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Who Does Virgil Refer to at the End of His Fourth Eclogue?

Morganaviviae

New Member

Virgil ends the fourth eclogue with these lines:

"Incipe, parve puer, risu cognoscere matrem;
matri longa decem tulerunt fastidia menses.
incipe, parve puer. qui non risere parenti,
nec deus hunc mensa dea nec dignata cubili est."

My English translation of these lines:

"Begin to greet thy mother with a smile
O baby boy! ten months of weariness
For thee she bore: O baby-boy, begin!
For him, on whom his parents have not smiled
Gods deem not worthy of their board or bed."

At the beginning of this selection, Virgil is addressing the baby boy. But the last two lines:

"For HIM, on whom his parents have not smiled
Gods deem not worthy of their board or bed."

Who is this HIM Virgil is referring to? Is it the baby boy, Pollio, Virgil himself, or someone else?
Other translations render the selection:

"Begin, O little boy, to know and smile upon thy mother, thy mother on whom ten months have brought weary longings. Begin, O little boy: of THEM who have not smiled on a parent, never was one honoured at a god's board or on a goddess' couch."

"Begin, baby boy, to recognize your mother with a smile: ten months have brought your mother long travail. Begin, baby boy! The CHILD who has not won a smile from his parents, no god ever honoured with his table, no goddess with her bed!"

Folks-who-know-Latin, which translation is accurate? Who is Virgil referring to in the last two lines?
 
 

cinefactus

Censor

  • Censor

  • Patronus

Location:
litore aureo
It is a generalising qui isn't it? You could pick up child from the context, but the verb is plural, and they works in English.
 

Imber Ranae

Ranunculus Iracundus

  • Civis Illustris

Location:
Grand Rapids, Michigan
The manuscripts all have cui non risere parentes, which clears up the number mismatch but introduces some interpretive problems since it's now about parents smiling upon their children rather than the other way round. This would seem contrary to the command given to the child immediately before, unless the parents' smile is to be understood as a kind of automatic reciprocal gesture. All the translations you provided except the third reflect this reading.

Quintilian, however, apparently maintained that it should be qui non risere parentes, which would make it a rare instance of a singular antecedent (hunc) with a plural relative (qui). Modern editors seem to have further emended parentes to parenti, since rideo + acc. tends to mean "to laugh at" rather than "smile upon", and maybe also because they identify the pertinent parent as strictly the mother alone. The third translation you gave follows this interpretation.

In either case it's a generalized relative, as Cinefactus said, referring to any child up to that point. It's an explanation for why the child should smile, viz. because if he doesn't he won't have the favor of the gods.
 

Morganaviviae

New Member

The manuscripts all have cui non risere parentes, which clears up the number mismatch but introduces some interpretive problems since it's now about parents smiling upon their children rather than the other way round. This would seem contrary to the command given to the child immediately before, unless the parents' smile is to be understood as a kind of automatic reciprocal gesture. All the translations you provided except the third reflect this reading.

Quintilian, however, apparently maintained that it should be qui non risere parentes, which would make it a rare instance of a singular antecedent (hunc) with a plural relative (qui). Modern editors seem to have further emended parentes to parenti, since rideo + acc. tends to mean "to laugh at" rather than "smile upon", and maybe also because they identify the pertinent parent as strictly the mother alone. The third translation you gave follows this interpretation.

In either case it's a generalized relative, as Cinefactus said, referring to any child up to that point. It's an explanation for why the child should smile, viz. because if he doesn't he won't have the favor of the gods.
So Virgil is telling the little boy to smile upon his mother, because children who do not smile upon their mothers/parents do not have the favor of the gods? That makes sense. Thanks ya'll! :)

Now to muse over why Virgil thought it so important for the child to smile upon his mother that he concluded his eclogue with that admonishment...
 
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