VI[6arg] On some words which Virgil is asserted to have used carelessly and negligently; and the answer to be made to those who bring this false charge.
SOME grammarians of an earlier time, men by no means without learning and repute, who wrote [p. 135] commentaries on Virgil, and among them Annaeus Cornutus, criticize the poet's use of a word in the following verses 1 as careless and negligent:
That, her white waist with howling monsters girt,They think, namely, that vexasse is a weak word, indicating a slight and trivial annoyance, and not adapted to such a horror as the sudden seizing and rending of human beings by a ruthless monster. They also criticize another word in the following: 2
Dread Scylla knocked about (vexasse) Ulysses' ships
Amid the swirling depths, and, piteous sight!
The trembling sailors with her sea-dogs rent.
Who has not heardInlaudati, they say, is not at all a suitable world, but is quite inadequate to express abhorrence of a wretch who, because he used to sacrifice guests from all over the world, was not merely “undeserving of praise,” but rather deserving of the abhorrence and execration of the whole human race. They have criticized still another word in the verse: 3
Of king Eurystheus' pitiless commands
And altars of Busiris, the unpraised (inlaudati)?
Through tunic rough (squalentem) with gold the sword drank from his pierced side,on the ground that it is out of place to say auro squalentem, since the filth of squalor is quite opposed to the brilliance and splendour of gold. Now as to the word vexasse, I believe the following answer may be made: vexasse is an intensive verb, and is obviously derived from ve- [p. 137] here, in which there is already some notion of compulsion by another; for a man who is carried is not his own master. But vexare, which is derived from vehere, unquestionably implies greater force and impulse. For vexare is properly used of one who is seized and carried away, and dragged about hither and yon; just as taxare denotes more forcible and repeated action than tangere, from which it is undoubtedly derived; and iactare a much fuller and more vigorous action than iacere, from which it comes; and quassare something severer and more violent than quatere. Therefore, merely because vexare is commonly used of the annoyance of smoke or wind or dust is no reason why the original force and meaning of the word should be lost; and that meaning was preserved by the earlier writers who, as became them, spoke correctly and clearly. Marcus Cato, in the speech which he wrote On the Achaeans, 4 has these words: “And when Hannibal was rending and harrying (vexaret) the land of Italy.” 'hat is to say, Cato used vexare of the effect on Italy of Hannibal's conduct, at a time when no species of disaster, cruelty or savagery could be imagined which Italy did not suffer from his hands. Marcus Tullius, in his fourth Oration against Verres, wrote: “This 5 was so pillaged and ravaged by that wretch, that it did not seem to have been laid waste (vexata) by an enemy who in the heat of war still felt some religious scruple and some respect for customary law, but by barbarous pirates.” But concerning inlaudatus it seems possible to give two answers. One is of this kind: There is absolutely no one who is of so perverted a character [p. 139] as not sometimes to do or say something that can be commended (laudari.) And therefore this very ancient line has become a familiar proverb:
Oft-times even a fool expresses himself to the purpose.But one who, on the contrary, in his every act and at all times, deserves no praise (laude) at all is inlaudatus, and such a man is the very worst and most despicable of all mortals, just as freedom from all reproach makes one inculpatus (blameless). Now inculpatus is the synonym for perfect goodness; therefore conversely inlaudatus represents the limit of extreme wickedness. It is for that reason that Homer usually bestows high praise, not by enumerating virtues, but by denying faults; for example: 6 “And not unwillingly they charged,” and again: 7
Not then would you divine Atrides seeEpicurus too in a similar way defined the greatest pleasure as the removal and absence of all pain, in these words: 8 “The utmost height of pleasure is the removal of all that pains.” Again Virgil on the same principle called the Stygian pool “unlovely.” 9 For just as he expressed abhorrence of the “unpraised” man by the denial of praise, so he abhorred the “unlovable” by the denial of love. Another defence of inlaudatus is this: laudare in early Latin means “to name” and “cite.” Thus in civil actions they use laudare of an authority, when he is cited. Conversely, the inlaudatus is the same as [p. 141] the inlaudabilis, namely, one who is worthy neither of mention nor remembrance, and is never to be named; as, for example, in days gone by the common council of Asia decreed that no one should ever mention the name of the man who had burned the temple of Diana at Ephesus. 10 There remains the third criticism, his use of the expression “a tunic rough with gold.” But squalentem signifies a quantity or thick layer of gold, laid on so as to resemble scales. For squalere is used of the thick, rough scales (squamae) which are to be seen on the skins of fish or snakes. This is made clear both by others and indeed by this same poet in several passages; thus: 11
Confused, inactive, nor yet loath to fight.
A skin his covering was, plumed with brazen scales (squamis）and again: 12
And clasped with gold.
And now has he his flashing breastplate donned,Accius too in the Pelopidae writes thus: 13
Bristling with brazen scales (squamis).
This serpent's scales (squamae) rough gold and purple wrought.Thus we see that squalere was applied to whatever was overloaded and excessively crowded with anything, in order that its strange appearance might strike terror into those who looked upon it. So too on neglected and scaly bodies the deep layer of dirt was called squalor, and by long and continued use in that sense the entire word has become so corrupted, that finally squalor has come to be used of nothing but filth.