Thus punishment is severed from desert, and loses its higher meaning; the instinct of justice is lost in the assertion of divine power; and while in details the religion of the Aeneid is often pure and noble, its ultimate conceptions of the relation of the human and divine are certainly no advance on those of Homer.
But doubtless not one in a hundred thousand has ever read the earlier chapters of that Aeneid. The best and the meanest of France were of the company that set out from Dieppe to be its colonists: men of highest condition and character, and vagabonds, Catholic priests and Huguenot ministers, soldiers and artisans.
I like the story of the Odyssey much better; and this not on account of the wonderful things which it contains; for there are wonderful things enough in the Aeneid; the ships of the Trojans turned to sea-nymphs, the tree at Polydorus's tomb dropping blood. The story of the Odyssey is interesting, as a great part of it is domestick.
Now the habit of asking for the facts of the case must deliver men more or less from that evil spirit which the old Romans called "Fama;" from her whom Virgil described in the AEneid as the ugliest, the falsest, and the cruellest of monsters.
The only way not to be unhappy is to shut yourself up in art, and count everything else as nothing. Pride takes the place of all beside when it is established on a large basis. Work! God wills it. That, it seems to me, is clear. + I am reading over again the Aeneid, certain verses of which I repeat to myself to satiety.
And the same thing is recorded of that great scholar of Holland, Hugo Grotius. The mathematician Euler could repeat the Aeneid of Virgil from beginning to end, containing nearly nine thousand lines. Mozart, upon hearing the Miserere of Allegri played in the Sistine Chapel at Rome, only once, went to his hotel, and wrote it all down from memory, note for note.
Nevertheless, although he was unable as will be seen to report an entirely satisfactory answer from Farnese to the Queen upon the momentous questions entrusted to him, he, at least, thought of a choice passage in 'The AEneid, so very apt to the circumstances, as almost to console him for the "pangs of his cholic" and the terrors of the approaching invasion.
A most interesting feature in the Aeneid and with it we conclude our sketch is its incorporation of all that was best in preceding poetry. All Roman poets had imitated, but Virgil carried imitation to an extent hitherto unknown. Not only Greek but Latin writers are laid under contribution in every page. Some idea of his indebtedness to Homer may be formed from Conington's commentary.
I recollect he pushed me along back to the school the whole way, holding me at arm's length by the scruff of the neck; and, besides the infliction of a round dozen of "pandies" and an imposition of five hundred lines of Virgil's Aeneid to learn by heart, threatened me with all sorts of pains and penalties should he ever catch me going down to the quay again.
He says he prefers to come here for the present. I am reading the "Iliad," and the "Aeneid" and Cicero, besides doing a lot in Geometry and Algebra. The "Iliad" is beautiful with all the truth, and grace and simplicity of a wonderfully childlike people while the "Aeneid" is more stately and reserved.
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