« IndietroContinua »
MEL. TITYRE, tu patulæ recubans sub tegmine fagi
Tityre, tu patula, &c.] After the battle of Philippi, wherein Brutus and Cassius were overthrown by Augustus Cæsar and Mark Anthony, in the year of Rome 712, Augustus returned to Italy, in order to reward the soldiers, by dividing among them the lands belonging to several cities. But these not being sufficient to satisfy the avarice of the soldiers, they frequently transgressed the bounds assigned them, and seized on the lands belonging to the neighbouring cities. These injuries caused the inhabitants, both old and young, to flock in great numbers to Rome, to seek for redress. We may gather, from a passage in the ninth eclogue, that Cremona was one of the cities given to the soldiers, and that Mantua, happening to be situated near Cremona, the inhabitants of that territory were involved in the calamity of their unhappy neighbours. It is said
that, among the rest, Virgil, being dispossessed of his estate, went to Rome, where being presented to Augustus, he was graciously received, and restored to his possessions. It is reasonable to think, that some of his neighbours, if not all, obtained the same favour though the commentators seem almost unanimous in representing Virgil as the only Mantuan that met with such good fortune. This is the subject of the first eclogue. The poet introduces two shepherds under the feigned names of Melibous and Tityrus; of whom the former represents the unhappy Mantuans, and the latter those who were restored to their estates: or perhaps Tityrus may be intended to represent Mantua, and Melibus Cremona. Melibœus begins the dialogue with setting forth the miseries of himself and his neighbours.
Tityre.] La Cerda produces
Sylvestrem tenui Musam meditaris avena;
Nos patriæ fines, et dulcia linquimus arva;
Nos patriam fugimus: tu, Tityre, lentus in umbra
three reasons, why the name of
I have already said, that the commentators generally agree, that the poet intended to describe himself under the feigned name of Tityrus. But to this opinion think some material objections may be opposed. The poet represents his Tityrus as an old man. In ver. 29, he mentions his beard being grey. In ver. 47, Melibus expressly calls Tityrus an old man, fortunate senex, which words are repeated in ver. 52. Now Virgil could not call himself an old man, being under thirty when
he wrote this eclogue, in which he calls Augustus juvenis, who was but seven years younger than himself: and at the end of the Georgicks he tells us expressly that he wrote it in his youth.
Fagi.] La Cerda contends, that the fagus is not a beech, but a sort of oak or esculus; and quotes several authorities to support his opinion. This mistake has arisen from an imagination that the fagus is the same with the phyos of the Greek writers, which is, indeed, a sort of oak. But the description which Pliny gives of the fagus, can agree with no other tree than that which we call a beech.
Fagi glans nuclei similis, triangula cute includitur. Folium tenue, ac levissimum, populo simile."
Meditaris avena.] This verb, in its application to a musical instrument, means to practise, to play the same tune, or part of the same tune, over and over. "The musical instruments used by shepherds were at first made of oat and wheat-straw; then of reeds, and hollow pipes of
Amaryllida.] Those who understand this eclogue in an allegorical sense, will have Amaryllis
TIT. O Meliboe, deus nobis hæc otia fecit; Namque erit ille mihi semper deus: illius aram Sæpe tener nostris ab ovilibus imbuet agnus. Ille meas errare boves, ut cernis, et ipsum Ludere, quæ vellem, calamo permisit agresti.
MEL. Non equidem invideo, miror magis: undique totis
Usque adeo turbatur agris. En, ipse capellas
Protinus æger ago: hanc etiam vix, Tityre, duco.
to mean Rome. See the note avoid ambiguity, I have trans
on ver. 31.
O Melibae, &c.] Tityrus informs his neighbour, that his felicity is derived from a god, complimenting Augustus with that name.
Otia.] Servius interprets it security or felicity. La Cerda will have it to mean liberty. Ruæus renders it quies. Lord Lauderdale translates it, this soft retirement; Dryden, these blessings; and Dr. Trapp, this freedom. In the fifth eclogue, our poet uses otia for peace or ease.
Namque erit ille mihi semper deus.] It was a common opinion among the ancients, that doing good elevated men to divinity. Tityrus, therefore, having received so great a benefit from Augustus, declares that he shall always esteem him as a god. If divine honours had then been ascribed to Augustus, the poet would not have mentioned him as a deity peculiar to himself; erit ille mihi semper deus.
Errare.] Id est, pasci, says Servius. It is certain, that by errare the poet cannot mean to wander or stray, in one sense of the word, which signifies to go astray, or be lost. Therefore, to
lated it to feed at large, which is the true meaning of the word.
Non equidem invideo, &c.] Melibus, apprehending that Tityrus might imagine he envied his good fortune, assures him that he does not, but only wonders at his enjoying peace in the midst of the greatest confusions and disturbances, and concludes with enquiring who that god is from whom his tranquillity is de
Duco.] La Cerda would have us understand duco in this place to mean carrying on the shoulders. To confirm this interpre. tation, he quotes several authors, who mention the shepherd's taking up the sheep on his shoulders. But all, or most of them, are christians, and allude to the parable of the good shepherd in the gospel; which only shews the frequency of this custom. However, not even one of these uses duco to express carrying on the shoulders. certainly signifies, to lead or draw. In the first sense, it is used in the second Georgick, ver. 395, and in the latter sense in many places.
Hic inter densas corylos modo namque gemellos,
Sed tamen, iste deus qui sit, da, Tityre, nobis.
TIT. Urbem, quam dicunt Romam, Melibœe, putavi 20 Stultus ego huic nostræ similem, quo sæpe solemus Pastores ovium teneros depellere fœtus.
Sic canibus catulos similes, sic matribus hodos
Lava.] Servius interprets it stulta, contraria.
Urbem, quam dicunt, &c.] Tityrus, instead of answering directly who the deity is, deviates with a pastoral simplicity into a description of Rome.
Huic nostra.] Mantua, near which Virgil was born.
Sic canibus, &c.] "He means that Rome differs from other cities, not only in magnitude, but also in kind, being, as it were, another world, or a sort of heaven, in which he saw the god Cæsar. For in comparing a whelp to a dog, or a kid to a goat, we only express the difference of magnitude, not of kind. But, when we say a lion is bigger than a dog, we express the difference of kind, as well as of magnitude, as the poet does now in speaking of Rome. I thought before, says he, that Rome was to be compared with other ci
ties, just as a kid is to be compared with its dam: for though it was greater, yet I took it to be only a city: but now I find, that it differs also in kind: for it is a mansion of deities. That this is his meaning, is plain from
Quantum lenta solent inter
For the wayfaring-tree is a low shrub; but the cypress is a tall and stately tree." Servius.
Lenta -viburna.] The viburnum or wayfaring-tree is a shrub with bending, tough branches, which are therefore much used in binding faggots. The name is derived a viendo, which signifies to bind. The ancient writers seem to have called any shrub, that was fit for this purpose, viburnum: but the more modern authors have restrained that name to express only our wayfaring-tree.