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ing object or incident to relieve and ani- sistible impulse of nature. The moment mate the scene. In his pictures there is he strikes his lyre, the numbers appear always some stir of life, some elements of not only to come, but to control in their human experience familiar or heroic, pas- melodious course the most intractable sionate or pathetic. 'Again the promi- materials of his art, as the fabled harp of nence which he gives to the passion of Orpheus did the stocks and stones of love, not only on its sensuous side in fer- nature. There is a dash, sparkle, and vid elegiacs, but on its sentimental or spontaneity in his writing, which indiromantic side, as it touches the imagina- cates the most genuine native inspiration, tion and the heart, anticipates one of the and the fullest enjoyment of the work. most characteristic features of modern with his temperament and position inliterature. The same holds true of his deed, nothing but a love of poetry, amountintimate knowledge of female character, ing to a passion, could have induced him his insight into the subtle and powerful to devote his life to its production. He workings of the female heart. Ovid is had a joyous, pleasure-loving nature, which unrivalled, amongst Roman poets, in his his circumstances and surroundings en. power of delineating the perplexing, but, abled him to gratify to the full. His rank in the strictest sense, fatal logic of female and independent position introduced him passion, its sudden moods and contradic- to the society of the capital, while his tory impulses, its wild vehemence or self-social qualities, his genius and accom. consuming reserve, its pathetic tender- plishments, made him heartily welcomed ness, unsuspected strength, and absolute by its highest circles. He was the child devotion. From his ‘limitations of genius of his age, and thoroughly enjoyed the and temperament he cannot, indeed, touch brilliant society, the multiplied luxuries the highest notes of female character, but and refinements, of imperial Rome. But he includes a much wider range than any it is clear from the result that he had of his Roman predecessors or contempo- still a keener delight in his chosen work. raries, and this is one of the points in He could sacrifice personal and social which he becomes a vital link between gratifications for the sake of giving form ancient and modern art.
and substance to the visions inspired by Ovid's defects no less than his excel- his ardent poetical feeling. And his lences are curiously modern. Those enthusiasm for the poetical art was supmost insisted on by hostile critics are the ported by the rarest literary gifts. Foreover-elaboration of details, the indulgence inost amongst these must be ranked his in discursive episodes, the accumulation power of vivid conception. In his proof trivial conceits, strained metaphors, ductive moods, the pictures that come and far-fetched illustrations. In a word, within the eye and prospect of his soul he is charged with an unrestrained exu- seem as full of life "as though they lived berance of fancy, feeling, and expression. indeed." The visions that fill his imaginaBut this very exuberance helps to make tion have the color, movement, and comhim the most picturesque and interesting, plex detail of the breathing world. Next if not the most poetical, of Roman poets. to his vigorous and prolific fancy comes Niebuhr's opinion, that, excepting Catul- his unrivalled mastery over the vehicle of lus, Ovid is the most poetical of the Ro- his art, musical and expressive diction. mans, is well known, and there is a good His facility of expression has been the deal to be said in its support. Of course, subject of critical eulogy from his own Ovid has not the severe beauty and con. time to ours. His unfailing ease and centrated epical art of Virgil. Even his grace of language, his exquisitely musical best work wants the perfect unity and pro- versification, indicate the union of conportion, the dignity and grace, the min- summate literary skill with inborn lyrical gled reserve and finish of the Georgics genius. Every thought, feeling, and imand the Aeneid. But in Virgil you feel age, as it arises, is perfectly reflected in everywhere the lime labor. He works as the magical mirror of his harmonious a conscientious artist, impressed with the verse. Language, music, and imagery magnitude of his task, and ever striving seem as plastic to his touch as nature with a noble perseverance after a lofty herself in the hands of his transforming ideal, which he spares no pains to reach. deities. This power of vivid conception, And as a work of art the result is almost mastery of expressive speech, and comperfect, although you never lose the sense mand over descriptive detail give to his of effort, of cumulative and painful effort, separate pictures a concrete reality and involved in its production. Ovid, on the completeness that fascinate the mind, other hand, seems to sing from an irre-l and produce almost irresistibly a momen:
tary belief in the truth even of his wildest | his youth, at all events, Milton preferred fictions. There is a grave and artless, Ovid to Virgil, and maintained that but or intense and passionate, circumstan- for his exile the poet of the “ Metamortiality about his narrative that carries phoses” might have been as great as conviction captive, and forces you to be- Homer. The lines from the well-known lieve that what you so vividly see and Latin elegy, in which this opinion is exfeel must be the reflex of an actual expe- pressed, may be quoted from Cowper's rience. There can hardly, for example, version :be a wilder fiction than the story of Phae- If peaceful days, in letter'd leisure spent ton; but the narrative is so full of life Beneath my father's roof, be banishment, and reality that after the glowing lines Then call me banish'd, I will ne'er refuse have once impressed it on the mind, it A name expressive of the lot I chuse, becomes almost impossible to think of I would that, exiled to the Pontic shore, the zodiac without a vision of the splen- Rome's hapless bard had suffer'd nothing did chariot with its fiery steeds breaking impetuously away from the unsteady He then had equall'd even Homer's lays, driver, and carrying ruin, conflagration, And, Virgil ! thou hadst won but second praise. and eclipse down the western steep of To the list of appreciative poets Shakeheaven.
speare must certainly be added. The Stories and episodes almost equally higher qualities of Ovid's genius and impressive and memorable might be se- work were indeed precisely of the kind lected from each of the marvellous fifteen to attract and fascinate the youthful aubooks. The best qualities of Ovid's muse thor of “Venus and Adonis.” The life are, indeed, concentrated in the “ Meta- and color, the passion and pathos, the morphoses,” and they have conspired to endless variety of magical changes in the make it one of the most attractive and “Metamorphoses," with their exquisite entertaining, books ever written. The verbal combinations and metrical harmo. actual popularity of the poem, too, has nies, would have an irresistible charm for been immense. Ovid is almost the one his opening fancy and ardent poetic feelclassical author whose light was never ing. extinguished even in the darkest ages of But there is still another quality of ignorance and barbarism. By a curious Ovid's genius which, perhaps, affected fate the brilliant compendium of heathen Shakespeare at the outset of his career mythology was often the only monument more than all the rest. Ovid is, I venof antiquity to be found in monastic libra- ture to think, the most dramatic of Roman ries, and it seems to have been thoroughly poets. This is, perhaps, a more disputaenjoyed by monkish scholars. At least ble claim than any already made on his it was often copied with zealous industry behalf. At least, it is one which many in the scriptorium, and moralized with critics would be indisposed to allow. pious ingenuity in the cell, when a pro- They often speak of his tender and pasfoundly serious and even religious author sionate scenes as though they were rhe. like Virgil was uncared for or unknown. torical exercises rather than outbursts of In the Middle Ages the poem supplied a genuine feeling; but, although many artiperfect storehouse of materials for the ficial and rhetorical passages are to be pictorial uses of the fine and decorative found in Ovid's writings, the remarkable arts. Half the looms of Europe were fact about the more important appears to busy working stories from Ovid into me to be the wonderful freshness, variety, webs destined to brighten with life and and even depth of real feeling they display. color the gloom of many a baronial and in the appreciation of his characteristics, civic hall, as well as to protect and adorn Ovid has fared better at the hands of the many a noble lady's bower. After the poets than of the critics, and I cannot but revival of letters Ovid was read in all the think Dryden right both as poet and critic, schools and colleges of Christendom, and in the judgment he pronounces : Though at the rise of vernacular literatures the I see many excellent thoughts in Seneca, • Metamorphoses was amongst the ear- yet he, of them (the Roman poets), who liest translations made from the classics had a genius most proper for the stage, into the mother tongues of Europe. I was. Ovid; he had a way of writing so fit need hardly refer to the high estimation to stir up a pleasing admiration and conin which Óvid was held by many of the cernment, which are the objects of traggreatest modern poets, and especially edy, and to show the various movements amor.gst ourselves by Chaucer, Spenser, of a soul combating betwixt two different and perhaps most of all, by Milton. In passions, that, had he lived in our age, or
in his own could have writ with our ad- continuity of national greatness, in the vantages, no man but must have yielded past and future of Rome as the instrument to him." It is true that we are deprived and representative of law, order, and of the best and more direct means of progress in the world. He had still less estimating Ovid's dramatic faculty in the of that brooding and almost oppressive loss of his one great tragedy, the “Me sense of the mystery and burden of life dea." But from the favorable judgment which solemnized Virgil's mind, and beof not too friendly contemporary critics comes audible at times in the touching we may fairly conclude that it was a work minor key of his verse. He is separated of real and even remarkable dramatic from Virgil, too, by position, as well as power. In the most considerable of his by temperament. During the interval extant works, the “Fasti” and “Meta- between them the Roman world had morphoses,” both the subject and form passed from the deep shadows and dechosen are less fitted, and but for the structive violence of the republican conresult, one might have said least fitted, Aict to the sunlight and repose of the for the display of Ovid's peculiar genius. imperial day. Ovid lived in the sunlight Nothing at first sight would seem less and rejoiced in its warmth and brilliance suitable to become the subject of a seri- till the sudden winter of his exile came. ous epic than the national mythology, as The ease and gaiety of this congenial it had already lost, or was fast losing, all urban life are well reflected in his minor real hold on the cultivated intelligence of writings. But alike in the subject and the Roman world. In Ovid's day it had form chosen for his greatest works, there reached the stage of sceptical criticism, can be little doubt that he had originally and was at many points exposed to popu- a serious purpose in view. Among his lar ridicule and contempt. With regard other reforms, Augustus was anxious to to form, the natural bent of Ovid's mind restore the old reverence for the national was, as I have said, towards lyrical and deities, and Ovid was evidently desirous dramatic poetry: In the earliest period of giving the emperor's policy that kind of his career the poet himself had the of literary support of which the Aeneid is clearest perception of this. At the be the most brilliant example. He wished ginning of the third book of his “ Elegies to do for the ritual and mythology what he says that, when meditating his future Virgil had done for the legendary history work, he was visited by the rival muses and antiquities of Rome. In other words, of the buskin and the lyre, and that the his aim was to revive popular interest in former upbraided him with wasting his the deities and ceremonial of the national poetic gifts on trivial love ditties instead religion. He states at the beginning of of concentrating them on the nobler task the "Fasti” that this was his design in of depicting imperial woes in tragic verse. dealing poetically with the national calenIn reply to this appeal he pleads for a dar. And the “Metamorphoses." opens slightly extended indulgence of the lyric with the gravity and earnestness befitting mood, intimating that when he had com- a religious poem. But if he ever seriously pleted his “Elegies” he would betake thought himself capable of producing a himself to tragedy, for which, as he else- sacred epic, he certainly formed an errowhere tells us, he felt he had a special neous estimate of his literary aptitudes turn.
and poetical gifts. In any case his joyous This early promise was not, however, temper and dramatic genius soon triredeemed. In after years, when he re- umphed over the original design, and insolved to undertake more serious work, stead of bringing the gods down from instead of devoting himself to the drama, heaven and exhibiting them as objects of he was led by the courtly and literary awe and reverence to men, he simply carinfluences of his time to attempt an epic. ried his contemporaries to Olympus, and The emperor, in his desire to restore the filled the august seats with lively repreolder and more robust conditions of na, sentatives of the morals and manners of tional life, favored this more solid form of the Augustan age. This has sometimes the poetical art, and Virgil's recent suc- been urged as a fatal objection to the cess had given it a temporary supremacy. poem. It is said that in its treatment of With Virgil, however, the choice of the the national mythology, instead of mainėpic form was perfectly natural. It was taining their antique majesty, Ovid had in thorough harmony with the serious- not only modernized the gods, but repreness of his disposition and aims. But sented them in the most literal, if not in Ovid had little of Virgil's profound and the lowest, sense as being of like passions absorbing interest in the conditions and with ourselves. The reply of course is, that after warming to his work the poet| fact. The stories of Phaeton, of Medea, treated the subject naturally, under the of Pyramus and Thisbe, of Midas, of inspiration and according to the impulses Progne and Philomela, of Baucis and of his own genius. He could not help Philemon, amongst others, had evidently vitalizing the stories, and be filled them impressed themselves on his youthful with the only life he knew, that of human imagination in a way never to be forgotpassion and mundane activities. Instead ten. But these points and others conof a sacred epic, we have accordingly a nected with Shakespeare's acquaintance series of brilliant stories and vivid dra- with Ovid will come more fully out in the matic sketches, often pathetic enough in special illustrations which are to follow. their tenderness and tragical in their in- Probably no critic would deny that tensity. Although not dramatic in form, Shakespeare was familiar with Ovid, but most of his longer and most important many maintain, as Farmer did, that his works are, in this way, thoroughly dra- knowledge was derived solely from transmatic in substance. This is true not only lations, and especially from Golding's of the “Fasti” and “Metamorphoses,” translation of the "Metamorphoses." but of the "Heroic Epistles,” in which That Shakespeare well knew this vigorOvid's dramatic genius is often displayed ous and picturesque version is certain; with singular vividness and power. The but I feel equally confident, from what objections sometimes urged against them has already been said, that his study of on the ground of anachronisms and ex-Ovid in the original was begun at Stratternal incongruities, such as, in the case ford School, and had been voluntarily of Ariadne, the want of any means of extended to his chief poems before he communication with Theseus, the absence became acquainted with any translation. of writing materials, and possibly her There are some points of evidence which ignorance of the art, are ludicrously wide tend directly to support this view. In of the mark. The real question is wheth- the first place it is a striking fact that er, realizing in essentials the character the keynote as it were of Shakespeare's and circumstances of the heroines, the public career as a poet should have been poet expresses with vividness and truth struck by a quotation from a section of the poignant internal conflict of grief and Ovid's poems not yet translated into Enbope, of tumultuous passion, agonizing glish. So far as we know Shakespeare dread, and tender desire. It will hardly himself published in his own name only be denied that this is strikingly true with three poems — the “Venus and Adonis," regard to many of the epistles, and es- the “ Lucrece," and the “Sonnets." Of pecially the best. On this ground they these, the “Venus and Adonis was not might well be described in the phrase of a only the first published, but apparently modern poet as “ dramatic lyrics.” But the earliest considerable poem the author the “Metamorphoses” contain a number had written. “ The first heir of my inof powerful sketches that might appropri- vention,” he calls it in the dedication to ately come under the same heading. Dry: the Earl of Southampton. The poem, den, with his usual critical sagacity and though not published till 1593, must, in poetical insight, has noted this. Refer- this case, have been written some years ring to a theory, since disproved, about earlier, probably before Shakespeare left the “ Medea" of Seneca, that it might Stratford for London. On the title-page possibly be the lost tragedy of Ovid, he are the following lines from Ovid's “Ele. says:
gies :" I am confident the “Medea ” is none of his : Vilia miretur vulgus: mihi flavus Apollo for though I esteem it for the gravity and sen- Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua. tentiousness of it, which he himself concludes to be suitable to a tragedy, "Omne genus
These lines are taken from a poem of scripti gravitate tragedia vincit,” yet it moves which, as I have said, there existed at the not my soul enough to judge that he, who in time no English version. The earliest the epick way wrote things so near the drama, translation of the “ Elegies” is that usuas the story of Myrrha, of Caunus, and Biblis, ally attributed to Marlowe, and published and the rest, should stir up no more concern- by his friends some years after his death. ment where he most endeavoured it.
The exact date of the first edition cannot But it is clear, I think, from internal be decided with certainty, but Ritson fixes evidence that Shakespeare had been it at 1596, and Gifford, on apparently struck with the dramatic power of many good grounds, a year or two later. The of the narratives of the “Metamor- second edition, which probably followed phoses” long before Dryden noted the within a year of the first, contains two
versions of the elegy from which Shake- and again in the “Sonnets,” and here speare quotes - the second, signed B. J., too, as we shall see, he echoes the confibeing the work of Ben Jonson. This dent predictions of future fame in which is established, not only by the initials, Ovid indulges at the close of his greatest but by the fact that it is printed in full work. But the earlier quotation shows by Jonson as his own in the “Poetas- that Shakespeare had extended his studter,” which appeared in 1601. Gifford ies in Ovid, not only beyond the books is probably right in his conjecture that usually read in the schools, the “De both versions are by Jonson, the first Tristibus” and the “Metamorphoses," being a rough sketch of the second. In but beyond the utmost limits where the any case, the earlier version was not help of a translation was available. published till some years after the “Venus I may next take another point of eviand Adonis.” But what, perhaps, is even dence, which, though comparatively small more to the point, the quotation is one and indirect, appears to tell with some which, from the circumstances of the force in the same direction. It is well case, could hardly have been chosen by known that Shakespeare derived several any but a scholar, or at least by one who of the names occurring in his dramas, knew the original well. From their set such as Autolycus, directly from Ovid. ting in the elegy, the lines would fail Some of these have curious points of into attract special attention and be rela- terest connected with them. But there is tively unimportant in a translation. On one, about which little has been said, that the other hand, in the original poem, they is perhaps more remarkable and interesthave a distinctive emphasis and are full ing than any besides the name of the of concentrated meaning and power. fairy queen, Titania. Of this name The elegy is a spirited vindication of accomplished a student of Shakespeare as poetry from the envious criticism of those Mr. Ward says, singularly enough: “The who represented the poet as an idler, igno- figure of the elf-queen Shakspere might bly shirking the public duties which, as a have found in the Wife of Bath's Tale' reputable citizen, he ought to discharge. in Chaucer. Her name Titania was, so In reply, Ovid proudly asserts that the far as we know, Shakspere's invention, position of the true poet is higher than and may have been suggested by Diany to be gained by wealth or rank or ana, who, as King James I. informs us, pubiic honors, that in his works he leaves amongst us was called the Phairee, an immortal heritage to men through though Simrock (ii. 34) derives the same which his nobler essence not only sur. from titti (children), the stealing of whom vives, but outlasts all the symbols and is a favorite pursuit of the elfin spirits." monuments of earthly greatness. In Both the German critic and the English illustration of this, he commemorates historian had apparently forgotten that some of the greatest poets of the past, the name is traceable to Ovid, and that including Homer, Hesiod, Sophocles, as used by him it has a very distinctive Menander, Ennius, Lucretius, Virgil, significance. So far as I know, however, Tibullus, Gallus ; and after going through Mr. Keightley is the only critic who has the inspiring, roll, he virtually says : connected the name with Ovid; and he “With these I take my part, their labors does so very generally, without bringing and rewards are the only object of my out in any detail the meaning and value ambition, their life the only life I care to of the fact. His statement is that Titania live." It is a characteristic utterance on occurs once in the "Metamorphoses the part of Ovid, and expresses the fixed a designation of Diana. But in reality resoive of his nobler nature. But it is the name occurs not once only, but several perhaps still more characteristic in the times, not as the designation of a single mouth of Shakespeare, when, conscious of goddess, but of several female deities, great powers, and resolved to find, or supreme or subordinate, descended from create, an ample field for their exercise, the Titans. On this ground it is applied he set out on his life's journey with no to Diana, to Latona, to Circe, to Pyrrha, help from fortune or friends, and no ulti- and Hecate. As Juno is called by the mate hope or desire beyond the poet's poets Saturnia, on account of her descent
In these lines hé avows himself from Saturn, and Minerva, on less obvithe child of Apollo, and declares that ous or more disputed grounds, is termed henceforth his elixir vita will be full Tritonin, so Diana, Latona, and Circe are draughts from the Castalian spring. The each styled by Ovid Titania. This desig. same proud note of confidence in himself nation illustrates, indeed, Ovid's marked and devotion to his art reappears again power of so employing names as to in