« السابقةمتابعة »
been given by an historian, or laid before a directory by a commander-in-chief. On the contrary, it is to be borne carefully in mind, that, Homer's subject being the misfortunes brought by the wrath of Achilles upon the army besieging Troy, that poet could scarcely have given too particular or strategical an account of all that happened before the Trojan walls; while, Virgil's subject being the adventures and fortunes of one man, (as sufficiently evidenced by the very title and exordium of his work,) the taking of Troy was to be treated of, only so far as connected with the personal history of that hero. Virgil, therefore, with his usual judgment, introduces the taking of Troy, not as a part of the action of his poem, but as an episode; and, still more effectually to prevent the attention from being too much drawn away from his hero, and too much fixed upon that great and spirit-stirring event, puts the account of it into the mouth of the hero himself, whom, with the most wonderful art, he represents either as a spectator or actor in so many of the incidents of that memorable night, that on the one hand the account of those incidents is the history of the adventures of his hero, and on the other, the adventures of his hero form a rapid précis of the taking of Troy. Even if it had been otherwise consistent with the plan of the Eneis to have given a full and complete account of the taking of Troy, and to have described, for instance, (as required by Napoleon,) how the other Trojan chiefs, signalised in the Iliad, were occupied during that fatal night, and how each defended his own quarter of the city with the troops under his command, such a full account must necessarily, either have rendered Eneas's narrative too long to have been delivered inter mensas laticemgue Lyaeum ; or, to make room for that additional matter, some part of the present story should have been left out; and then, I ask, which of the incidents would the reader be satisfied should have been omitted ?–that of Laocoon, the unceasing theme and admiration of all ages, that shuddering picture of a religious prodigy —that of Sinon, on which the whole plot hangs 2—that of the vision, of the inimitable Tempus erat, the maestissimus Hector 2—that of the Priameian priestess, Ad caelum tendens ardentia lumina frustra, Lumina nam teneras arcebant vincula palmas 2—that of Neoptolemus blazing in burnished brass, Qualis ubi in lucem coluber 2—or Hecuba and her daughters flying to the sheltering altar, Pracipites atrá cell tempestate columbae 2—or the good old king, cased in the longunused armour, and slipping and slain in his Polites' blood?— or Venus staying her son's hand, lifted in vengeance against the fatal spring of all these sorrows 7–or the innoxious flame which, playing about the temples of Iulus, foreshowed him the father of a line of kings 7–or the ter frustra comprensa imago of the for ever lost Creusa 2 Which of all these passages should have been omitted, to make room for the additional matter required by the imperial critic 2 What reader will consent to give up one, even one, of these most precious pearls, these conspicuous stars in, perhaps, the most brilliant coronet that ever graced a poet's brow 3 And even if the reader's assent were gained; if he were content with less of Eneas, and more of the other Homeric Trojans; with less of the romance, and more of the art, of war; would such an account have been equally interesting to the assembled guests and the love-caught queen 2 How coldly would a story in which Eneas played a subordinate part have fallen upon Dido's ear? How would not her thought have wandered from the thing told, to the teller 2 There was but one way to guard against the double danger, that Dido would forget the story in thinking of Eneas, and that the reader would forget Eneas in thinking of the story; and Virgil adopted that way—he made Eneas speak of himself— quaeque ipse miserrima widi, Et quorum pars magna fui. With what effect he spoke, we learn in the beginning of the fourth book—haerent infiri pectore vultus Verbaque, and Dido herself testifies; Heu, quibus ille Jactatus fatis / quae bella exhausta canebat / Or, in the words of another great master of the human heart, L
“His story being done,
But let us suppose that the modern commander is right, and the great ancient poet and philosopher wrong: that the error lies not in Napoleon's total misconception, not only of Virgil's general scope and design, but of his meaning in the plainest passages, (as, for instance, in the account of the situation of Anchises’ house, and of the number of men contained in the horse); let us suppose, I say, that the error lies not in Napoleon's misconception of the poet, but in the poet's ignorance of heroic warfare; and that the episode does, indeed, sin against military tactique; (but see note, v. 604); yet where, in the whole compass of poetry, is there such another episode? So many heart-stirring incidents grouped together, representing in one vivid picture the fall of the most celebrated city in the world, and at the same time, and pari passu, the fortunes of one of the most famous heroes of all antiquity, the son of Venus, the ancestor of Augustus, the first founder of Imperial Rome? spoken, too, by the hero himself, at a magnificent banquet, and in presence not only of the princes of his own nation, (the partners of his sufferings, and the witnesses of the truth of all he related,) but of the whole Carthaginian court, and at the request of the young and artless queen, who, already admiring his god-like person and beauty, lost her heart more and more at every word he uttered; at every turn of griefs, which, “— so lively shown, Made her think upon her own.” Alas, alas, for the cold-blooded criticism which could detect, or, having detected, could dwell upon, errors of military tactique in this flood of living poetry; which would chain the poet with the fetters of the historian; which, frigid and unmoved, could occupy itself with the observation of cracks and flaws in the scenic plaster, while the most magnificent drama ever presented to enraptured audience was being enacted V. 13. Incipiam.—I may perhaps be accused of drawing too nice a distinction, yet I am inclined to think that incipiam here means not to begin, but to undertake or take in hand;— 1st, Because although it might, strictly speaking, be quite correct for Virgil, having just stated (v. 2) that Eneas began to speak (orsus) with the words Infandum, regina, jubes, &c., to cause Eneas almost instantly afterwards to say that he began his story with the words Fracti bello, &c.; yet it would be highly unpoetical, and evince a barrenness of thought and expression, quite foreign to Virgil. 2dly, Because it is evidently the intention of Eneas not merely to begin, but briefly to tell the whole story.
3dly, Because the very word begin involves the idea of a long story, and thus, however true in point of fact, contradicts the intention expressed by breviter (v. 11). I, therefore, understand incipiam to be here used (as in En. x. 876,) in its primary and etymological meaning of undertaking, taking in hand, [in capio); so understood, it harmonises with orsus, with Eneas's intention of telling the whole story, with breviter, and with the immediately preceding words, Guanquam animus meminisse horret, &c. Compare Disserere incipiam, Lucr. I. 50; not begin or commence, but undertake, take in hand, to discuss.-That our own English begin had originally and primarily a similar signification, and meant not to commence, but to undertake, appears both from its German origin (viz. Beginnen, to undertake— “Er wiirde Freiheit mir und Leben kosten, Und sein verwegenes Beginnen nur Beschleunigen.”—Schiller, Die Piccolom. I. 3.); and from the use made of the term, not only by the earliest English writers, (“That Eneas bigan hys ofspring to Lumbardie first bring.” Robert of Gloucester), but by Milton, no mean part of the excellence of whose poetry consists in the frequent employment of ordinary and current terms in primitive and obsolete, and therefore extraordinary meanings: “If he aught begin, How frequent to desert him, and at last To heap ingratitude on worthiest deeds.” Sams. Agon. 274.
W. 14. Tot jam labentibus annis.-The translators refer labentibus to the dim and faded past, instead of the vivid and continuing present; for instance, Surrey:
“All irked with the war,
Yet the present and continuing force of labentibus is doubly evident; because the verb labor expresses a continuing action, and the present participle a continuing time. It is this continuing sense (observed, with his usual acumen, by Wagner, Quest. Wirg. XXIX. 1,) which constitutes the poetical beauty of the passage before us, as well as of Horace's exquisite
“Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume,
Dryden, according to his custom, blinks the meaning altogether. V. 15. Diviná Palladis arte.—Of the deities favourable to the Greeks, Pallas is, with peculiar propriety, selected to instruct or assist them in building the horse; because, in the heathen mythology, every work of remarkable ingenuity (e. g. the building of the ship Argo, Valer. Flacc. Argon. L. I. ; the construction of the first flute, Mart. VIII. 51,) was ascribed to Pallas, as the inventress of the arts. W. 15. Instar montis equum.—Even in more modern times, cities have been sometimes taken by a similar artifice; for instance, Breda in Holland, in the year 1590, by means of soldiers concealed under turf in a turf-boat, and so introduced into the city; and Luna in Italy, by means of soldiers performing the part of mourners, priests, &c. at the pretended funeral of Hasting. “Le maitre cler cante l'office, Le eveque canta la messe, Des Paenz fu la turbe epesse,” &c.— Roman de Rou, 687.
W. 18. Huc delecta virum, &c.—Let not the too prosaic reader, interpreting this sentence according to its literal structure, suppose it to mean that, besides the delecta virum corpora, which were inclosed in the hollow sides of the horse, the vast caverns of its womb were filled with armed soldiers; or, in other words, that a considerable vacancy, remaining after the selected chiefs were inclosed, was filled up with a large body of common soldiers. On the contrary, the latter clause of the sentence is only explanatory of the former; armato milite informing us that the delecta virum corpora were armed warriors; cavernas Ingentes uterumque, that by coco lateri was meant the whole interior cavity, or chamber, of the statue; and complent, that the cavity was completely filled by the persons who were inclosed.
The correctness of this explanation cannot be doubted; 1st, Because it renders a passage, which, as commonly understood, is sufficiently prosaic and mediocre, highly poetical. 2dly, Because it is according to Virgil's usual habit (see comment. En.