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terminating in Augustus ; the Romans if they would obey the Gods, and be masters of the world, were to yield obedience to the new establishment, under that prince. As odd a scheme as this

may seem now, it is scarce so odd as that of some people among us, who persuaded themselves that an absolute obedience was owing to our kings; on their 13 supposed descent from some unknown patriarch. And yet that had its effect with many about a century ago, and seems not to have quite lost all its influence, even in our remembrance. However that be, I think it appears plain enough, that the two great points aimed at by Virgil in his Aeneid, were to maintain their old religious tenets, and to support the new form of government, in the family of the Caesars. That poem, therefore, may very well be considered as a religious and political work: or rather (as the vulgar religion with them was scarce any thing more than an engine of state) it may fairly enough be considered as a work merely political.

If this was the case, Virgil was not so highly encouraged by Augustus and Maecenas for nothing. To speak a little more plainly; he wrote in the service of the new usurpation, on the state; and all that can be offered in vindication of him in this light is, that the usurper he wrote for was grown a tame one; and that the temper and bent of their constitution at that time was such, that the reins of government must have fallen into the hands of some one person or another; and might, probably, on any new revolution, have fallen into the hands of some one less mild and indulgent than Augustus was at the time when Virgil wrote this poem in his service. But whatever may be said of his reasons for writing it, the poem itself has been highly applauded in all ages, from its first appearance to this day; and though left " unfinished by its author, has been always


13 See Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarchal scheme; with Mr. Locke's confutation of it.

proof of it is the many breaks, or hemistichs in the poem itself; a thing never done in any finished poem by any other Roman poet of his time; nor by Virgil himself in any of his other poems, which were finished

14 Though this is mentioned by several ancient writers, I think the plainest

reckoned as much superior to all the other epic poems among the Romans, as Homer's is among the Greeks. It preserves more to us of the religion of the Romans, than all the other Latin poems (excepting only Ovid) put together: and gives us the forms and appearances of their deities as strongly as if we had so many pictures of them preserved to us, done by some of the best hands in the Augustan age. It is remarkable that he is commended by some of the antients themselves, for the strongth of his imagination is as to this particular; though, in general that is not his character, so much as exactness. He was certainly the most correct poet, even of his time; in which all false thoughts and idle ornaments in writing were discouraged: and it is as certain, that there is but little of invention in his Aeneid; much less, I believe, than is generally imagined. Almost all the little facts in it are built on history; and even as to the particular lines, no one perhaps ever 19 borrowed more from the poets that preceded him, than he did. He goes so far back as to old Ennius; and often inserts whole verses, from him, and some other of their earliest writers. The obsoleteness

NOTES. 15 Magna mentis opus

Diriguere oculi. Tot Erinnys sibilat -Currus et equos,faciesque Deorum, hydris ; Aspicere; et qualis Rutulum confun- Tantaque se facies aperit! Tum flama dat Erinnys.

mea torquens Nam si Virgilio puer et tolerabile desit Lumina, cunctantem et quaerentem Hospitium, caderent omnes a crinibus dicere plura hydri.

Reppulit; et geminos erexit crinibus Surda nihil gemeret grave buccina.

angues; Juvenal. Sat. 7, v. 71. Verberaque insonuit Juvenal on this occasion points to

Aen. 7. v. 451. the very noblest efforts of imagination that Virgil has shewn in his whole

And the last, as evidently, of this: poem; and it is remarkable that they

At Saeva, all relate to their deities. Currus et equos, may refer to that terrible de

pressere ad pectora natos.

Aen. 7. v. 518-525. scription of Mars in his chariot, Aen. 12. v. 332, or that mild one of Neptune, 16 There are several even of the miAen. 1, v. 127, 146, and 155, as facies nutest passages in the Aeneid, (such as Deorum, to that noble passage, in the Ascanius' jest, and the like) which apdescription of Troy sinking in its flames. pear to have been traditional and hisAen. 2. v, 623-636. torical, to any one that has read Diony

sius Halicarnasseus. The next words are evidently spoken of this passage in the 7th Aeneid :

•17 This appears from Macrobius, and Talibus Alecto dictis exarsit in iras.

the other collectors of Virgil's imitaAt juveni oranti subitus trenior occu- tions of Homer, &c.

pat artus:

of their style did not hinder him much in this : for he is particular lover of their old language;'and no doubt inserted many more antiquated words in his poem, than we can discover at present. J Judgment is his distinguishing character; and his great excellence consisted in choosing and ranging things aright. Whatever he borrowed, he had the skill of making his own, by weaving it so well into his work, that it looks all of a piece; even those parts of his poem, where this may be most practised, , resembling a fine piece of Mosaic; in which all the parts, though of such different marbles, united together; and the various shades and colours are so artfully disposed, as to melt off insensibly into one another.

was a

NOTES. 18 Unde pictaï vestis, et aquaï, Vir- et ipsum, et Virgilium quoque scripsisse, gilius amantissimus vetustatis carmini- manus eorum docent, ib. p. 71. And bus inseruit. Quintilian. Instit. Or. L. others have been mistaken by the crii. c. 7. p. 70. Ed. Hack. 1665.—A tics. Thus, for instance, they say Virgil great many of these old words in Vir- uses fervere short, Aen. 8. v. 677, that gil have probably been altered by the the sound may agree more with the transcribers. Quid quod Ciceronis tem- sense of the word; whereas the true poribus, paulumque infra, fere quoties reason was his imitating the practice of S. litera media vocalium longarum, vel the ancients; who, as we learn from the subjecta longis esset, geminabatur? ut same author, used fervo and ferveo incaussa, cassus, divissiones. Quo modo differently. Ib. L. i. c. 6. p. 57.

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