinc ibo in siluas: obstabunt iam mihi colles,
Obstabunt montes, campos audire licebit.[18]

[Footnote 16: It is just possible that "Lycurgus" (l. 8) who is spoken of
as the author of the mischief is meant for Alfenus Varus, who boasted of
his knowledge of law. Horace lampoons him as _Alfenus vafer_.]

[Footnote 17:
Ye fields accursed for our statesmen's sins,
O Discord ever foe to men of peace,
In want, an exile, uncondemned, I yield
My lands, to pay the wages of a hell-born war.
Ere I go hence, one last look towards my fields,
Then to the woods I turn to close you out
From view, but ye shall hear my curses still.]

[Footnote 18: The _Lydia_ which comes in the MS. attached to the _Dirae_
is not Vergil's. Nor can it be the famous poem of that name written by
Valerius Cato, despite the opinion of Lindsay, _Class. Review_, 1918, p.
62. It is too slight and ineffectual to be identified with that work.
The poem abounds with conceits that a neurotic and sentimental pupil of
Propertius--not too well practiced in verse writing--would be likely to
cull from his master.]

For Vergil there was henceforth no joy in war or the fruits of war. His
devotion to Julius Caesar had been unquestioned, and Octavian, when he
proved himself a worthy successor and established peace, inherited that
devotion. But for the patriots who had fought the losing battle he had
only a heart full of pity.

Ne pueri ne tanta animis adsuescite bella,
Neu patriae validos in viscera vertite viris;
Tuque prior, tu parce, genus qui ducis Olympo,
Projice tela manu, sanguis meus!



We come finally to the two _Eclogues_ addressed to Asinius Pollio. This
remarkable man was only six years older than Vergil, but he was just old
enough to become a member of Caesar's staff, an experience that matured
men quickly. To Vergil he seemed to be a link with the last great
generation of the Republic. That Catullus had mentioned him gracefully
in a poem, and Cinna had written him a _propempticon_, that Caesar had
spoken to him on the fateful night at the Rubicon, and that he had been
one of Cicero's correspondents, placed him on a very high pedestal in
the eyes of the studious poet still groping his way. It may well be that
Gallus was the tie that connected Pollio and Vergil, for we find in a
letter of Pollio's to Cicero that the former while campaigning in Spain
was in the habit of exchanging literary chitchat with Gallus. That was in
the spring of 43, at the very time doubtless when Pollio--as young men
then did--spent his leisure moments between battles in writing tragedies.
Vergil in his eighth Eclogue, perhaps with over-generous praise, compares
these plays with those of Sophocles.

This _Eclogue_ presents one of the most striking studies in primitive
custom that Latin poetry has produced, a bit of realism suffused with a
romantic pastoral atmosphere. The first shepherd's song is of unrequited
love cherished from boyhood for a maiden who has now chosen a worthless
rival. The second is a song sung while a deserted shepherdess performs
with scrupulous precision the magic rites which are to bring her
faithless lover back to her. There are reminiscences of Theocritus of
course, any edition of the _Eclogues_ will give them in full, but Vergil,
so long as he lived at Naples, did not have to go to Sicilian books for
these details. He who knows the social customs of Campania, the magical
charms scribbled on the walls of Pompeii, the deadly curses scratched on
enduring metal by forlorn lovers,--curses hidden beneath the threshold
or hearthstone of the rival to blight her cheeks and wrinkle her silly
face,--knows very well that such folks are the very singers that Vergil
might meet in his walks about the hills of the golden bay.

The eighth _Eclogue_ claims to have been written at the invitation of
Pollio, who had apparently learned thus early that Vergil was a
poet worth encouraging. That the poem has nothing to do with the
confiscations, in so far at least as we are able to understand the
historical situation, has been suggested above. It is usually dated in
the year of Pollio's Albanian campaign in 39, that is a year after his
consulship. Should it not rather be placed two years earlier when Pollio
had given up the Cisalpine province and withdrawn to the upper Adriatic
coast preparatory to proceeding on Antony's orders against the Illyrian
rebels? In the spring of 41 Pollio camped near the Timavus, mentioned in
line 6; two years later the natural route for him to take from Rome would
be via Brundisium and Dyrrhachium.[1] The point is of little interest
except in so far as the date of the poem aids us in tracing Pollio's
influence upon the poet, and in arranging the _Eclogues_ in their
chronological sequence.

[Footnote 1: Antony's province did not extend beyond Scodra; the roads
down the Illyrian mountain from Trieste were not easy for an army to
travel; if the _Eclogues_ were composed in three years (Donatus) the year
39 is too late. Finally, Vellius, II, 76.2, makes it plain that in 41
Pollio remained in Venetia contrary to orders. He had apparently been
ordered to proceed into Illyria at that time.]

Finally, we have the famous "Messianic" _Eclogue_, the fourth, which was
addressed to Pollio during his consulship. By its fortuitous resemblance
to the prophetic literature of the Bible, it came at one time to be the
best known poem in Latin, and elevated its author to the position of
an arch-magician in the medieval world. Indeed, this poem was largely
influential in saving the rest of Vergil's works from the oblivion to
which the dark ages consigned at least nine-tenths of Latin literature.

The poem was written soon after the peace of Brundisium--in the
consummation of which Pollio had had a large share--when all of Italy was
exulting in its escape from another impending civil war. Its immediate
purpose was to give adequate expression to this joy and hope at once in
an abiding record that the Romans and the rulers of Rome might read and
not forget. Its form seems to have been conditioned largely by a strange
allegorical poem written just before the peace by a still unknown poet.
The poet was Horace, who in the sixteenth epode had candidly expressed
the fears of Roman republicans for Rome's capacity to survive. Horace had
boldly asked the question whether after all it was not the duty of those
who still loved liberty to abandon the land of endless warfare, and found
a new home in the far west--a land which still preserved the simple
virtues of the "Golden Age." Vergil's enthusiasm for the new peace
expresses itself as an answer to Horace:[2] the "Golden Age" need not be
sought for elsewhere; in the new era of peace now inaugurated by Octavian
the Virgin Justice shall return to Italy and the Golden Age shall come
to this generation on Italian soil. Vergil, however, introduces a new
"messianic" element into the symbolism of his poem, for he measures the
progress of the new era by the stages in the growth of a child who is
destined finally to bring the prophecy to fulfillment. This happy idea
may well have been suggested by table talks with Philodemus or Siro, who
must at times have recalled stories of savior-princes that they had heard
in their youth in the East. The oppressed Orient was full of prophetic
utterances promising the return of independence and prosperity under the
leadership of some long-hoped-for worthy prince of the tediously unworthy
reigning dynasties. Indeed, since Philodemus grew to boyhood at Gadara
under Jewish rule he could hardly have escaped the knowledge of the very
definite Messianic hopes of the Hebrew people. It may well be, therefore,
that a stray image whose ultimate source was none other than Isaiah came
in this indirect fashion into Vergil's poem, and that the monks of the
dark ages guessed better than they knew.

[Footnote 2: Sellar, _Horace and the Elegiac Poets_, p. 123. Ramsay,
quoted by W. Warde Fowler, _Vergil's Messianic Eclogue_, p, 54.]

To attempt to identify Vergil's child with a definite person would be a
futile effort to analyze poetic allegory. Contemporary readers doubtless
supposed that since the Republic was dead, the successor to power after
the death of Octavius and Antony would naturally be a son of one of

The settlements of the year were sealed by two marriages, that of
Octavian to Scribonia and that of Octavian's sister to Antony. It was
enough that some prince worthy of leadership could naturally be expected
from these dynastic marriages, and that in either case it would be a
child of Octavian's house.[3] Thus far his readers might let their
imagination range; what actually happened afterwards through a series of
evil fortunes has, of course, nothing to do with the question. Pollio is
obviously addressed as the consul whose year marked the peace which all
the world hoped and prayed would be lasting.

[Footnote 3: See _Class. Phil_. XI, 334.]

We have now reviewed the circumstances which called forth the _Eclogues_.
They seem, as Donatus says, to have been written within a period of three
years. The second, third, seventh and sixth apparently fall within the
year 42, the tenth, fifth, eighth, ninth and first in the year 41, while
the _Pollio_ certainly belongs to the year 40, when Vergil became thirty
years of age. The writing of these poems had called the poet more and
more away from philosophy and brought him into closer touch with the
sufferings and experiences of his own people. He had found a theme after
his own heart, and with the theme had come a style and expression
that fitted his genius. He abandoned Hellenistic conceits with their
prettiness of sentiment, attained an easy modulation of line readily
responding to a variety of emotions, learned the dignity of his own
language as he acquired a deeper sympathy for the sufferings of his own
people. There is a new note, as there is a new rhythm in:

_Magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo_.



Julius Caesar had learned from bitter experience that poets were
dangerous enemies. Cicero's innuendoes were disagreeable enough but they
might be forgotten. When, however, Catullus and Calvus put them into
biting epigrams there was no forgetting. This was doubtless Caesar's
chief reason for his constant endeavor to win the goodwill of the young
poets, and he ultimately did win that of Calvus and Catullus. Whether
Octavian, and his sage adviser Maecenas, acted from the same motive we
do not know, though they too had seen in Vergil's epigrams on Antony's
creatures, and in Horace's sixteenth epode that the poets of the new
generation seemed likely to give effective expression to political
sentiments. At any rate, the new court at Rome began very soon to make
generous overtures to the literary men of the day.

Pollio, Octavian's senior by many years, and of noble family, could
hardly be approached. Though gradually drawing away from Antony, he
had so closely associated himself with this brilliant companion of his
Gallic-war days, that he preferred not to take a subordinate place at the
Roman court. Messalla, who had entered the service of Antony, was also
out of reach. There remained the brilliant circle of young men at Naples,
men whose names occurred in the dedications of Philodemus' lectures:
Vergil, Varius, Plotius and Quintilius Varus, three of whom at least were
from the north and would naturally be inclined to look upon Octavian with

Varius had already written his epic _De Morte_ which seems to have
mourned Caesar's death, and, though in hidden language, he had alluded
bitterly to Antony's usurpations in the year that followed the murder.
Before Vergil's epic appeared it was Varius who was always considered the
epic poet of the group. Of Plotius Tucca we know little except that he is
called a poet, was a constant member of the circle, and with Varius
the literary executor who published Vergil's works after his death.
Quintilius Varus had, like Varius, come from Cremona, known Catullus
intimately, and, if we accept the view of Servius for the sixth
_Eclogue_, had been Vergil's most devoted companion in Siro's school. He
also took some part in the civil wars, and came to be looked upon as
a very firm supporter of sound literary standards.[1] Horace's _Ouis
desiderio_, shows that Varus was one of Vergil's most devoted friends.

[Footnote 1: Cf. Horace, _Ars Poetica_, 440.]

Vergil's position as foremost of these poets was doubtless established by
the publication of the _Eclogues_. They took Rome by storm, and were even
set to music and sung on the stage, according to an Alexandrian fashion
then prevailing in the capital. Octavian was, of course, attracted to
them by a personal interest. The poet was given a house in Maecenas'
gardens on the Esquiline with the hope of enticing him to Rome. Vergil
doubtless spent some time in the city before he turned to the more
serious task of the _Georgics_, but we are told that he preferred the
Neapolitan bay and established his home there. This group, it would seem,
was definitely drawn into Octavian's circle soon after the peace of
Brundisium, and formed the nucleus of a kind of literary academy that set
the standards for the Augustan age.

The introduction of Horace into this circle makes an interesting story.
He was five years younger than Vergil, and had had his advanced education
at Athens. There Brutus found him in 43, when attending philosophical
lectures in order to hide his political intrigues; and though Horace
was a freedman's son, Brutus gave him the high dignity of a military
tribuneship. Brutus as a Republican was, of course, a stickler for all
the aristocratic customs. That he conferred upon Horace a knight's office
probably indicates that the _libertinus pater_ had been a war captive
rather than a man of servile stock, and, therefore, only technically a
"freedman." In practical life the Romans observed this distinction, even
though it was not usually feasible to do so in political life. After
Philippi Horace found himself with the defeated remnant and returned to
Italy only to discover that his property had been confiscated. He was
eager for a career in literature, but having to earn his bread, he bought
a poor clerkship in the treasury office. Then during spare moments he
wrote--satires, of course. What else could such a wreckage of enthusiasm
and ambitions produce?

His only hope lay in attracting the attention of some kindly disposed
literary man, and for some reason he chose Vergil. The _Eclogues_ were
not yet out, but the _Culex_ was in circulation, and he made the pastoral
scene of this the basis of an epode--the second--written with no little
good-natured humor. Horace imagines a broker of the forum reading that
passage, and, quite carried away by the succession of delightful scenes,
deciding to quit business for the simple life. He accordingly draws in
all his moneys on the Calends--on the Ides he lends them out again![2]
What Vergil wrote Horace when he received a copy of the _Epode_, we
are not told, but in his next work, the _Georgics_, he returned the
compliment by similarly threading Horace's phrases into a description of
country life--a passage that is indeed one of the most successful in the

[Footnote 2: Horace's scenes (his memory is visual rather than auditory)
unmistakably reproduce those of the _Culex_; cf. _Culex_ 148-58 with
_Epode_ 26-28; _Culex_ 86-7 with _Epode_ 21-22; _Culex_ 49-50 with
_Epode_ 11-12; etc. A full comparison is made in _Classical Philology_,
1920, p. 24. Vergil could, of course, be expected to recognize the
allusions to his own poem.]

[Footnote 3: _See Georgics_, II, 458-542, and a discussion of it in
_Classical Philology_, 1920, p. 42.]

The composition of the sixteenth epode by Horace--soon after the second,
it would seem--gave Vergil an opportunity to recognize the new poet, and
answer his pessimistic appeal with the cheerful prophecy of the fourth
Eclogue, as we have seen. By this time we may suppose that an intimate
friendship had sprung up between the two poets, strengthened of course
by friendly intercourse, now that Vergil could spend some of his time
at Rome. Horace himself tells how Vergil and Varius introduced him to
Maecenas (_Sat_. 1. 6), an important event in his career that took place
some time before the Brundisian journey (_Sat_. 1. 5). Maecenas had
hesitated somewhat before accepting the intimacy of the young satirist:
Horace had fought quite recently in the enemy's army, had criticized
the government in his _Epodes_, and was of a class--at least
technically--which Octavian had been warned not to recognize socially,
unless he was prepared to offend the old nobility. But Horace's dignified
candor won him the confidence of Maecenas; and that there might be no
misunderstanding he included in his first book of _Satires_ a simple
account of what he was and hoped to be. Thus through the efforts of
Vergil and Varius he entered the circle whose guiding spirit he was
destined to become.

Thus the coterie was formed, which under such powerful patronage was
bound to become a sort of unofficial commission for the regulation of
literary standards. It was an important question, not only for the young
men themselves but for the future of Roman literature, which direction
this group would take and whose influence would predominate. It might be
Maecenas, the holder of the purse-strings, a man who could not check his
ambition to express himself whether in prose or verse. This Etruscan,
whose few surviving pages reveal the fact that he never acquired
an understanding of the dignity of Rome's language, that he was
temperamentally un-Roman in his love for meretricious gaudiness and
prettiness, might have worked incalculable harm on this school had his
taste in the least affected it. But whether he withheld his dictum, or it
was disregarded by the others, no influence of his can be detected in the
literature of the epoch.

Apollodorus, Octavian's aged teacher, a man of very great personal
influence, and highly respected, probably counted for more. In his
lectures and his books, one of which, Valgius, a member of the circle,
translated into Latin, he preached the doctrines of a chaste and
dignified classicism. His creed fortunately fell in with the tendencies
of the time, and whether this teaching be called a cause, or whether the
popularity of it be an effect of pre-existing causes, we know that this
man came to represent many of the ideals of the school.

But to trace these ideals in their contact with Vergil's mental
development, we must look back for a moment to the tendencies of the
Catullan age from which he was emerging. In a curious passage written not
many years after this, Horace, when grouping the poets according to their
styles and departments,[4] places Vergil in a class apart. He mentions
first a turgid epic poet for whom he has no regard. Then there are
Varius and Pollio, in epic and tragedy respectively, of whose forceful
directness he does approve. In comedy, his friend, Fundanius, represents
a homely plainness which he commends, while Vergil stands for gentleness
and urbanity (molle atque facetum).

[Footnote 4: _Sat_. I. 10, 40 ff.]

The passage is important not only because it reveals a contemporaneous
view of Vergil's position but because it shows Horace thus early as the
spokesman of the "classical" coterie, the tenets of which in the end
prevailed. In this passage Horace employs the categories of the standard
text-books of rhetoric of that day[5] which were accustomed to classify
styles into four types: (1) Grand and ornate, (2) grand but austere, (3)
plain and austere, (4) plain but graceful. The first two styles might
obviously be used in forensic prose or in ambitious poetic work like
epics and tragedies. Horace would clearly reject the former, represented
for instance by Hortensius and Pacuvius, in favor of the austere dignity
and force of the second, affected by men like Cornificius in prose and
Varius and Pollio in verse. The two types of the "plain" style were
employed in more modest poems of literature, both, in prose and in such
poetry as comedy, the epyllion, in pastoral verse, and the like. Severe
simplicity was favored by Calvus in his orations, Catullus in his
lyrics 5 while a more polished and well-nigh _precieuse_ plainness was
illustrated in the speeches of Calidius and in the Alexandrian epyllion
of Catullus' _Peleus and Thetis_ and in Vergil's _Ciris_ and _Bucolics_.

[Footnote 5: E.g. Demetrius, Philodemus, Cicero; of. _Class. Phil_. 1920,
p. 230.]

In choosing between these two, Horace, of course, sympathizes with the
ideals of the severe and chaste style, which he finds in the comedies of
Fundanius. Vergil's early work, unambitious and "plain" though it is,
falls, of course, into the last group; and though Horace recognizes his
type with a friendly remark, one feels that he recognizes it for reasons
of friendship, rather than because of any native sympathy for it. By his
juxtaposition he shows that the classical ideals of the second and third
of the four "styles" are to him most sympathetic. _Mollitudo_ does not
find favor in any of his own work, or in his criticism of other men's
work. Vergil, therefore, though he appears in this Augustan coterie as
an important member, is still felt to be something of a free lance who
adheres to Alexandrian art[6] not wholly in accord with the standards
which are now being formulated. If Horace had obeyed his literary
instincts alone he would probably have relegated Vergil at this period
to the silence he accorded Callus and Propertius if not to the open
hostility he expressed towards the Alexandrianism of Catullus. It is
significant of Vergil's breadth of sympathy that he remitted not a jot in
his devotion to Catullus and Gallus and that he won the deep reverence of
Propertius while remaining the friend and companion of the courtly group
working towards a stricter classicism. If we may attempt to classify
the early Augustans, we find them aligning themselves thus. The strict
classicists are Horace the satirist, Varius a writer of epics, Pollio
of tragedy; while Varus, Valgius, Plotius, and Fundanius, though less
productive, employ their influence in the support of this tendency as
does Tibullus somewhat later. Vergil is a close personal friend of these
men but refuses to accept the axioms of any one school; Gallus, his
friend, is a free romanticist, and is followed in this tendency a few
years later by Propertius.

[Footnote 6: Horace had doubtless seen not only the _Culex_ but several
of the other minor works that Vergil never deigned to put into general

The influences that made for classicism were many. Apollodorus, the
teacher of Octavian, must have been a strong factor, but since his work
has been lost, the weight of it cannot now be estimated. Horace imbibed
his love for severe ideals in Athens, of course. There his teachers were
Stoic rhetoricians who trained him in an uncompromising respect for
stylistic rules.[7] He read the Hellenistic poets, to be sure, and
reveals in his poems a ready memory of them, but it was the great epoch
of Greek poetry that formed his style. Such are the foreign influences.
But the native Roman factors must not be forgotten. In point of fact it
was the classicistic Catullus and Calvus, of the simple, limpid lyrics,
written in pure unalloyed every-day Latin, that taught the new generation
to reject the later Hellenistic style of Catullus and Calvus as
illustrated in the verse romances. Varus, Pollio, and Varius were old
enough to know Catullus and Calvus personally, to remember the days when
poems like _Dianae sumus in fide_ were just issued, and they were poets
who could value the perfect art of such work even after the authors of
them had been enticed by ambition into dangerous by-paths. In a word, it
was Catullus and Calvus, the lyric poets, who made it possible for the
next generation to reject Catullus and Calvus the neoteric romancers.

[Footnote 7: For the stylistic tenets of the Stoic teachers see
Fiske, _Lucilius and Horace_, pp. 64-143. Apollodorus seems to be the
rhetorician whom Horace calls Heliodorus in _Sat_. I, 5, see _Class.
Phil_. 1920, 393.]

For the modern, therefore, it is difficult to restrain a just resentment
when he finds Horace referring to these two great predecessors with a
sneer. Yet we can, if we will, detect an adequate explanation of Horace's
attitude. Very few poets of any time have been able to capture and hold
the generation immediately succeeding. The stronger the impression made
by a genius, the farther away is the pendulum of approbation apt to
swing. The _neoteroi_ had to face, in addition to this revulsion, the
misfortunes of the time. The civil wars which came close upon them had
little use for the sentimentality of their romances or the involutions
of their manner of composition. And again, Catullus and Calvus had been
over-brutal in their attacks upon Julius Caesar, a character lifted to
the high heavens by the war and the martyrdom that followed. And, as
fortune would have it, almost all of the new literary men were, as we
have seen, peculiarly devoted to Caesar. We know enough of wars to have
discovered that intense partizanship does silence literary judgment
except in the case of a very few men of unusual balance. Vergil was one
of the very few; he kept his candle lit at the shrine of Catullus still,
but this was hardly to be expected of the rest.

In prose also the Augustans upheld the refined and chaste work of
classical Atticism, an ideal which they derived from the Romans of the
preceding generation rather than from teachers like Apollodorus. Pollio
and Messalla are now the foremost orators. Pollio had stood close to
Calvus as well as to Caesar, and had witnessed the revulsion of feeling
against Cicero's style which continued to move in its old leisurely
course even after the civil war had quickened men's pulses. Messalla may
have been influenced by the example of his general, Brutus, a man who
never wasted words (so long as he kept his temper). Messalla and Pollio
were the dictators of prose style during this period.

We find Vergil, therefore, in a peculiar position. He was still
recognized as a pupil of Catullus and the Alexandrians at a time when the
pendulum was swinging so violently away from the republican poets that
they did not even get credit for the lessons that they had so well taught
the new generation. Vergil himself was in each new work drifting more and
more toward classicism, but he continued to the last to honor
Catullus and Calvus, Cinna and Cornificius, and his friend Gallus, in
complimentary imitation or by friendly mention. The new Academy was proud
to claim him as a member, though it doubtless knew that Vergil was too
great to be bound by rules. To after ages, while Horace has come to stand
as an extremist who carried the law beyond the spirit, Vergil, honoring
the past and welcoming the future, has assumed the position of Rome's
most representative poet.



The years that followed the publication of the _Eclogues_ seem to have
been a season of reading, traveling, observing, and brooding. Maecenas
desired to keep the poet at Rome, and as an inducement provided him with
a villa in his own gardens on the Esquiline. The fame of the _digitus
praetereuntium_ awaited his coming and going, his _Bucolics_ had been set
to music and sung in the concert halls to vehement applause.[1] He seems
even to have made an effort to be socially congenial. There is intimate
knowledge of courtly customs in the staging of his epic; and in Horace's
fourth book a refurbished early poem in Philodemus' manner pictures a
Vergil--apparently the poet--as the pet of the fashionable world. But
these things had no attraction for him. Rome indeed appealed to his
imagination, _Roma pulcherrima rerum_, but it was the invisible Rome
rather than the _fumum et opes strepitumque_, it was the city of pristine
ideals, of irresistible potency, of Anchises' pageant of heroes. When
he walked through the Forum he saw not only the glistening monuments in
their new marble veneer, but beyond these, in the far distant past, the
straw hut of Romulus and the sacred grove on the Capitoline where the
spirit of Jove had guarded a folk of simpler piety.[2] And down the
centuries he beheld the heroes, the law-givers, and the rulers, who had
made the Forum the court of a world-wide empire. The Rome of his own day
was too feverish, it soon drove him back to his garden villa near Naples.

[Footnote 1: Tacitus, _Dialogus_, 13: Malo securum et quietum Vergilii
secessum, in quo tamen neque apud divum Augustum gratia caruit neque apud
populum Romanum notitia. Testes Augusti epistulae, testis ipse populus,
qui auditis in theatro Vergilii versibus surrexit universus et forte
praesentem spectantemque Vergilium veneratus est quasi Augustum.]

[Footnote 2: _Aeneid_ VIII.]

It was well that he possessed such a retreat during those years of petty
political squabbles. The capital still hummed with rumors of civil war.
Antony seemed determined to sever the eastern provinces from the empire
and make of them a gift to Cleopatra and her children--a mad course that
could only end in another world war. Sextus Pompey still held Sicily and
the central seas, ready to betray the state at the first mis-step on
Octavian's part. At Rome itself were many citizens in high position who
were at variance with the government, quite prepared to declare for
Antony or Pompey if either should appear a match for the young heir of
Caesar. Clearly the great epic of Rome could not have matured in that
atmosphere of suspicion, intrigue, and selfishness. The convulsions of
the dying republic, beheld day by day near at hand, could only have
inspired a disgust sufficient to poison a poet's sensitive hope. It was
indeed fortunate that Vergil could escape all this, that he could retain
through the period of transition the memories of Rome's former greatness
and the faith in her destiny that he had imbibed in his youth. The time
came when Octavian, after Actium, reunited the Empire with a firm hand
and justified the buoyant optimism which Vergil, almost alone of his
generation, had been able to preserve.

During these few years Vergil seems to have written but little. We have,
however, a strange poem of thirty-eight lines, the _Copa_, which, to
judge from its exclusion from the _Catalepton_, should perhaps be
assigned to this period. A study in tempered realism, not unlike the
eighth _Eclogue_, it gives us the song of a Syrian tavern-maid inviting
wayfarers into her inn from the hot and dusty road. The spirit is
admirably reproduced in Kirby Smith's rollicking translation:[3]

[Footnote 3: See Kirby Flower Smith, _Marital, the Epigrammatist and,
Other Essays_, Johns Hopkins Press, 1920, p. 170. The attribution of the
poem to Vergil by the ancients as well as by the manuscripts, and the
style of its fanciful realism so patent in much of Vergil's work place
the poem in the authentic list. Rand, _Young Virgil's Poetry_, Harvard
Studies, 1919, p. 174, has well summed up the arguments regarding the
authorship of the poem.]

'Twas at a smoke-stained tavern, and she, the hostess there--
A wine-flushed Syrian damsel, a turban on her hair--
Beat out a husky tempo from reeds in either hand,
And danced--the dainty wanton--an Ionian saraband.
"'Tis hot," she sang, "and dusty; nay, travelers, whither bound?
Bide here and tip a beaker--till all the world goes round;
Bide here and have for asking wine-pitchers, music, flowers,
Green pergolas, fair gardens, cool coverts, leafy bowers.
In our Arcadian grotto we have someone to play
On Pan-pipes, shepherd fashion, sweet music all the day.
We broached a cask but lately; our busy little stream
Will gurgle softly near you the while you drink and dream.
Chaplets of yellow violets a-plenty you shall find,
And glorious crimson roses in garlands intertwined;
And baskets heaped with lilies the water nymph shall bring--
White lilies that this morning were mirrored in her spring.
Here's cheese new pressed in rushes for everyone who comes,
And, lo, Pomona sends us her choicest golden plums.
Red mulberries await you, late purple grapes withal,
Dark melons cased in rushes against the garden wall,
Brown chestnuts, ruddy apples. Divinities bide here,
Fair Ceres, Cupid, Bacchus, those gods of all good cheer,
Priapus too--quite harmless, though terrible to see--
Our little hardwood warden with scythe of trusty tree.

"Ho, friar with the donkey, turn in and be our guest!
Your donkey--Vesta's darling--is weary; let him rest.
In every tree the locusts their shrilling still renew,
And cool beneath the brambles the lizard lies perdu.
So test our summer-tankards, deep draughts for thirsty men;
Then fill our crystal goblets, and souse yourself again.
Come, handsome boy, you're weary! 'Twere best for you to twine
Your heavy head with roses and rest beneath our vine,
Where dainty arms expect you and fragrant lips invite;
Oh, hang the strait-laced model that plays the anchorite!
Sweet garlands for cold ashes why should you care to save?
Or would you rather keep them to lay upon your grave?
Nay, drink and shake the dice-box. Tomorrow's care begone!
Death plucks your sleeve and whispers: 'Live now, I come anon.'"

Memories of the Neapolitan bay! The _Copa_ should be read in the arbor of
an _osteria_ at Sorrento or Capri to the rhythm of the tarantella where
the modern offspring of Vergil's tavern-maid are still plying the arts of
song and dance upon the passerby.[4]

[Footnote 4: Unfortunately the evidence does not suffice to assign the
_Moretum_ to Vergil, though it was certainly composed by a genuine if
somewhat halting poet, and in Vergil's day. It has many imaginative
phrases, and the meticulous exactness of its miniature work might seem to
be Vergilian were it not for the unrelieved plainness of the theme. Even
so, it might be considered an experiment in a new style, if the rather
dubious manuscript evidence were supported by a single ancient citation.
See Rand, _loc. Cit._ p. 178.]

There are also three brief _Priapea_ which should probably be assigned to
this period. The third may indeed have been an inscription on a pedestal
of the scare-crow god set out to keep off thieving rooks and urchins in
the poet's own garden:

This place, my lads, I prosper, I guard the hovel, too,
Thatched, as you see, by willows and reeds and grass that grew
In all the marsh about it; hence me, mere stump of oak,
Shaped by the farmer's hatchet, they now as god invoke.
They bring me gifts devoutly, the master and his boy,
Supposing me the giver of the blessings they enjoy.
The kind old man each morning comes here to weed the ground,
He clears the shrine of thistles and burrs that grow around.
The lad brings dainty offerings with small but ready hand:
At dawn of spring he crowns me with a lavish daisy-strand,
From summer's earliest harvest, while still the stalk is green,
He wreathes my brow with chaplets; he fills me baskets clean
With golden pansies, poppies, with apples ripe and gourds,
The first rich blushing clusters of grapes for me he hoards.
And once to my great honor--but let no god be told!--
He brought me to my altar a lambkin from the fold.
So though, my lads, a Scare-Crow and no true god I be,
My master and his vineyard are very dear to me.
Keep off your filching hands, lads, and elsewhere ply your theft:

Our neighbor is a miser, his Scare-Crow gets no gifts,
His apples are not guarded--the path is on your left.

The quaint simplicity of the sentiment and the playful surprise at the
end quickly disarm any skepticism that would deny these lines to Horace's
poet of "tender humor."

During this period the poet seems also to have traveled. Maecenas enjoyed
the society of literary men, and we may well suppose that he took Vergil
with him in his administrative tours on more than the one occasion
which Horace happens to have recorded. The poet certainly knows Italy
remarkably well. The meager and inaccurate maps and geographical works of
that day could not have provided him with the insight into details which
the Georgics and the last six books of the _Aeneid_ reveal. We know, of
course, from Horace's third ode that Vergil went to Greece. This famous
poem, a "steamer-letter" as it were, is undated, but it may well be a
continuation of the Brundisian diary. The strange turn which the poem
takes--its dread of the sea's dangers--seems to point to a time when
Horace's memories of his own shipwreck were still very vivid.

There was also time for extensive reading. That Vergil ranged widely and
deeply in philosophy and history, antiquities and all the world's best
prose and poetry, the vast learning of the _Georgics_ and the _Aeneid_
abundantly proves. The epic story which he had early plotted out must
have lain very near the threshold of his consciousness through this
period, for his mind kept seizing upon and storing up apposite incidents
and germs of fruitful lore. References to Aeneas crop out here and there
in the _Georgics_, and the mysterious address to Mantua in the third book
promises, under allusive metaphors, an epic of Trojan heroes. Nor could
the poet forget the philosophic work he had so long pondered over. Doubts
increased, however, of his capacity to justify himself after the sure
success of Lucretius. A remarkable confession in the second book of the
_Georgics_ reveals his conviction that in this poem he had, through
lack of confidence, chosen the inferior theme of nature's physical
and sensuous appeal when he would far rather have experienced the
intellectual joy of penetrating into nature's inner mysteries.[5]

[Footnote 5:
Me vero primum dulces ante omnia Musae,
Quarum sacra fero ingenti percussus-amore,
Accipiant, caelique vias et sidera monstrent--
Sin, has ne possim naturae accedere partes,
Frigidus obstiterit circum praecordia sanguis,
Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes.
_Georgics_, II. 475. ff.

Was this striking _apologia of the Georgics_ forced upon Vergil by
the fact that in the _Aetna_, 264-74, he had pronounced peasant-lore
trivial in comparison with science?]

Though we need not take too literally a poet's prefatorial remarks,
Vergil doubtless hoped that his _Georgics_ might turn men's thoughts
towards a serious effort at rehabilitating agriculture, and the
practical-minded Maecenas certainly encouraged the work with some such
aim in view. The government might well be deeply concerned. The veterans
who had recently settled many of Italy's best tracts could not have
been skilled farmers. The very fact that the lands were given them for
political services could only have suggested to the shrewd among them
that the old Roman respect for property rights had been infringed,
and that it was wise to sell as soon as possible and depart with some
tangible gain before another revolution resulted in a new redistribution.
Such suspicions could hardly beget the patience essential for the
development of agriculture. And yet this was the very time when farming
must be encouraged. Large parts of the arable land had been abandoned to
grazing during the preceding century because of the importation of the
provincial stipendiary grain, and Italy had lost the custom of raising
the amount of food that her population required. As a result, the younger
Pompey's control of Sicily and the trade routes had now brought on a
series of famines and consequent bread-riots. Year after year Octavian
failed in his attempts to lure away or to defeat this obnoxious rebel.
At best he could buy him off for a while, though he never knew at what
season of scarcity the purchase price might become prohibitive. The
choice of Vergil's subject coincided, therefore, with a need that all men

The _Georgics_, however, are not written in the spirit of a colonial
advertisement. In the youthful _Culex_ Vergil had dwelt somewhat too
emphatically upon the song-birds and the cool shade, and had drawn upon
himself the genial comment of Horace that Alfius did not find conditions
in the country quite as enchanting as pictured. This time the poet paints
no idealized landscape. Enticing though the picture is, Vergil insists on
the need of unceasing, ungrudging toil. He lists the weeds and blights,
the pests and the vermin against which the farmer must contend. Indeed
it is in the contemplation of a life of toil that he finds his honest
philosophy of life: the gospel of salvation through work. Hardships whet
the ingenuity of man; God himself for man's own good brought an end to
the age of golden indolence, shook the honey from the trees, and gave
vipers their venom. Man has been left alone to contend with an obstinate
nature, and in that struggle to discover his own worth. The _Georgics_
are far removed from pastoral allegory; Italy is no longer Arcadia, it is
just Italy in all its glory and all its cruelty.

Vergil's delight in nature is essentially Roman, though somewhat
more self-conscious than that of his fellows. There is little of the
sentimental rapture that the eighteenth century discovered for us. Vergil
is not likely to stand in postures before the awful solemnity of the
sea or the majesty of wide vistas from mountain tops. Italian hill-tops
afford views of numerous charming landscapes but no scenes of entrancing
grandeur or awe-inspiring desolation, and the sea, before the days of the
compass, was too suggestive of death and sorrow to invite consideration
of its lawless beauty. These aspects of nature had to be discovered by
later experiences in other lands. At first glance Vergil seems to care
most for the obvious gifts of Italy's generous amenities, the physical
pleasure in the free out-of-doors, the form and color of landscapes,
the wholesome life. As one reads on, however, one becomes aware of an
intimacy and fellowship with animate things that go deeper. Particularly
in the second book the very blades of grass and tendrils of the vines
seem to be sentient. The grafted trees "behold with wonder" strange
leaves and fruits growing from their stems, transplanted shoots "put off
their wild-wood instincts," the thirsting plant "lifts up its head" in
gratitude when watered. Our own generation, which was sedulously enticed
into nature study by books crammed with the "pathetic fallacy," has
become suspicious of everything akin to "nature faking." It has learned
that this device has been a trick employed by a crafty pedagogy for the
sake of appealing to unimaginative children. Vergil was probably far from
being conscious of any such purpose. As a Roman he simply gave expression
to a mode of viewing nature that still seemed natural to most Greeks and
Romans. The Roman farmer had not entirely outgrown his primitive animism.
When he said his prayers to the spirits of the groves, the fields, and
the streams, he probably did not visualize these beings in human form;
manifestations of life betokened spirits that produced life and growth.
Vergil's phrases are the poetic expression of the animism of the
unsophisticated rustic which at an earlier age had shaped the great
nature myths.

And if Vergil had been questioned about his own faith he could well have
found a consistent answer. Though he had himself long ceased to pay
homage to these _animae_, his philosophy, like that of Lucretius, also
sought the life-principle in nature, though he sought that principle a
step farther removed in the atom, the vitalized seeds of things, forever
in motion, forever creating new combinations, and forever working the
miracles of life by means of the energy with which they were themselves
instinct. The memorable lines on spring in the second book are cast into
the form of old poetry, but the basis of them is Epicurean energism, as
in Lucretius' prooemium. Vergil's study of evolution had for him also
united man and nature, making the romance of the _Georgics_ possible; it
had shaped a kind of scientific animism that permitted him to accept the
language of the simple peasant even though its connotations were for him
more complex and subtle.

Finally, the careful reader will discover in Vergil's nature poetry a
very modern attention to details such as we hardly expect to find before
the nineteenth century. Here again Vergil is Lucretius' companion.
This habit was apparently a composite product. The ingredients are the
capacity for wonder that we find in some great poets like Wordsworth and
Plato, a genius for noting details, bred in him as in Lucretius by long
occupation with deductive methods of philosophy,--scientific pursuits
have thus enriched modern poetry also--and a sure aesthetic sense.
This power of observation has been overlooked by many of Vergil's
commentators. Conington, for example, has frequently done the poet an
injustice by assuming that Vergil was in error whenever his statements
seem not to accord with what we happen to know. We have now learned to be
more wary. It is usually a safer assumption that our observation is
in error. A recent study of "trees, shrubs and plants of Vergil,"
illuminating in numberless details, has fallen into the same error here
and there by failing to notice that Vergil wrote his _Bucolics_ and
_Georgics_ not near Mantua but in southern Italy. The modern botanical
critic of Vergil should, as Mackail has said, study the flora of Campania
not of Lombardy. In every line of composition Vergil took infinite
pains to give an accurate setting and atmosphere. Carcopino[6] has just
astonished us with proof of the poet's minute study of topographical
details in the region of Lavinium and Ostia, Mackail[7] has vindicated
his care as an antiquarian, Warde Fowler[8] has repeatedly pointed
out his scrupulous accuracy in portraying religious rites, and now
Sergeaunt,[9] in a study of his botany, has emphasized his habit of
making careful observations in that domain.

[Footnote 6: Carcopino, _Virgile et les origines d'Ostie_.]

[Footnote 7: Mackail, _Journal of Roman Studies_, 1915.]

[Footnote 8: Warde Fowler, _Religious Experience of the Roman
People_. p. 408.]

[Footnote 9: Sergeaunt, _Trees, Shrubs, and Plants of Virgil_.]

This modern habit it is that makes the _Georgics_ read so much like
Fabre's remarkable essays. The study of the bees in the fourth book is,
of course, not free from errors that nothing less than generations of
close scrutiny could remove. But the right kind of observing has begun.
On the other hand the book is not merely a farmer's practical manual
on how to raise bees for profit. The poet's interest is in the amazing
insects themselves, their how and why and wherefore. It is the mystery
of their instincts, habits, and all-compelling energy that leads him to
study the bees, and finally to the half-concealed confession that his
philosophy has failed to solve the problems of animate nature.



While Caesar Octavian, now grown to full political stature, was reuniting
the East and the West after Actium, Vergil was writing the last pages of
the _Georgics_. The battle that decided Rome's future also determined the
poet's next theme. The Epic of Rome, abandoned at the death of Caesar,
unthinkable during the civil wars which followed, appealed for a hearing
now that Rome was saved and the empire restored. Vergil's youthful
enthusiasm for Rome, which had sprung from a critical reading of her past
career, seemed fully justified; he began at once his _Arma virumque_.

The _Aeneid_ reveals, as the critics of nineteen centuries have
reiterated, an unsurpassed range of reading. But it is not necessary
to repeat the evidence of Vergil's literary obligations in an essay
concerned chiefly with the poet's more intimate experiences. In point of
fact, the tracking of poetic reminiscences in a poet who lived when no
concealment of borrowed thought was demanded does as much violence to
Vergil as it does to Euripides or Petrarch. The poet has always been
expected to give expression to his own convictions, but until recently it
has been considered a graceful act on his part to honor the good work of
his predecessors by the frank use, in recognizable form, of the lines
that he most admires. The only requirement has been that the poet should
assimilate, and not merely agglomerate his acceptances, that he should as
Vergil put it, "wrest the club from Hercules" and wield it as its master.

In essence the poetry of the _Aeneid_ is never Homeric, despite the
incorporation of many Homeric lines. It is rather a sapling of Vergil's
Hellenistic garden, slowly acclimated to the Italian soil, fed richly by
years of philosophic study, braced, pruned, and reared into a tree of
noble strength and classic dignity. The form and majesty of the tree
bespeak infinite care in cultivation, but the fruit has not lost the
delicate tang and savour of its seed. The poet of the _Ciris_, the
_Copa_, the _Dirae_, and the _Bucolics_ is never far to seek in the

It would be a long story to trace the flowering in the Aeneid of the
seedling sown in Vergil's boyhood garden-plot.[1] The note of intimacy,
unexpected in an epic, the occasional drawing of the veil to reveal the
poet's own countenance, an un-Homeric sentimentality now and then, the
great abundance of sense-teeming collocations, the depth of sympathy
revealed in such tragic characters as Pallas, Lausus, Euryalus, the
insistent study of inner motives, the meticulous selection of incidents,
the careful artistry of the meter, the fastidious choice of words, and
the precision of the joiner's craft in the composition of traditional
elements, all suggest the habits of work practiced by the friends of
Cinna and Valerius Cato.

[Footnote 1: For a careful study of this subject see Duckett,
_Hellenistic Influence on the Aeneid,_ Smith College Studies, 1920.]

The last point is well illustrated in Sinon's speech at the opening of
the second book. The old folktale of how the "wooden horse," left on the
shore by the Greeks, was recklessly dragged to the citadel by the Trojans
satisfied the unquestioning Homer. Vergil does not take the improbable
on faith. Sinon is compelled to be entirely convincing. In his speech he
uses every art of persuasion: he awakens in turn curiosity, surprise,
pity, admiration, sympathy, and faith. The passage is as curiously
wrought as any episode of Catullus or the _Ciris_. It is not, as has been
held, a result of rhetorical studies alone; it reveals rather a native
good sense tempered with a neoteric interest in psychology and a neoteric
exactness in formal composition. And yet the passage exhibits a great
advance upon the geometric formality of the _Ciris_. The incident is not
treated episodically as it might have been in Vergil's early work. The
pattern is not whimsically intricate but is shaped by an understanding
mind. While its art is as studied and conscious as that of the _Ciris_,
it has the directness and integrity of Homeric narrative. Yet Vergil
has not forgotten the startling effects that Catullus would attain by
compressing a long tale into a suggestive phrase, if only a memory of the
tale could be assumed. The story of Priam's death on the citadel is told
in all its tragic horror till the climax is reached. Then suddenly with
astonishing force the mind is flung through and beyond the memories of
the awful mutilation by the amazingly condensed phrase:

jacet ingens litore truncus
avulsumque umeris caput et sine nomine corpus.

There Vergil has given only the last line of a suppressed tragedy which
the reader is compelled to visualize for himself.

Neoteric, too, is the accurate observation and the patience with details
displayed by the author of the _Aeneid_. In his youth Vergil had, to be
sure, avoided the extremes of photographic realism illustrated by the
very curious _Moretum_, but he had nevertheless, in works like the
_Copa_, the _Dirae_, and the eighth _Eclogue_, practiced the craft of the
miniaturist whenever he found the minutiae aesthetically significant. To
realize the precision of his strokes even then one has but to recall the
couplet of the _Copa_ which in an instant sets one upon the dusty road of
an Italian July midday:

Nunc cantu crebro rumpunt arbusta cicadae
nunc varia in gelida sede lacerta latet.

Throughout the _Aeneid,_ the patches of landscape, the retreats for
storm-tossed ships, the carved temple-doors, the groups of accoutred
warriors marching past, and many a gruesome battle scene, are reminders
of this early technique.

What degrees of conscientious workmanship went into these results, we are
just now learning. Carcopino,[2] who, with a copy of Vergil in hand, has
carefully surveyed the Latin coast from the Tiber mouth, past the site of
Lavinium down to Ardea, is convinced that the poet traced every manoeuvre
and every sally on the actual ground which he chose for his theatre of
action in the last six books. It still seems possible to recognize the
deep valley of the ambuscade and the plain where Camilla deployed her
cavalry. Furthermore, there can be little doubt that for the sake of a
heroic-age setting Vergil studied the remains and records of most ancient
Rome. There were still in existence in various Latin towns sixth-century
temples laden with antique arms and armor deposited as votive offerings,
terracotta statues of gods and heroes, and even documents stored for
safe-keeping. In the expansion of Rome over the Campus Martius unmarked
tombs with their antique furniture were often disclosed. It is apparent
from his works that Vergil examined such material, just as he delved into
Varro's antiquities and Cato's "origins" for ancient lore. His remarks
on Praeneste and Antemnae, his knowledge of ancient coin symbols, of the
early rites of the Hercules cult, show the results of these early habits
of work. It must always be noticed, however, that in his mature art he is
master of his vast hoard of material. There is never, as in the _Culex_
and _Ciris_, a display of irrelevant facts, a yielding to the temptation
of being excursive and episodic. Wherever the work had received the final
touch, the composition shows a flawless unity.

[Footnote 2: Carcopino, _Virgile et les origines d'Ostie_.]

The poet's response to personal experience reveals itself nowhere more
than in the political aspect of the _Aeneid_ a fact that is the more
remarkable because Vergil lived so long in Epicurean circles where an
interest in politics was studiously suppressed.

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