Sidor som bilder

But nourish life with vegetable food,
And fhun the facrilegious taste of blood.

These precepts by the Samian fage were taught,
Which godlike Numa to the Sabines brought,
And thence transferr'd to Rome, by gift his own:
A willing people, and an offer'd throne.
O happy monarch, sent by heav'n to bless
A favage nation with soft arts of peace,
To teach religion, rapine to restrain,
Give laws to luft, and facrifice ordain :
Himself a faint, a Goddess was his bride,
And all the Muses o'er his acts prefide.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]





HE life of Ovid being already written in our language before the tranflation of his Metamorphofes, I will not presume fo far upon myself, to think I can add any thing to Mr. Sandys his undertaking. The Englifh reader may there be fatisfied, that he flourished in the reign of Auguftus Cæfar; that he was extracted from an ancient family of Roman Knights; that he was born to the inheritance of a fplendid fortune; that he was defigned to the ftudy of the law, and had made confiderable progrefs in it, before he quitted that profeffion, for this of Poetry, to which he was more naturally formed. The caufe of his banishment is unknown; because he was himself unwilling further to provoke the emperor, by afcribing it to any other reason, than what was pretended by Auguftus, which was, the lafcivioufnefs 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 paffion of love with fo much delicacy of thought, and of expreffion, or fearched into the nature of it more philofophically than he. And the emperor, who condemned him, had as little reafon as another man to punish 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 first civil war betwixt himself and Marc Antony the triumvir, which is more fulfome than any paffage I have met with in our Poet. To país by the naked familiarity of his expreffions to Horace, which are cited in that author's life, I need only mention one notorious act of his, in taking Livia to his bed, when fhe was not only married, but with child by her husband then living. But deeds, it feems, may be juftified by arbitrary power,

when words are questioned in a Poet. There is another guess of the grammarians, as far from truth as the firft from reafon : they will have him banished for fome favours, which, they say, he received from Julia the daughter of Auguftus, whom they think he celebrates under the name of Corinna in his Elegies: but he, who will obferve 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 Ifis, for her fafe delivery, and afterwards condole her mifçarriage; which, for ought he knew, might be by her own hufband? Or, indeed, how durft he be fo bold to make the leaft discovery of fuch a crime, which was no lefs than capital, especially committed against a perfon of Agrippa's rank? Or, if it were before her marriage, he would fure have been more difcreet, than to have published an accident which must have been fatal to them both. But what moft 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, befides, an immediate punishment must have followed. He feems himself more truly to have touched at the cause of his exile in those obfcure verses;

Cur aliquid vidi, cur noxia Lumina feci? &c.

Namely, that he had either feen, or was confcious to fomewhat, which had procured him his disgrace. But neither am I satisfied, that this was the inceft of the emperor with his own daughter: for Auguftus was of a nature too vindicative, to have contented himfelt with fo fmall a revenge, or fo unfafe 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 hiftorians given us any fight into fuch an action of this emperor: nor would he (the greatest politician of his time) in all probability, have managed his crimes with fo little fecrecy, as not to fhun the obfervation of any man. It feems more probable, that Ovid was either the confident of fome other paffion, or that he had ftumbled by fome inadvertency upon the privacies of Livia, and feen her in a bath: for the words

Sine vefte Dianam]

« FöregåendeFortsätt »