Master Vergil: An Anthology of Poems in English on Vergil and Vergilian Themes

Master Vergil: An Anthology of Poems in English on Vergil and Vergilian Themes

Master Vergil: An Anthology of Poems in English on Vergil and Vergilian Themes

Master Vergil: An Anthology of Poems in English on Vergil and Vergilian Themes

Excerpt

Because in the year 70 B.C. a boy was born near Mantua who was destined to be the greatest of Roman poets, the last twenty centuries have been the richer. Although schoolboys, forced to scan and to construe, may, as Byron says, be glad when they no longer need "to groan o'er Virgil's devilish verses," lovers of poetry would rather agree with Harvey, who, again according to Byron, "used to fling away Virgil in his ecstasy of admiration and say, 'the book had a devil."' Vergil, the magician, has conjured with his verses, and holds bound with a spell his willing victims. No maleficium here, no black art, although the Middle Ages credited Vergil with a knowledge of "nigromancy," but the white art of a great teller of tales, a great poet, and a great philosopher. It seems fitting, therefore, at this time of the celebration of the Bimillennium Vergilianum, to bring together the poems or the parts of poems which his English- speaking followers have written under his spell, paying direct tribute to the poet or to his work. The very numerous translations, imitations, and paraphrases of his poetry have been omitted, as well as the still more numerous echoes of Vergilian thought and imagery and diction. I have discussed and listed these elsewhere; the inclusion of them here would have made far too bulky a volume.

The poems have been grouped under five main headings: Vergil the poet, Vergil the magician, the Æneid, the Georgics, and the Eclogues. Thus comparisons and contrasts may be made between those who have so variously expressed their admiration of Vergil, and between those who have, as Chaucer says, "followed his lantern," in retelling the story of the Æneid, in whole or in part, or in taking a suggestion for a poem from an incident, a character, a line, or a phrase in the Æneid, the Georgics, or the Eclogues. Strange comrades . . .

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