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P R E FACE.

CON CERN IN G

O V I D's EP IS TL E S.

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HE life of Ovid being already written in our language before the translation of his Metamorphoses, I will not presume so far upon myself, to think I can add when words are questioned in a Poet. There is another guess of the grammarians, as far from truth as the first from reason : they will have him banished for some favours, which they say, he received from Julia the daughter of Augustus, whom they think he celebrates under the name of Corinna in his Elegies : but he, who will observe the verses, which are made to that mistress, may gather from the whole contexture of them, that Corinna was not a woman of the highest quality. If Julia were then married to Agrippa, why should our Poet make his petition to Isis, for her fafe delivery, and afterwards condole her miscarriage ; which, for ought he knew, might be by her own hulband ? Or, indeed, how durst he be so bold to make the least discovery of such a crime, which was no less than capital, especially committed againit a person of Agrippa's rank? Or, if it were before her marriage, he would sure have been more discreet, than to have publithed an accident which must have been fatal to them both. But what most confirms me against this opinion, is, that Ovid himself complains, that the true person of Corinna was found out by the fame of his verses to her : which if it had been Julia, he durft not have owned ; and, besides, an immediate punishment must have followed. He seems himself more truly to have touched at the cause of his exile in those obscure verses ;

any thing to Mr. Sandys his undertaking. The English reader may there be satisfied, that he flourished in the reign of Auguftus Cæsar; that he was extracted from an ancient tamily of Roman Knights ; that he was born to the inheritance of a splendid fortune ; that he was designed to the study of the law, and had made considerable progress in it, before he quitted that profession, for this of Poetry, to which he was more naturally formed. The cause of his banishment is unknown; because he was himself unwilling further to provoke the emperor, by ascribing it to any other reason, than what was pretended by Augustus, which was, the lasciviousness of his Elegies, and his Art of Love. It is true, they are not to be excused in the severity of manners, as being able to corrupt a larger empire, if there were any, than that of Rome: yet this may be faid in behalf of Ovid, that no man has ever treated the passion of love with so much delicacy of thought, and of expression, or searched into the nature of it more philosophically than he. And the emperor, who condemned him, had as little reason as another man to punith that fault with so much severity, if at least he were the author of a certain Epigram, which is afcribed to him, relating to the cause of the firit civil war betwixt himself and Marc Antony the triumvir, which is more fulsome than any paslage I have met with in our Poet. To pass by the naked familiarity of his expref: 0.15 to Horace, which are cited in that author's life, I need onl; mention one notorious act of his, in taking Livia to his bed, when she was not only married, but with child by her huiband den living. But deeds, it seems, may be justificd by arbitrary powli,

Cur aliquid vidi, cur noxia Lumina feci ? &c. 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 so small a revenge, or so unsafe to himself, as that of fimple banishment; but 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 fight into such an action of this emperor: nor would he (the greatest politician of his time) in all probability, have managed his crimes with fo little secrecy, as not to shun the observation of any man. It feems more probable, that Ovid was either the confident of some other passion, or that he had stumbled by some inadvertency upon the privacies of Livia, and seen her in a bath: for the words

Sine veste Dianam

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agree better with Livia, who had the fame of chastity, than with either of the Julia’s, who were both noted of incontinercy. The first verses, which were made by him in his youth, and recited publicly, according to the custom, were, as he himself alsures us, to Corinna : his banisment happened not till the

age of fifty: froin which it may be deduced, with probability enough, that the love of Corinna did not occasion it: nay, he tells us 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 afterages.

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But to leave conjectures on a subject so uncertain, and to write somewhat more authentic of this Poet: that he frequented the court of Auguftus, and was well received in it, is most undoubted; all his Poems bear the character of a court, and appear to be witten, as the French call it, Cavalierement: add to this, that the titles of many of his Elegics, and more of his letters in his banıshment, are addrefied 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 noble men and ladies. He tells

you himself, in a particular account of his own life, that Macer, Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, and many others of them, were his faniiliar 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 juftly be compared with ours, especially in the description of the parlions. And, to prove this, I shall need no other judges than the generality of his readers : for all paífions being inborn 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 paflion in himself, which the Poet describes in his feigned persons ? His thoughts, which are the pictures and results of those paflions, 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 copioufness of his wit was such, that he often writ too pointedly for his subject, and made his perfons fpeak more eloquently than the violence of their paflion would admit: so that he is froquently witty out of seafon ; leaving the imitation of nature, and the cooler dictates 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 Metamorpholes was left unfinished ? Nothing fure can be added to the wit of that loem, or of the rest: but many things ought to have been retrenched; which, i fuppose would have been the bufiners 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 friends, the commentators, even of Julius Scaliger himself, that Seneca's cenfure will stand good against him;

Nefcivit quod bene ceffit relinquere; he never knew how to give over, when he had done well, but continually varying the fame sense an hundred ways, and taking up in another place, what he had more than enough inculcated before, he sometimes cloys his readers instead of satisfying them; and gives occafion 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, which is sufficiently recompensed by his other excellencies: 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 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 fobriety of

age

be wanting. In the most material part, which is the conduct, it is certain that he seldom has miscarried : for if his Elegies be compared with those of Tibullus and Propertius, his cotemporaries, 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, cspecially in his fourth book, 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 with their beginning :

Pupureus latè qui fplendeat unus & alier

Afuitur pannus, as Horace says: though the verses are golden, they are but patched into the garment. But our Poet has always the goal in

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