Virgil’s fourth eclogue

On Amateur Reader‘s recommendation, I tacked on to my reading of Broch a reading of Virgil’s fourth eclogue (but not, ahem, a reading of The Aeneid). The fourth in a series of ten pastoral poetic vignettes, it was used as early as the time of Constantine to connect Virgil and Rome to Christian themes.

The poem describes a golden age that will be ushered in by a young boy. “He shall receive the life of gods, and see/Heroes with gods commingling, and himself/Be seen of them, and with his father’s worth/Reign o’er a world at peace.” It’s not too surprising that for people actively trying to make a connection in later ancient Rome, or medievals doing their weird medieval thing, the superficial elements of a baby boy who may possibly be related to the gods are useful. But of course the similarities don’t go beyond the superficial.

The eclogue’s golden age doesn’t quite line up with any Christian golden age I’ve ever heard of, but some lines make me wish it did.

The sturdy ploughman shall loose yoke from steer,
Nor wool with varying colours learn to lie;
But in the meadows shall the ram himself,
Now with soft flush of purple, now with tint
Of yellow saffron, teach his fleece to shine.
While clothed in natural scarlet graze the lambs.

(I guess the acid trip that is The Death of Virgil was not so far from Virgil himself, eh?)

Of course Broch does much more with his allusions to Christianity and builds out a much more meaningful way for Virgil to be pre-Christian, free as he is to do so.