Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]

We are now to speak of those preceptive poems that treat of the bufiness and pleasures of mankind; and here Wirgil claims our first and principal attention, who in his Georgics has laid down the rules of husbandry in all its branches with the atmost exaćtness and perspicuity, and at the fame time embellished them with all the beauties and graces of poetry. Tho’ his fubject was husbandry, he has delivered his precepts, as an ingenicus author obferves, not with the simplicity of a ploughman, but with the addrefs of a poet. The meanest of his rules are laid down with a kind of grandeur, and be breaks the clods, and toffes about the dung with an air of gracefulneß *. Of the different ways of conveying the fame truth to the mind, he takes that which is pleafantest ; and this chiefly distinguishes poetry from profe, and renders Wirgil’s rules of husbandry more delightful and valuable than any other. These poems whieh are esteemed the most perfect of the author's works are, perhaps, the best that can be proposed for the young students imitation in this manner of writing ; for the whole of his Georgics is wrought up with wonderful art, and decorated with all the flowers of poetry.

e first of the four books, he proposes the general

design of each Georgie, and after a folemn invocation of

all the heathen deities, who are supposed to be any ways concerned in rural affairs, he addrefies himself particularly to Augustus Caesar, whom he compliments with Divinity : then falling in with his subjećt, he speaks of the different kinds of tillage, that are fuitable to different

foils; traces out the origin of agriculture ; prefents us

with a catalogue of the implements of husbandry, and

points out the bufiness peculiar to each feason. He next

describes the changes of the weather, and the figns in

the heavens and the earth, by which the approaching

change may be foretold ; and in compliment to Augustus,

introduces fome prodigies which are faid to have pre* Mr. Addison, I 3

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ceded the death of Julius Cæsar. This naturally leads
him to implore the gods, for the preservation of Augu-
stus and of Rome, and with this supplication he concludes
his first Georgic.
After the signs in the heavens, portending the change
of weather, which are too many to be here inferted, the
prodigies that are supposed to have preceded Cæsar's
death, and the destrućtive war occafioned by it, are very
artfully introduced ; and, tho' no one can believe that
Nature suffered these commotions in behalf of a man
who had enslaved his country, yet all will be pleased
with the poet's address, and the circumstances he has asi-
mulated on the occasion.
The fun reveals the fecrets of the sky ; -
And who dares give the Source of Light the lie ?
The change of empires often he declares,
Fierce tumult, hidden treasons, open wars,
He first the fate of Caesar did foretel,
And pitied Rome, when Rome in Cafar fell.
In iron clouds conceal'd the public light, *
And impious mortals fear'd eternal night. *
Nor was the faċt foretold by him alone : *
Nature herfelf ftood forth, and feconded the fun.
Earth, air, and feas, with prodigies were sign'd,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Blood sprang from wells, wolves howl'd in town by night,
And boding victims did the priests affright. *
Such peals of thunder never pour'd from high,
Nor forky light’nings flash’d from such a fullen sky.
Red meteors ran across th’ ethereal space,
Stars disappear’d, and comets took their place.
For this, th’ Emathian plains once more were strow'd
With Roman bodies, and just heaven thought good
To fatten twice those fields with Roman blood.
Then after length of Time, the lab’ring swains,
Who turn the turfs of those unhappy plains,
Shall rusty piles from the plough’d furrows take,
And ever empty helmets pass the rake. -
Amaz'd at antique titles on the stones
And mighty relicks of gigantic bones. *,

[ocr errors]

The subject of the fecond book is planting, in which the poet points out all the different methods of raifing trees ; speaks of their variety, and lays down rules for the management of each. He then describes the foils that are fuitable to the different plants ; makes a digrestion in praife of his native country ; gives fome directions for discovering the nature of each foil ; lays down rules for drefing vines, olives, &c. and concludes with a fine panegyrick on rural life.

As this Georgic abounds with beauties, we shall confider it more particularly, and give the reader fome examples of the manner in which he has treated the subjećł. What he has faid with respećt to the grafting and management of trees, is worthy of our admiration.

'Tis usual now, an inmate graff to fee
With infolence invade a foreign tree:
Thus pears and quinces from the crab-tree come ;
And thus the ruddy.cornel bears the plum.
The thin-leav'd arbute, hazel-graffs receives,
And planes huge apples bear, that bore but leaves.
Thus naftful beech the briftly chefnut bears,
And the white ash is white with blooming pears,
And greedy fwine from grafted elms are fed,
With falling acorns, that from oaks are bred.

But various are the ways to change the state Of plants, to bud, to graft, t'inoculate. For where the tender rinds of trees disclose Their fhooting gems, a swelling knot there grows ; Just in that space a narrow flit we make, Then other buds from bearing trees we take: Inferted thus, the wounded rind we clofe, In whose moist womb th” admitted infant grows. But when the fmoother bole from knots is free, We make a deep incision in the tree ; And in the folid wood the flip inclose, 'The bat’ning bastard shoots again and grows ;. And in short space the laden boughs arise, With ħappy fruit advancing to the skies. The mother plant admires the leaves unknown, Of alien trees, and apples not her own.

Here Wirgil, in confidering the effects of the union between trees of different kinds, attends particularly to those circumstances that feemed the most wonderful, and which not only expressed the capacity and tendency

of trees to be thus united, but excited at the fame time

admiration and pleasure in the mind.–His method of tranfplanting trees is altogether as beautiful, and con: cludes with a fine reflection on the force and power of

[ocr errors]

Some peasants, not t’omit the nicest care,
Of the fame foil their nursery prepare,
With that of their plantation ; lelt the tree
Transplanted, shou'd not with the foil agree.
Befides, to plant it as it was, they mark
The heav'n's four quarters on the tender bark;
And to the north or south restore the fide,
Which at their birth did heat or cold abide.
So strong is custom, each effećts can ufe
In tender fouls of pliant plants produce.

But because precepts laid down one after another, notwithstanding all the poet's endeavours to make them entertaining, would by degrees tire, Virgil suffers the rea: der fometimes to rest for the fake of a pertinent and

[ocr errors]

But neither Median woods, (a plenteous land) Fair Ganges, Hermus rolling golden fand, Nor Baćiria, nor the richer Indian fields, Nor all the gummy shores Arabia yields ? Nor any foreign earth of greater name, Can with sweet Italy contend in fame. { Nor bulls whose nostrils breathe a living flame Have turn'd our turf, no teeth of ferpents here Were fown, an armed host, an iron crop to bear. But fruitful vines, and the fat olives freight, And harvests heavy with their fruitful weight, Adorn our fields ; and on the chearful green, The grazing flocks and lowing herds are feen. The warrior horfe here bred, is taught to train : There flows Clitumnus thro the flow’ry plain ; Whose waves, for triumphs after prosp'rous war, The viétim ox, and snowy sheep prepare. Perpetual spring our happy climate fees ; Twice breed the cattle, and twice bear the trees ; { And summer funs recede by flow degrees.

The following description is of the fame beautiful cast ; and the reader will observe that these, and indeed all the . descriptions in Virgil, are fo artfully introduced, that they feem to arife naturally out of the principal argument and design of the poem.

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »