Note I.—Imitations of Virgil in Propertius, Ovid, and Manilius.
The prestige of Virgil made him a subject for imitation even during his lifetime. Just as Carlyle, Tennyson, and other vigorous writers soon create a school, so Virgil stamped the poetical dialect for centuries. But he offered two elements for imitation, the declamatory or rhetorical, which is most prominent in his speeches, and in the second and sixth books; and detached passages showing descriptive imagery, touches of pathos, similes, &c. These last might he imitated without at all unduly influencing the individuality of the imitator's style. In this way Ovid is a great imitator of Virgil; so to a less extent are Propertius, Manilius, and Lucan. Statius and Silius base their whole poetical art on him, and therefore particular instances of imitation throw no additional light on their style. We shall here notice a few of the points in which the Augustan poets copied him:—
(1) In Facts.—Beside the great number of early historical points on which he was followed implicitly, we find even his errors imitated, e.g. the confusion which perhaps in Virgil is only apparent between Pharsalia and Philippi, has, as Merivale remarks, been adopted by Propertius (iv. 10,40), Ovid (M. xv, 824), Manilius (i. 906), Lucan (vii. 854), and Juvenal (viii. 242); not so much from ignorance of the locality as out of deference to Virgilian precedent. The lines may be quoted—Virgil (G. i. 489), Ergo inter se paribus concurrere telis Romanas acies iterum videre Philippi; Propertius, Una Philippeo sanguine inusta nota; Ovid, Emathiaque iterum madefient caede Philippi; Manilius, Arma Philippeos implerunt sanguine campos. Vixque etiam sicca miles Romanus arena Ossa virum lacerosque prius superastitit artus; Lucan, Scelerique secundo Praestatis nondum siccos hoc sanguine campos; Juvenal, Thessaliae campis Octavius abstulit ... famam.... This is analogous to the way in which the satirists use the names consecrated by Lucilius or Horace as types of a vice, and repeat the same symptoms ad nauseam, e.g. the miser who anoints his body with train oil, who locks up his leavings, who picks up a farthing from the road, &c. The veiled allusion to the poet Anser (Ecl. ix. 36) is perhaps recalled by Prop. iii. 32, 83, sqq. So the portents described by Virgil as following on the death of Caesar are told again by Manilius at the end of Bk. I. and referred to by Lucan (Phars. i.) and Ovid. Again, the confusion between Inarime and ein Arimois, into which Virgil falls, is borrowed by Lucan (Phars. v. 101).
(2) In Metre.—As regards metre, Ovid in the Metamorphoses is nearest to him, but differs in several points, He imitates him—( a) in not admitting words of four or more syllables, except very rarely, at the end of the line; (b) in rhythms like vulnificus sus (viii. 358), and the not unfrequent spondetazontes; (c) in keeping to the two caesuras as finally established by him, and avoiding beginnings like scilicet omnibus | est, &c. In all these points Manilius is a little less strict than Ovid, e.g. (i. 35) et veneranda, (iii. 130) sic breviantur, (ii. 716) altribuuntur. He also follows Virgil in alliteration, which Ovid does not. They differ from Virgil in—(a) a much more sparing employment of elision. The reason of this is that elision marks the period of living growth; as soon as the language had become crystallised, each letter had its fixed force, the caprices of common pronunciation no longer influencing it; and although no correct writer places the unelided m before a vowel, yet the great rarity of elision not only of m but of long and even short vowels (except que) shows that the main object was to avoid it, if possible. The great frequency of elision in Virgil must be regarded as an archaism. (b) In a much lesser variety of rhythm. This is, perhaps, rather an artistic defect, but it is designed. Manilius, however, has verses which Virgil avoids, e.g. Delcetique sacerdotes (i. 47), probably as a reminiscence of Lucretius.
Imitations in language are very frequent. Propertius gives ah pereat! qui (i. 17, 13), from the Copa. Again, Sit licet et saxo patientior illa Sicano (i. 16, 29), from the Cyclopia saxa of Aeneid, i. 201; cum tamen (i. 1, 8) with the indic. as twice in Virgil; Umbria me genuit (i. 23, 9), perhaps from the Mantua me genuit of Virgil's epitaph. These might easily be added to. Ovid in the Metamorphoses has a vast number of imitations of which we select the most striking; Plebs habitat diversa locis (i. 193); Navigat, hic summa, &c. (i. 296); cf. Naviget, haec summa est, in the 4th Aeneid; similisque roganti (iii. 240), amarunt me quoque Nymphae (iii. 454); Arma manusque meae, mea, nate, potentia, dixit (v. 365); Heu quantum haec Niobe Niobe distabat ab illa (vi. 273); leti discrimine parvo (vi. 426);per nostri foedera lecti, perque deos supplex oro superosque neosque, Per si quid merui de te bene (vii. 852); maiorque videri (ix. 269). These striking resemblances, which are selected from hundreds of others, show how carefully he had studied him. Of all other poets I have noticed but two or three imitations in him, e.g. multi illum pueri, multae cupiere puellae (iii. 383), from Catullus; et merito, quid enim...? (ix. 585) from Propertius (i. 17). Manilius also imitates Virgil's language, e.g. acuit mortalia corda (i. 79), Acherunta movere (i. 93), molli cervice reflexus (i. 334), and his sentiments in omnia conando docilis solertia vicit (i. 95), compared with labor omnia vicit improbus: invictamque sub Hectore Troiam (i. 766), with decumum quos distulit Hector in annum of the Aeneid; cf. also iv. 122, and litora litoribus regnis contraria regna (iv. 814); cf. also iv. 28, 37.
NOTE II.—On the shortening of final o in Latin poetry.
The fact that in Latin the accent was generally thrown back caused a strong tendency to shorten long final vowels. The one that resisted this tendency best was o, but this gradually became shortened as poetry advanced, and is one of the very few instances of a departure from the standard of quantity as determined by Ennius. There is one instance even in him: Horrida Romuleum certamina pango duellum. The words ego and modo, which from their frequent use are often shortened in the comedians, are generally long in Ennius; Lucretius uses them as common, but retains homo, which after him does not appear. Catullus has one short o, Virro (89, 1), but this is a proper name. Virgil has sci0 (Aen. iii. 602), but ego, homo, when in the arsis, are always elided, e.g. Pulsus ego? aut; Graius homo, infectos. Spondeowhich used to be read (Aen. ix, 294), is now changed to sponde. Pollio is elided by Virgil, shortened by Horace (O. II. i. 14). He also has mentio and dixero in the Satires (I. iv. 93, 104). A line by Maecenas, quoted in Suetonius, has diligo. Ovid has cito, puto (Am. iii. vii. 2), but only in such short words; in nouns, Naso often, origo, virgo, once each. Tibullus and Propertius are stricter in this respect, though Propertius has findo (iii. or iv. 8 or 9, 35); Manilius has leo, Virgo (i. 266), Lucan Virgo (ii. 329), pulmo (iii. 644), and a few others. Gratius first gives the imperative reponito (Cyn. 56); Calpurnius, in the the time of Nero, the false quantities quando ambo, the latter (ix. 17) perhaps in a spurious eclogue; so expecto. In Statius no new licenses appear. Juvenal, however, gives vigilando (iii. 232), an improper quantity repeated by Seneca (Tro. 264) vincendo, Nemesianus (viii. 53) mulcendo, (ix. 80), laudano. Juvenal gives also sumito, octo, ergo. The dat. and abl. sing. are the only terminations that were not affected. We see the gradual deterioration of quantity, and are not surprised that even before the time of Claudian a strict knowledge of it was confined to the most learned poets.
NOTE III.—On parallelism in Virgil's poetry.
There is a very frequent feature in Virgil's poetry which we may compare to the parallelism well known as the chief characteristic of Hebrew verse. In that language the poet takes a thought and either repeats it, or varies it, or explains it, or gives its antithesis in a corresponding clause, as evenly as may be balancing the first. As examples we may take—
(1) A mere iteration:
“Why do the nations so furiously rage together?
And why do the people imagine a vain thing?”
“A wise son maketh a glad father:
But a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.”
This somewhat rude idea of ornament is drawn no doubt from the simplest attempts to speak with passion or emphasis, which naturally turned to iteration or repetition as the obvious means of gaining the effect. Roman poetry, as we have already said, rests upon a primitive and rude basis, the Greek methods of composition being applied to an art arrested before its growth was complete. The fondness for repetition is very prominent. Phrases like somno gravidi vinoque sepulti; indu foro lato, sanctoque senatu, occur commonly in Ennius; and the trick of composition of which they are the simplest instances, is perpetuated throughout Roman poetry. It is in reality rather rhetorical than poetical, and abounds in Cicero. It scarcely occurs in Greek poetry, but is very common in Virgil, e.g. :
“Ambo florentes aetatibus, Arcades ambo,
Et cantare pares, et respondere parati.”
Similar to this is the introduction of corresponding clauses by the same initial word, e.g. ille (Ecl. i. 17):
“Namque erit ille mihi semper deus: illius aram
Saepe tener nostris ab ovilibus imbuet agnus.
Ille meas errare boves...”
Instances of this construction will occur to every reader. Frequently the first half of the hexameter expresses a thought obscurely which is expressed clearly in the latter half, or vice versa, e.g. (G. iv. 103):
“At quum incerta volant, caeloque examina ludunt.”
Again (Aen. iv. 368):
“Nam quid dissimulo, aut quae me ad maiora reservo?”
at times this parallelism is very useful as helping us to find out the poet's meaning, e.g. (Aen. ii. 121):
“Cui fata parent, quem poseat Apollo.”
Here interpretations vary between fata, n. to parent, and acc. after it. But the parallelism decides at once in favour of the former “for whom the fates are making preparations; whom Apollo demands.” To take another instance (Aen. i. 395):
“Nunc terras ordine longo
Aut capere, aut captas, iam despectare videntur.”
This passage is explained by its parallelism with another a little further on (v. 400):
“Puppesque tuae plebesque tuorum
Aut portum tenet aut pleno subit ostia velo.”
Here the word capere is fixed to mean “settling on the ground” by the words portum tenet. Once more in Aen. xii. 725:
“Quem damnet labor, aut quo vergat pondere letum,”
the difficulty is solved both by the iteration in the line itself, by which damnet labor = vergat letum; and also by its close parallelism with another (v. 717), which is meant to illustrate it:
Quis nemori imperitet quem tota armenta sequantur.”
This feature in Virgil's verse, which might be illustrated at far greater length, reappears under another form in the Ovidian elegiac. There the pentameter answers to the second half of Virgil's hexameter verse, and rings the changes on the line that has preceded in a very similar way. A literature which loves the balanced clauses of rhetoric will be sure to have something analogous. Our own heroic couplet is a case in point. So perhaps is the invention of rhyme which tends to confine the thought within the oscillating limits of a refrain, and that of the stanza, which shows the same process in a much higher stage of complexity.
NOTE IV.—On the Legends connected with Virgil.
Side by side with the historical account of this poet is a mythical one which, even within the early post-classical period, began to gain credence. The reasons of it are to be sought not so much in his poetical genius as in the almost ascetic purity of his life, which surrounded him with a halo of mysterious sanctity. Prodigies are said, in the lives that have come down to us, to have happened at his birth; his mother dreamt she gave birth to a laurel-branch, which grew apace until it filled the country. A poplar planted at his birth suddenly grew into a stately tree. The infant never cried, and was noted for the preternatural sweetness of its temper. When at Naples he is said to have studied medicine, and cured Augustus's horses of a severe ailment. Augustus ordered him a daily allowance of bread, which was doubled on a second instance of his chirurgical knowledge, and trebled on his detecting the true ancestry of a rare Spanish hound! Credited with supernatural knowledge, though he never pretended to it, he was consulted privately by Augustus as to his own legitimacy. By the cautious dexterity of his answer, he so pleased the emperor that he at once recommended him to Pollio as a person to be well rewarded. The mixture of fable and history here is easily observed. The custom of making pilgrimages to his tomb, and in the case of Silius Italicus (and doubtless others too), of honouring it with sacrifices, seems to have produced the belief that he was a great magician. Even as early as Hadrian the Sortes Virgilianae were consulted from an idea that there was a sanctity about the pages of his book; and, as is well known, this superstitious custom was continued until comparatively modern times.
Meanwhile plays were represented from his works, and amid the general decay of all clear knowledge a confused idea sprung up that these stories were inspired by supernatural wisdom. The supposed connection of the fourth Eclogue with the Sibylline Books, and through them, with the sacred wisdom of the Hebrews, of course placed Virgil on a different level from other heathens. The old hymn, “Dies irae dies illa Solvet saeclum cum favilla Teste David cum Sibylla,” shows that as early as the eighth century the Sibyl was well established as one of the prophetic witnesses; and the poet, from the indulgence of an obscure style, reaped the great reward of being regarded almost as a saint for several centuries of Christendom. Dante calls him Virtu summa, just as ages before Justinian had spoken of Homer as pater omnis virtutis. But before Dante's time the real Virgil had been completely lost in the ideal and mystic poet whose works were regarded as wholly allegorical.
The conception of Virgil as a magician as distinct from an inspired sage is no doubt a popular one independent of literature, and had originally a local origin near Naples where his tomb was. Foreign visitors disseminated the legend, adding striking features, which in time developed almost an entire literature.
In the Otia Imperialia of Gervasius of Tilbury, we see this belief in formation; the main point in that work is that he is the protector of Naples, defending it by various contrivances from war or pestilence. He was familiarly spoken of among the Neapolitans as Parthenias, in allusion to his chastity. It was probably in the thirteenth century that the connection of Virgil with the Sibyl was first systematically taught, and the legends connected with him collected into one focus. They will be found treated fully in Professor Comparetti's work. We append here a very short passage from the Gesta Romanorum (p. 590), showing the necromantic character which surrounded him:—
“Refert Alexander Philosophus de natura rerum, quod Vergilius in civitate Romana nobile construxit palatium, in cuius medio palatii stabat imago, quae Dea Romana vocabatur. Tenebat enim pomum aureum in manu sua. Per circulum palatii erant imagines cuiuslibet regionis, quae subiectae erant Romano imperio, et quaelibet imago campanam ligneam in manu sua habebat. Cum vero aliqua regio nitebatur Romanis insidias aliquas imponere, statim imago eiusdem regionis campanam suam pulsavit, et miles exivit in equo aeneo in summitate predicti palatii, hastam vibravit, et predictam regionem inspexit. Et ab instanti Romani hoc videntes se armaverunt et predictam regionem expugnaverunt.
“Ista civitas est Corpus Humanum: quinque portae sunt quinque Sensus: Palatium est Anima rationalis, et aureum pomum Similitudo cum Deo. Tria regna inimica sunt Caro, Mundus, Diabolus, et eius imago Cupiditas, Voluptas, Superbia.”
The above is a good instance both of the supernatural powers attributed to the poet, and the supernatural interpretation put upon his supposed exercise of them. This curious mythology lasted throughout the fourteenth century, was vehemently opposed in the fifteenth by the partisans of enlightened learning, and had not quite died out by the middle of the sixteenth.