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of the Augustan age. Lyrical poetry until modern days has not been fertile in landscape. Yet, to revert to the earlier period, Catullus (c. 87-c. 54 B.C.), beside that lovely Return to Sirmio which inspired Tennyson's lines already alluded to, and which may be said to unite perfect human feeling with perfect painting of nature, in an idyll has left us one admirable sea-piece, worthy of Venetian art in its brilliant colouring—
Zephyr with morning breath ruffling the calm sea drives the waves into slanting slopes, as dawn uprises to the threshold of the roving sun; smitten at first with gentle stroke, the waves slowly move onward, ripple and laugh as they softly plash; then as the gust increases, they too more and more come thicker one upon another, and as they sail far off reflect a brightness from the glowing light.1
The poetical gifts in which Catullus has found few rivals may be felt here; the exquisitely vivid pictorial treatment, the fresh first-hand rendering of the scene, the sincerity of vision, the seemingly effortless power.
Horace (65-8 B.C.), with an art even more perfect, does not always command this simplicity, this poetry of the "first "intention." His was truly a felicity of phrase, resting on supreme painstaking- curiosa, and with it, an undying charm, and a command over his readers, from century to century, not otherwise attainable. Horace, also, more maiorum, paints for us but few landscapes. Yet this was from no want of due love-far from it; it was his feeling, not less than Vergil's, that country life was essential to true poetical work. He has not Vergil's sympathy with Nature in her manifold life, nor with Lucretius in her gloom and magnificence. It is the landscape-largely yet not exclusively the landscape of cultivation endeared to his heart of hearts by intimacy and
1-flatu placidum mare matutino
horrificans Zephyrus proclivas incitat undas,
Epithal. Pel. et Thet. 269.
by possession, the natural pride of the freehold, that rule him. To the peace and beauty of the streams that flow by fruitful Tivoli, and the thick foliage of the groves, it is that he ascribes his distinction in Aeolian song.1 That love of Nature which is one of the greatest charms of his art may be said to be the condition of its existence.2
Horace condenses into one phrase the features of a whole landscape, as Autumn raising his head over the fields, adorned with mellow apples,3 or how a stream of pure water and a grove of a few acres and my never-disappointing harvest,* are enough for his happiness. Why choose wearisome wealth in exchange for my Sabine Valley ?5 So again of his beloved Tivoli : Founded by an Argive colony, he says, with a poet's feeling for the romance of antiquity, I pray this may be the abode of my old age; the last home for one tired of voyage and road and soldiership. . . . That corner of the world smiles to me beyond all others, where the honey equals Hymettus and the olive Venafrum with its greenery, where Jove grants a long Spring and mild Winter, and Mount Aulon, friendly to the fertile vine, has no reason to envy the grapes of Falernum.6
-quae Tibur aquae fertile praefluunt,
2 W. Y. Sellar, Horace and the Elegiac Poets (1892).
cum decorum mitibus pomis caput
purae rivus aquae silvaque iugerum
What an indescribable charm and fineness of touch has Horace put into these phrases! Those who cannot find the great poet in him should lay aside poetry; in Sappho's words, they have no share in the roses of Pieria.
6 Tibur Argeo positum colono
sit meae sedes utinam senectae,
ille terrarum mihi praeter omnis
I give the bare words; but the magical choice of each, the skill and beauty and music of the metre, the bloom and consecration of poetry, only the "happiness" of this great artist can render.
Often as the elegiac poets, Tibullus (c. 54-c. 18 B.C.), Propertius (c. 51-16 B.C.), Ovid (43 B.C.-18 A.D.), naturally deal with the country, their distinct landscape painting is rare and apt to run upon commonplace. Tibullus has indeed much amenity; his delight, as Horace said of him, was "to "stray in silence through the healthy woodland." But not less was his pleasure in trim garden and vineyard, united with cottagers and the peaceful life of the farm, and the thought of Delia the beloved underlying all.
In marked contrast with Tibullus and the poets of his period is the gloomy and powerful Propertius. The devouring passion of his life for a faithless woman seems to colour his whole mind. The fair landscape affords him no comfort or refuge; he flies to the desert, but only to pour forth his tears for Cynthia, not, like Lucretius, to adore Nature in her wild magnificence. He also dwells much after the common fashion of the ancients on the terrors and fury of the sea, as encountered in their clumsy vessels, and no compass to guide them. His was a great gift misused; Propertius, whether in his own life or poetry, failed to beat out his harmony; although, had his years been prolonged, the noble Elegy on Cornelia which concludes the book shows that he might have come not far below the peculiar Roman gravity and grandeur of Lucretius or Tacitus.
Ovid, amongst world-famous poets, perhaps the least true to the soul of poetry, has left us landscape description indeed, but commonly so artificialised that it recalls only the mannered and now lifeless mythological fashions of the later Italian Renaissance. It was "the beauty of colour rather than of form," Sellar notes, "that Ovid recognises."
ver ubi longum tepidasque praebet
Od. II, vi, 5.
was his fancy, the sensuous loveliness of Nature, wholly apart from its inner charm for mind or heart, was all that he could feel or reproduce. Even in the first book of the Metamorphoses -of all over-praised poems, it seems to me, over-praised the most -the romantic events of the new created world cannot lift him into any phrase of true feeling or picturesqueness. Even when Proserpina herself is seen gathering flowers with her comrade girls in Enna, nothing but a gardener's catalogue presents itself to Ovid's prosaic ingenuity; and Guido's one deeply inspired work, the justly famous Rospigliosi Aurora, owes nothing of its poetry to the verses which are supposed to have been the painter's text.
1 As poetry, that is. Ovid's immense profluence of varied tales, the magazine for Italian painters and sculptors during some two centuries, with his Amores, was what gave the poet his now faded supremacy.
LANDSCAPE IN LATER ROMAN EPIC AND THE
THE Augustan age, after flourishing, like our Elizabethan, for about sixty years, dwindled after Ovid's death (18 A.D.), though prolonged till Nero's time, the middle of the first century. The latter half of this may be named from the imperial family, the Flavian period, and is often called the Silver Age; the most noteworthy poets here being Statius, Silius Italicus, and Martial. This last lively worldly poet-the earliest Roman known to us who made literature his profession and his livelihood (not without that degradation of writer, book, and reader, which too often follows)-yields nothing for our purpose; although his poem on the Baian Villa of a friend supplied hints to Ben Jonson in his Penshurst, and to Herrick in his beautiful Sweet Country Life.
Statius has left his vast Thebaid, founded upon Vergil and published about 92 A.D. Although not an inspired work, this has much scattered merit in "graphic and picturesque "touches,"1 and often shows true poetical feeling. I will quote from one of the minor poems a visit which he paid to the villa of his friend Vopiscus at Tivoli
O day to be long remembered: . . . how gracious the natural quality of the soil! What disposition given by art of hand to the happy place! Nowhere has Nature delighted herself more liberally. Lofty woodlands overhang the rapid current; an
1 J. Conington (Essays, 1872); who characterises the poets of this period as having point and terseness, but deficient in simplicity and repose.