CHAPTER X
INTERPRETATION OF LIFE. -- 3. HADES

Thou soul of God's best earthly mould! Thou happy soul! and can it be That these two words of glittering gold Are all that must remain of thee? -- WORDSWORTH, Matthew.

'ALL Virgil is full of learning,' says Servius, in opening his commentary on the sixth book of the Aeneid, 'but for learning this book takes the chief place. The greater part of it is from Homer. Some of it is simple narrative, much turns on history, much implies deep knowledge of philosophers, theologians, and Egyptians, to so great an extent indeed that many have written complete treatises on points of detail in this book.' So much said, Servius turns at once to the text. Our purpose, however, is rather to obtain a general view of Virgil's ideas about the other world, and to see, if possible, the various parts played by Homer and the philosophers in forming those ideas1. Once more we shall find traces of the progress of human thought, and once more a strong Roman feeling running through the whole. 'He knew,' says Servius, 'that various opinions are held on the sway of the gods, so very wisely he gave it a general treatment (tenuit generalitatem). In the main he follows Siro, his Epicurean teacher. The men of this school, as we know, deal with the surface of things, and never penetrate very deep2.' Servius here speaks, as the Neo-Platonists of his day spoke, of Epicurus, but the hint he gives must

____________________
1
In a poet with so many literary affinities as Virgil, a larger amount of space must be taken up with the study of his literary antecedents than in the case of a more original speculator. Hence in this and the following chapter more attention is given to the history of speculation upon Hades and Olympus than may at first seem necessary.
2
Servius, ad Aen. vi. 264 superficiem rerum tractare, nunquam altiora disquirere.

-215-

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