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whole words, as puns, echos, and the like. Besides these two kinds of false and true wit, there is another of a middle nature, that has something of both in it. When in two ideas that have some resemblance with each other, and are both expressed by the same word, we make use of the ambiguity of the word to speak that of one idea included under it, which is proper to the other. Thus, for example, most languages have hit on a word, which properly signifies fire, to express love by, (and therefore we may be sure there is some resemblance in the ideas mankind have of them;) from hence the witty poets of all languages, when they have once called love a fire, consider it no longer as the passion, but speak of it under the notion of a real fire, and, as the turn of wit requires, make the same word in the same sentence stand for either of the ideas that is annexed to it. When Ovid's Apollo falls in love, he burns with a new flame; when the sea-nymphs languish with this passion, they kindle in the water; the Greek epigrammatist fell in love with one that flung a snow-ball at him, and therefore takes occasion to admire how fire could be thus concealed in snow. In short, whenever the poet feels any thing in this love that resembles something in fire, he carries on this agreement into a kind of allegory; but if, as in the preceding instances, he finds any circumstance in his love contrary to the nature of fire, he calls his love a fire, and by joining this circumstance to it, surprises his reader with a seeming contradiction. I should not have dwelt so long on this instance, had it not been so frequent in Ovid, who is the greatest admirer of this mixed wit of all the ancients, as our Cowley is among the moderns. Homer, Virgil, Horace, and the greatest poets scorned it, as indeed it is only fit for epigram and little copies of verses; one would wonder therefore how so sublime a genius as Milton could sometimes fall into it, in such a work as an epic poem. But we must attribute it to his humouring the vicious taste of the age he
lived in, and the false judgment of our unlearned English readers in general, who have few of them a relish of the more masculine and noble beauties of poetry.
Ovid seems particularly pleased with the subject of this story, but has notoriously fallen into a fault he is often taxed with, of not knowing when he has said enough, by his endeavouring to excel. How has he turned and twisted that one thought of Narcissus's being the person beloved, and the lover too?
Cunctaque miratur quibus est mirabilis ipse.
Dumque petit petitur, pariterque incendit et ardet.
Atque oculos idem qui decipit incitat error.
Perque oculos perit ipse suos
Uror amore mei flammas moveoque feroque, &c.
But we cannot meet with a better instance of the extravagance and wantonness of Ovid's fancy, than in that particular circumstance at the end of the story of Narcissus's gazing on his face after death in the Stygian waters. The design was very bold, of making a boy fall in love with himself here on earth, but to torture him with the same passion after death, and not to let his ghost rest in quiet, was intolerably cruel and uncharitable.
P. 101. 1. 25.—But whilst within, &c. Dumque sitim sedare cupit sitis altera crevit. We have here a touch of that mixed wit I have before spoken of, but I think the measure of pun in it outweighs the true wit; for if we express the thought in other words, the turn is almost lost. This passage of Narcissus probably gave Milton the hint of applying it to Eve, though I think her surprise at the sight of her own face in the water, far more just and natural, than this of Narcissus. She was a raw unexperienced being, just created, and therefore might
easily be subject to the delusion; but Narcissus had been in the world sixteen years, and was brother and son to the water-nymphs, and therefore to be supposed conversant with fountains long before this fatal mistake.
P. 102. 1. 29.—“ You trees,” says he, &c. Ovid is very justly celebrated for the passionate speeches of his poem. They have generally abundance of nature in them, but I leave it to better judgment to consider whether they are not often too witty and too tedious. The poet never cares for smothering a good thought that comes in his way, and never thinks he can draw tears enough from his reader, by which means our grief is either diverted or spent before we come to his conclusion; for we cannot at the same time be delighted with the wit of the poet, and concerned for the person that speaks it; and a great critic has admirably well observed, Lamentationes debent esse breves et concisa, nam lachryma subitò excrescit, et difficile est auditorem vel lectorem in summo animi affectu diu tenere. Would any one in Narcissus's condition have cried out-Inopem me copia fecit? Or can any thing be more unnatural than to turn off from his sorrows for the sake of a pretty reflection?
O utinam nostro secedere corpore possem!
Votnm in amante novum; vellem, quod amamus, abesset.
None, I suppose, can be much grieved for one that is so witty on his own afflictions. But I think we may every where observe in Ovid that he employs his invention more than his judgment, and speaks all the ingenious things that can be said on the subject, rather than those which are particularly proper to the person and circumstances of the speaker.
P. 106. 1. 9.—When Pentheus thus. There is a great deal of spirit and fire in this speech of Pentheus, but I believe none besides Ovid would have thought of the transformation of the serpent's teeth for an incitement to the Thebans' courage, when he desires them not to degenerate from their great forefather the dragon, and draws a parallel between the behaviour of them both.
Este, precor memores, quâ sitis stirpe creati,
The story of Acoetes has abundance of nature in all the parts of it, as well in the description of his own parentage and employment, as in that of the sailors' characters and manners. But the short speeches scattered up and down in it, which make the Latin very natural, cannot appear so well in our language, which is much more stubborn and unpliant, and therefore are but as so many rubs in the story, that are still turning the narration out of its proper course. The transformation at the latter end is wonderfully beautiful.
Ovid has two very good similies on Pentheus, where he compares him to a river in a former story, and to a war-horse in the present.