The Magical Art of Virgil

The Magical Art of Virgil

The Magical Art of Virgil

The Magical Art of Virgil

Excerpt

In honor of the two-thousandth anniversary of Virgil's birthday one might more profitably imitate the poet's art of reticence than add one more to the innumerable books that have been written about him. I yield to the general temptation, or, in the poet's words that Warde Fowler was fond of quoting,

insano iuvat indulgere labori,

for three reasons.

First, under the spell of that epoch-making work of my friend John Livingston Lowes, The Road to Xanadu, I should like to suggest, though I have by no means adequately illustrated, how the true method of examining an author's relation to his "sources" may be applied not only to a modern writer, like Coleridge, the background of whose poetic fancy can, with the help of Mr. Lowes, be so minutely traced, but also to an ancient like Virgil, even though his note-books, if he had such, have long ago crumbled into dust. Impressed with our poet's ability to convert most heterogeneous, sometimes absurdly heterogeneous, substances into a harmonious unity, I have given this art the name of magic.

Illustrations of this magic were presented in a series of six lectures on "Virgil the Magician," delivered on the Norman Wait Harris Foundation at Northwestern University . . .

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