This chapter considers three key assaults on the Ancien Régime: those of Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century; the American colonies at the end of the 18th; and the French citizenry, from the assault on the Bastille to the rise of Napoleon. In each case, an imitation of the Aeneid develops into an effort to come to terms with rapid political and social change. In the case of Paradise Lost, John Milton produced a poem that reveals all the complexities of the Restoration and his efforts to find a place within it, while in the case of the Columbiad, the production and revision of the poem show how Joel Barlow succeeded in creating an epic that articulates the values of a new revolutionary society. The third poem, the little-known Virgile en France of Victor Alexandre Chrétien Le Plat du Temple, makes the Aeneid, traditionally seen as a pro-imperial poem, into an allegory of the establishment of the French republic.
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