Towards a Carmen Perpetuum
THE MAGNA CARTA OF HEROICK POETRY
When first young Maro in his boundless Mind
A Work t’outlast Immortal Rome design’d.
Perhaps he seem’d above the Critick’s Law,
And but from Nature’s Fountains seem’d to draw:
But when t’examine ev’ry Part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the dame:
Convinc’d, amaz’d, he checks the bold Design,
And Rules as strict his labour’d Work confine,
As if the Stagyrite o’erlook’d each Line.
Learn hence for Ancient Rules a just Esteem;
To copy Nature is to copy Them.
—Pope, “An Essay on Criticism”
In order to fortify her argument concerning the authority and rights of the Anglican church, Dryden’s Panther employs Vergil’s myth wrongfully to claim ownership “By long possession” (like Latinus) of “all the land” and to accuse the Hind of coming, like Aeneas, with her “exil’d Gods” and “intruding line, / To share my sceptre, which you call to join” (3:523.766–80). As Zwicker remarks, what is interesting about this passage from the point of view of the Aeneis is that Dryden “should already in 1687 have conceived its central action not as imperial destiny but as invasion and conquest.” He also points out that all the issues with which the Panther is here concerned—“invasion and conquest,” “property and propriety,” “political deceit and political legitimacy”— would be raised again throughout Dryden’s Vergil1 Equally important, however, is the function in the translation of the type of “veil” with which the Panther accuses the Hind of covering her “intended wrong” but which, ironically, applies to her own use of Vergil’s fable (3:184.777). Like this episode of The Hind and the Panther, Dryden’s Aeneis employs Vergil’s tale of Aeneas’s arrival in Latium not to provide answers by analogy but to pose probing questions about contemporary