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covery. But they are not outworn. It is no paradox to say that they may actually mean more to each successive age. Our appreciation of them, it may be urged, must be incomplete, because we cannot place ourselves at the poet's point of view, because we cannot regain his environment, or live in the world in which he lived and which in his poetry he interpreted and transfigured. This is true; but against the loss for loss there is has to be set
a real gain. The colours tone rather than fade; the outlines are not blurred so much as softened. The sharp freshness of the work as it first reached the world new from the artist's hand has turned into a mellow glow. The structural lines of the composition come out more significantly. Beauties and subtleties are seen which to a contemporary reader were invisible, and of which even the artist himself may not have been articulately conscious. The masterpiece places itself with a background and a foreground. It becomes for us not a mere detached work of art which has been preserved from the past, but a focus of the multiplex human movement, a lamp whose rays stream out over the whole integrated fabric of human life. In a very real sense, it is possible for us
to appreciate Shakespeare more, to understand him better, than he was appreciated and understood by his Elizabethan audiences, for whom he was only one among many other popular dramatists. So likewise is it possible for us to appreciate Virgil more, though he was for them "the divine poet," than he was appreciated by those who "spoke Latin at Rome" in the Augustan Empire.
II. VIRGIL'S WORLD
ERIODS of marked character and signifi
cance in the history of national culture
or of international civilization have often been, by a convenient custom, singled out and denoted by a name. That name may be only a conventional label; or it may be the name of some individual, a ruler or a thinker or an artist, in whom the whole movement of the time appears to be concentrated more or less fully. The Elizabethan Age, the Age of Louis XIV, the Napoleonic Age, the Victorian Age are instances of terms of general acceptance. While they may not bear any rigorous analysis, they are not only useful for the sake of brevity, but relevant to a large comprehension of the epochs which they denote. But almost as frequent, and equally useful, are those terms which mark an age by the name of some one in whom its intellectual or spiritual life reached its highest expression and exercised its most definite influence on the world. The ages of Phidias and of Plato in Greece, of Aquinas,
Dante, Petrarch in the Middle Ages, of Raphael and Michael Angelo in the later Renaissance, of Shakespeare and Milton, Newton and Darwin in the annals of England, have this kind of claim for recognition, and have been recognized accordingly. There are those who would substitute for the names of the Elizabethan and Victorian Ages those of the Age of Shakespeare and the Age of Tennyson.
In Roman history and Roman history is, for a time extending over some six or seven hundred years, the history of the civilized world - there are several periods of special importance. The most important of all is that which witnessed the downfall of the Republic and the foundation of the Empire. It was then that the political and civil organization was created under which the European world lived for more than a thousand years, and on which its subsequent developments have been mainly founded. It was then that the problem of a world-empire based on law, preserving liberty, and securing peace was for the first time faced, and a provisional solution found for it. It was then also that the literary genius of the Latin race culminated in the works of the greatest Roman historians, orators and poets; and that
the Latin language was moulded into forms which have ever since been a common heritage and a permanent model for mankind.
This period, while any definite date for its beginning and end is of course quite arbitrary, may be taken for ordinary purposes as covering between fifty and sixty years of the first century before the Christian Era. It coincides pretty nearly with the life of Virgil. To understand Virgil, to read him with due appreciation, one must realize not only that he was a great artist, but that he stands in a very special relation to the whole import of an age which was one of the main turning-points in history. Not only is he the foremost figure in a group of writers in whom the Latin language as a vehicle of thought and emotion reached its highest point. He also combines in himself, in an unique way and to an unique extent, the racial and cultural elements out of which the Latin civilization was compounded. He was the chief exponent and interpreter, in the forms of creative art, of the aims and ideals of his age in the evolution and government of human life. He looked, as few have done, before and after. Standing as he did at the point of junction between two worlds, he gave expression to the past of his nation