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The short artificial elegy of Callimachus and Philetas had, as we have seen, found an imitator in Catullus. But that poet, when he addressed to Lesbia the language of true passion, wrote for the most part in lyric verse. The Augustan age furnishes a series of brilliant poets who united the artificial elegiac with the expression of real feeling; and one of them, Ovid, has by his exquisite formal polish raised the Latin elegiac couplet to a popularity unparalleled in imitative literature. The metre had at first been adapted to short epigrams modelled on the Greek, e.g., triumphal inscriptions, epitaphs, jeux d'esprit, &c., several examples of which have been quoted in these pages. Catullus and his contemporaries first treated it at greater length, and paved the way for the highly specialised form in which it appears in Tibullus, the earliest Augustan author that has come down to us.

There are indications that Roman elegy, like heroic verse, had two separate tendencies. There was the comparatively simple continuous treatment of the metre seen in Catullus and Virgil, who are content to follow the Greek rhythm, and there was the more rhetorical and pointed style first beginning to appear in Tibullus, carried a step further in Propertius, and culminating in the epigrammatic couplet of Ovid. This last is a peculiarly Latin development, unsuited to the Greek, and too elaborately artificial to be the vehicle for the highest poetry, but, when treated by one who is master of his method, admitting of a facility, fluency, and incomparable elegance, which perhaps no other rhythm combines in an equal degree. In almost all its features it may be illustrated by the heroic couplet of Pope. The elegiac line is in the strictest sense a pendant to the hexameter; only rarely does it introduce a new element of thought, and perhaps never a new commencement in narration. It is for the most part an iteration, variation, enlargement, condensation or antithesis of the idea embodied in its predecessor. In the most highly finished of Ovid's compositions this structure is carried to such a point that the syntax is rarely altogether continuous throughout the couplet; there is generally a break either natural or rhetorical at the conclusion of the hexameter or within the first few syllables of the pentameter. [1] The rhetorical as distinct from the naturalperiod, which appears, though veiled with great skill, in the Virgilian hexameter, is in Ovid's verse made the key to the whole rhythmical structure, and by its restriction within the minimum space of two lines offers a tempting field to the various tricks of composition, the turn, the point, the climax, &c. in all of which Ovid, as the typical elegist, luxuriates, though he applies such elegant manipulation as rarely to over-stimulate and scarcely ever to offend the reader's attention. The criticism that such a system cannot fail to awaken is that of want of variety; and in spite of the diverse modes of producing effect which these accomplished writers, and above all Ovid, well knew how to use, one cannot read them long without a sense of monotony, which never attends on the far less ambitious elegies of Catullus, and probably would have been equally absent from those of CORNELIUS GALLUS.

This ill-starred poet, whose life is the subject of Bekker's admirable sketch, was born at Forum Julii (Frejus) 69 B.C., and is celebrated as the friend of Virgil's youth. Full of ambition and endowed with talent to command or conciliate, he speedily rose in Augustus's service, and was the first to introduce Virgil to his notice. For a time all prospered; he was appointed the first prefect of Egypt, then recently annexed as a province, but his haughtiness and success had made him many enemies; he was accused of treasonable conversation, and interdicted the palace of the emperor. To avoid further disgrace he committed suicide, in the 43d year of his age (27 B.C.). His poetry was entirely taken from Alexandria; he translated Euphorion and wrote four books of love-elegies to Cytheris. Whether she is the same as the Lycoris mentioned by Virgil, [2] whose faithlessness he bewails, we cannot tell. No fragments of his remain, [3] but the passionate nature of the man, and the epithet durior applied to his verse by Quintilian, makes it probable that he followed the older and more vigorous style of elegiac writing. [4]

Somewhat junior to him was DOMITIUS MARSUS who followed in the same track. He was a member of the circle of Maecenas, though, strangely enough, never mentioned by Horace, and exercised his varied talents in epic poetry, in which he met with no great success, for Martial says [5]—

  “Saepius in libro memoratur Persius uno 
      Quam levis in toto Marsus Amazonide.”

From this we gather that Amazonis was the name of his poem. In erotic poetry he held a high place, though not of the first rank. His Fabellae and treatise on Urbanitas, both probably poetical productions, are referred to by Quintilian, and Martial mentions him as his own precursor in treating the short epigram. From another passage of Martial,

  “Et Maecenati Maro cum cantaret Alexin 
      Nota tamen Marsi fusca Melaenis erat,” [6]

we infer that he began his career early; for he was certainly younger than Horace, though probably only by a few years, as he also received instruction from Orbilius. There is a fine epigram by Marsus lamenting the death of his two brother-poets and friends:

  “Te quoque Virgilio comitem non aequa, Tibulle, 
      Mors invenem campos misit ad Elysios. 
  Ne foret aut molles elegis qui fleret amores, 
      Aut caneret forti regia bella pede.”

ALBIUS TIBULLUS, to whom Quintilian adjudges the palm of Latin elegy, was born probably about the same time as Horace (65 B.C.), though others place the date of his birth as late as that of Messala (59 B.C.). In the fifth Elegy of the third book [7] occur the words—

  “Natalem nostri primum videre parentes 
      Cum cecidit fato consul uterque pari.”

As these words nearly reappear in Ovid, fixing the date of his own birth, [8] some critics have supposed them to be spurious here. But there is no occasion for this. The elegy in which they occur is certainly not by Tibullus, and may well be the work of some contemporary of Ovid. They point to the battle of Mutina, 43 B.C., in which Hirtius and Pansa lost their lives. The poet's death is fixed to 19 B.C. by the epigram of Domitius just quoted.

Tibullus was a Roman knight, and inherited a large fortune. This, however, he lost by the triumviral proscriptions, [9] excepting a poor remnant of his estate near Pedum which, small as it was, seems to have sufficed for his moderate wants. At a later period Horace, writing to him in retirement, speaks as though he were possessed of considerable wealth [10]—

  “Di tibi divitias dederunt artemque fruendi.”

It is possible that Augustus, at the intercession of Messala, restored the poet's patrimony. It was as much the fashion among the Augustan writers to affect a humble but contented poverty, as it had been among the libertines of the Caesarean age to pretend to sanctity of life—another form of that unreality which, after all, is ineradicable from Latin poetry. Ovid is far more unaffected. He asserts plainly that the pleasures and refinements of his time were altogether to his taste, and that no other age would have suited him half so well. [11] Tibullus is a melancholy effeminate spirit. Horace exactly hits him when he bids him “chant no more woeful elegies,” [12] because a young and perjured rival has been preferred to him. He seems to have had no ambition and no energy, but his position obliged him to see some military service, and we find that he went on no less than three expeditions with his patron. This patron, or rather friend, for he was above needing a patron, was the great Messala, whom the poet loved with a warmth and constancy testified by some beautiful elegies, the finest perhaps being those where the general's victories are celebrated. [13] But the chief theme of his verse is the love, ill-requited it would seem, which he lavished first on Delia and afterwards on Nemesis. Each mistress gives the subject to a book. Delia's real name as we learn from Apuleius was Plania, [14] and we gather from more than one notice in the poems that she was married [15] when Tibullus paid his addresses to her. If the form of these poems is borrowed from Alexandria, the gentle pathos and gushing feeling redeem them from all taint of artificiality. In no poet, not even in Burns, is simple, natural emotion more naturally expressed. If we cannot praise the character of the man, we must admire the graceful poet. Nothing can give a truer picture of affection than the following tender and exquisitely musical lines:

  “Non ego laudari curo: mea Delia, tecum 
      Dummodo sim quaeso segnis inersque vocer. 
  Te spectem suprema mihi cum venerit hora: 
      Te teneam moriens deficiente manu.” [16]

Here is the same “linked sweetness long drawn out” which gives such a charm to Gray's elegy. In other elegies, particularly those which take the form of idylls, giving images of rural peace and plenty, [17] we see the quiet retiring nature that will not be drawn into the glare of Rome. Tibullus is described as of great personal beauty, and of a candid [18] and affectionate disposition. Notwithstanding his devotion Delia was faithless, and the poet sought distraction in surrendering to the charms of another mistress. Horace speaks of a lady named Glycera in this connection; it is probable that she is the same as Nemesis; [19] the custom of erotic poetry being to substitute a Greek name of similar scansion for the original Latin one; if the original name were Greek the change was still made, hence Glycera might well stand for Nemesis. The third book was first seen by Niebuhr to be from another and much inferior poet. It is devoted to the praises of Neaera, and imitates the manner of Tibullus with not a little of his sweetness but with much less power. Who the author was it is impossible to say, but though he had little genius he was a man of feeling and taste, and the six elegies are a pleasing relic of this active and yet melancholy time. The fourth book begins with a short epic on Messala, the work of a poetaster, extending over 200 lines. It is followed by thirteen most graceful elegidia ascribed to the lovers Cerinthus and Sulpicia of which one only is by Cerinthus. It is not certain whether this ascription is genuine, or whether, as the ancient life of Tibullus in the Parisian codex asserts, the poems were written by him under the title of Epistolae amatoriae. Their finished elegance and purity of diction are easily reconcilable with the view that they are the work of Tibullus. They abound in allusions to Virgil's poetry. [20] At the same time the description of Sulpicia as a poetess [21] seems to point to her as authoress of the pieces that bear her name, and from one or two allusions we gather that Messala was paying her attentions that were distasteful but hard to refuse. [22] The materials for coming to a decision are so scanty, that it seems best to leave the authorship an open question.

The rhythm of Tibullus is smooth, easy, and graceful, but tame. He generally concludes his period at the end of the couplet, and closes the couplet with a dissyllable; but he does not like Ovid make it an invariable rule. The diction is severely classical, free from Greek constructions and antiquated harshness. In elision he stands midway between Catullus and Ovid, inclining, however, more nearly to the latter.

SEX. AURELIUS PROPERTIUS, an Umbrian, from Mevania, Ameria, Assisi, or Hispellum, it is not certain which, was born 58 B.C. or according to others 49 B.C., and lost his father and his estate in the same year (41 B.C.) under Octavius's second assignation of land to the soldiers. He seems to have begun life at the bar, which he soon deserted to play the cavalier to Hostia (whom he celebrates under the name Cynthia), a lady endowed with learning and wit as well as beauty, to whom our poet remained constant for five years. The chronology of his love-quarrels and reconciliations has been the subject of warm disputes between Nobbe, Jacob, and Lachmann; but even if it were of any importance, it is impossible to ascertain it with certainty.

He unquestionably belonged to Maecenas's following, but was not admitted into the inner circle of his intimates. Some have thought that the troublesome acquaintance who besought Horace to introduce him was no other than Propertius. The man, it will be remembered, expresses himself willing to take a humble place: [23]

  Magnum adiutorem posset qui ferre secundas 
  Hunc hominem velles si tradere. Dispeream ni 
  Submosses omnes.”

And as Propertius speaks of himself as living on the Esquiliae, [24] some have, in conformity with this view, imagined him to have held some domestic post under Maecenas's roof. A careful reader can detect in Propertius a far less well-bred tone than is apparent in Tibullus or Horace. He has the air of a parvenu, [25] parading his intellectual wares, and lacking the courteous self-restraint which dignifies their style. But he is a genuine poet, and a generous, warm-hearted man, and in our opinion by far the greatest master of the pentameter that Rome ever produced. Its rhythm in his hands rises at times almost into grandeur. There are passages in the elegy on Cornelia (which concludes the series) whose noble naturalness and stirring emphasis bespeak a great and patriotic inspiration; and no small part of this effect is due to his vigorous handling of a somewhat feeble metre. [26] Mechanically speaking, he is a disciple in the same school as Ovid, but his success in the Ovidian distich is insignificant; for he has nothing of the epigrammatist in him, and his finest lines all seem to have come by accident, or at any rate without effort. [27] His excessive reverence for the Alexandrines Callimachus and Philetas, has cramped his muse. With infinitely more poetic fervour than either, he has made them his only models, and to attain their reputation is the summit of his ambition. It is from respect to their practice that he has loaded his poems with pedantic erudition; in the very midst of passionate pleading he will turn abruptly into the mazes of some obscure myth, often unintelligible [28] to the modern reader, whose patience he sorely tries. There is no good poet so difficult to read through; his faults are not such as “plead sweetly for pardon;” they are obtrusive and repelling, and have been more in the way of his fame than those of any extant writer of equal genius. He was a devoted admirer of Virgil, whose poems he sketches in the following graceful lines: [29]—

  “Actia Virgilio custodit (deus) litora Phoebi, 
    Caesaris et fortes dicere posse rates: 
   Qui nunc Aeneae Troianaque suscitat arma, 
    Iactaque Lavinis moenia litoribus. 
   Cedite Romani seriptores, cedite Graii, 
    Nescio quid maius nascitur Iliade! 
  Tu canis umbrosi subter pineta Galesi 
    Thyrsin et attritis Daphnin arundinibus, 
  Utque decera possint corrumpere mala puellas, 
    Missus et impressis haedus ab uberibus. 
  Felix qui viles pomis mercaris amores! 
    Huic licet ingratae Tityrus ipse canat. 
  Felix intactum Corydon qui tentat Alexin 
    Agricolae domini carpere delicias. 
  Quamvis ille sua lassus requiescat avena, 
    Laudatur faciles inter Hamadryadas. 
  Tu canis Ascraei veteris praecepta poetae, 
    Quo seges in campo, quo viret uva iugo. 
  Tale facis carmen, docta testudine quale 
    Cynthius impositis temperat articulis.”

The elegies that show his characteristics best are the second of the first book, where he prays his lady to dress modestly; the seventeenth, where he rebukes himself for having left her side; the twentieth, where he tells the legend of Hylas with great pictorial power and with the finest triumphs of rhythm; the beautiful lament for the death of Paetus; [30] the dream in which Cynthia's shade comes to give him warning; [31] and the patriotic elegy which begins the last book. Maecenas, [32] it appears, had tried to persuade him to attempt heroic poetry, from which uncongenial task he excuses himself, much as Horace had done.

In reading these poets we are greatly struck by the free and easy way in which they borrow thoughts from one another. A good idea was considered common property, and a happy phrase might be adopted without theft. Virgil now and then appropriates a word from Horace, Horace somewhat oftener one from Virgil, Tibullus from both. Propertius, who is less original, has many direct imitations, and Ovid makes free with some of Virgil and Tibullus's finest lines. This custom was not thought to detract from the writer's independence, inasmuch as each had his own domain, and borrowed only where he would be equally ready to give. It was otherwise with those thriftless bards so roughly dealt with by Horace in his nineteenth Epistle—

  “O imitatores, servum pecus! ut mihi saepe 
  Bilem, saepe iocum movistis.”

the Baviad and Maeviad of the Roman poet-world. These lay outside the charmed sphere, and the hands they laid on the works of those who wrought within it were sacrilegious. In the next age we shall see how imitation of these great masters had become a regular department of composition, so that Quintilian gives elaborate rules for making a proper use of it. At this time originality consisted in introducing some new form of Greek song. Virgil made Theocritus and Hesiod speak in Latin. Horace had brought over the old Aeolian bards; Propertius, too, must make his boast of having enticed Callimachus to the Tiber's banks—

  “Primus ego ingredior puro de fonte sacerdos 
  Itala per Graios orgia ferre chores.” [33]

In the Middle Ages he was almost lost; a single copy, defaced with mould and almost illegible, was found in a wine cellar in Italy, 1451 A.D. Quintilian tells us there were some in his day who preferred him to Tibullus.

The same critic's remark on the brilliant poet who now comes before us, P. OVIDIUS NASO, is as follows: “Ovidius utroque lascivior“ and he could not have given a terser or more comprehensive criticism. Of all Latin poets, not excepting even Plautus, Ovid possesses in the highest degree the gift of facility. His words probably express the literal truth, when he says—

  “Sponte sua carmen numeros veniebat ad aptos, 
  Et quod tentabam scribere versus erat.”

This incorrigibly immoral but inexpressibly graceful poet was born at Sulmo in the Pelignian territory 43 B.C. of wealthy parents, whose want of liberality during his youthful career he deplores, but by which he profited after their death. Of equestrian rank, with good introductions and brilliant talents, he was expected to devote himself to the duties of public life. At first he studied for the bar; but so slight was his ambition and so unfitted was his genius for even the moderate degree of severe reasoning required by his profession, that he soon abandoned it in disgust, and turned to the study of rhetoric. For some time he declaimed under the first masters, Arellius Fuscus and Porcius Latro, [34] and acquired a power of brilliant improvisation that caused him to be often quoted in the schools, and is evidenced by many reminiscences in the writings of the elder Seneca. [35] A short time was spent by him, according to custom, at Athens, [36] and while in Greece he took the opportunity of visiting the renowned cities of Asia Minor. He also spent some time in Sicily, and returned to Rome probably at the age of 23 or 24, where he allowed himself to be nominated triumvir capitalis, decemvir litibus iudicandis, and centumvir, in quick succession. But in spite of the remonstrances of his friends he finally gave up all active work, and began that series of love-poems which was at once the cause of his popularity and of his fall, His first mistress was a lady whom he calls Corinna, but whose real name is not known. That she was a member of the demi-monde is probable from this fact; as also from the poet's strong assertion that he had never been guilty of an intrigue with a married woman. The class to which she belonged were mostly Greeks or Easterns, beautiful and accomplished, often poetesses, and mingling with these seductive qualities the fickleness and greed natural to their position, of which Ovid somewhat unreasonably complains. To her are dedicated the great majority of the Amores, his earliest extant work. These elegant but lascivious poems, some of which perhaps were the same which he recited to large audiences as early as his twenty-second year, were published 13 B.C., and consisted at first of five books, which he afterwards reduced to three. [37] No sooner were they before the public than they became universally popular, combining as they do the personal experiences already made familiar to Roman audiences through Tibullus and Propertius, with a levity, a dash, a gaiety, and a brilliant polish, far surpassing anything that his more serious predecessors had attained. During their composition he was smitten with the desire (perhaps owing to his Asiatic tour) to write an epic poem on the wars of the gods and giants, but Corinna, determined to keep his muse for herself, would not allow him to gratify it. [38]

The Heroides or love-letters from mythological heroines to their (mostly) faithless spouses, are declared by Ovid to be an original importation from Greece. [39.] They are erotic suasoriae, based on the declamations of the schools, and are perhaps the best appreciated of all his compositions. They present the Greek mythology under an entirely new phase of treatment. Virgil had complained [40] that its resources were used up, and in Propertius we already see that allusive way of dealing with it which savours of a general satiety. But in Ovid's hands the old myths became young again, indeed, younger than ever; and people wonder they could ever have lost their interest. His method is the reverse of Virgil's or Livy's. [41] They take pains to make themselves ancient; he, with wanton effrontery, makes the myths modern. Jupiter, Juno, the whole circle of Olympus, are transformed into the hommes et femmes galantes of Augustus's court, and their history into a chronique scandaleuse. The immoral incidents, round which a veil of poetic sanctity had been cast by the great consecrator time, are here displayed in all their mundane pruriency. In the Metamorphoses Jupiter is introduced as smitten with the love of a nymph, Dictynna; some compunctions of conscience seize him, and the image of Juno's wrath daunts him, but he finally overcomes his fear with these words—

  “Hoc furtum certe coniux mea nesciet (inquit); 
   Aut si rescierit, sunt O sunt iurgia tanti?”

So, in the Heroides, the idea of the desolate and love-lorn Ariadne writing a letter from the barren isle of Naxos is in itself ridiculous, nor can all the pathos of her grief redeem the irony. Helen wishes she had had more practice in correspondence, so that she might perhaps touch her lover's chilly heart. Ovid using the language of mythology, reminds us of those heroes of Dickens who preface their communications by a wink of intelligence.

His next venture was of a more compromising character. Intoxicated with popularity, he devoted three long poems to a systematic treatment of the Art of Love, on which he lavished all the graces of his wayward talent, and a combination of mythological, literary, and social allusion, that seemed to mark him out for better things. He is careful to remark at the outset that this poem is not intended for the virtuous. The frivolous gallants, whose sole end in life is dissipation, with the objects of their licentious passion, are the readers for whom he caters. But he had overshot his mark; The Amores had been tolerated, for they had followed precedent. But even they had raised him enemies. The Art of Love produced a storm of indignation, and without doubt laid the foundations of that severe displeasure on the part of Augustus, which found vent ten years later in a terrible punishment. For Ovid was doing his best to render the emperor's reforms a dead letter. It was difficult enough to get the laws enforced, even with the powerful sanction of a public opinion guided by writers like Horace and Virgil. But here was a brilliant poet setting his face right against the emperor's will. The necessity of marriage had been preached with enthusiasm by two unmarried poets; a law to the same effect had been passed by two unmarried consuls; [42] a moral regime had been inaugurated by a prince whose own morals were or had been more than dubious. All this was difficult; but it had been done. And now the insidious attractions of vice were flaunted in the most glowing colours in the face of day. The young of both sexes yielded to the charm. And what was worse, the emperor's own daughter, whom he had forced to stay at home carding wool, to wear only such garments as were spun in the palace, to affect an almost prudish delicacy, the proud and lovely Julia, had been detected in such profligacy as poured bitter satire on the old monarch's moral discipline, and bore speaking witness to the power of an inherited tendency to vice. The emperor's awful severity bespoke not merely the aggrieved father but the disappointed statesman. Julia had disgraced his home and ruined his policy, and the fierce resentment which rankled in his heart only waited its time to burst forth upon the man who had laboured to make impurity attractive. [43] Meanwhile Ovid attempted, two years later, a sort of recantation in the Remedia Amoris, the frivolity of which, however, renders it as immoral as its predecessor though less gross; and he finished his treatment of the subject with the Medicamina Faciei, a sparkling and caustic quasi-didactic treatise, of which only a fragment survives. [44] During this period (we know not exactly when) was composed the tragedy of Medea, which ancient critics seem to have considered his greatest work. [45] Alone of his writings it showed his genius in restraint, and though we should probably form a lower estimate of its excellence, we may regret that time has not spared it. Among other works written at this time was an elegy on the death of Messala (3. A.D.), as we learn from the letters from Pontus. [46] Soon after he seems, like Prince Henry, to have determined to turn over a new leaf and abandon his old acquaintances. Virgil, Horace, and Tibullus, were dead; there was no poet of eminence to assist the emperor by his pen. Ovid was beyond doubt the best qualified by his talent, but Augustus had not noticed him. He turned to patriotic themes in order to attract favourable notice, and began his great work on the national calendar. Partly after the example of Propertius, partly by his own predilection, he kept to the elegiac metre, though he is conscious of its betraying him into occasional frivolous or amatory passages where he ought to be grave. [47] “Who would have thought (he says) that from a poet of love I should have become a patriotic bard?” [48] While writing the Fasti he seems to have worked also at the Metamorphoses, a heroic poem in fifteen books, entirely devoted to mythological stories, mostly of transformations caused by the love or jealousy of divine wooers, or the vengeance of their aggrieved spouses. There are passages in this long work of exceeding beauty, and a prodigal wealth of poetical ornament, which has made it a mine for modern poets. Tasso, Ariosto, Guarini, Spenser, Milton, have all drunk deep of this rich fountain. [49] The skill with which the different legends are woven into the fabric of the composition is as marvellous as the frivolous dilettantism which could treat a long heroic poem in such a way. The Metamorphoses were finished before 7 A.D.; theFasti were only advanced to the end of the sixth book, when all further prosecution of them was stopped by the terrible news, which struck the poet like a thunderbolt, that he was ordered to leave Rome forever. The cause of his exile has been much debated. The ostensible ground was the immorality of his writings, and especially of the Art of Love, but it has generally been taken for granted that a deeper and more personal reason lay behind. Ovid's own hints imply that his eyes had been witness to something that they should not, which he calls a crimen (i.e. a crime against the emperor). [50] The most probable theory is that Augustus took advantage of Ovid's complicity in the younger Julia's misconduct to wreak the full measure of his long-standing indignation against the poet, whose evil counsels had helped to lead astray not only her but his daughter also. He banished him to Tomi, an inhospitable spot not far from the mouth of the Danube, and remained deaf to all the piteous protestations and abject flatteries which for ten years the miserable poet poured forth.

This punishment broke Ovid's spirit. He had been the spoilt child of society, and he had no heart for any life but that of Rome. He pined away amid the hideous solitudes and the barbarous companionship of Goths and Sarmatians. His very genius was wrecked. Not a single poem of merit to be compared with those of former times now proceeded from his pen. Nevertheless he continued to write as fluently as before. Now that he was absent from his wife—for he had been thrice married—this very undomestic poet discovered that he had a deep affection for her. He wrote her endearing letters, and reminded her of their happy hours. As she was a lady of high position and a friend of the Empress Livia, he no doubt hoped for her good offices. But her prudence surpassed her conjugal devotion. Neither she, nor the noble and influential friends [51] whom he implored in piteous accents to intercede for him, ever ventured to approach the emperor on a subject on which he was known to be inexorable. And when Augustus died and Tiberius succeeded, the vain hopes that had hitherto buoyed up Ovid seem to have quite faded away. From such a man it was idle to expect mercy. So, for two or three years the wretched poet lingered on, still solacing himself with verse, and with the kindness of the natives, who sought by every means to do him honour and soothe his misfortune, and then, in the sixtieth year of his age, 17 A.D., he died, and was buried in the place of his dreary exile.

Much as we may blame him, the severity of his punishment seems far too great for his offence, since Ovid is but the child of his age. In praising him, society praised itself; as he says with natural pride, “The fame that others gain after death, I have known in my lifetime.” He was of a thoroughly happy, thoughtless, genial temper; before his reverse he does not seem to have known a care. His profligacy cost him no repentance; he could not see that he had done wrong; indeed, according to the lax notions of the time, his conduct had been above rather than below the general standard of dissipated men. The palliations he alleges in the second book of the Tristia, which is the best authority for his life, are in point of fact, unanswerable. To regard his age as wicked or degenerate never entered into his head. He delighted in it as the most refined that the world had ever known; “It is,” he says jokingly, “the true Golden Age, for every pleasure that exists may be got for gold.” So wedded was he to literary composition that he learnt the Sarmatian language and wrote poems in it in honour of Augustus, the loss of which, from a philological point of view, is greatly to be regretted. His muse must be considered as at home in the salons find fashionable coteries of the great. Though his style is so facile, it is by no means simple. On the contrary, it is one of the most artificial ever created, and could never have bea attained at all but by a natural aptitude, backed by hard study, amid highly-polished surroundings from childhood. These Ovid had, and he wielded his brilliant instrument to perfection. What euphuism was to the Elizabethan courtiers, what the langue galante was to the court of Louis XIV., the mythological dialect was to the gay circles of aristocratic Rome. [5]

It was select, polished, and spiced with a flavour of profanity. Hence, Ovid could never be a popular poet, for a poet to be really popular must be either serious or genuinely humorous; whereas Ovid is neither. His irony, exquisitely ludicrous to those who can appreciate it, falls flat upon less cultivated minds, and the lack of strength that lies beneath his smooth exterior [53] would unfit him, even if his immorality did not stand in the way, for satisfying or even pleasing the mass of mankind.

The Ibis and Halieuticon were composed during his exile; the former is a satiric attack upon a person now unknown, the latter a prosaic account of the fish found in the neighbourhood of Tomi.

Appended to Ovid's works are several graceful poems which have put forward a claim to be his workmanship. His great popularity among the schools of the rhetoricians both in Rome and the provinces, caused many imitations to be circulated under his name. The most ancient of these is the Nux elegia, which, if not Ovid's, must be very shortly posterior to him; it is the complaint of a walnut tree on the harsh treatment it has to suffer, sometimes in very difficult verse, [54] but not inelegant. Some of the Priapeia are also attributed to him, perhaps with reason; the Consolatio ad Liviam, on the death of Drusus, is a clever production of the Renaissance period, full of reminiscences of Ovid's verse, much as the Ciris is filled with reminiscences of Virgil. [55]

Ovid was the most brilliant figure in a gay circle of erotic and epic poets, many of whom he has handed down in his Epistles, others have transmitted a few fragments by which we can estimate their power. The eldest was PONTICUS, who is also mentioned by Propertius as an epic writer of some pretensions. Another was MACER, whose ambition led him to group together the epic legends antecedent and subsequent to those narrated in the Iliad and Odyssey. There was a Pompeius Macer, an excellent man, who with his son committed suicide under Tiberius, [56] his daughter having been accused of high treason, and unable to clear herself. The son is probably identical with this friend of Ovid's. SABINUS, another of his intimates, who wrote answers to the Heroides, was equally conspicuous in heroic poetry. The title of his poem is not known. Some think it was Troezen; [57] but the text is corrupt. Ovid implies [58] that his rescripts to the Heroides were complete; it is a misfortune that we have lost them. The three poems that bear the title of A. Sabini Epistolae, and are often bound with Ovid's works, are the production of an Italian scholar of the fifteenth century. TUTICANUS, who was born in the same year with Ovid, and may perhaps have been the author of Tibullus's third book, is included in the last epistle from Pontus [59] among epic bards. CORNELIUS SEVERUS, a better versifier than poet, [60] wrote a Sicilian War, [61] of which the first book was extremely good. In it occurred the verses on the death of Cicero, quoted by the elder Seneca [62] with approbation:

  Oraque magnanimum spirantia paene virorum 
  In rostris iacuere suis: sed enim abstulit omnis, 
  Tanquam sola foret, rapti Ciceronis imago. 
  Tunc redeunt animis ingentia consulis acta 
  Iurataeque manus deprensaque foedera noxae 
  Patriciumque nefas extinctum: poena Cethegi 
  Deiectusque redit votis Catilina nefandis. 
  Quid favor aut coetus, pleni quid honoribus anni 
  Profuerant? sacris exculta quid artibus aetas? 
  Abstulit una dies aevi decus, ictaque luctu 
  Conticuit Latiae tristis facundia linguae. 
  Unica sollicitis quondam tutela salusque, 
  Egregium semper patriae caput, ille senatus 
  Vindex, ille fori, legum ritusque togaeque, 
  Publica vox saevis aeternum obmutuit armis. 
  Informes voltus sparsamque cruore nefando 
  Canitiem sacrasque manus operumque ministras 
  Tantorum pedibus civis proiecta superbis 
  Proculcavit ovans nec lubrica fata deosque 
  Respexit. Nullo luet hoc Antonius aevo. 
  Hoc nec in Emathio mitis victoria Perse, 
  Nec te, dire Syphax, non fecerat hoste Philippo; 
  Inque triumphato ludibria cuncta Iugurtha 
  Afuerant, nostraeque cadens ferus Hannibal irae 
  Membra tamen Stygias tulit inviolata sub umbras.

From these it will be seen that he was a poet of considerable power. Another epicist of some celebrity, whom Quintilian thought worth reading, was PEDO ALBINOVANUS; he was also an epigrammatist, and in conversation remarkable for his brilliant wit. There is an Albinus mentioned by Priscian who is perhaps intended for him. Other poets referred to in the long list which closes the letters from Pontus are RUFUS, LARGUS, probably the perfidious friend of Gallus so mercilessly sketched by Bekker, CAMERINUS, LUPUS, and MONTANUS. All these are little more than names for us. The references to them in succeeding writers will be found in Teuffel. RABIRIUS is worth remarking for the extraordinary impression he made on his contemporaries. Ovid speaks of him as Magni Rabirius oris, [63] a high compliment; and Velleius Paterculus goes so far as to couple him with Virgil as the best representative of Augustan poetry! His Alexandrian War was perhaps drawn from his own experience, though, if so, he must have been a very young man at the time.

From an allusion in Ovid [64] we gather that GRATIUS [65] was a poet of the later Augustan age. His work on the chase (Cynegetica) has come down to us imperfect. It contains little to interest, notwithstanding the attractiveness of its subject: but in truth all didactic poets after Virgil are without freshness, and seem depressed rather than inspired by his success. After alluding to man's early attempts to subdue wild beasts, first by bodily strength, then by rude weapons, he shows the gradual dominion of reason in this as in other human actions. Diana is also made responsible for the huntsman's craft, and a short mythological digression follows. Then comes a description of the chase itself, and the implements and weapons used in it. The list of trees fitted for spearshafts (128- 149), one of the best passages, will show his debt to the Georgics—more than half the lines show traces of imitation. Next we have the different breeds of dogs, their training, their diseases, and general supervision discussed, and after a digression or two—the best being a catalogue of the evils of luxury—the poem (as we possess it) ends with an account of the horses best fitted for hunting. The technical details are carefully given, and would probably have had some value; but there is scarcely a trace of poetic enthusiasm, and only a moderate elevation of style.

The last Augustan poet we shall notice is M. MANILIUS, whose dry subject has caused him to meet with very general neglect. His date was considered doubtful, but Jacob has shown that he began to write towards the close of Augustus's reign. The first book refers to the defeat of Varus [66] (7 A.D.), to which, therefore, it must be subsequent, and the fourth book contemplates Augustus as still alive, [67] though Tiberius had already been named as his successor. [68] The fifth book must have appeared after the interval of Augustus's death; and from one passage which seems to allude to the destruction of Pompey's theatre, [69] Jacob argues that it was written as late as 22 A.D. The danger of treating a subject on which the emperor had his own very decided views [70] may have deterred Manilius from completing his work. Literature of all kinds was silent under the tyrant's gloomy frown, and the weak style of this last book seems to reflect the depressed mind of its author.

The birth and parentage of Manilius are not known. That he was a foreigner is probable, both from the uncouthness of his style at the outset, and from the decided improvement in it that can be traced through succeeding books. Bentley thought him an Asiatic; if so, however, his lack of florid ornament would be strange. It is more likely that he was an African. But the question is complicated by the corrupt state of his text, by the obscurity of his subject, and by the very incomplete knowledge of it displayed by the author. It was not considered necessary to have mastered a subject to treat of it in didactic verse. Cicero expressly instances Aratus [71] as a man who, with scarce any knowledge of astronomy, exercised a legitimate poetical ingenuity by versifying such knowledge as he had. These various causes make Manilius one of the most difficult of authors. Few can wade through the mingled solecisms in language and mistakes in science, the empty verbiage that dilates on a platitude in one place, and the jejune abstract that hurries over a knotty argument in another, without regretting that so unreadable a poet should have been preserved. [72]

And yet his book is not altogether without interest. The subject is called Astronomy, but should rather be called Astrology, for more than half the space is taken up with these baseless theories of sidereal influence which belong to the imaginary side of the science. But in the exordia and perorations to the several books, as well as in sundry digressions, may be found matter of greater value, embodying the poet's views on the great questions of philosophy. [73] On the whole he must be reckoned as a Stoic, though not a strictly dogmatic one. He begins by giving the different views as to the origin of the world, and lays it down that on these points truth cannot be attained. The universe, he goes on to say, rests on no material basis, much less need we suppose the earth to need one. Sun, moon, and stars, whirl about without any support; earth therefore may well be supposed to do the same. The earth is the centre of the universe, whose motions are circular and imitate those of the gods. [74] The universe is not finite as some Stoics assert, for its roundness (which is proved by Chrysippus) implies infinity. Lucretius is wrong in denying antipodes; they follow naturally from the globular shape, from which also we may naturally infer that seas bind together, as well as separate, nations. [75] All this system is held together by a spiritual force, which he calls God, governing according to the law of reason. [76] He next describes the Zodiac and enumerates the chief stars with their influences. Following the teaching of Hegesianax, [77] he declares that those which bear human names are superior to those named after beasts or inanimate things. The study of the stars was a gift direct from heaven. Kings first, and after them priests, were guided to search for wisdom, and now Augustus, who is both supreme ruler and supreme pontiff, follows his divine father in cultivating this great science. Mentioning some of the legends which recount the transformations of mortals into stars, he asserts that they must not be understood in too gross a sense. [78] Nothing is more wonderful than the orderly movement of the heavenly bodies. He who has contemplated this eternal order cannot believe the Epicurean doctrine. Human generations pass away, but the earth and the stars abide for ever. Surely the universe is divine. Passing on to the milky way, he gives two fanciful theories of its origin, one that it is the rent burnt by Phaethon through the firmament, the other that it is milk from the breast of Juno. As to its consistency, he wavers between the view that it is a closely packed company of stars, and the more poetical one that it is formed by the white-robed souls of the just. This last theory leads him to recount in a dull catalogue the well-worn list of Greek and Roman heroes. Comets are mysterious bodies, whose origin is unknown. The universe is full of fiery particles ever tending towards conglomeration, and perhaps their impact forms comets. Whether natural or supernatural, one thing is certain—they are never without effect on mankind.

In the second book he begins by a complaint that the list of attractive subjects is exhausted. This incites him to essay an untried path, from which he hopes to reap no stolen laurels [79] as the bard of the universe! [80] He next expounds the doctrine of an ever-present spirit moving the mass of matter, in language reflected from the sixth Aeneid. Men must not seek for mathematical demonstration. Considerations of analogy are enough to awaken conviction. The fact that, e.g., shell-fish are affected by the moon, and that all land creatures depend on solar influence, should forbid us to dissociate earth from heaven, or man's activity from the providence of the gods. How could man have any knowledge of deity unless he partook of its nature? The rest of the book gives a catalogue of the different kinds of stars, their several attributes, and their astrological classification, ending with the Dodecatemorion and Oclotopos.

The third book, after a short and offensively allusive description of the labours of preceding poets, sketches the twelve athla or accidents of human life, to each of which is assigned its special guardian influence. It then passes to the horoscope, which it treats at length, giving minute and various directions how to draw it. The extreme importance attached to this process by Tiberius, and the growing frequency with which, on every occasion, Chaldeans and Astrologers were now consulted, made the poet specially careful to treat this subject with clearness and precision. It is accordingly the most readable of all the purely technical parts of the work. The account of the tropics, with which the book closes, is singularly inaccurate, but contains some rather elegant descriptions: [81] at the tropic of Cancer summer always reigns, at Capricorn there is perpetual winter. The book here breaks off quite abruptly; apparently he intended to compose the epilogue at some future time, but had no opportunity of doing it.

The exordium to the fourth book, which sometimes rises into eloquence, glorifies fate as the ultimate divine power, but denies it either will or personality. He fortifies his argument, according to his wont, by a historical catalogue, which exemplifies the harshness that, except in philosophical digressions, rarely leaves his style. Then follow the horoscopic properties of the Zodiacal constellations, the various reasons for desiring to be born under one star rather than another, a sort of horoscopico-zodiacal account of the world, its physical geography, and the properties of the zones. These give occasion for some graphic touches of history and legend; the diction of this book is far superior to that of the preceding three, but the wisdom is questionable which reserves the “good wine” until so late. Passing on to the ecliptic, he drags in the legends of Deucalion, Phaethon, and others, which he treats in a rhetorical way, and concludes the book with an appeal to man's reason, and to the necessity of allowing the mental eye free vision. Somewhat inconsistently with the half-religious attitude of the first and second books, he here preaches once more the doctrine of irresistible fate, which to most of the Roman poets occupies the place of God. The poem practically ends here. He himself implies at the opening of Book V., that most poets would not have pursued the theme further; apparently he is led on by his interest in the subject, or by the barrenness of his invention which could suggest no other. The book, which is unfinished, contains a description of various stars, with legends interspersed in which a more ambitious style appears, and a taste which, though rhetorical and pedantic, is more chastened than in the earlier books.

It will be seen from the above resume that the poem discusses several questions of great interest. Rising above the technicalities of the science, Manilius tries to preach a theory of the universe which shall displace that given by Lucretius. He is a Stoic combating an Epicurean. A close study of Lucretius is evidenced by numerous passages, [82] and the earnestness of his moral conclusions imitates, though it does not approach in impressiveness, that of the great Epicurean. Occasionally he imitates Horace, [83] much more often Virgil, and, in the legends, Ovid. [84] His technical manipulation of the hexameter is good, though tinged with monotony. Occasionally he indulges in licenses which mark a deficient ear [85] or an imperfect comprehension of the theory of quantity. [86] He has few archaisms, [87] few Greek words, considering the exigencies of his subject, and his vocabulary is greatly superior to his syntax; the rhetorical colouring which pervades the work shows that he was educated in the later taste of the schools, and neither could understand nor desired to reproduce the simplicity of Lucretius or Virgil. [88]