By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB
This is one in a series of interviews with well-known personalities from the ancient Greek and Roman world. Today I feel honored to interview one of the greatest epic poets in the history of mankind, Vergil!
Q. Ave, Vergili. Thanks so much for having us. It’s a great pleasure interviewing a poet whose name will most certainly live on forever. Can you tell us when you first thought about becoming a poet?
A. With no exaggeration, poetry is my life, though it’s a pity indeed that it doesn’t make much money! I knew poetry would be an essential part of my life after I wrote an epitaph on the grave of a famous thief named Balista. Are you familiar with it? Monte sub hoc lapidum tegitur Balista sepultus. Nocte die tutum carpe viator iter. I know it’s not my magnum opus, but this short humorous piece was what made me first realize that the gods wanted me to become a great poet.
Q. Among all your works what’s your favorite poem?
A. It’s hard to pick just one, you know? On the other hand, I am extremely proud of the Eclogues. I was criticized by my contemporaries for choosing a bucolic motif, as most patricians see this kind of poetry as awfully plebean. I’m glad the general public didn’t have the same prejudices, which made the book a great success. The fifth eclogue is a personal favorite of mine. The shepherd Daphnis is, I feel, one of the best characters I’ve ever created. I’m tremendously fond of the lines “A god, a god is he, Menalcas! Here are four altars: Look, Daphnis, two for you and two high ones for Phoebus.”
Q. Are there other poets you particularly admire?
A. I am very fond of the poetry of both Catullus and Horace. These young men have a great future ahead of them. That being said, I think Catullus should stop dreaming about Lesbia since she’ll never leave her wealthy husband for a penniless poet. I keep telling him that no one can make a living from poetry, but he won’t listen to me. My favorite non-Latin poet is Homer, of course. He is, without doubt, the best epic poet who ever lived, and I don’t think any other future poet will even come close.
Q. Speaking of Homer, can you tell us a little bit about how he’s inspired you?
A. I’ve decided to make Homer my greatest source of inspiration from now on. His hexameters are truly magical. You’re so lucky, my friend — I wish I had a time machine just like yours so I could go back and meet Homer. I could finally say ‘Thank you’ for everything he’s done for epic poetry. Off the record, I have a thousand sestertii here. Can you possibly take me with you to Ancient Greece? Perhaps we can interview Homer together!
Q. Sorry, Vergil. Unfortunately, that’s against the rules. Also, the time machine only has room for one person. But let’s carry on….What are your plans for the future? Can you tell us anything about your new poems?
A. Yes! You’ll be the first to know that I’ve started work on a seminal epic poem about the birth of Rome. It will probably be my magnum opus. However, I have to admit something funny has been going on with me recently. I’ve become obsessed with poetical perfection! If it’s not 100% perfect, I always order it to be burned! I don’t care if the emperor himself begs me not to!
Q. What message would you like to send to people in the future?
A. I hope people remember me as one of the greatest poets of mankind and continue studying classical languages. I also hope that Homer remains a respected figure and that other poets continue to emulate him by praising the famous deeds of their ancestors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Latin (the last of which he learned with Carmenta) and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Mr. Gurgel is currently studying Old English through Carmenta as well.
Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.