Thursday, December 09, 2004


The Tomb of Vergil

Robert Cameron Rogers (1862-1912), Virgil's Tomb:
On an olive-crested steep
  Hanging o'er the dusty road,
  Lieth in his last abode,
Wrapped in everlasting sleep,

He who in the days of yore
  Sang of pastures, sang of farms,
  Sang of heroes and their arms,
Sang of passion, sang of war.

When the lark at dawning tells,
  Herald like, the coming day,
  And along the dusty way
Comes the sound of tinkling bells,

Rising to the tomb aloft,
  While some modern Corydon
  Drives his bleating cattle on
From the stable to the croft:

Then the soul of Virgil seems
To awaken from its dreams,
To sing again the melodies
Of which he often tells, --
  The music of the birds,
  The lowing of the herds,
The tinkling of the bells.
Vergil "sang of pastures" in his Eclogues, "sang of farms" in his Georgics, and "sang of heroes and their arms" in his Aeneid. These lines by Rogers recall the epitaph which Vergil supposedly wrote for himself (Suetonius, Life of Vergil 36, tr. J.C. Rolfe):
ossa eius Neapolim translata sunt tumuloque condita qui est via Puteolana intra lapidem secundum, in quo distichon fecit tale:

Mantua me genuit, Calabri rapuere, tenet nunc
  Parthenope. cecini pascua, rura, duces.

His ashes were taken to Naples and laid to rest on the Via Puteolana less than two miles from the city, in a tomb for which he himself composed this couplet:

Mantua gave me the light, Calabria slew me; now holds me
  Parthenope; I have sung shepherds, the country, and wars.
A medieval legend has St. Paul visiting the tomb of Vergil:
Ad Maronis mausoleum
Ductus, fudit super eum
  Piae rorem lacrimae:
'Quem te' inquit 'reddidissem,
Si te vivum invenissem,
  Poetarum maxime!'

Brought to the tomb of Vergil, he shed over it the dew of a reverent tear: he said, "What would I have made of thee, greatest of poets, if I had found thee alive!"

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