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human impotence and frailty, the infinite pity of things. On the other they merge in the passionate craving and the glimmering hope for "the further shore," in the mystical doctrine of lives again and again reincarnated, of the drinking of Lethe so that souls" may begin to be willing to return again into bodies," of the renewed labour, the grief, the endless effort, at last, perhaps, and for some, if only for a few, pauci laeta arva tenemus coming to an end, as the elect are rapt or sublimated into an actual Paradise.
XI. VIRGIL IN THE MEDIEVAL AND MODERN WORLD
IRGIL'S fame and his popularity were both established in his own lifetime, and both had a great accession on the publication of the Aeneid. He had his detractors, among the small fry of contemporary poetasters, and among the purists or archaists who held obstinately by the older Latin tradition. But his fastidious shyness kept him aloof from literary cliques and from controversy; he was absorbed in his own work; and he had the powerful backing of imperial favour, and the affection of all who, whether statesmen or men of letters, were admitted to his acquaintance. Both fame and popularity came to him of themselves. The Aeneid was at once accepted as the great national poem. Copies were rapidly multiplied. It was not only in the hands of every educated man and woman, but became what it has ever since remained, a standard schoolbook for the western world.36 Knowledge of it spread through all classes;
snatches from it have been found cut on the walls of the public baths in Rome, and scribbled on stucco in the buried streets of Pompeii. The Eclogues and Georgics had become schoolbooks already in their author's own lifetime. We happen to know where this use began, though we cannot guess where it may end and need not anticipate that it will. It was in an advanced Secondary School for boys of over fifteen opened in Rome in or about the year 26 B.C. by one Q. Caecilius," an Epirot Greek by birth, and a freedman of Atticus, the famous banker and friend of Cicero. Later, a wellknown line of Juvenal 38 describes the stained and smeared Virgils that were in the hands of ordinary schoolboys. Martial mentions that a portrait of Virgil was often prefixed to them.
There were reactions, such as happen with all writers, even the greatest, before the world settles down (if it ever does) to a final judgment. Caligula's proposal to expel Virgil from all the public libraries was only the eccentricity of a madman. But later, the great archaistic revival in the age of the Antonines brought the older poets for a while again into favour. Hadrian headed a fashion of "preferring
Ennius.” Virgil had been so assiduously copied by poets of the intervening century that, when people grew tired of them, the reputation of Virgil himself had a set-back. It suffered too from the army of grammarians and commentators who were let loose on him; of these there was a continuous series down to the beginning of the Dark Ages. But his prestige and predominance were not substantially impaired. The whole of post-Virgilian Latin literature, in prose as well as in poetry, is saturated with Virgilian quotations, adaptations and allusions, as much as English literature for the last three hundred years has been with Shakespeare, and even more.
Not only so; but his poems, the Aeneid especially, became a sort of Bible. The famous Sortes Vergilianae, a method of seeking in them for supernatural guidance, came early into vogue. The phrase as well as the thing was already established a century after his death, perhaps sooner. Not only the practice, but a large measure of belief in its efficacy, lingered on into the seventeenth century. Oracles were sought by formal and ritual consultation of the Aeneid in temples. It took, for this purpose, the place of the discredited Sibylline Books.
Hadrian, according to his biographer, consulted both, and received from both the prophecy of his future elevation to the principate.39 Clodius Albinus received his sors from two lines of Virgil in the temple of Apollo at Cumae; Alexander Severus his in the temple of Fortune at Praeneste: the great Illyrian Emperor Claudius, towards the end of the third century, "in the Apennines," not only for himself but for his descendants, the Imperial house of Constantine.
Virgil, indeed, was thought of and treated as in some sense deified, and able from the other world to exercise control or intervention in human affairs. His birthday, like that of Augustus, was registered in the Calendar as a saint's day. Poets, like Statius and Silius Italicus, worshipped at his tomb as at a shrine. Alexander Severus placed his bust in the lararium or family chapel of the Imperial palace, where divine honours were paid to it. This worship would have ceased with the decay of paganism; but it was taken over by the Christian Church. The Fourth Eclogue was accepted and proclaimed as a direct prophecy of the birth of Christ. It was so expounded, in an address to the whole Christian population