« PreviousContinue »
HUS while the prince collects auxiliar hosts,
And leads new armies from the Tuscan coasts;
and of all these the fable or subject is composed; which is no more than the action, and its ornaments, or episodes ; and which are so much the more beautiful, as they fall in more naturally with the subject. It is the very essence of episodes, that they may be taken away without hurting the subject; though at the same time they shouid have a close connexion with the subject.
Virgil observes all this exactly; but we are to consider, that the poet makes those episodes, where the hero does not much appear, far Ahorter than those where he has the principal past. The recital which Æneas makes of the taking of Troy, and his amour with Dido, are much longer than the history of Cacus related by Evander, or the adventures of Nisus and Euryalus which the poet himself relates. This example of generous friendship is the chief beauty of this book; but it is not the only passage where the poet exerts himieit: the complaints of the mother of Euryalus, the invectives of Numanus, and the attack of the camp in which the poet makes Turnus perform so many brave exploits; are all excellent.
Turne, quod optanti divôm promittere nemo
20 Palantisque polo ftellas. fequor omina tanta, Quisquis in arma vocas. et fic effatus ad undam Processit, fummoque hausit de gurgite lymphas, Multa deos orans; oneravitque aethera votis. Jamque omnis campis exercitus ibat apertis,
25 Dives equûm, dives pictaï vestis et auri. Meffapus primas acies, poftrema coërcent Tyrrhidae juvenes: medio dux agmine Turnus Vertitur arma tenens, et toto vertice fupra eft.
Turnus, this kind auspicious hour bestows
He knew the fair; his lifted hands he spread, And with these words pursu'd her as the Aed : Bright beauteous goddess of the various bow, What pow'r dispatch'd thee to the world below ? What splendors open to my dazzled.eyes !
25 What foods of glory burst from all the skies ! And lo! the heav'ns divide, the planets roll! Thick shine the stars, and gild the glowing pole! Call’d by these omens to the field of blood, I follow to the war the great inspiring god!
30 Raptur'd he said, and fought the limpid tide, Where gurgling streams in silver currents glide ; There cleans'd his hands, then raising high in air, To ev'ry god address’d his ardent pray’r. And now, all gay and glorious to behold,
35 Rich in embroider'd vests, and arms of gold, On sprightly prancing steeds, the martial train Spread wide their ranks o'er all th’ embattled plain. The van with great Meffapus at their head; The deep'ning rear the sons of Tyrrheus led.
40 Brave Turnus fames in arms, supremely tall, Tow'rs in the center, and outshines them all.
Ceu septem furgens fedatis amnibus altus
62. But mighty Turnus rode, &c.] The character of Turnus is constantly preserved, qualis ab incepto procefferat. I do not remember, that Virgil flags once in describing the resolute impetuofity, which this
He here begins the fiege with a moit spirited exclamation,
Ecquis erit mecum, juvenes, qui primus in hoftem? He attempts every pass and avenue, as a hungry wolf in a tempestuous night tries to enter a fold, his rage and hunger being itill further exasperated by the bleating of the lambs within : and, though he finds at last the fortress of the Trojans impregnable, he does not defift; but instantly makes an attempt to burn the snips. This character is conducted with a truly poetical fire. The above fimile is taken from Apollonius Khód. Argonaut. B. i. 1243.
Silent they march beneath their godlike guide :
Troy saw from far the black’ning cloud arise :
50 Involv'd in clouds, and sweeping o'er the plain. To arms-The foes advance-Your swords prepare; Fly-Mount the ramparts, and repel the war.
With shouts they run; they gather at the call; They close the gates; they mount; they guard the wall. For so th' experienc'd prince had charg'd the host, 56 When late he parted for the Tuscan coast; Whate'er befel, their ardour to restrain, Truft to their walls, nor tempt the open plain. There, tho' with fhame and wrath their bosoms glow, 60 Shut in their tow'rs, they wait the embattled foe. But mighty Turnus rode with rapid speed, And furious spurr'd his dappled Thracian freed; Eager before the tardy squadrons Acw To reach the wall, and soon appear'd in view (With twice ten noble warriors close behind); His crimson crest stream'd dreadful in the wind. Who first; he cry'd, with me the foe will dare ? Then hurl'd a dart, the signal of the war.
63. — dappled Thracian fteed.] Virgil, says Catrou, seems to be particularly fond of Thracian horses, marked with spots of various colours. He has before mentioned this breed,
Quem Thracius albis Portat equis bicolor maculis. Speaking of young Priam's horse, the son of Polites. See Turneb. L. 23. C. 14.
69. Then burl'd a dart, &c.] The throwing a javelin into the air was a ceremony practised by the Romans, when they declared war against any nation. This they derived from the 6