Pagina:Zibaldone di pensieri VII.djvu/389

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380 pensieri (4446-4447)

problem was not to be solved by Virgil, whose genius was barren for creating, great as was his talent for embellishing. That he felt this himself, and did not disdain to be great in the way adapted to his endowments, is proved by his very practice of imitating and borrowing, by the touches he introduces of his exquisite and extensive erudition, so much admired by the Romans, now so little appreciated. He who puts together elaborately and by piecemeal, is aware of the chinks and crevices, which varnishing and polishing conceal only from the unpractised eye, and from which the work of the master, issuing at once from the mould, is free. Accordingly Virgil, we may be sure, felt a misgiving, that all the foreign ornament with which he was decking his work, though it might enrich the poem, was not his own wealth, and that this would at last be perceived by posterity. That  (4447) notwithstanding this fretting consciousness, he strove, in the way which lay open to him, to give to a poem, which he did not write of his own free choice, the highest degree of beauty it could receive from his hands; that he did not, like Lucan, vainly and blindly affect an inspiration which nature had denied to him; that he did not allow himself to be infatuated, when he was idolized by all around him, and when Propertius sang: Yield, Roman poets, bards of Greece, give way, The Iliad soon shall own a greater lay; that, when death was releasing him from the fetiers of civil observances, he wished to destroy what in those solemn moments he could not but view with melancholy, as the groundwork of a false reputation; this is what renders him estimable, and makes us indulgent to all the weaknesses of his poem. The merit of a first attempt is not always decisive: yet Virgil’s first youthful poem shews that he cultivated his powers