2. The progress of a national literature is perhaps rarely by fits and starts, even though it appears so to be. But the front advances in such a uniform line, that only now and then, when one wave sweeps out far beyond the rest, is the general advance of the tide remarked. So it would probably be unjust to the unknown poets of the Roman Republic to believe that their work did not mark a continual advance from period to period in lyric feeling and expression. Yet only in the first half of the last century before Christ did Latin poetry enter upon its first period of brilliancy. Amid the hot passions, the vigorous hatreds, the feasts and brawls, the beauty and the coarseness of life in the capital during this most active period in the history of Rome, there arose a school of writers who, though often conservatives in politics, were radicals in poetry. The tendencies of the traditional Roman past were by them utterly disregarded. Inspiration was drawn from the stirring life into which they were plunged, as well as from the sympathetic study of the sources of poetic art among both the earlier Greeks and the Alexandrians. As was to be expected, their models of rhythm were not the rude hexameters and ruder Saturnians of their Roman predecessors, but the more polished versification of the Greeks; and their subjects were sometimes their own personal experiences and emotions, and sometimes themes suggested by their Greek prototypes. So a new school of Roman poetry arose and flourished, to be superseded in turn by the polished Augustans, who cultivated the niceties of elegance, but at the expense of verve.
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