CHAP. III. What is offered in the two foregoing Chapters, confirm'd by Virgil's fourth Eclogue, and the Translation of it asserted.
THat the first was meant of the Salvation of Mankind, by one, whom all ought to own for King, can be no question to any who shall impartially consider the first Eclogue of Virgil in the Original, or my Essay towards a Translation of it; which, tho it lose much of the Spirit by the Transfusion, I shall here justify to be so far true, that there is nothing inserted or varied from the genuine import of Virgil's Expressions, to make the Prediction more plainly to denote our Saviour, than Virgil's account makes it.
Tho Vandale thinks it a meer Dream that Vir∣gil, or others,* were permitted the Inspection of the Sibylline Verses through Augustus his favour,* yet elsewhere he owns, that tho the Books were not to be consulted without a Decree of the Senate; yet in Jul. Caesar's time the Officers made an inspecti∣on by the sole Authority or Direction of Caesar, who was Emperour, and Chief Pontif: And if in this the ancient course of expecting the Senate's Decree was broken, why might not Augustus as well break the other, and order that a private Person should have the inspection?
But however Vandale himselfe owns,* that these Verses were disperst through all Grecia, Asia, Africa, and other Regions, when Augustus made Page 162 his Collection; and where Virgil saw them is not greatly material here, but that he had seen Verses which pass'd for Cumaean Sibyl's, and wrote to one who is presumed not to have been unac∣quainted with them, appears, when he says;
Nor can Pollio well be thought to have been a Stranger to the Predictions of the Sibyls, being the first,* who, by Augustus his order, afterwards made a publick Library at Rome; which must have been, as he was thought the fittest for such a charge.
The Commentators seem industriously to cast a Cloud over Virgil's Representation of the Pre∣diction, which he mentions to Pollio: and will have it that this Poem was made to celebrate the Birth of Pollio's Son, that some Eclogues are ap∣plied by Virgil to Pollio himself, others to Au∣gustus, the rest to the Son of Pollio.
Where they seem to mind neither the time when it was wrote, the manner of the Expressi∣ons, nor the contexture of the Poem, which of one of the most noble and best turn'd that Vir∣gil ever wrote, they would make confused, and unworthy any Man of Judgment.
The Poem it self shews, that 'twas composed in Pollio's Consulship, which was in the Year 713,* after the building of Rome, about 14 before Christ, this was during the Triumvirat of Octa∣vius, Anthony, and Lepidus; wherefore I cannot think that there is any ground to believe, that Virgil spake otherwise, than only of what should happen in Pollio's Consulship, when he says,
This indeed a great Poet has rendred,
And the Commentators take Te Duce, to be the same with Te Authore, and that Virgil means either Augustus, or Pollio, and the Crimes to be the Civil Wars, between Augustus and Anthony at Mutina: whereas this was before Octavius took the name of Augustus; nor is there any thing to lead to him here: Besides, Octavius and Anthony were reconciled at least the Year before Pollio's Consulship, and Pollio was on Anthony's side while the division lasted;* so that there is no colour to think that Virgil meant that Pollio was to compose the Civil War after it was over, or to impute to him the Success of the opposite Party.
There were more of colour in the Supposition,* that Pollio being one of the three, who were ap∣pointed to divide the Lands of some, who were Criminals in opposing Octavius his having the Command of the Army, tho decreed by the Se∣nate: Virgil, having been connived at by Pollio, thanks him for freeing him from the fear of what he might justly have expected to suffer; yet I question whether Virgil would term one the Author of what he did, as joint Commissioner with others; nor would he upon such an account say,
As if the whole Earth were concerned in Vir∣gils Fears.
And by attending to the time when this was wrote, we find that
2. If we observe the manner of the Expressi∣ons, we shall find, that whereas Pollio's Son is re∣puted the chief Subject of the Poem; how much soever a Poet may be allowed to strain his Characters, no Man can imagine that Virgil would ascribe such high and mighty things to the Son of a Consul, when he was little more than Titular, under the check of the Triumvirs; durst he call him the Offspring of the Gods, the great encrease of Jove, and suppose that he should re∣store the Golden Age, and that Heaven it self expects support from him? this would have been no less than Crimen laesae Majestatis.
But to put this out of Controversy, 'tis all applied to one who was expected to be born; when the Commentors will have it in celebrati∣on of Pollio's Son's Birth.
3. If we observe the Connexion of one Verse to another.
Page 165It appears that Decus-evi, the Grace, or Glory of that Age, who was to restore the Age of Gold, was expected to be born during Pollio's Consulship, that while he was Consul the Sins of Mankind were to be taken away; nor can any think it supposed to be done by any other, than by him who is called the great encrease of Jove, who was to ascend into Heaven, and to govern the World with his Father's Vertues, which I may well render by expressing his Father.
The Clouds being thus removed, these Parti∣culars appear with a clear Light.
1. That the Cumaean Sybil spake of a Virgin,* which might then perhaps be thought meant of Astraea, because of the glorious things said of her.
2. That there was expected a wonderful Re∣volution, a Restauration, of the state of Inno∣cence, or Golden Age, such as the Poets fancied to have been in Saturn's Reign, and in truth was under the Primitive Theocracy.
3. That this was to be at the Birth of a Man-Child, to whom are ascribed such things as no poetical License, without warrant from a Prophe∣cy or Prediction, could excuse.
And tho I may seem to strain, where I call him (the Rythm requiring it) Earth's King, nothing less can be implied from,
Page 166Where the Poet invites him to enter upon his appointed Honour, or Office, of governing the World, nay, and Heaven it self.
Could these things be with any colour ascribed to the Son of Pollio? Nay: and does he not sup∣pose him to be more than Man, not only where he says,
But more plainly, where he calls him,
Where the Increase of Jove seems to shew, that tho he had an Hypostasis, or Personality, di∣stinct from the Great God, yet is one God with him, Jove being spread out or encreas'd, with another Person, but his Godhead undivided.
With those Divine Mysteries which Virgil re∣ports from the Sybil, he seems to joyn some poe∣tical Flourishes of his own, as that the Earth should pay this Infant an early Tribute of its Stores; that when he grows up the Oak should yeild Honey; and that when he is arrived to Manhood, Nature should die the Flocks with the most pleasing Colours without the help of Art, and the like.
But I know not but another part, which is in∣terpreted of a fancied Platonical Revolution, may have a truly moral Signification.
Page 167Where this may seem not so much to fore∣tell from Prophetical Inspiration, as by a moral Judgment; that tho former Sins were purged a∣way, yet that would not remove the capacity of sinning, but that the same, or like Crimes and Fol∣lies, should be in the World again, till the subject of the Prophecy should come to maturity.
Which might be rendred; Till the perfect Age of the Church. And this perhaps a Millena∣ry would apply, as a Prediction of Christ's Reign, at his return to the Earth before the general Re∣surrection.
But waving what may be doutful, or wholly poetical; what has been here said, together with the account how carefully the Sybils Prophecies were kept, and examined by the Romans, and with the Justification of the Primitive Christians in their Appeals to them; may satisfy any Man, who impartially considers, that Virgil's fourth Eclogue is, in the main, an account of the Cu∣maean Sybil's Prediction, of such an one ex∣pected to be born about that time, as Christians maintain, and none could ever with any colour deny, the Author of their Faith to have been.
That this account was wrote before the Birth of our Saviour, can be no question, unless we will think that some Christian, was not only Poet good enough to counterfeit Virgil's Vein, but had the art to slide it in so well, and so early, that none should be able to discover the Cheat, by shewing any Copies wherein this was omit∣ted. And besides, all this Artifice would have Page 168 been to no purpose, unless at the same time he could have prevailed upon the Keepers of the Sybilline Writings in the Capitol, to let some Verses be foisted in to countenance the matter.
For tho this Account was given by Virgil be∣fore Augustus made his Collection; yet we should have heard of it before now, if there had been nothing in the Capitol to warrant Vir∣gil's Quotations.
And in truth, the lewd Interpretations which have been put upon this Poem, shew, that 'twas thought more easy to cast a blind, by making Virgil write with unallowable poetical License, and without any manner of coherence, than to gain Credit in the denial that this Poem was Virgil's. If they believ'd their own Interpretati∣ons; we may well say, 'twas because they thought of no Person to whom they might apply the Character, which no Man, after reading the Scriptures, and Grotius, can deny to belong to our Saviour, and to him only.