« הקודםהמשך »
· works, and directed him to the choice of tillage and - merchandise, for the subject of that which is the most celebrated of them. He is every where bent on instruction, avoids all manner of digressions, and does not stir out of the field once in the whole Georgic. His method, in describing month after month, with its proper seasons and employments, is too grave and simple; it takes off from the surprise and variety of the poem, and makes the whole look but like a modern almanac in verse. The reader is carried through a course of weather, and may beforehand guess whether he is to meet with snow or rain, clouds or sunshine, in the next description. His descriptions, indeed, have abundance of nature in them; but, then, it is nature in her simplicity and undress. Thus when he speaks of January; The wild beasts,' says he;
run shivering through the woods, with their heads stooping to the ground, and their tails clapped between their legs; the goats and oxen are almost flay: ed with cold; but it is not so bad with the sheep, because they have a thick coat of wool about them. The old men too are bitterly pinched with the weather, but the young girls feel nothing of it, who sit at home with their mothers by a warm fire side.? Thus does the old gentleman give himself up to a loose kind of tattle, rather than endeavour after a just poetical description. Nor has he shown more of art or judgment in the precepts he has given us, which are sown so very thick, that they clog the poem too much, and are often so minute and full of circumstances, that they weaken and unnerve his verse. But after all, we are beholden to him for the first rough sketch of a Georgic: where we may still discover something venerable in the antiqueness of the work; but if we would see the design enlarged, the figures reformed, the colouring laid on, and the whole piece finished, we must expect it from
a greater master's hand. • Virgil has drawn out the rules of tillage and plants ing into two books, which Hesiod has dispatched in
half one; but has so raised the natural rudeness and simplicity of his subject with such a significancy of ex: pression, such a pomp of verse, such variety of transitions, and such a solemn air in his reflections, that if we look on both poets together, we see in one the plainness of a downright countryman, and in the other, something of a rustic majesty, like that of a Roman dictator at the plough tail. He delivers the meanest of his precepts with a kind of grandeur, he breaks the clods and tosses the dung about with an air of gracefulness. His prognostications of the weather are taken out of Aratus, where we may see how judiciously he has picked out those that are most proper for his husbandman's observation; how he has enforced the expression, and heightened the images which he found in the original.
The second book has more wit in it, and a greater boldness in its metaphors than any of the rest. The poet, with a great beauty, applies oblivion, ignorance, wonder, desire, and the like, to his trees. The last Georgic has, indeed, as many metaphors, but not so daring as this; for human thoughts and passions may be more naturally ascribed to a bee, than to an inanimate plant. He who reads over the pleasures of a country life, as they are described by Virgil in the latter end of this book, can scarce be of Virgil's mind in preferring even the life of a philosopher to it.
We may, I think, read the poet's clime in his description; for he seems to have been in a sweat at the writing of it. in
quis me gelidis sub montibus Haema Sistat, et ingenti rumorum protegat umbra! . And is every where mentioning among his chief plea- : sures, the coolness of his shades and rivers, vales and grottoes, which a more northern poet would have omitted for the description of a sunny hill and fire side.
The third Georgic seems to be the most laboured of them all; there is a wonderful vigour and spirit in: the description of the horse and chariot ráce, The force of love is represented in noble instances and very subline expressions. The Scythian winter-piece appears so very cold, and bleak to the eye, that a man can scarce look on it without shivering. The murrain at the end has all the expressiveness that words can give. It was here that the poet strained hard to outdo Lucretius in the description of his plague, and if the reader would see what success he had, he măy find, it at large in Scaliger. 1. , ..::
But Virgil seems no where so well, pleased, as when he is got among his, bees in the fourth Georgic': and ennobles the actions of so trivial a creature, with metaphors drawn from the most important concerns of mankind. His verses are not in a greater noise and hurry in the battles of Æneas and Turnus, than in the engagement of two swarms. And, as in his Æneïs, he compares the labours of his Trojans to those of bees and pismires, here he compares the labours of the bees to those of the Cyclops." In short, the last Georgic was a good prelude to, the Æneïs; and very well showed what the poet could do in the description of what was really great, by his describing the mock grandeur of an insect with so good a grace. There is more pleasantness in the little platform of a garden, which he gives us about the middle of this book, than in all the spacious walks and water-works of Rapin. The speech of Proteus at the end can never be enough admired, and was, indeed, very fit to conclude so divine a work.
After this particular account of the beauties in the Georgics, I should, in the next place, endeavour to point out its imperfections, if it has any, : But though I think there are some few parts in it that are not so beautiful as the rest, I shall not presume to name them, as rather suspecting my own judgment, than I can believe a fault to be in that poem, which lay so long under Virgil's correction, and had his last hand put to it. The first Georgic was probably burlesqued
cular preceded it from Hesiod,
the beauty of it
in the author's lifetime; for we still find in the scho. liasts a verse that ridicules part of a line translated from Hesiod. Nudas ara, sere. nudis And we may easily guess at the judgment of this extraordinary critic, whoever he was, from his censuring this particular precept. We may be sure Virgil would not have translated it from Hesiod, had he not discovered some beauty in it; and, indeed, the beauty of it is what I have before observed to be frequently met with in Virgil, the delivering the precept so indirectly, and singling out the particular circumstance of sowing and ploughing naked, to suggest to us that these em ployments are proper only in the hot season of the year.
I shall not here compare the style of the Georgics with that of Lucretius, which the reader may see already done in the preface to the second volume of Miscel- lany Poems; but shall conclude this poem to be the most complete, elaborate, and finished piece of all antiquity. The Æneïs, indeed, is of a nobler kind, but the Georgic is more perfect in its kind. The Æneïs has a greater variety of beauties in it, but those of the Georgic are more exquisite. In short, the Georgic has all the perfection that can be expected in a poem written by the greatest poet in the flower of his age, when his invention was ready, his imagination warm, his judgment settled, and all his faculties in their full vigour and maturity. . .
TO VOL. V.
ACHAIA, described by a medal, 91, 92.
by the poets, ibid.
fume arising from his bones, with a conjecture upon it, and his
him by a poor peasant, 177.
tainty of their knowledge, 277.
successors preserved it, 430.