Saturday, January 30, 2010


Vergil, Aeneid 2

These are some notes to myself after reading the second book of Vergil's Aeneid with the commentary of R.G. Austin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964).

Quotations from Vergil:

65-66 (a common, if usually unfair, type of generalization): crimine ab uno / disce omnis

130-131 (the impulse to find a scapegoat): quae sibi quisque timebat, / unius in miseri exitium conversa tulere

137 (words of an exile): nec mihi iam patriam antiquam spes ulla videndi

324 (what awaits us all): venit summa dies et ineluctabile tempus

354 (if you push a man too far): una salus victis nullam sperare salutem

361-362 (a scene too often repeated throughout history): quis cladem illius noctis, quis funera fando / explicet aut possit lacrimis aequare labores?

402 (misplaced faith): heu nihil invitis fas quemquam fidere divis!

429-430 (devotion to the gods no protection against destruction): nec te tua plurima, Panthu, / labentem pietas nec Apollinis infula texit (cf. 11.843-844: nec tibi desertae in dumis coluisse Dianam / profuit)

509-511 (the pathos of old Priam arming himself): arma diu senior desueta trementibus aevo / circumdat nequiquam umeris et inutile ferrum / cingitur, ac densos fertur moriturus in hostis

594 (grief erupting into anger): quis indomitas tantus dolor excitat iras?

626-631 (comparison of fall of Troy to cutting down of an ash tree): ac veluti summis antiquam in montibus ornum / cum ferro accisam crebrisque bipennibus instant / eruere agricolae certatim, illa usque minatur / et tremefacta comam concusso vertice nutat, / vulneribus donec paulatim evicta supremum / congemuit traxitque iugis avulsa ruinam

647-648 (despair of an old man at his uselessness): iam pridem invisus divis et inutilis annos / demoror

714-715 (religious impulse to preserve a tree): antiqua cupressus / religione patrum multos servata per annos

777-778 (all things are fated to be): non haec sine numine divum / eveniunt

From Austin's commentary:

p. 50 (on 54): fata = quae dii loquuntur (Servius)

p. 58 (on 78, Argive reticence, cf. Boeotian taciturnity): "If Sinon had lived up to true 'Argive' ways, he would have had less to say; cf. Pearson's references on Soph. fr. 64, and fr. 462 μῦθος γάρ, Ἀργολιστὶ συντέμνων, βραχύς."

p. 94 (on 198 mille carinae):"The exact number of the Greek ships may be obtained by statisticians from Il. ii, or from Hygin. fab. 97: but could Helen's face have launched 1186 ships?"

p. 124 (on 263 primusque Machaon): "Absurd emendations have been made, e.g. prudensque M. (Baehrens), medicusque M. (Brandt, mentioned with approval by R. Wagner): poor Virgil. The Irish translator in the fourteenth-century Book of Ballymote solved the problem by making Primus a separate hero..."

p. 131 (on 277, interesting note on Hector's haircut): "thus the tonsura named after Hector was 'short in front, long behind'."

p. 151 (on 341), note on the Seven Sillies of antiquity, as opposed to the Seven Sages

pp. 153-154 (on 351), note on "the ancient ritual of evocatio deorum before an assault on a city"

p. 158 (on 369): "My generation cannot but be reminded of one of Winston Churchill's greatest speeches: Death and sorrow will be our companions on the journey, hardship our garment, constancy and valour our only shield." Roger Kuin recently quoted another Churchill speech, which makes me think I should read these speeches: "You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. On all sides they are guarded by masses of armed men, cannons, aeroplanes, fortifications, and the like - they boast and vaunt themselves before the world, yet in their hearts there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts; words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home - all the more powerful because forbidden - terrify them. A mouse, a little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic. They make frantic efforts to bar our thoughts and words; they are afraid of the workings of the human mind."

p. 191 (on 488 ululant): "The verb, like ululatus, is specially applied to women (cf. Pliny, Epp. vi.20.14 'audires ululatus feminarum, infantium quiritatus, clamores virorum')," etc.

p. 194 (on 496 amnis): "For an examination of the relation of flumen, fluvius, and amnis see K. van der Hyde, Mnemos., N.S., lx, 1933, pp. 135 ff."

p. 195 (on 504 barbarico): "The Roman Ovid was disconcerted to find himself a 'foreigner' among the Goths (Trist. v.10.37 'barbarus hic ego sum, qui non intellegor ulli')."

p. 200 (on 513), note on trees inside houses, esp. quote from Statius, Silvae 1.3.59 ff.: 'quid te, quae mediis servata penatibus arbor / tecta per et postis liquidas emergis in auras, / quo non sub domino saevas passura bipennis?'

p. 235 (on 608 ff.): "the grotesque banalities of Silius' cardboard epic"

p. 240 (on 626 ff., the tree-cutting simile): "Homer has many tree-similes (e.g. Il. iv.482 ff., xii.131 ff.), and Virgil himself has others (an oak, iv.441 ff., a pine, v.448 f.); cf. Apoll. Rhod. iv.1682 ff., Catull. 64.105 ff. But no literary ancestry is needed here; Virgil must often have watched the felling of a tree in his country days (as his agricolae here itself suggests)."

p. 243 (on 638): "Virgil well understands the fear of the very old at the thought of leaving the place that they have known all their lives."

p. 245 (on 644), quotes Servius 'ut dici mortuis solet vale, vale, vale'

pp. 257 (on 691) and 260 (on 703), on distinction "in the technical language of augury" between an augurium oblativum ("sent by the gods without man's request") and an augurium impetrativum ("sent in answer to a request"), with reference to Servius on Aeneid 6.190.

p. 258 (on 694, comparing this passage, Georgics 1.365 ff., and Lucretius 2.206 ff., with Aratus, Phaenomena 926 f.): "see how fine a language Latin is in its own right when faced by a comparable piece of Greek."

p. 261 (on 708): "These two simple lines are worth pages of commentary on the meaning of pietas."

p. 262 (on 708), on caricatures known as grylli

pp. 263-264 (on 714 desertae Cereris), quoting (from Henry) Vitruvius 1.7.2 on "the proper siting of a temple of Ceres, according to the Etruscans" — 'extra urbem loco quo <non quolibet> nomine semper homines, nisi per sacrificium, necesse habeant adire'

p. 272 (on 748): "Most readers of Virgil will have their private picture of a curva vallis: mine is Sheepscombe in Gloucestershire."

p. 276 (on 766 f.): "'there, all around, stand endless lines of frightened mothers with their children'. Virgil's picture of these living chattels could be paralleled easily enough from Greek drama....But it springs ultimately from his own consciousness of suffering, as if he had himself known the sight of terrified refugees, listlessly waiting in a queue, rounded up by an implacable enemy: it must be more vivid for his readers of the twentieth century than it can have been for many centuries in the past."

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