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EcQuit, ut inspecta est studiosæ litera dextræ,
Protinus est oculis cognita nostra tuis ? An, nisi legisses auctoris nomina Sapphus,
Hoc breve nescires unde movetur opus ? Forsitan et quare mea sint alterna requiras
Carmina, cum lyricis sim magis apta modis.
* Ovid seems to have had the merit of inventing this beautiful species of writing epistles under feigned names. Though indeed Propertius has one composition of this sort, an Epistle of Arethusa to Lycortas, B. iv. Eleg. 3. It is a high improvement on the Greek Elegy, to which its dramatic form renders it much superior. The judgment of the writer must chiefly appear, by opening the complaint of the person introduced, just at such a period of time, as will give occasion for the most tender sentiments, and the most sudden and violent turns of passion to be displayed. Ovid may perhaps be blamed for a sameness of subjects, in these epistles of his heroines; and his epistles are likewise too long; which circumstance has forced him into a repetition and languor in the sentiments. It would be a pleasing task, and conduce to the formation of a good taste, to shew how differently Ovid and the Greek Tragedians have made Medea, Phædra, and Deinaira, speak on the very same occasions. Such a comparison would abundantly manifest the fancy and wit of Ovid, and the judgment and nature of Euripides and Sophocles. If the character of Medea was not better supported in the Tra
Ver. 2. The force of Protinus is lost in the translation.
SAPPHO TO PHAON.
Day, lovely youth, that dost my heart command,
NOTES. gedy which Ovid is said to have produced, and of which Quintilian speaks so highly, than it is in her epistle to Jason, one may venture to declare, that the Romans would not yet have been vindicated from their inferiority to the Greeks in tragic Poesy.-It may be added, that some of Drayton's Heroical Epistles deserve praise, particularly that of Lord Surrey to Geraldine, Lady Jane Grey to Lord Guilford Dudley, Jane Shore to Edward the Fourth. Lord Hervey took the subject of Roxana to Usbeck from the incomparable Persian Letters of the President Montesquieu ; the beauty of which writer is his expressive brevity ; which Lord Hervey has lengthened to an unnatural degree, especially as Roxana is supposed to write just after she has swallowed a deadly poison, and during its violent operations.
The Italians have a writer of Heroical Epistles, Antonio Bruni; some of his subjects are, The Hebrew Mother to Titus Vespasian, Erminia to Tancred, Radamistus to Zenobia, Semiramis to Ninus, Catharine to Henry the Eighth. They were printed at Venice 1636, with prints from designs of Guido and Dominichino.
Flendus amor meus est; elegeïa Alebile carmen:
Non facit ad lacrymas barbitos ulla meas. Uror, ut, indomitis ignem exercentibus Euris, Fertilis accensis messibus ardet ager.
10 Arva Phaon celebrat diversa Typhoïdos Ætnæ :
Me calor Ætnæo non minor igne coquit. Nec mihi, dispositis quæ jungam carmina nervis,
Proveniunt; vacuæ carmina mentis opus. Nec me Pyrrhiades Methymniadesve puellæ,' 15
Nec me Lesbiadum cætera turba juvant. Vilis Anactorie, vilis mihi candida Cydno :
Non oculis grata est Atthis, ut ante, meis : Atque aliæ centum, quas non sine crimine amavi.
Improbe, multarum quod fuit, unus habes. 20 Est in te facies, sunt apti lusibus anni.
O facies oculis insidiosa meis! Sume fidem et pharetram ; fies manifestus Apollo :
Accedant capiti cornua ; Bacchus eris. Et Phæbus Daphnen, et Gnosida Bacchus amayit;
Love taught my tears in sadder notes to flow,
NOTES. Ver. 12. A childish false thought !
Ver. 17. No more] This allusion to her infamous passion is very indelicate indeed!
Ver. 26. Not Bacchus' self ] These lines were evidently copied in the famous epigram of Lumine Acon dextro, &c. made on Louis de Maguiron, the favourite of Henry the Third of France, and the beautiful Princess of Eboli, who was deprived of the sight of one of her eyes :
Blande puer, lumen quod habes, concede sorori;
Sic tu cæcus Amor, sic erit illa Venus.
Nec norat lyricos illa, vel illa, modos. 30 At mihi Pegasides blandissima carmina dictant ;
Jam canitur toto nomen in orbe meum. Nec plus Alcæus, consors patriæque lyræque,
Laudis habet, quamvis grandius ille sonet. Si mihi difficilis formam natura negavit; 35
Ingenio formæ damna rependo meæ. Sum brevis ; at nomen, quod terras impleat omnes,
Est mihi : mensuram nominis ipsa fero. Candida si non sum, placuit Cepheïa Perseo
Andromede, patriæ fusca colore suæ : Et variis albæ junguntur sæpe columbæ,
Et niger a viridi turtur amatur ave. Si, nisi quæ facie poterit te digna videri, 45
Nulla futura tua est; nulla futura tua est.
Unam jurabas usque decere loqui.
Oscula cantanti tu mihi rapta dabas. 50 Hæc quoque laudabas; omnique a parte placebam :
Sed tum præcipue, cum fit amoris opus. Tunc te plus solito lascivia nostra juvabat, 60
Crebraque mobilitas, aptaque verba joco; Quique, ubi jam amborum fuerat confusa voluptas,
Plurimus in lasso corpore languor erat.