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FA B. II.
P. 150. 1. 3. Here Cadmus reign'd.] This is a pretty folemn transition to the story of Acteon, which is all naturally told. The goddess and her maids undreffing her, are defcribed with diverting circumftances. Acteon's flight, confufion, and griefs, are paffionately represented; but it is pity the whole narration fhould be fo carelefly clofed up.
Ut abeffe queruntur,
"Nec capere oblatæ fegnem fpectacula prædæ. "Vellet abeffe quidem, fed adeft, velletque videre, "Non etiam fentire, canum fera facta fuorum." P. 153. 1. 10. A generous pack, &c] I have not here troubled myself to call over Acteon's pack of dogs in rhyme: Spot and Whitefoot make but a mean figure in heroic verfe; and the Greek names Ovid ufes would found a great deal worfe. He clofes up his own catalogue with a kind of a jeft on it: "Quofque referre mora eft"-which, by the way, is too light and full of humour for the other ferious parts of this ftory.
This way of inferting catalogues of proper names in their Poems, the Latins took from the Greeks; but have made them more pleasing than those they imitate, by adapting fo many delightful characters to their perfons names; in which part Ovid's copiousness of invention, and great infight into nature, has given him the precedence to all the Poets that ever came before or after him. The smoothness of our English
verfe is too much loft by the repetition of proper names, which is otherwise very natural, and abfolutely neceffary in fome cafes; as before a battle to raise in our minds an answerable expectation of the events, and a lively idea of the numbers that are engaged. For, had Homer or Virgil only told us in two or three lines before their fights, that there were forty thoufand of each fide, our imagination could not poffibly have been fo affected, as when we fee every leader singled out, and every regiment in a manner drawn' up before our eyes.
FA B. III.
P. 154. 1. 26. How Semele, &c.] This is one of Ovid's finished ftories. The tranfition to it is proper and unforced: Juno, in her two fpeeches, acts incomparably well the parts of a resenting goddess and a tattling nurse: Jupiter makes a very majeftic figure with his thunder and lightning, but it is ftill fuch a one as fhews who drew it; for who does not plainly difcover Ovid's hand in the
"Quà tamen ufque poteft, vires fibi demere tentat. "Nec, quo centimanum dejiceret igne Typhœa, "Nunc armatur eo: nimium feritatis in illo. "Eft aliud levius fulmen, cui dextra Cyclopum, "Sævitiæ flammæque minus, minus addidit iræ; "Tela fecunda vocant fuperi."
P. 155. 1. 26. 'Tis well, fays the, &c.] Virgil has made a Beroë of one of his goddesses in the Fifth neid; but if we compare the fpeech the there makes
with that of her name-fake in this story, we may find the genius of each Poet discovering itfelf in the language of the nurse: Virgil's Iris could not have spoken more majestically in her own thape; but Juno is fo much altered from herself in Ovid, that the goddess is quite lost in the old woman.
FA B. V.
P. 160. 1. 9. She can't begin, &c.] If playing.c words be excufable in any Poem, it is in this, where Echo is a speaker; but it is fo mean a kind of wit, that, if it deferves excufe, it can claim no more.
Mr. Locke, in his Effay of Human Understanding, has given us the beft account of wit in fhort that can any where be met with. "Wit, fays he, lies in "the affemblage of ideas, and putting thofe together "with quickness and variety, wherein can be found 66 any resemblance or congruity, thereby to make up "pleasant pictures and agreeable visions in the fancy,” Thus does true wit, as this incomparable author obferves, generally confift in the likeness of ideas, and is more or lefs wit, as this likeness in ideas is more furprizing and unexpected. But as true wit is nothing elfe but a fimilitude in ideas, fo is falfe wit the fimilitude in words, whether it lies in the likeness of letters only, as in Anagram and Acroftic; or of Syl. lables, as in doggrel rhymes; or whole words, as Puns, Echoes, and the like. Befide these two kinds of falfe and true wit, there is another of a middle nature, that has something of both in it-when in
two ideas that have some resemblance with each other, and are both expreffed by the fame word, we make use of the ambiguity of the word to fpeak that of one idea included under it, which is proper to the other. Thus, for example, moft languages have hit on the word, which properly fignifies fire, to exprefs love by (and therefore we may be fure there is fome refemblance in the ideas mankind have of them); from hence the witty Poets of all languages, when they once have called Love a fire, confider it no longer as the paffion, but speak of it under the notion of a real fire; and, as the turn of wit requires, make the fame word in the fame fentence ftand for either of the ideas that is annexed to it. When Ovid's Apollo falls in love, he burns with a new flame; when the SeaNymphs languifh with this paffion, they kindle in the water; the Greek Epigrammatift fell in love with one that flung a fnow-ball at him, and therefore takes occafion to admire how fire could be thus concealed in fnow. In fhort, whenever the Poet feels any thing in this love that refembles fomething in fire, he carries on this agreement into a kind of allegory; but if, as in the preceding inftances, he finds any circumstance in his love contrary to the nature of fire, he calls his love a fire, and by joining this circumftance to it furprizes his reader with a seeming contradiction. I should not have dwelt fo long on this inftance, had it not been fo frequent in Ovid, who is the greatest admirer of this mixt wit of all the ancients, as our Cowley is among the moderns. Homer, Virgil, Ho
race, and the greatest Poets, fcorned it; as indeed it is only fit for Epigram, and little copies of verses: one would wonder therefore how fo fublime a genius as Milton could fometimes fall into it, in fuch a work as an Epic Poem. But we must attribute it to his humouring the vicious taste of the age he lived in, and the false judgment of our unlearned English readers in general, who have few of them a relish of the more mafculine and noble beauties of Poetry.
FA B. VI.
Ovid feems particularly pleased with the subject of this ftory, but has notoriously fallen into a fault he is often taxed with, of not knowing when he has said enough, by his endeavouring to excel. How has he turned and twifted that one thought of Narciffus's being the perfon beloved, and the lover too?
"Cunctaque miratur quibus eft mirabilis ipfe. "Qui probat, ipfe probatur.
"Dumque petit petitur, pariterque incendit et ardet, "Atque oculos idem qui decipit incitat error. "Perque oculos perit ipfe fuos
"Uror amore mei, flammas moveoque feroque, &c." But we cannot meet with a better inftance of the extravagance and wantonness of Ovid's fancy, than in that particular circumftance at the end of the story, of Narciffus's gazing on his face after death in the Stygian waters. The defign was very bold, of making a boy fall in love with himself here on earth; but to torture him with the same passion after death, and not