« PoprzedniaDalej »
Of all the paradoxes which the restless vigour of his mind stimulated Warburton to maintain, the following is one of the most striking and unaccountable: "There is not," he says (Divine Legation, b. iii. p. 337), "a more extraordinary book than the Metamorphoses of Ovid, whether we regard the matter or the form. The tales appear monstrously extravagant, and the composition 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 class of our modern Oriental fables, as a matter of no consequence: but when we consider 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 composition, we cannot but be shocked at the grotesque assemblage of its parts. One would rather distrust one's judgment, and conclude the deformity to be only in appearance, which perhaps on examination we shall find to be the case; though it must be owned, the common opinion seems to be supported by Quintilian, the most judicious critic of antiquity, who speaks of our author and his work in these words: "Ut Ovidius lascivire in Metamorphosi solet, quem tamen excusare necessitas potest, res diversissimas in speciem unius corporis colligentem." And again, p. 343: "Ovid gathered his materials from the mythological writers, and formed them into a poem on the most 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 histories; and this in as methodical a manner as the graces of poetry would allow."-It was reserved therefore for Dr. Warburton to discover what none of the ancients, not even the penetrating and judicious Quintilian, who lived so much nearer the time of the author, could possibly perceive, the deep meaning, and the accurate method, of the Metamorphoses of Ovid. As Boileau said of some of the forced interpretations of Dacier in his Horace, that they were the Revelations of Dacier, it will not be uncandid or unjust to say, that this remark on Ovid is one of Warburton's Revelations. It is remarkable that the great Barrow preferred Ovid to Virgil, as Corneille did Lucan.
REGE Sub hoc Pomona fuit: qua nulla Latinas
Inter Hamadryadas coluit solertius hortos,
Nec fuit arborei studiosior altera fœtûs :
Unde tenet nomen. non silvas illa, nec amnes;
Rus amat, et ramos felicia poma ferentes.
Nec jaculo gravis est, sed adunca dextera falce: 10
Qua modo luxuriem premit, et spatiantia passim
Brachia compescit; fissa modo cortice virgam
Inserit; et succos alieno præstat alumno.
Nec patitur sentire sitim: bibulæque recurvas
Radicis fibras labentibus irrigat undis.
hoc studium: Veneris quoque nulla cupido.
Vim tamen agrestum metuens, pomaria claudit
Intus, et accessus prohibet refugitque viriles.
Quid non et Satyri, saltatibus apta juventus,
Fecere, et pinu præcincti cornua Panes,
Silvanusque suis semper juvenilior annis,
Quique Deus fures, vel falce, vel inguine terret,
Ut poterentur ea? sed enim superabat amando
Hos quoque Vertumnus neque erat felicior illis.
THE fair Pomona flourish'd in his reign;
Of all the Virgins of the sylvan train,
None taught the trees a nobler race to bear,
Or more improv'd the vegetable care.
To her the shady grove, the flow'ry field,
The streams and fountains no delights could yield;
'Twas all her joy the rip'ning fruits to tend,
And see the boughs with happy burdens bend.
The hook she bore instead of Cynthia's spear,
To lop the growth of the luxuriant year,
To decent form the lawless shoots to bring,
And teach th' obedient branches where to spring.
Now the cleft rind inserted graffs receives,
And yields an offspring more than nature gives;
Now sliding streams the thirsty plants renew,
And feed their fibres with reviving dew.
These cares alone her virgin breast employ,
Averse from Venus and the nuptial joy.
Her private orchards, wall'd on ev'ry side,
To lawless sylvans all access deny'd.
How oft the Satyrs and the wanton Fawns,
Who haunt the forests, or frequent the lawns,
The God whose ensign scares the birds of prey,
And old Silenus, youthful in decay,
Employ'd their wiles, and unavailing care,
pass the fences, and surprise the fair?
O quoties habitu duri messoris aristas
Corbe tulit, verique fuit messoris imago!
Tempora sæpe gerens fœno religata recenti,
Desectum poterat gramen versasse videri.
Sæpe manu stimulos rigida portabat; ut illum
Jurares fessos modo disjunxisse juvencos.
Falce data frondator erat, vitisque putator.
Induerat scalas, lecturum poma putares :
Miles erat gladio, piscator arundine sumta.
Denique per multas aditum sibi sæpe figuras
Repperit, ut caperet spectatæ gaudia formæ.
Ille etiam picta redimitus tempora mitra,
Innitens baculo, positis ad tempora canis,
Adsimulavit anum: cultosque intravit in hortos;
Pomaque mirata est: Tantoque potentior, inquit.
Paucaque laudatæ dedit oscula; qualia nunquam
Vera dedisset anus: glebaque incurva resedit,
Suspiciens pandos autumni pondere ramos.
Like these, Vertumnus own'd his faithful flame,
Like these, rejected by the scornful dame.
To gain her sight a thousand forms he wears;
And first a reaper from the field appears.
Sweating he walks, while loads of golden grain
O'ercharge the shoulders of the seeming swain.
Oft o'er his back a crooked scythe is laid,
And wreaths of hay his sun-burnt temples shade:
Oft in his harden'd hand a goad he bears,
Like one who late unyok'd the sweating steers.
Sometimes his pruning-hook corrects the vines,
And the loose stragglers to their ranks confines.
Now gath'ring what the bounteous year allows,
He pulls ripe apples from the bending boughs.
A soldier now, he with his sword appears;
A fisher next, his trembling angle bears;
Each shape he varies, and each art he tries,
On her bright charms to feast his longing eyes.
A female form at last Vertumnus wears,
With all the marks of rev'rend age appears,
His temples thinly spread with silver hairs;
Propp'd on his staff, and stooping as he goes,
A painted mitre shades his furrow'd brows.
The god in this decrepit form array'd,
The gardens enter'd, and the fruit survey'd ;
And "Happy you! (he thus address'd the maid)
Whose charms as far all other nymphs outshine,
As other gardens are excell'd by thine !"
Then kiss'd the fair; (kisses warmer grow
Than such as women on their sex bestow.)
Then plac'd beside her on the flow'ry ground,
Beheld the trees with autumn's bounty crown'd.