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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 show how differently Ovid and the Greek tragedians have made Medea, Phædra, and Deianira, 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 tragedy 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 Guildford 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 the designs of Guido and Dominichino.—Warton.




ECQUID, ut inspecta est studiosæ littera dextræ,

Protinus est oculis cognita nostra tuis ? An, nisi legisses auctoris nomina Sapphûs,

Hoc breve nescires unde movetur opus? Forsitan et quare mea sint alterna requiras

Carmina, cum lyricis sim magis apta modis. Flendus amor meus est: elegeïa flebile carmen;

Non facit ad lacrymas barbitos ulla meas.
Uror, ut, indomitis ignem exercentibus Euris,

Fertilis accensis messibus ardet ager.
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,

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.
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.



Say, lovely youth, that dost my heart command,
Can Phaon's eyes forget his Sappho's hand?
Must then her name the wretched writer prove,
To thy remembrance lost, as to thy love?
Ask not the cause that I new numbers choose, 5
The Lute neglected, and the Lyric muse;
Love taught my tears in sadder notes to flow,
And tun'd my heart to Elegies of woe.
I burn, I burn, as when through ripen'd corn
By driving winds the spreading flames are borne ! 10
Phaon to Ætna’s scorching fields retires,
While I consume with more than Ætna’s fires !
No more my soul a charm in music finds;
Music has charms alone for peaceful minds.
Soft scenes of solitude no more can please,

Love enters there, and I'm my own disease.
No more the Lesbian dames my passion move,
Once the dear objects of my guilty love;
All other loves are lost in only thine,
Ah youth ungrateful to a flame like mine!

20 Whom would not all those blooming charms surprise, Those heav'nly looks, and dear deluding eyes? The harp and bow would you like Phoebus bear, A brighter Phoebus Phaon might appear; Would you with ivy wreath your flowing hair,

25 Not Bacchus' self with Phaon could compare:


Ver. 9. Uror] Our poet has not much varied here from the couplet of his predecessor, Sir Carr. Scrope.

“ I burn, I burn, like kindled fields of corn,

When by the driving winds the flames are born."Wakefield. Ver. 26. Not Bacchus' self ] These lines were evidently copied in the famous epigram of “Lumine Acon dextro,” &c. made on Louis de

Et Phæbus Daphnen, et Gnosida Bacchus amavit;
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.

40 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, At me cum legeres, etiam formosa videbar;

Unam jurabas usque decere loqui.
Cantabam, memini (meminerunt omnia amantes)

Oscula cantanti tu mihi rapta dabas.
Hæc quoque laudabas; omnique a parte placebam,

Sed tum præcipue, cum fit amoris opus.


Yet Phæbus lov’d, and Bacchus felt the flame,
One Daphne warm’d, and one the Cretan dame;
Nymphs that in verse no more could rival me,
Than ev'n those Gods contend in charms with thee. 30
The Muses teach me all their softest lays,
And the wide world resounds with Sappho's praise.
Tho' great Alcæus more sublimely sings,
And strikes with bolder rage the sounding strings,
No less renown attends the moving lyre,

Which Venus tunes, and all her loves inspire;
To me what nature has in charms deny'd,
Is well by wit's more lasting flames supply'd.
Tho' short my stature, yet my name extends
To heav'n itself, and earth's remotest ends.

40 Brown as I am, an Ethiopian dame Inspir’d young Perseus with a gen'rous flame; Turtles and doves of different hues unite, And glossy jet is pair’d with shining white. If to no charms thou wilt thy heart resign,

45 But such as merit, such as equal thine, By none, al'as ! by none thou can'st be mov'd, Phaon alone by Phaon must be lov'd ! Yet once thy Sappho could thy cares employ, Once in her arms you center'd all your joy:

50 No time the dear remembrance can remove, For oh! how vast a memory has love? My music, then, you could for ever hear, And all my words were music to your ear. You stopp'd with kisses my enchanting tongue,

55 And found my kisses sweeter than my song. In all I pleas’d, but most in what was best; And the last joy was dearer than the rest.


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 pure, lumen quod habes, concede sorori;

Sic tu cæcus Amor, sic erit illa Venus."-Warton,

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