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Remove your hands, the bark fhall foon fuffice
She ceas'd at once to speak, and ceas'd to be; 100
THOUGH we must regret the hours our Poet spent in translating Statius and Ovid; yet it has given us an opportunity of admiring his good fense and judgment, in not fuffering his taste and ftyle, in his fucceeding works, to be infected with the faults of these two writers. WARTON.
There is a moft fingular and ingenious work, just given to the public, called "Celtic Researches," in which the author deduces the druidical worship from the age of the Patriarchs. There is one chapter fo ftriking, relating to the "fymbolical reading of trees," that I cannot avoid pointing it out. The following lines, tranflated literally from the Welsh of Tallieffen, will illuf. trate my meaning:
Or the points of the counterfeited trees,
Are in their trunks ?
These are READ by the Sages.
Compare Warburton's obfervations prefixed to the next Poem, and confider whether there might not be fome affinity between Ovid's transformation of human beings into living trees, and these Symbols of the Druids. The " counterfeited trees,' is an expreffion that feems to me evidently to allude to fome transformation ; that is, that the trees are not fuch in reality, but endued with perception and life; they are therefore called "counterfeited."
THER HERE is not," fays Dr. Warburton, (Divine Legation, b. iii. p. 337.) "a more extraordinary book than the Metamorphofes of Ovid, whether we regard the matter or the form. The tales appear monftrously extravagant, and the compofition irregular and wild. Had it been the product of a dark age and a barbarous writer, we should have been content to have ranked it in the clafs of our modern Oriental fables, as a matter of no confequence: but when we confider it was wrote when Rome was in its meridian of politeness and knowledge, and by an author who, as appears from his acquaintance with the Greek tragic writers, knew well what belonged to a work or compofition, we cannot but be fhocked at the grotefque affemblage of its parts. One would rather diftrust one's judgment, and conclude the deformity to be only in appearance, which perhaps, on examination, we shall find to be the cafe; though it must be owned, the common opinion feems to be fupported by Quintilian, the most judicious critic of antiquity, who speaks of our author and his work in these words: "Ut Ovidius lafcivire in Metamorphofi folet, quem tamen excufare neceffitas poteft, res diverfiffimas in fpeciem unius corporis colligentem." And again, p. 343.: "Ovid gathered his materials from the mythological writers, and formed them into a poem on the moft grand and regular plan, a popular history of Providence, carried down from the creation to his own times, through the Egyptian, Phoenician, Greek, and Roman hiftories; and this in as methodical a manner as the graces of poetry would allow."
Thefe obfervations of Warburton are perhaps fanciful, but they by no means deferve the contempt with which Dr. Warton treats them. See Note to the preceding Poem.