[C.S. Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost pp. 33 ff.]
'...so true an artist as Virgil could not be content with the clumsiness and monotony of a mere chronicle. His solution to the problem- one of the most important revolutions in the history of poetry- was to take one single national legend and treat it in such a way that we feel the vaster theme to be somehow implicit in it. He has to tell a comparatively short story and give us the illusion of having lived through a great space of time. He has to deal with a limited number of personages and make us feel as if national, or almost cosmic, issues are involved. He must locate his action in a legendary past and yet make us feel the present, and the intervening centuries, already foreshadowed...
'The more obvious instances of this enlargement of Virgil's subject have, no doubt, often been noticed- the glimpses of the future in Jove's prophecy in Book I, or in the vision of Anchises, or in the shield, or again the connexion of the whole of the fourth Book with the Punic Wars. Perhaps the most moving of all these forward links is the visit of Aeneas to the future site of Rome in Book VIII.
'The backward links [in time] are of equal importance... If I am not mistaken it is almost the first poem which carries a real sense of the "abysm of time". Priscus, vetus and antiquus are key-words in Virgil. In Books VI to VIII- the true heart of the poem- we are never allowed to forget that Latium- Lurkwood, the hiding place of aged Saturn- has been waiting for the Trojans from the beginning of the world.'
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
C.S. Lewis, Time and the Aeneid
One of the most helpful things I've ever read on the Aeneid comes from a strange source- C.S. Lewis in his preface to Paradise Lost. Here's what he has to say about time in the Aeneid: