Does Carthage even have forests? Did Virgil know for sure or was it just convenient for his story? Virgil was a professional liar. This would not be the only place where he pruned the truth until it was as artificial as an espaliered pear tree against a wall, forced into an expedient shape and bearing the demanded fruit.
All the poets are indebted more or less to those who have gone before them; even Homer's originality has been questioned, and Virgil owes almost as much to Theocritus, in his Pastorals, as to Homer, in his Heroics; and if our own countryman, Milton, has soared above both Homer and Virgil, it is because he has stolen some feathers from their wings.
Charles Caleb Colton
Up until relatively recently, creating original characters from scratch wasn't a major part of an author's job description. When Virgil wrote The Aeneid, he didn't invent Aeneas; Aeneas was a minor character in Homer's Odyssey whose unauthorized further adventures Virgil decided to chronicle. Shakespeare didn't invent Hamlet and King Lear; he plucked them from historical and literary sources. Writers weren't the originators of the stories they told; they were just the temporary curators of them. Real creation was something the gods did. All that has changed. Today the way we think of creativity is dominated by Romantic notions of individual genius and originality, and late-capitalist concepts of intellectual property, under which artists are businesspeople whose creations are the commodities they have for sale.
There is an inimitable grace in Virgil's words, and in them principally consists that beauty which gives so inexpressible a pleasure to him who best understands their force. This diction of his, I must once again say, is never to be copied; and since it cannot, he will appear but lame in the best translation.
Whatever the poets pretend, it is plain they give immortality to none but themselves; it is Homer and Virgil we reverence and admire, not Achilles or Aeneas. With historians it is quite the contrary; our thoughts are taken up with the actions, persons, and events we read, and we little regard the authors.
How do you even know I'm someone you'll want to remember? We've only seen each other once before.' (Amber) 'Have you ever looked at a painting and known you had something in common with it? Have you ever seen something so beautiful you feel like crying? When I see you, I feel that way. I feel like the deepest part of me understands something vital about you.' (Virgil Daly)
Indeed, the best books have a use, like sticks and stones, which is above or beside their design, not anticipated in the preface,not concluded in the appendix. Even Virgil's poetry serves a very different use to me today from what it did to his contemporaries. It has often an acquired and accidental value merely, proving that man is still man in the world.
Henry David Thoreau
The next Augustan age will dawn on the other side of the Atlantic. There will, perhaps, be a Thucydides at Boston, a Xenophon at New York, and, in time, a Virgil at Mexico, and a Newton at Peru. At last, some curious traveler from Lima will visit England and give a description of the ruins of St Paul s, like the editions of Balbec and Palmyra.
If ever we should find ourselves disposed not to admire those writers or artists, Livy and Virgil for instance, Raphael or Michael Angelo, whom all the learned had admired, [we ought] not to follow our own fancies, but to study them until we know how and what we ought to admire; and if we cannot arrive at this combination of admiration with knowledge, rather to believe that we are dull, than that the rest of the world has been imposed on.
To me this world is all one continued vision of fancy or imagination, and I feel flattered when I am told so. What is it sets Homer, Virgil and Milton in so high a rank of art? Why is the Bible more entertaining and instructive than any other book? Is it not because they are addressed to the imagination, which is spiritual sensation, and but immediately to the understanding or reason?
We must have books for recreation and entertainment, as well as books for instruction and for business; the former are agreeable, the latter useful, and the human mind requires both. The cannon law and the codes of Justinian shall have due honor, and reign at the universities; but Homer and Virgil need not therefore be banished. We will cultivate the olive and the vine, but without eradicating the myrtle and the rose.
Honore de Balzac
Just a month after the completion of the Declaration of Independence, at a time when he delegates might have been expected to occupy themselves with more pressing concerns -like how they were going to win the war and escape hanging- Congress quite extraordinarily found time to debate business for a motto for the new nation. (Their choice, E Pluribus Unum, "One from Many", was taken from, of all places, a recipe for salad in an early poem by Virgil.)
Whether I'm at a dinner with Anna Wintour or a listening party with Pusha T or in Rome with Virgil (Abloh, his style adviser) giving Fendi our designs and getting them knocked down... we brought the leather jogging pants six years ago to Fendi, and they said no. How many m*****f***ers you done seen with a leather jogging pant?
The Romans were a strong power before Virgil, but the Greeks had captured their imaginations. While Rome conquered physical Greece, Greek mythology had enveloped Rome. The Empire coul be confident in itself until a Roman poet matched Homer and harmonized Greek civilization with Roman ideals
John Mark Reynolds
Certainly, if money could have been raised upon the book, Robert Herrick would long ago have sacrificed that last possession: but the demand for literature, which is so marked a feature in some parts of the South Seas, extends not so far as the dead tongues; and the Virgil, which he could not exchange against a meal had often consoled him in his hunger. He would study it, as he lay with tightened belt on the floor of the old calaboose, seeking favourite passages and finding new ones only less beautiful because they lacked the consecration of remembrance. The Ebb-Tide
Robert Louis Stevenson
Pounding fragrant things - particularly garlic, basil, parsley - is a tremendous antidote to depression. But it applies also to juniper berries, coriander seeds and the grilled fruits of the chilli pepper. Pounding these things produces an alteration in one's being - from sighing with fatigue to inhaling with pleasure. The cheering effects of herbs and alliums cannot be too often reiterated. Virgil's appetite was probably improved equally by pounding garlic as by eating it.
Those who have not learned to read the ancient classics in the language in which they were written must have a very imperfect knowledge of the history of the human race; for it is remarkable that no transcript of them has ever been made into any modern tongue, unless our civilization itself may be regarded as such a transcript. Homer has never yet been printed in English, nor Aeschylus, nor Virgil even, works as refined, as solidly done, and as beautiful almost as the morning itself; for later writers, say what we will of their genius, have rarely, if ever, equaled the elaborate beauty and finish and the lifelong and heroic literary labors of the ancients. They only talk of forgetting them who never knew them.
Henry David Thoreau
Of all public figures and benefactors of mankind, no one is loved by history more than the literary patron. Napoleon was just a general of forgotten battles compared with the queen who paid for Shakespeare's meals and beer in the tavern. The statesman who in his time freed the slaves, even he has a few enemies in posterity, whereas the literary patron has none. We thank Gaius Maecenas for the nobility of soul we attribute to Virgil; but he isn't blamed for the selfishness and egocentricity that the poet possessed. The patron creates 'literature through altruism, ' something not even the greatest genius can do with a pen.
As they drifted down the Apple River, Virgil felt as though a medicine was moving through him, flushing his cells with a natural liquid peace. The quiet shrilly of katydids and the soft song of moving water permeated the air. He watched Chantel slowly spinning in the currents, her eyelids fluttering in a way he'd never seen before, her ebony face drenched in sunshine, feet kicking lazily in the water. He wanted to think only of her, in this calm river vision, releasing all other thoughts from his head like flocks and flocks of birds, every species known to man, shooting out of a cavern and filling the sky.
The History of Ireland in two words: Ah well. The Invasion by the Vikings: Ah well. The Invasion by the Normans. The Flight of the Earls, Mr Oliver Cromwell. Daniel O'Connell, Robert Emmett, The Famine, Charles Stewart Parnell, Easter Rising, Michael Collins, e‰amon De Valera, e‰amon De Valera again (Dear Germany, so sorry to learn of the death of your Mr Hitler), e‰amon De Valera again, the Troubles, the Tribunals, the Fianna Fe¡il Party, The Church, the Banks, the eight hundred years of rain: Ah well. In the Aeneid Virgil tells it as Sunt lacrimae rerum, which in Robert Fitzgerald's translation means 'They weep for how the world goes', which is more eloquent than Ah well but means the same thing.
All the books were beginning to turn against me. Indeed, I must have been blind as a bat not to have seen it long before, the ludicrous contradiction between my theory of life and my actual experiences as a reader. George MacDonald had done more to me than any other writer; of course it was a pity that he had that bee in his bonnet about Christianity. He was good in spite of it. Chesterton has more sense than all the other moderns put together; bating, of course, his Christianity. Johnson was one of the few authors whom I felt I could trust utterly; curiously enough, he had the same kink. Spenser and Milton by a strange coincidence had it too. Even among ancient authors the same paradox was to be found. The most religious (Plato, Aeschylus, Virgil) were clearly those on whom I could really feed. On the other hand, those writers who did not suffer from religion and with whom in theory my sympathy ought to have been complete - Shaw and Wells and Mill and Gibbon and Voltaire - all seemed a little thin; what as boys we called "tinny". It wasn't that I didn't like them. They were all (especially Gibbon) entertaining; but hardly more. There seemed to be no depth in them. They were too simple. The roughness and density of life did not appear in their books.
I have used the theologians and their treatment of apocalypse as a model of what we might expect to find not only in more literary treatments of the same radical fiction, but in the literary treatment of radical fictions in general. The assumptions I have made in doing so I shall try to examine next time. Meanwhile it may be useful to have some kind of summary account of what I've been saying. The main object: is the critical business of making sense of some of the radical ways of making sense of the world. Apocalypse and the related themes are strikingly long-lived; and that is the first thing to say tbout them, although the second is that they change. The Johannine acquires the characteristics of the Sibylline Apocalypse, and develops other subsidiary fictions which, in the course of time, change the laws we prescribe to nature, and specifically to time. Men of all kinds act, as well as reflect, as if this apparently random collocation of opinion and predictions were true. When it appears that it cannot be so, they act as if it were true in a different sense. Had it been otherwise, Virgil could not have been altissimo poeta in a Christian tradition; the Knight Faithful and True could not have appeared in the opening stanzas of "The Faerie Queene". And what is far more puzzling, the City of Apocalypse could not have appeared as a modern Babylon, together with the 'shipmen and merchants who were made rich by her' and by the 'inexplicable splendour' of her 'fine linen, and purple and scarlet, ' in The Waste Land, where we see all these things, as in Revelation, 'come to nought.' Nor is this a matter of literary allusion merely. The Emperor of the Last Days turns up as a Flemish or an Italian peasant, as Queen Elizabeth or as Hitler; the Joachite transition as a Brazilian revolution, or as the Tudor settlement, or as the Third Reich. The apocalyptic types-empire, decadence and renovation, progress and catastrophe-are fed by history and underlie our ways of making sense of the world from where we stand, in the middest.
It is already the fashion to diminish Eliot by calling him derivative, the mouthpiece of Pound, and so forth; and yet if one wanted to understand the apocalypse of early modernism in its true complexity it would be Eliot, I fancy, who would demand one's closest attention. He was ready to rewrite the history of all that interested him in order to have past and present conform; he was a poet of apocalypse, of the last days and the renovation, the destruction of the earthly city as a chastisement of human presumption, but also of empire. Tradition, a word we especially associate with this modernist, is for him the continuity of imperial deposits; hence the importance in his thought of Virgil and Dante. He saw his age as a long transition through which the elect must live, redeeming the time. He had his demonic host, too; the word 'Jew' remained in lower case through all the editions of the poems until the last of his lifetime, the seventy-fifth birthday edition of 1963. He had a persistent nostalgia for closed, immobile hierarchical societies. If tradition is, as he said in After Strange Gods-though the work was suppressed-'the habitual actions, habits and customs' which represent the kinship 'of the same people living in the same place' it is clear that Jews do not have it, but also that practically nobody now does. It is a fiction, a fiction cousin to a myth which had its effect in more practical politics. In extenuation it might be said that these writers felt, as Sartre felt later, that in a choice between Terror and Slavery one chooses Terror, 'not for its own sake, but because, in this era of flux, it upholds the exigencies proper to the aesthetics of Art.' The fictions of modernist literature were revolutionary, new, though affirming a relation of complementarity with the past. These fictions were, I think it is clear, related to others, which helped to shape the disastrous history of our time. Fictions, notably the fiction of apocalypse, turn easily into myths; people will live by that which was designed only to know by. Lawrence would be the writer to discuss here, if there were time; apocalypse works in Woman in Love, and perhaps even in Lady Chatterley's Lover, but not n Apocalypse, which is failed myth. It is hard to restore the fictive status of what has become mythical; that, I take it, is what Mr. Saul Bellow is talking about in his assaults on wastelandism, the cant of alienation. In speaking of the great men of early modernism we have to make very subtle distinctions between the work itself, in which the fictions are properly employed, and obiter dicta in which they are not, being either myths or dangerous pragmatic assertions. When the fictions are thus transformed there is not only danger but a leak, as it were, of reality; and what we feel about. all these men at times is perhaps that they retreated inso some paradigm, into a timeless and unreal vacuum from which all reality had been pumped. Joyce, who was a realist, was admired by Eliot because he modernized myth, and attacked by Lewis because he concerned himself with mess, the disorders of common perception. But Ulysses , alone of these great works studies and develops the tension between paradigm and reality, asserts the resistance of fact to fiction, human freedom and unpredictability against plot. Joyce chooses a Day; it is a crisis ironically treated. The day is full of randomness. There are coincidences, meetings that have point, and coincidences which do not. We might ask whether one of the merits of the book is not its lack of mythologizing; compare Joyce on coincidence with the Jungians and their solemn concordmyth, the Principle of Synchronicity. From Joyce you cannot even extract a myth of Negative Concord; he shows us fiction fitting where it touches. And Joyce, who probably knew more about it than any of the others, was not at tracted by the intellectual opportunities or the formal elegance of fascism.
Reading list (1972 edition) 1. Homer - Iliad, Odyssey 2. The Old Testament 3. Aeschylus - Tragedies 4. Sophocles - Tragedies 5. Herodotus - Histories 6. Euripides - Tragedies 7. Thucydides - History of the Peloponnesian War 8. Hippocrates - Medical Writings 9. Aristophanes - Comedies 10. Plato - Dialogues 11. Aristotle - Works 12. Epicurus - Letter to Herodotus; Letter to Menoecus 13. Euclid - Elements 14. Archimedes - Works 15. Apollonius of Perga - Conic Sections 16. Cicero - Works 17. Lucretius - On the Nature of Things 18. Virgil - Works 19. Horace - Works 20. Livy - History of Rome 21. Ovid - Works 22. Plutarch - Parallel Lives; Moralia 23. Tacitus - Histories; Annals; Agricola Germania 24. Nicomachus of Gerasa - Introduction to Arithmetic 25. Epictetus - Discourses; Encheiridion 26. Ptolemy - Almagest 27. Lucian - Works 28. Marcus Aurelius - Meditations 29. Galen - On the Natural Faculties 30. The New Testament 31. Plotinus - The Enneads 32. St. Augustine - On the Teacher; Confessions; City of God; On Christian Doctrine 33. The Song of Roland 34. The Nibelungenlied 35. The Saga of Burnt Nje¡l 36. St. Thomas Aquinas - Summa Theologica 37. Dante Alighieri - The Divine Comedy;The New Life; On Monarchy 38. Geoffrey Chaucer - Troilus and Criseyde; The Canterbury Tales 39. Leonardo da Vinci - Notebooks 40. Niccole² Machiavelli - The Prince; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy 41. Desiderius Erasmus - The Praise of Folly 42. Nicolaus Copernicus - On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres 43. Thomas More - Utopia 44. Martin Luther - Table Talk; Three Treatises 45. Frane§ois Rabelais - Gargantua and Pantagruel 46. John Calvin - Institutes of the Christian Religion 47. Michel de Montaigne - Essays 48. William Gilbert - On the Loadstone and Magnetic Bodies 49. Miguel de Cervantes - Don Quixote 50. Edmund Spenser - Prothalamion; The Faerie Queene 51. Francis Bacon - Essays; Advancement of Learning; Novum Organum, New Atlantis 52. William Shakespeare - Poetry and Plays 53. Galileo Galilei - Starry Messenger; Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences 54. Johannes Kepler - Epitome of Copernican Astronomy; Concerning the Harmonies of the World 55. William Harvey - On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals; On the Circulation of the Blood; On the Generation of Animals 56. Thomas Hobbes - Leviathan 57. Rene Descartes - Rules for the Direction of the Mind; Discourse on the Method; Geometry; Meditations on First Philosophy 58. John Milton - Works 59. Molie¨re - Comedies 60. Blaise Pascal - The Provincial Letters; Pensees; Scientific Treatises 61. Christiaan Huygens - Treatise on Light 62. Benedict de Spinoza - Ethics 63. John Locke - Letter Concerning Toleration; Of Civil Government; Essay Concerning Human Understanding;Thoughts Concerning Education 64. Jean Baptiste Racine - Tragedies 65. Isaac Newton - Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy; Optics 66. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz - Discourse on Metaphysics; New Essays Concerning Human Understanding;Monadology 67. Daniel Defoe - Robinson Crusoe 68. Jonathan Swift - A Tale of a Tub; Journal to Stella; Gulliver's Travels; A Modest Proposal 69. William Congreve - The Way of the World 70. George Berkeley - Principles of Human Knowledge 71. Alexander Pope - Essay on Criticism; Rape of the Lock; Essay on Man 72. Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu - Persian Letters; Spirit of Laws 73. Voltaire - Letters on the English; Candide; Philosophical Dictionary 74. Henry Fielding - Joseph Andrews; Tom Jones 75. Samuel Johnson - The Vanity of Human Wishes; Dictionary; Rasselas; The Lives of the Poets
Mortimer J. Adler