THE WORLD'S GREAT AGE
magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo. (Virgil, Eclogue iv)
THE vision of Virgil's Fourth Eclogue, though innocent and miraculous, is also of this world, for his Golden Age, the Pax Augustana, is to begin with the consulship of Pollio. If he sings of woods, the woods must honour a consul (si canimus silvas, silvae sint consule dignae). As the song strikes a higher note (paulo maiora canamus!), a strong voice,1 less sweetly pastoral, emerges, especially in lines where Virgil sings of Roman heroic deeds and virtues. The tone of the eclogue is prophetically grand, marked by solemn addresses, by insistent alliteration and anaphora te . . . te consule . . . te duce; alter erit tum Tiphys, et altera quae vehat Argo, and by exclamatory commands: adgredere o magnos . . . honores; aspice . . . aspice! Dryden's version of the poem, though far from accurate, is true to this stronger tone:
See, lab'ring Nature calls thee to sustain
The nodding frame of heav'n, and earth, and main!
See to their base restor'd, earth, seas, and air;
And joyful ages, from behind, in crowding ranks appear.
But since Virgil, unlike Dryden, enjoys some of Theocritus' freedom in reference and in tone, he can also speak with unaffected tenderness to the child now being born:
Come, little one, greet your mother with a smile . . .
Come, little one . . .
incipe, parve puer, risu cognoscere matrem . . .
incipe, parve puer . . .
Although Virgil's subject has its political aspect, his feeling for the child and the realm, Saturnia regna, is easily and____________________