Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

between Ovid and Corinna (probably a type rather than a real person), which were published in an edition of five books but later pruned to three books. Meanwhile some of the Epistles (Heroides) of fair heroines of the mythical world to the corresponding heroes had been produced, and a group of them was probably published before the second edition of the Amores appeared. To whatever the original idea of the Heroides is to be traced, they at least are modeled to a considerable degree on the only parallel that preceded them in Roman literature, viz. the elegy of Propertius (4, 3) written in the form of a love letter of Arethusa to Lycotas. Much controversy has raged over the genuineness of some of the twenty-one extant epistles, and the question is hardly yet settled.

In the Ars Amatoria, in three books, published 2, or 1, B.C., Ovid still keeps the elegiac verse, but assumes a didactic tone, though often plainly ironical, as he gives advice to lovers how to win and retain affection. This advice is addressed to men in Books 1-2, to women in Book 3. The Remedia Amoris, in one book, counsels those who would rid themselves of love. The Medicamina Faciei, addressed to the ladies who would possess the fairest complexions, is incomplete, and was apparently written before the publication of the Ars Amatoria.

The Fasti, a poetic elaboration of the Roman calendar, especially of the festivals, was to have contained twelve books, one for every month. Of them six had been written at the time of his relegatio and the work had been dedicated to Augustus. The other six were never written. After the death of Augustus the poet re-dedicated the work to Germanicus and began a revision of it which affected little except the first book. The Fasti are a systematic treatment based on a similar idea to that of the aetiological elegies of the fourth book of Propertius, for which, of course, there were interesting Alexandrian models. Ovid also had the important calendar of Verrius Flaccus as a model, which he seems to have followed quite closely in places. 1 Cf. § 35.

2 Cf. Rohde, Der Griechische Roman, p. 112, n. 4.

An even more fascinating field for Ovid's story-telling art was afforded by his master work, the Metamorphoses, written in hexameters, in fifteen books, in which with consummate skill he weaves together in continuous narrative a large part of the tales of classical mythology, emphasizing particularly the marvelous transformations which were so common in that mythology. Although on the eve of his departure for Tomi he consigned his copy of this work to the flames, it was already known in other copies and thus spared to posterity.

The five books of Tristia and the four following (Epistulae) Ex Ponto, written during his exile, were addressed to his wife, to Augustus, to various friends, and in many cases to nobody in particular, uttering his complaints upon his sad lot, his petitions for its alleviation, his flattery of the emperor. Naturally the variations on this theme grow increasingly feeble towards the end of the long series. These are written in elegiac verse, as is the Ibis, an attack upon some enemy, modeled after the similar poem of Callimachus addressed to Apollonius. There is also a fragment in hexameter called Halieutica, dealing with the fishes of the Euxine. Besides this large amount of the extant literary product of Ovid's genius, he wrote a tragedy under the title Medea, an epithalamium for Fabius Maximus, an elegy on the death of Messalla, an astronomical work called Phaenomena, certain epigrams, a cento on bad poets, and some other occasional poems. Still other poems were falsely attributed to him, particularly an elegy entitled Nux and a Consolatio ad Liviam.

40. We see already in Ovid traces of a tendency in Roman elegy to recur from the subjective-erotic to the objective-erotic elegy. The poet is too facile to be sincere. The Amores have, to be sure, the form of personal experience, and undoubtedly they represent a composite of many personal experiences, as well as the knowledge and imagination of many others such as Ovid's world could furnish. Corinna, too, is apparently but a composite photograph of many brilliant and fascinating Roman girls. A theory that Corinna was only another name for the imperial Julia was long since exploded. In the Heroides and the Ars Amatoria the feeling becomes, of course, quite objective, although Ovid betrays constantly his intimate and discerning knowledge of the feminine nature. The Fasti are the elaboration of the aetiological elegy. The fatal facility of Ovid is a sign of a rather shallow nature, or at any rate of one whose genuine qualities were polished off in the easy society of the capital into monotonous smoothness. Nowhere does this appear more conclusively than in relation to the ethical significance of his work. It is not probable that his personal character was any more degraded than that of the other poets of this brilliant group of elegiac writers. But his lack of sincerity leads him to deal with questionable themes in so cold-blooded and intimate a way as to shock even those who would not be accused of prudish sentiments. The Ars Amatoria has been bluntly described as a manual of seduction, and estimated as the most immoral book ever written ; and even if we grant that it is not so unfair a mirror of the society that called it forth and that read it with avidity, we cannot pardon its author for the lightness with which he could project such a weapon for evil into a world of unknown dimensions. Occasionally we get what seem to be touches of genuine feeling, and such elegies as that on the death of Tibullus are among the world's treasures. It is form, however, rather than substance that is ever before Ovid's mind. He dresses up his thought in immaculate Latin, and writes without apparent effort a perfected form of the elegiac distich which is faulty only in exhibiting too obviously an unusual refinement. As a student in the rhetorical schools he had been fond of the Suasoriae; in his poetry he elaborates these in impeccable metrical form. A rare gift of imagination and a love for everything beautiful made it possible for him to describe the beautiful in nature in the most telling way, and to people the natural world with all sorts of fairy and mythical beings in fascinating pictures in a perfect setting.' Not only are all the arts of the

1 Cf. Martinengo, Chap. IX.

rhetorician at his command, but he also has the benefit of all that has preceded him in Roman literature, as well as in that of Greece, and makes good use of it. No Latin author probably has borrowed as freely and extensively from his contemporaries and immediate predecessors. But Ovid does not lack the genuine poetic power of coining new words to meet his necessities. Something like half a thousand of these we probably owe to his invention. No noteworthy syntactical peculiarities worry, the student of Ovid. His style is perfectly transparent, and as a rule the thought of each distich is complete in itself.

But his even regularity was fatal to the life of elegy. "Tibullus had written naturally and feelingly on love, old age, and the country. But themes which had been by him treated simply soon became fixed conventions. Ovid, despite his clearness, contributed to the progress of artificiality. The loss of the true Tibullian simplicity in theme and the loss of the true Ovidian ease in movement are evident many generations before the elegies, at once sensuous and frigid, which were written by Maximianus in the sixth century.” 4

41. This is not the place to discuss the Mss. and editions of all of Ovid's works in detail. The Mss. of the Amores and Heroides are somewhat fragmentary. The Codex Parisinus (Puteanus) 8242 (P), of the eleventh (or ninth ?) century, contains most of the Amores and the larger part of the Heroides. The Parisinus Regius 7311 (R), of the tenth century, has, besides several others of the erotic works, Amor, 1, 1,3-2, 49. The Sangallensis 864 (S), of the eleventh century, contains the Amores as far as 3, 9, 10, with the omission of 1, 6, 46–8, 74. The Guelferbytanus (G), of the twelfth century, much corrected by a later hand (thirteenth

1 Cf. Zielinski in Philologus, Vol. 64 (1905), p. 16.

2 Cf. E. K. Rand in TAPA., Vol. 35 (1904), pp. 143 sqq.; Gansemüller in Philologus, Vol. 70 (1911), pp. 274-311 and 397-437.

8 Linse, De P. Ovidio Nasone, Vocabulorum Inventore, allows him 487; Schütte, in BPW., Vol. 12 (1892), Sp. 12, thinks the number may be increased to 514.

4 Duff, p. 611.

century) contains the Heroides. An Eton fragment (E) of the eleventh century contains the Heroides up to 7, 157 only. Other excerpts or fragments may be passed over at this time except the Schedae Vindobonenses (V), beginning at 10, 14. For the Tristia and Ex Ponto, the chief Mss. besides the corrupt Laurentianus (L), eleventh century, are the Guelferbytanus (G), thirteenth century, Holkhamicus (H), thirteenth century, Palatinus (P), fifteenth century, and Vaticanus (V), thirteenth century, besides a lost Marcianus Politiani (A).

The chief text editions of all of Ovid's works are those of Riese (2d ed.,1889 sqq.), Ehwald-Merkel (4th ed., 1888 sqq.), and Postgate's Corpus Poetarum Latinorum. The Amores have been edited in German with valuable introduction, commentary, and appendices (including useful bibliography) by P. Brandt. The editions of Palmer (1898) and Sedlmayer (1886) are most important for the Heroides. Thirteen Heroides are in the convenient English edition of Shuckburgh, with introduction and commentary. For the Tristia Owen's edition (1889) is valuable. The Epistles Ex Ponto are in a critical edition by Korn? (1868). Ovid's works have metrical English versions by Dryden and other poets.

THE ELEGIAC DISTICH

42. The laws governing the relatively simple metrical form composed of a single dactylic hexameter followed by a single dactylic pentameter — so-called — are but few; and at first sight it would seem as if there were only a narrow margin for the exercise of originality in treatment. In the hexameter there are certain positions between which the writer must choose for his verse caesura ; he is expected to employ a fair proportion of dactyls, one being regularly found in the fifth foot; the verse

1 Cf, Postgate's Corpus Poetarum Latinorum, Ehwald's Praefatio, Shuckburgh's Introduction ; Owen's edition.

2 Cf. BPW., Vol. 16 (1896), Sp. 1163 sqq.

« ZurückWeiter »