1753
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Eclogue IV. On the Birth of Marcellus. To Pollio.

The Works of Virgil, in Latin and English. The original Text correctly printed from the most authentic Editions, collated for this Purpose. The Aeneid translated by the Rev. Mr. Christopher Pitt, the Eclogues and Georgics, with Notes on the Whole, by the Rev. Mr. Joseph Warton. 4 Vols.

Virgil, trans. Joseph Warton


Samuel Egerton Brydges: "This work was well received; and Oxford conferred the degree of A.M. by diploma on the Editor" Censura Literaria 3 (1807) 189.

Argument: "Catrou seems to be the first commentator that has given the true interpretation of the subject of this famous Eclogue. His words are as follows, viz. In the year 714 of Rome, says he, when Asinius Pollio and Domitius Calvinus were consuls, the people of Rome compelled the triumvirs Octavian and Anthony to make a durable peace between them. It was hoped, that thereby an end would be put to the war with Sextus Pompey, who had made himself master of Sicily, and by the interruption of commerce, had caused a famine in Rome. To make this peace the more firm, they would have Anthony, whose wife Fulvia was then dead, to marry Octavian Caesar's sister Octavia, who had lately lost her husband Marcellus, and was then big with a child, of which she was delivered, after her marriage with Anthony. This child retained the name of his own father Marcellus, and as long as he lived, was the delight of his uncle Octavian, and the hope of the Roman people. It is he that is the subject of this Eclogue. Virgil addresses it to Pollio, who was at that time consul, and thereby makes a compliment to Caesar, Anthony, Octavia, and Pollio, all at once. The Marcellus, whose birth is here celebrated, is the same whose death is lamented by Virgil in the sixth Aeneid. The poet borrows what was predicted by the Cumaean Sybil concerning Jesus Christ, and applies it to this child" 1:89.

John Dryden: "In the three first he contains himself, within his bounds; but Addressing to Pollio, his great Patron, and himself no vulgar Poet, he no longer cou'd restrain the freedom of his Spirit, but began to assert his Native Character, which is sublimity. Putting himself under the conduct of the same Cumaean Sybil whom afterwards he gave for a Guide to his Aeneas. 'Tis true he was sensible of his own boldness; and we know it by the Paulo Majora, which begins Fourth Eclogue. He remember'd, like young Manlius, that he was forbidden to Engage; but what avails an express Command to a youthful Courage, which presages Victory in the attempt?" Works of Virgil (1697) 2.



Give me, Sicilian maids, sublimer strains,
All love not lowly shrubs and rural plains:
Or if ye chuse to sing the shady grove,
Make your theme worthy a great consul's love.

The years approach, by Sybils sage foretold,
Again by circling time in order roll'd!
Astrea comes, old Saturn's holy reign,
Peace, virtue, justice, now return again!
See a new progeny from heav'n descend!
Lucina hear! th' important birth befriend!
The golden age this infant shall restore,
Thy Phoebus reigns — and vice shall be no more.
The months begin, the babe's auspicious face,
Pollio, thy glorious consulship shall grace;
What footsteps of our ancient crimes remain
For ever shall be banish'd in thy reign.
He shall enjoy the life divine, and see
The gods, and heroes of eternity;
The jarring world in lasting peace shall bind,
And with his father's virtues rule mankind.

For thee, O child, spontaneous earth shall pour
Green ivy, mix'd with ev'ry choicest flow'r:
Each field shall breathe Assyria's rich perfume,
And sweets ambrosial round thy cradle bloom:
With milk o'ercharg'd the goats shall homeward speed,
And herds secure from mighty lions feed.
The baleful asp and speckled snake shall die,
Nor pois'nous herb 'mid flow'rs conceal'd shall lie.
But when his matchless father's deeds divine,
And how in virtue's arduous paths to shine,
Warm'd with old heroes' fame, the youth shall know,
Then clustering grapes on forest-thorns shall glow;
Swains without culture golden harvests reap,
And knotted oaks shall showers of honey weep.
Yet of old crimes some footsteps shall remain,
The glebe be plough'd, ships tempt the dang'rous main;
'Round cities bulwarks rise, and massy tow'rs,
And other Argo's bear the chosen pow'rs;
New wars the bleeding nations shall destroy,
And great Achilles find a second Troy.

But when he reaches manhood's prime complete,
The sailor shall forsake the useless fleet;
No freighted ship shall wander ocean 'round,
With ev'ry fruit shall every clime be crown'd:
No lands shall feel the rake, nor vine the hook,
The swain from toil his bullocks shall unyoke:
No wool shall glow with alien colours gay,
The ram himself rich fleeces shall display
Of native purple and unborrow'd gold,
And sandyx clothe with red the crowded fold.
The sisters to their spindles said — "Succeed
Ye happy years, for thus hath fate decreed!"
Assume thy state! thy destin'd honours prove,
Dear to the gods! O progeny of Jove!
Behold how tottering nature nods around,
Earth, air, the wat'ry waste, and heav'n profound!
At once they change — they wear a smiling face,
And all with joy th' approaching age embrace!
O that my life, my vigour may remain
To tell thy actions in heroic strain;
Not Orpheus' self, not Linus should exceed
My lofty lays, or gain the poet's meed,
Tho' Phoebus, tho' Calliope inspire,
And one the mother aid, and one the sire.
Should Pan contend, Arcadia's self should own
That I from Pan himself had gain'd the crown.
Begin, begin, O loveliest babe below!
Thy mother by her tender smile to know!
(Ten tedious months that mother bore for thee
The sickness and the pains of pregnancy)
For if thy parents smile not, 'tis decreed,
No god shall grace thy board, no goddess bless thy bed.

[1:89-98]