« السابقةمتابعة »
story he thought proper, I answer, that to represent the Trojans so void of acumen as to credit an unlikely, ambiguous, and, above all, a contradictory story, is to diminish our respect for, and sympathy with, not only the Trojans, but Eneas himself, and thus to contradict the whole scope and design of the poem. And further, I think that the more carefully the story is examined, the more evident does it appear, that Virgil has taken the greatest and most successful pains to fabricate a story for Sinon, which is so consistent with itself, and so extremely like the truth, that it was hardly possible for the Trojans not to be deceived by it. With the strictest observance of the well-known fact, that a scene (whether of things or persons,) from which we have been long absent, presents itself to our minds exactly as we were accustomed to see it, and not as it exists now, changed by the time which has since elapsed, Virgil represents the picture present in Sinon's mind, to be that of the children, children as he left them so many years ago, and not that of the children now grown up to be adults. As a further argument in favour of the above interpretation, I may observe, that it relieves the passage from the manifest awkwardness of the non-mention of Sinon's wife, or of his ever having been married. In the parallel passage, quoted by Ursini (Virg. collat. cum Græcis scriptoribus,) from Lucretius, in which gnati has the meaning attempted to be fixed on it in the passage before us, there is no such awkwardness, mention being made of the wife along with the children— “Nam jam non domus accipiet te lacta, neque uxor Optima, nec dulces occurrent oscula gnati Praeripere, et tacitā pectus dulcedine tangent.” Lucr. III. 907. W. 149. Mihique ha-c edissere.—Que connects edissere, not to its unlike, eris; but to its like, obliviscere. The semicolon, therefore, which the editors have placed at Graios, should have been placed at eris ; and the comma which they have placed at eris, should have been at Graios. V. 155. Vos arae ensesque nefandi.-“Neque ullis adpetitus insidiis est, neque devotus hostiae; denique sic de omnibus jurat, ut, per ea quae non fuerunt dans sacramentum, careat objurgatore.”—Antiq. Interpr. See the similarly equivocating oath of Andromache; Seneca, Troad. 604. W. 157. Fas mihi.-The subsequent teneor points out the structure; fas est, not fas sit; i. e. Testor fas mihi esse . . . . . et me teneri. V. 169. Fluere ac retro sublapsa referri.--" Fluere; diffluere, dilabi ; retro sublapsa referri ; pro prosaico, retro ferri, labi ; de mole quae in altum erat invecta.”—Heyne. Both explanations wrong, because no example has been, nor I think can be, produced of fluere used in the sense of diffluere, dilabi; or otherwise than as signifying to flow like the water in a river; and because retro sublapsa referri, where it occurs before, (Georg. I. 200,) is thus explained by Heyne himself: “Non aliter quam is retro sublapsus refertur qui navigium agit atque illum in praeceps prono rapitalveus amni;” an explanation which, even although it had not been, almost totidem verbis, Virgil's own, would have been established beyond the possibility of doubt by the nearly parallel passage of Lucretius, IV. 422.
“Denique ubi in medio nobis equus acer obhaesit
V. 199. Hic aliud, &c.—This prodigy is not merely ominous, but typical, of the destruction about to come upon Troy. The twin serpents prefigure the Grecian armament; which, like them, comes from Tenedos, (where, as must not be forgotten, it is lying concealed at the very moment of the prodigy); like them, crosses the tranquil deep; like them, lands; and, going up straight (probably over the very same ground,) to the city, slaughters the surprised and unresisting Trojans, (prefigured by Laocoon's sons,) and overturns the religion and drives out the Gods (prefigured by the priest Laocoon.) Even in the most minute particulars the type is perfect: the serpents come abreast towards the shore, like ships sailing together; (Argiva phalana, instructis navibus ibat......... Littora.........petens;) with flaming eyes raised above the waves, by the whole length of the neck and breast, (flammas quum regia puppis Eatulerat; ) and with the hinder part floating and curling along on the surface of the water (the hinder vessels of the fleet following the lead of the foremost ; ) and, when their work is done, (the Trojans slaughtered, or, with their Gods, driven out of the city, ) take possession of the citadel, under the protection of Pallas (Jam summas arces Tritonia, respice, Pallas Insedit, &c.) V. 204. Horresco referens.—This interjection is not placed indifferently any where in the middle of the sentence, but in its most natural and effective position, after the words gemini a Tenedo tranquilla per alta, excitatory of expectation; and immediately before immensis orbibus angues, expressive of the actual horrid object. The weaker effect which it would have had, if placed at a greater distance before immensis orbibus angues, is shown by Dryden's translation—
“When, dreadful to behold, from sea we spied
And the still weaker, which it would have had, if placed after,
Which plied towards the shore (I loathe to tell)
W. 206. Pectora quorum, &c.
“Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate,
W. 209. Fit somitus spumante salo.—The translators, who represent the sound made by the foaming of the brine to have been loud, err doubly; 1st, in not understanding that somitus, without an adjunct expressive of loudness, is not a loud sound, but simply a sound, (see II. 732; Georg. Iv. 79; &c.); and 2dly, in not perceiving that propriety of description requires that the sound of foam should not be represented as loud. Dryden, as usual, errs most—
“Their speckled tails advance to steer their course,
I know but one translated passage, (not Dryden's own,) which can at all vie with this in incorrectness; it is where Pope, instead of describing Jupiter as seizing Ate by the shining-curled head, in order to fling her from heaven, describes him as snatching her from the top of his own head—
“From his ambrosial head, where perched she sate,
V. 209.” Arva. There is no occasion to suppose, with Heyne, that arva is used “pro littore,” because, interpreted literally, it affords a better meaning, viz., the fields, or cultivated plain inside the beach, where it is probable the solennis ara stood, at such a distance from the actual shore as to be in no danger from the violence of the sea during stormy weather. Compare Pelago premit arva sonanti, En. I. 246, and comment. W. 213--216. Primum . . . . Post.—There is a most material discrepancy between the account given by Virgil, and the view presented by the sculptor, of the death of Laocoon and his two sons. According to the former, the serpents first (primum) kill the two sons, and afterwards (post) seize (corripiunt) the father, subeuntem ac tela ferentem, and kill him also; while, according to the latter, the serpents are twined about and kill the father and the two sons simultaneously. Virgil's is the more natural and probable account, because it was more easy for the serpents to conquer Laocoon's powerful strength, (see II. 50,) with the whole of their united force and folds, than with such part only of their force and folds as was not employed upon the sons. There is even some difficulty in understanding (nor does an examination of the sculpture tend much to diminish the difficulty,) how two serpents, already twined about, and encumbered with the bodies of two persons, even although those bodies were small (parva), could seize, and squeeze to death, a third person, possessed of more than ordinary strength, and armed. The sculptor, if he had had the choice, would doubtless, no less than the poet, have represented the killing of Laocoon to have been subsequent to the killing of the sons; but his art failed him ; sculpture could not represent successive acts ; the chisel could fix no more than a single instant of fleeting time: driven, therefore, by necessity, he places the three persons simultaneously in the folds of the serpents, and his (so much admired) group becomes, in consequence, complicated and almost incomprehensible, and appears in the most disadvantageous contrast with the simple and natural narrative of Virgil. Such is the infinite inferiority of sculpture (and of painting) to poetry. The sculptor (or painter) labours day and night,
and for years together, on one object; and, in the end, his work, representing but an instant of time, fails to present to the mind as many ideas as the poet supplies in half a dozen lines, the work perhaps of half an hour. V. 217. Spiris.-Spirae are not merely coils, but spiral coils; tending upwards, like those of a corkscrew held point-upward. See Georg. II. 153, 154; where Virgil informs us, almost in express terms, that a snake is in orbs (orbes,) while coiled upon the ground, but in spires (spirae,) when he raises himself with a motion twisting upwards. The same distinction is observable in the passage before us, where the serpents are said to be in orbs while on the water, and in spires when folded round Laocoon. A right understanding of this word is the more necessary, because it is the only word in the description, except superant capite et cervicibus altis, which shows that the poet so far agrees with the sculptor, as to represent Laocoon and the serpents twined about him as forming an erect group. With a similar correct precision, our own Milton applies the term spires to the coils of the serpent when erect, or raised wbright. “Not with indented wave Prone on the ground, as since, but on his rear. With burnished neck of verdant gold, erect Amidst his circling spires."—Par. Lost, Ix. 496. V. 223. Quales mugitus, &c. “Qual' e quel toro che si slaccia in quella Ch'ha ricevuto già 'l colpo mortale, Che gir non sa, ma qua e la saltella, Wid' io lo Minotauro far cotale;”
Dante Inferno, XII. 22. “Non altrimenti il toro va saltando Qualora il mortal colpo ha ricevuto, E dentro la foresta alto mugghiando Ricerca il cacciator che l’ ha feruto.” Boccaccio, in Filostrato. W. 230. Sacrum qui cuspide robur Laserit et tergo sceleratum intorserit hastam. “Is it he? quoth one. Is this the man? By him who died on cross, With his cruel bow he laid full low The harmless albatross.” CoLERIDGE, Ancient Mariner.