The earliest efforts of his art (the Eclogues) reproduce the cadences, the diction and the pastoral fancies of Theocritus; but even in these imitative poems of his youth Virgil shows a perfect mastery of his materials.
But the imitative act is itself instinctive.
The characteristic feature of the imitative act, at the instinctive level, is that the presentation to sight or hearing calls forth a mode of behaviour of like nature to, or producing like results to, that which affords the stimulus.
But it is probable that what we speak of as the imitative tendency is, in any given species, the expression of a considerable number of particular responses each of which is congenitally linked with a particular presentation or stimulus.
The group of instincts which we class as imitative (and they afford only the foundations on which intelligent imitation is based) are of biological value chiefly, if not solely, in those species which form larger or smaller communities.