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was found out by the fame of his verses to her; which if it had been Julia, he durst not have owned; and besides, an immediate punishment must have followed. He seems himself more truly to have touched at the 5 cause of his exile in those obscure verses :—

Cur aliquid vidi? cur noxia lumina feci?

Cur imprudenti cognita culpa mihi est?
Inscius Acteon vidit sine veste Dianam,

Præda fuit canibus non minus ille suis.

10 Namely, that he had either seen, or was conscious to somewhat, which had procured him his disgrace. But neither am I satisfied, that this was the incest of the Emperor with his own daughter: for Augustus was of a nature too vindicative to have contented himself with 15 so small a revenge, or so unsafe to himself, as that of simple banishment, and would certainly have secured his crimes from public notice, by the death of him who was witness to them. Neither have historians given us any sight into such an action of this Emperor: nor 20 would he (the greatest politician of his time), in all probability, have managed his crimes with so little secrecy, as not to shun the observation of any man. It seems more probable, that Ovid was either the confidant of some other passion, or that he had stumbled, 25 by some inadvertency, upon the privacies of Livia, and seen her in a bath for the words sine veste Dianam, agree better with Livia, who had the fame of chastity, than with either of the Julias, who were both noted of incontinency. The first verses which were made by 30 him in his youth, and recited publicly, according to the custom, were, as he himself assures us, to Corinna : his banishment happened not till the age of fifty; from which it may be deduced, with probability enough, that the love of Corinna did not occasion it: nay, he tells us 35 plainly, that his offence was that of error only, not of

wickedness; and in the same paper of verses also, that the cause was notoriously known at Rome, though it be left so obscure to after ages.

But to leave conjectures on a subject so uncertain, and to write somewhat more authentic of this poet. That 5 he frequented the court of Augustus, and was well received in it, is most undoubted: all his poems bear the character of a court, and appear to be written, as the French call it, cavalièrement: add to this, that the titles of many of his Elegies, and more of his Letters in 10 his banishment, are addressed to persons well known to us, even at this distance, to have been considerable in that court.

Nor was his acquaintance less with the famous poets of his age, than with the noblemen and ladies. He tells 15 you himself, in a particular account of his own life, that Macer, Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, and many others of them, were his familiar friends, and that some of them communicated their writings to him; but that he had only seen Virgil.

If the imitation of Nature be the business of a poet, I know no author, who can justly be compared with ours, especially in the description of the passions. And to prove this, I shall need no other judges than the generality of his readers: for, all passions being inborn 25 with us, we are almost equally judges when we are concerned in the representation of them. Now I will appeal to any man, who has read this poet, whether he finds not the natural emotion of the same passion in himself, which the poet describes in his feigned persons? 30 His thoughts, which are the pictures and results of those passions, are generally such as naturally arise from those disorderly motions of our spirits. Yet, not to speak too partially in his behalf, I will confess, that the copiousness of his wit was such, that he often writ 35


too pointedly for his subject, and made his persons speak more eloquently than the violence of their passion would admit so that he is frequently witty out of season; leaving the imitation of Nature, and the cooler dictates 5 of his judgment, for the false applause of Fancy. Yet he seems to have found out this imperfection in his riper age; for why else should he complain that his Metamorphosis was left unfinished? Nothing sure can be added to the wit of that poem, or of the rest; but 10 many things ought to have been retrenched, which

I suppose would have been the business of his age, if his misfortunes had not come too fast upon him. But take him uncorrected, as he is transmitted to us, and it must be acknowledged, in spite of his Dutch 15 friends, the commentators, even of Julius Scaliger himself, that Seneca's censure will stand good against him; Nescivit quod bene cessit relinquere: he never knew how to give over, when he had done well; but, continually varying the same sense an hundred ways, and taking up 20 in another place what he had more than enough inculcated before, he sometimes cloys his readers, instead of satisfying them; and gives occasion to his translators, who dare not cover him, to blush at the nakedness of their father. This, then, is the allay of Ovid's writings, 25 which is sufficiently recompensed by his other excellences nay, this very fault is not without its beauties; for the most severe censor cannot but be pleased with the prodigality of his wit, though at the same time he could have wished that the master of it had been 30 a better manager. Every thing which he does becomes

him, and if sometimes he appears too gay, yet there is a secret gracefulness of youth which accompanies his writings, though the staidness and sobriety of age be wanting. In the most material part, which is the con35 duct, 'tis certain, that he seldom has miscarried for if

his Elegies be compared with those of Tibullus and Propertius, his contemporaries, it will be found that those poets seldom designed before they writ; and though the language of Tibullus be more polished, and the learning of Propertius, especially in his Fourth Book, 5 more set out to ostentation; yet their common practice was to look no further before them than the next line; whence it will inevitably follow, that they can drive to no certain point, but ramble from one subject to another, and conclude with somewhat, which is not of a piece 10 with their beginning :

Purpureus late qui splendeat, unus et alter
Assuitur pannus . .

as Horace says; though the verses are golden, they are but patched into the garment. But our Poet has always 15 the goal in his eye, which directs him in his race; some beautiful design, which he first establishes, and then contrives the means, which will naturally conduct it to his end. This will be evident to judicious readers in this work of his Epistles, of which somewhat, at least in 20 general, will be expected.

The title of them in our late editions is Epistolæ Heroidum, the Letters of the Heroines. But Heinsius has judged more truly, that the inscription of our author was barely Epistles; which he concludes from his cited 25 verses, where Ovid asserts this work as his own invention, and not borrowed from the Greeks, whom (as the masters of their learning) the Romans usually did imitate. But it appears not from their writings, that any of the Grecians ever touched upon this way, which our poet therefore justly has vindicated to himself. I quarrel not at the word Heroidum, because it is used by Ovid in his Art of Love

Jupiter ad veteres supplex Heroidas ibat.


But sure he could not be guilty of such an oversight, to call his work by the name of Heroines, when there are divers men, or heroes, as namely Paris, Leander, and Acontius, joined in it. Except Sabinus, who writ some 5 answers to Ovid's Letters,

(Quam celer e toto rediit meus orbe Sabinus,)

I remember not any of the Romans who have treated this subject, save only Propertius, and that but once, in his Epistle of Arethusa to Lycotas, which is written so 10 near the style of Ovid, that it seems to be but an imitation; and therefore ought not to defraud our poet of the glory of his invention.

Concerning this work of the Epistles, I shall content myself to observe these few particulars: first, that they 15 are generally granted to be the most perfect pieces of Ovid, and that the style of them is tenderly passionate and courtly; two properties well agreeing with the persons, which were heroines, and lovers. Yet where the characters were lower, as in Enone and Hero, he 20 has kept close to Nature, in drawing his images after a country life, though perhaps he has Romanized his Grecian dames too much, and made them speak, sometimes, as if they had been born in the city of Rome, and under the Empire of Augustus. There seems to 25 be no great variety in the particular subjects which he has chosen; most of the Epistles being written from ladies, who were forsaken by their lovers: which is the reason that many of the same thoughts come back upon us in divers letters: but of the general character of 30 women, which is modesty, he has taken a most becoming care; for his amorous expressions go no further than virtue may allow, and therefore may be read, as he intended them, by matrons without a blush.

Thus much concerning the Poet, whom you find

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