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ROME-ARTS AND LEARNING.

in intimate friendship. Vergil succumbed to the blandishments of Augustus, and

became wealthy.

Maecenas was himself a man of letters. At his palace on one of the hills of Rome

he was accustomed to entertain the literati of the city, and to converse with

them on the themes of their respective works. Here Horace, Vergil, Varius, and

many other distinguished lights were wont to shed their combined effulgence in

the luxurious halls of their patron and friend.

All that such surroundings could contribute to produce poetical development was

flung broadcast from the hands of opulence. If poetry could only have been made

to grow by supplying rich soil and sunshine and rain, then indeed would the

Augustan muse have surpassed all others of the ancient world. But poetry is a

product of Nature. Culture contributes her part to Nature's gift, but no

artificial means can produce the divine afflatus. An imaginative race will have

its poets. A people like the Romans will have their rhetoricians. Latin poetry is

rhetoric in verse.

Now it was that the imitative rather than creative genius of the Romans displayed

itself in full force. Poet rhetoricians came on by the score. Of these the names

belonging to the first class are those of Vergil, Horace, Ovid, Catullus, and

Propertius; and of these great lights of Latin literature it is but just to say

that not one ever produced a truly original work.

The earliest of the group of authors just named was Catullus. His life belongs to

the last years of the Republic. His father was one of Caesar's friends. The youth

was educated in Rome. He acquired a taste for elegiac poetry such as was

cultivated by the Alexandrian Greeks, and then became an imitator of that style

of verse. An imitator he would doubtless have remained but for the breaking up of

the fountains by the onset of love. The fierce god sent him Clodia, or, as he

called her, Lesbia, wife of the consul Quintus Metellus. For awhile she

reciprocated his passion, and his verse flowed with an inspiration not hitherto

known among the Roman bards. By and by Clodia fell away, and his muse turned to a

goddess of wormwood.

The style introduced in the elegiac of Catullus found a host of imitators. Every

poet felt called upon to have some fair one of whom he was enamored. Such

especially was Tibullus, who reigned for a while as prince of erotic verse. He

had been born to the inheritance of a Roman knight, but lost his patrimony in the

civil wars. After the battle of Actium he lived in retirement, and devoted

himself to literature. His poems are characterized by softness, melancholy, and

languor; nor does it appear that his muse was insincere in her expression of

tenderness and passion.

A contemporary of the last named poet was Sextus Aurelius Propertius. He, also,

was a writer of elegiac verse, and as such is worthy to be classed with those of

the first rank. His model among the Greeks was Callimachus, whose manly tone he

imitated with much success. Less original and fervid than Tibullus, his poems are

the products of a bolder and stronger genius, more worthy of the author and the

age.

Far above the authors thus far enumerated stands the great name of Ovid. His

career extended from B.C. 66 to 17. While there was much about him that was

superficial, and little in his nature that was calculated to stir the profounder

depths of feeling, yet his wealth of words and the airy grace and freedom of his

verse will ever give him a niche among the greatest poets of Rome. His talents

won him an entrance to the court of Augustus. For a while he walked freely among

his royal surroundings, but at length fell under the imperial ban, perhaps for

his intimacy with Julia, the granddaughter of the emperor; and for this he was

banished to Tomi, in Moesia, where he passed the remainder of his life in wailing

out his sorrows. It is not, however, by his Book of Sorrows that he is known to

posterity. His love poems, especially the Amatory Art, and his Metamorphoses,

constitute his title to fame. The latter work is a production of much power and

interest, being a narrative poem in which the whole circuit of mythology is

traversed, and the alternate favor and anger of the gods towards man and nature

recited in a manner at once interesting and poetic.

Greater than Ovid, however, was Quintus