Page:The imperial peace; an ideal in European history.djvu/15

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
11
The Imperial Peace

'our poet', as he lovingly and proudly calls Virgil; and the monarch whom he portrays is the Roman Emperor. The idea had its literary birth in 40 B.C., when Virgil, in the Fourth Eclogue, told Rome, 'Your happiness is now being wrought out in Italy.' Forethought, science, and orderly government were inaugurating once more the Golden Age there. The alliance of good government with scientific knowledge was beginning to remake Italy and the Roman world; and would soon destroy all noxious plants and animals, produce all useful things in abundance from the earth, tame all that was wild, improve the nature of the soil and its products so that the thorn-tree should laugh and bloom into flower. This improvement is the work of the new Empire. Before that Empire was born, Virgil, in a sense, prophesied its birth. He wrote under the Triumvirate. He did not speak, nor think, of a monarch; and the one member of the Triumvirate whom he indicates quite as plainly as if he named him is Antony. At the time when Antony was embarking on an Eastern war, Virgil says that a new Achilles was sailing for another Troy, the West was giving order to Asia, and new argonauts were about to bring the distant Orient under the Roman peace. The thought of a single monarch was at that time not merely anachronistic: it was rank treason; the newly established rule was a rule of two Romans in the East and the West.

Yet, though less clearly indicated as a person, the ruler of the West and his wise administration of Italy was the subject of the poem. This incited and heated the poet's enthusiasm. Italy was the object of his love and the subject of his verse: the Romans have all that they need in Italy, the loveliest and best land in the world, when it is used rightly; but scientific agriculture is needed to