Note 051

Burke supplies in Latin, Virgil's description of the Harpies ("Aeneid", in 214-18), given here in Dryden's translation:

Monsters more fierce offended heaven ne'er sent
From hell's abyss, for human punishment —
With virgin-faces, but with wombs obscene,
Foul paunches, and with ordure still unclean;
With claws for hands, and looks for ever lean.

"Here the poet breaks the line [the Latin ends in a broken line], because he (and that 'he' is Virgil) had not verse or language enough to describe that monster even as he had conceived her. Had he lived in our time, he would have been more overpowered with the reality than he was with the imagination. Virgil only knew the horror of the times before him. Had he lived to see the Revolutionists and Constitutionalists of France, he would have had more horrid and disgusting features of his Harpies to describe, and more frequent failures in the attempt to describe them" (Burke).

Note to Letter To A Noble Lord by Edmund Burke

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