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even the terms of formal exposition taken over by him from the usage of Lucretius saepe etiam, nec tamen, praeterea, quod superestacquire in his handling poetical quality and unaccountable beauty.
Perhaps no poetry has ever been written which combines in such perfection richness of colour with purity of line, which is so exquisite in its transitions and so suave in its modulations, so smoothly gliding and nobly sustained. All these qualities are reinforced or culminate in the episodes, where the current of the poem spreads into large pools of beauty. Special attention may be called to some of these: in the First Book, the opening invocation to the Gods of the Country; the noble description of the world with its girdling zones and the march of the constellations through the heavens; the signs and wonders which overcame the earth with dreadful presage in the Civil War; in the Second Book, the matchless Praise of Italy, and the picture of the two ideal lives, the one of high philosophy reaching to heaven and treading fear and fate under foot, the other of simple and joyful community with nature, where God is also
Fortunatus et ille, deos qui novit agrestis!
in the Third Book, the pageant imagined as celebrating not only the supremacy of Rome but the full conquest of poetry, with the Muses themselves brought from their Aonian height to the banks of the Mincio; and the description, with its strange haunting beauty, of the cattleplague that desolated the lovely Tyrolese uplands and the Venetian plain; and in the Fourth Book, besides the idyl of Aristaeus into which the episode of Orpheus and Eurydice is woven, there is the lovely sketch of a fifth book on gardening a picture within the picturewith its description of the "old man of Corycus," the ex-pirate who had settled down in perfect happiness as a florist and marketgardener under the walls of Tarentum. Praetereo atque aliis post me memoranda relinquo; with these words Virgil resumes his theme. But what he did not do still remains unaccomplished.
A deeper music still was to be drawn from him in the Aeneid, with a higher reach and a vaster sweep. But the golden cadence of poesy (in Shakespeare's phrase) was now found; and the Georgics remain as one of the few examples in art of attained perfection, no less than of that final imperfection which is
at the soul of all art, as of all life. "The best poem of the best poet" Dryden incisively calls the Georgics in the dedicatory preface to his own translation; and here it may be said that no translation can convey their music, or give more than a faint image of the Virgilian colour and tone. A little later, Addison described them, in terms which if they sound frigid are at all events strictly true, as "the most complete, elaborate, and finished piece of all antiquity." Later praises have been expressions, in the language of their time, of the same feeling. Tennyson, more than any one else, has conveyed the note and charm of the Georgics in lines so familiar as hardly to require citation
Thou that singest wheat and woodland,
tilth and vineyard, hive and horse and herd;
All the charm of all the Muses
often flowering in a lonely word.
They recapture, with wonderful felicity, the inimitable music of Virgil's own verse.
VII. CONCENTRATION ON
IN THE prologue to the third book of the
Georgics, Virgil mentions his purpose of ap
proaching a still greater task, the celebration, in an historical epic, of the wars of Augustus Caesar and the annals of his line from the mythologic ancestry of Troy. The three lines in which he does so
Mox tamen ardentis accingar dicere pugnas Caesaris et nomen fama tot ferre per annos, Tithoni prima quot abest ab origine Caesar 17
are structurally and rhythmically detachable, and give the impression of an added afterthought. Alone in the Georgics, they could be omitted without loss, or even, as we may incline to think, with advantage. They seem to shew the influence not only of his own projected purpose, but of something like response to external pressure put on him to pledge himself to its fulfilment.
"Kings and battles" had, as we have seen,
been Virgil's early ambition in poetry and the subject of his youthful exercises. Whether these were epic of the established type, dealing, in the Greek manner, with the heroic age, "Presenting Thebes or Pelops' line Or the tale of Troy divine,"
or handling the ancient semi-legendary Italian history, or whether they were built on recent and contemporary events, there is no clear evidence and no secure inference. All these kinds were being discussed and attempted by many poets: all, as we know from unmistakable allusions in his own earlier poems, were floating in Virgil's mind. So were various combinations of them. For the full achievement of Latin poetry, a Latin epic was called for; and to be Latin in the full sense, it must be national, or at least informed by the national spirit and temper.
Ennius had shewn the way; he had proved that such a thing was possible. His Annals, though they were less an epic than a chronicle, had established themselves as a Latin classic. They were on all men's lips, and were at once a schoolbook and a storehouse. It remained to carry what he had effected to a higher plane