The gods maintain on the whole their Homeric attributes, only hardened by time and by a Roman moulding. Venus is, however, touched with magic skill; it may be questioned whether words ever carried such suggestions of surpassing beauty as those in which, twice in the poem, her mystic form  is veiled rather than pourtrayed. The characters of Ulysses and Helen bear the debased, unheroic stamp of the later Greek drama; the last spark of goodness has left them, and even his careful study of Homer, seems to have had no effect in opening the poet's eyes to the gross falsification. Where Virgil did not feel obliged to create, he was to the last degree conventional.
A most interesting feature in the _Aeneid_--and with it we conclude our sketch--is its incorporation of all that was best in preceding poetry. All Roman poets had imitated, but Virgil carried imitation to an extent hitherto unknown. Not only Greek but Latin writers are laid under contribution in every page. Some idea of his indebtedness to Homer may be formed from Conington's commentary. Sophocles and the other tragedians, Apollonius Rhodius and the Alexandrines are continually imitated, and almost always improved upon. And still more is this the case with his adaptations from Naevius, Ennius, Lucretius, Hostius, Furius, &c. whose works he had thoroughly mastered, and stored in his memory their most striking rhythms or expressions.  Massive lines from Ennius, which as a rule he has spared to touch, leaving them in all their rugged grandeur planted in the garden of his verse, to point back like giant trees to the time when that garden was a forest, bear witness at once to his reverence for the old bard and to his own wondrous art. It is not merely for literary effect that the old poets are transferred into his pages. A nobler motive swayed him. The _Aeneid_ was meant to be, above all things, a National Poem, carrying on the lines of thought, the style of speech, which National Progress had chosen; it was not meant to eclipse so much us to do honour to the early literature. Thus those bards who like Naevius and Ennius had done good service to Rome by singing, however rudely, her history, find their _Imagines_ ranged in the gallery of the _Aeneid_. There they meet with the flamens and pontiffs unknown and unnamed, who drew up the ritual formularies, with the antiquarians and pious scholars who had sought to find a meaning in the immemorial names,  whether of places or customs or persons; with the magistrates, moralists, and philosophers, who had striven to ennoble or enlighten Roman virtue; with the Greek singers and sages, for they too had helped to rear the towering fabric of Roman greatness. All these meet together in the _Aeneid_ as if in solemn conclave, to review their joint work, to acknowledge its final completion, and predict its impending fall. This is beyond question the explanation of the wholesale appropriation of others' thought and language, which otherwise would be sheer plagiarism. With that tenacious sense of national continuity which had given the senate a policy for centuries, Virgil regards Roman literature as a gradually expanded whole; coming at the close of its first epoch, he sums up its results and enters into its labours. So far from hesitating whether to imitate, he rather hesitated whom not to include, if only by a single reference, in his mosaic of all that had entered into the history of Rome. His archaism is but another side of the same thing. Whether it takes the form of archaeological discussion,  of antiquarian allusion,  of a mode of narration which recalls the ancient source,  or of obsolete expressions, forms of inflection, or poetical ornament,  we feel that it is a sign of the poet's reverence for what was at once national and old. The structure of his verse, while full of music, often reminds us of the earlier writers. It certainly has more affinity with that of Lucretius than with that of Lucan. A learned Roman reading the _Aeneid_ would feel his mind stirred by a thousand patriotic associations. The quaint old laws, the maxims and religious formulae he had learnt in childhood would mingle with the richest poetry of Greece and Rome in a stream flowing evenly, and as it would seem, from a single spring; and he who by his art had effected this wondrous union would seem to him the prophet as well as the poet of the era.