Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 509 pages of information about Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama.
was forced to serve the menial part of a vehicle of sycophantic praise is less easily pardoned.  In Vergil’s hands a conversation between shepherds becomes an expression of gratitude to the emperor for the restitution of his villa, a lament for Daphnis is interwoven with an apotheosis of Julius Caesar, and in the complaint of the forsaken shepherd, whom Apollo and Pan seek in vain to comfort, we may trace the wounded vanity of his patron deserted by his mistress for the love of a soldier.  The fourth eclogue was written after the peace of Brundisium, and describes the golden age to which Vergil looked forward as consequent upon the birth of a marvellous infant, perhaps some offspring of the marriages of Antonius and Octavianus, celebrated in solemnization of the treaty.  The poem achieved considerable fame, which lasted as late as the time of Dryden, owing to the belief that it contained a prophecy of the birth of Christ drawn from the Sibylline books, and won for Vergil throughout the middle ages the title of prophet and magician.  Whether this belief was well founded or not may be left to those whom it may interest to inquire; it is sufficient for our purpose to note that in the poem in question Vergil first introduced the convention of the golden age into pastoral verse.

The first of the long line of imitators of whom we have any notice was a certain Calpurnius.  His diction is correct and his verse smooth, but the suggestion that he belonged to the age of Augustus has not met with much favour among those competent to judge.  He followed Vergil closely, chiefly developing the panegyric.  His poems, however, include all the usual conventions, singing matches, invocations, cosmologies, and the rest, in the treatment of which originality never appears to have been his aim.  Some of his pieces deal with husbandry, and belong more strictly to the school of the Georgics and didactic poetry.  The most interesting of his eclogues is one in which he contrasts the life of the town with that of the country, the direct comparison of which he appears to have been the first to treat.  The poem likewise possesses some antiquarian interest, owing to a description of a wild-beast show in an amphitheatre in which the animals were brought up in lifts through the floor of the arena.  Calpurnius is sometimes supposed, on account of a dedication to Nemesianus found in some manuscripts, to have lived at the end of the third century, but even supposing the dedication to be genuine, which is more than doubtful, it does not follow that the person referred to is that Nemesianus who contested the poetic crown with Prince Numerianus about the year 283[16].  This Nemesianus was probably the author of some eclogues which have been frequently ascribed to Calpurnius (numbers 8 to 11 in most editions), but which must be discarded from the list of his authentic works on a technical question of the employment of elision[17].  The editio princeps of these eclogues is not dated, but probably appeared in 1471, so that they were at any rate accessible to writers of the cinquecento.  It is not easy to trace any direct influence, unless, as perhaps we should, we credit to Calpurnius the suggestion of those poems in which a ‘wise’ shepherd describes to his less-travelled hearers the manners of the town.

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