At the beginning of the 19th century, when the poets wanted to create the national epic poem of Hungarians, they followed the Aeneid; at the end of the 18th century, when the agricultural reform was established in Hungary under the Habsburgs, the poets wrote agricultural poems in Vergilian form and translated and modernized his Georgics. The world of Vergil depicted in the Eclogues and in the Georgics became the idealized Arcadia, and poets and writers or the aristocracy — influenced by Vergil — wanted to create their own Arcadia. The pastoral theme and the bucolical forms were very popular in Hungarian literature of this period, at the end of the 18th century. The poets had pastoral names, and very different topics were expressed in eclogues (e.g. actual events of politics). In the first half of the 20th century Vergil had a new renaissance connected to the bimillennium of his birth. And this renaissance reached the most expressive element of the presence of Vergil’s Bucolics in the poetry of Miklós Radnóti (1909–1944), whose eclogues are the most tragic expression of cruelty of war. My paper focuses on the influence of Virgil’s Bucolics in Radnóti’s poetry, but his examples can attest to the deep influence of Vergil on Hungarian literature.
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Vergil’s Eclogues, despite belonging to the bucolic genre and being largely modelled on Theocritus’ Idylls, bear clear marks of cosmic inspiration; these emerge from time to time, now in one poem, next in another, issuing ideas and images apparently inconsistent with the pastoral world: this happens especially in the three central Eclogues. Non-pastoral ideas and images often refer to philosophical or mythological themes, possibly coming either from poets with a cosmic vein (such as Hesiod and Lucretius), or from philosophic schools dealing with cosmogony (such as Orphism and Stoicism). Vergil develops these themes in innovative ways. This broadening of perspective concerns the power of song that seduces and dominates nature (with remarkable self-reflexive implications), the human desire to interact with the gods (even to enter their realm and identify with them through apotheosis), and the longing for purification and rebirth, hand-in-hand with the universal aspiration for peace and happiness.
This article explores the symbiotic relationship between nature and poetry, which is in many ways pivotal for Vergil’s Arcadia, as an imaginary construct. Interdependence of the ideal landscape and the poetic creativity finds an especially refined and polysemic expression in the fagus, which functions in the Eclogues simultaneously as a literary image, a metaphor, and a symbol. It is also strongly reminiscent of the proto-idyllic segment of Plato’s Phaedrus (230b-e), describing a beautiful πλάτανος that turns out to be the source of anagogic inspiration. Based on this analogy, a comparative reading of Plato’s dialogue and Vergil’s idyllic poems is offered, and the ascensus motive of Eclogue 5 reveals the Platonic echoes. The anagogic aspect of Arcadia is examined from an intertextual and interdisciplinary point of view, hopefully contributing to seize the polyphonic complexity of Vergil’s poetics.
The Arcadian landscape was originally developed in Vergil to transcend an actual landscape and identify with an idealized setting temptingly abstract in order to serve as a metaphor for the redesigned pastoral genre as promoted in the Eclogues. Vergil’s Arcadia as described in Eclogue 4, for the first time in Latin literature, was a construction, a literary topos and a symbol of innovative poetics, but also of Roman history and contemporary politics interfused. Vergil’s Arcadia was an imaginary landscape. This utopia becomes — in full awareness of Vergil’s literary contemporaries and the poets following after them — an appropriate setting for the staging of imaginary literary dialogues between shepherds-poets, and the changing poetics is reflected on the changes of the archetypal landscape of the original Arcadia topography. These changes appear first in Tibullus (in selected passages from 1. 1, 1. 3, 1. 5, 1. 7, 1. 10, 2. 1, 2. 3 and 2. 5) and recur in new forms in Propertius, Horace and Ovid. The progress of transformation evidences Arcadia’s ability to observe the rules of different generic environments and anticipates the propagation of the particularly literary topos across the centuries, as a multi-leveled symbol of poetics, aesthetics and politics.
A survey of Vergil’s uses of the word umbra and comparisons with its uses in other Roman poets reveals that Vergil was the first poet to deploy umbra, previously neutral or negative in connotation, with positive associations, and that he may have been the first to coin it as meaning ‘ghost’. Unlike many other poets, Vergil exploits the multivalent potential of umbra, requiring readers to interpret his usage. The fact that all of Vergil’s varied uses of umbra appear in the Culex suggests that it was written by an astute follower who was perceptive to the poet’s nuanced usage of the term.
We find three definitions of the saeculum in the Roman world. The Etruscan Century is based on the lives of the human beings and of the different cities in Etruria. We find an echo of these theories in the Roman divination There are two definitions of the century in Rome, a century of 100 and a century of 110 years. This theory, elaborated by the Quindecemviri sacris faciundis and Ateius Capito, has been taken into consideration to celebrate the Secular Games in 17 AD. In fact, the reign of Augustus has been considered as the return of the Golden Age in Italy and in the Roman world, with the end of the civil wars. In Vergil’s poetry, we find a historical conception of the Hesiodic Golden Age. Announced in the fourth Eclogue, the Golden age is localized in the Latium (Georgica) under the power of Augustus (Aeneid).
In the framework of an European program that I direct — which is devoted to the enhancement of the humanist heritage of the Upper Rhine region (Southern Germany, Northern Switzerland and Alsace), that is the humanistic editions of the Greek and Roman authors held by the libraries —, a curious work to be found in the University Library of Basel has come to my attention. Indeed, I would like to speak about some aspects of the humanist reception of Virgil and more specifically of his Bucolica, concerning the form as well as the content.