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the neighbourhood of Kostendje. On the other hand,
Ovid's statements are remarkably precise. He anti-
cipates that they will be disbelieved, and he solemnly
avers their truth. And he gives among his descriptions
one curious fact which he is not likely to have known
except from personal observation, that fish retain their



112 VID.

vitality even when firmly embedded in ice. It is
quite possible that the climate may have materially
changed since Ovid's time. On more than one occa-
sion the classical poets speak of severities of cold sach
as are not now experienced in Italy and Greece. If
we allow something for such change, and something
also for the exaggeration which not only expressed a
genuine feeling of disgust, but might possibly have
the effect of moving compassion, Ave shall probably
be right.

Ovid's life in exile, the details of which are
brought out in the poems which belong to this
period, lasted about eight years. He left Eome in
the month of December following his fifty-first birth-
day ; he died some time before the beginning of the
September after his fifty-ninth.



CHAPTER Vir.

THE POEJIS OF EXILE : THE TRISTIA, OR THE 'SORROWS.'

(Jvid's pen was not idle during the melancholy years
of exile which closed his life. He j)robably, as has
been said before, revised the ' Metamorphoses.' It is
certain that he added largely to the ' Fasti.' But the
special poems of exile are the ' Sorrows,' the ' Letters
from the Pontus,' and the * Ibis.' In the ' Sorrows '
and the ' Letters from the Pontus ' Ovid pours forth
in an unceasing stream his complaints against the
cruelty of fate and the miseries of his exile ; his sup-
plications for the removal, or at least the mitigation,
of his sentence ; and his entreaties to those who had
known him in his prosperity, that they would help,
or, if help was impossible, would at least remember
their fallen friend. It must be confessed that they
lack the briUiancy of the earlier poems. The genius
of the poet stagnated, as he says himself, in the
inclement climate, and amidst the barbarous asso-
ciations of his place of exile. And the reader is
wearied by the garrulous monotony of nearly six thou-
sand verses, in which the absorbing subject of the
poet's own sorrows is only exchanged for flattery — all
A.C.S.S., vol. ii. H



114 OVID.

the more repulsive, because we know it to have been
unavailing — of the ruler from whose ^'anger or policy
he was suffering. Yet there are not wanting points
of interest. There are graphic sketches of scenery
and character, touches of pathos, here and there even
a gleam of humour, and sometimes, when the occasion
brings him to speak of his own genius, and of the
fame to which he looked forward, an assertion of in-
dependence and dignity, which is infinitely refreshing
amidst his unmanly repining against his fate, and tlic
yet more unmanly adulations by which he hoped to
escape it.

The first book of the ' Sorrows ' was written and
despatched to Rome before Ovid had reached his al-
lotted place of banishment. A preface commends to
all who still remembered him at Eome the little
volume, which would remind them of the banished
Ovid. It was to go in the guise tliat became an
exile's book. It was to be without the ornaments
which distinguished more fortunate volumes. A char-
acteristic passage tells ns what these ornaments were,
and gives us as good an idea as we can anywhere get
of the appearance of a Eoman book. The parchment
or paper, on the inner side of which was the writing,
Avas tinted on the outer of a warm and pleasing col-
our, by means of safi'ron or cedar-oil. The title of the
book was written in vermilion letters. The stick
round which the roll was made had bosses of ivory,
or some other ornamental material, and the ends of
the roll were polished and coloured black. Any era-
sure was considered to be a great disfigurement : of



THE TRISTIA, OR THE 'SORROWS: 115

such disfigurement the poet's book was not to be
ashamed. Every reader would understand that suffi-
cient cause was found in the author's tears. From
the same preface we may conjecture that the volume
was not actually published, but Avas, as we should say,
printed for private circulation. It was to go to the
poet's home, and find its resting-place, not in the
l)ook-stalls round the columns of the temple of Apollo,
but on the shelves of the writer's own mansion. No-
where, indeed, throughout the ' Sorrows ' does Ovid
venture to name any one of his friends to whom he
addresses the various poems of which the several
books are composed. His wife only is excepted. If
any peril had ever threatened her, it had now passed.
Indeed, if the poet is to be believed, she desired no-
thing more than that she should be allowed to share
her husband's exile. But it was evidently a perilous
thing for friends of the banished man to be supposed
to keep up any intercourse with him. Time, though
it brought no relaxation to the severity of the pun-
ishment, seemed to have removed something of the
liitterness with which the poet's name was regarded
at Eome. The ' Letters from the Pontus ' are ad-
dressed by name to various friends, and we find from
them that, instead of the two or three faithful hearts
who alone were left to the fallen man in the early
days of his ruin, he had during the latter years of his
exile a goodly number of correspondents.

Of the second poem in the book, describing the
imminent peril of shipwreck in which he found him-
self on his voyage from Italy, mention has already



IIG OVID.

been made. He returns to the same subject in the
fourth elegy, mentioning, not without a certain pathos,
that the adverse winds had driven him back within
sight of that Italy on which it was forbidden him
again to set foot.

The fourth i^oem, describing his departure from his
home, has been already given at length. The fifth
makes one of the many fruitless appeals for help
which Ovid continued throughout the weary years of
his banishment to address to any friend whom he
thought sufficiently bold to intercede on his behalf
with the oflended Caesar. An elegy addressed to his
wife, — the first of many poems in which he warmly
expresses his gratitude for the devotion with which
she was defending his interests against enemies and
faitliless friends ; another, addressed to a friend, com-
mending to his notice the book of the Metamor-
phoses, and excusing, on the ground of the sudden
interruption caused by the author's banishment, its
many imperfections ; and a pathetic remonstrance with
one who had once professed a great friendship for
him, but had deserted him in his hour of need, — these,
with two other poems, complete the first book of the
' Sorrows.' It may be noticed, as a proof of the popu-
larity which the poet had attained, that the friend
whom Ovid addresses was accustomed to wear in a
ring a gem engraved with Ovid's portrait. Gems were
in one sense what miniatures were to the last genera-
tion, and what photographs are to ourselves ; but both
the material and the process of engraving were costly,
and it is probable that it was only persons of some



THE TRISTIA, OR THE 'SORROWS.' 117

note who enjoyed the distinction of having their
features thus perpetuated. There is a traditionary-
likeness of Ovid, which may possibly have come down
to us in this way. It is a curious fact that, thanks to
this art of gem-engraving, we are well acquainted with
the faces of men separated from us by twenty centuries
and more, while the outward semblance of those who
are within three or four hundred years of our own
time has been irrecoverably lost.

The second book of the ' Sorrows ' is an elaborate
Ajyologia pro vita sua, addressed to Augustus. He
hopes that, as verse had been his ruin, so verse might
help to ameliorate his condition. " The emperor him-
self had acknowledged its power. At his bidding the
Eoman matrons had chanted the song of praise to
Cybele ; and he had ordered the hymns which at the
Secular Games had been raised to Phoebus.* Might
he not hope that the wrath of the terrestrial god might
be propitiated in the same way 1 To pardon was the
prerogative of deity. Jupiter himself, when he had
hurled his thunders, allowed the clear sky again to be
seen. And who had been more merciful than Augus-
tus 1 Ovid had seen many promoted to wealth and
power Avho had borne arms against him. Xo such
guilt had been the poet's. He had never forgotten
to offer his prayers for the ruler of Eome, had never

* The Secular Games were celebrated once in a century. This,
at least, was the theory ; hut more than one emperor found it
convenient to shorten the period. The h}Tnn to Plicebus of
which Ovid speaks has been preserved in the well-known
Secular Hymn (Carmen Ssculare) of Horace.



118 OVID.

failed to sing his praises. And had he not received
the emperor's approval? When the knights had
passed in review hel'ore him, the poet's horse had been
duly restored to him.* Nay, he had filled high
stations of responsibility, had been a member of the
Court of the Hundred, and even of the Council of
Ten, which presided over it. And all had been ruined
by an unhappy mistake ! Yet the emperor had been
merciful. Life had been spared to him, and his pater-
nal property. No decree of the senate or of any judge
had condemned him to banishment. The emperor
had avenged his own wrongs by an exercise of his
own power, but avenged them with a punishment so
much milder than it might have been, as to leave him
hopes for the future." These hopes he proceeds to
commend to the emperor by elaborate flattery. He
appeals successively to the gods, who, if they loved
Rome, would prolong the days of its lord ; to the
country, which would always be grateful for the
blessings of his rule ; to Livia, the one wife who was
worthy of him, and for whom he was the one worthj"^
husband ; to the triumphs which his grandsons t were
winning in his name and under his auspices ; and
implores that if return may not be granted to him, at
least some milder exUe may be conceded. Here he
was on the very verge of the empire, and within reach
of its enemies. Was it well tliat a Roman citizen

* A knight disgraced by the censor (the emperor was per-
petual censor) had his horse taken from him.

t Drusus, the son, and Germanicus the nephew and adopted
son, of Tiberius, Augustus's step- sou.



TUE TRISTIA, OR THE 'SORROW^: 119

should be in peril of captivity among barbarous tribes?
Ovid then proceeds to set forth an apology for his
offending poems. To the real cause of his banish-
ment he makes one brief allusion, ^More he dared
not say. " I am not worth so much as that I should
renew your wounds, Csesar : it is far too much that
you shoidd once have felt the pang." That in this
error, not in any offending poem, lay the real cause of
his fall, Ovid was doubtless well aware. Hence it is
not too much to suppose that the apologj' which fol-
lows was intended rather for posterity than for the
person to whom it is addressed. It is needless to
examine it in detail. The sum and substance of it is,
that the poems Avere written for those to whom they
could not possibly do any harm ; that readers to whose
modesty they might be likely to do an injury had
been expressly warned off from them ; that a mind
perversely disposed would find evil anywhere, even
in the most sacred legends ; that, if everything whence
the opportunity for "wrong might arise was to be con-
demned, the theatre, the circus, the temples with
their porticoes* so convenient for forbidden meetings,
and their associations so strangely tinged with licence,
would share the same fate. As for himself, his life
had been pure but for this one fault ; and this fault
how many had committed before him ! Then follows
a long list of poets, who, if to sing of love was an
offence, had been grievous offenders. Then there had
been poems on dice-playing, and dice had been a
grievous offence in the old days. All verses that
taught men how to waste that precious thing time, —



120 OVID.

verses about swimming, about ball-playiiig, about the
trundling of hoops (a favourite amusement, it would
seem, even with middle-aged Komans), about the fur-
nishings of the table and its etiquette, about the
different kinds of earthenware (the fancy for curious
pots and pans was, it will be seen, in full force among
the wealthy Eomans of Ovid's time), — might be con-
demned. Plays, too, and pictures, were grievous
offenders in the same way. "Why should Ovid be
the only one to suffer? — Ovid, too, who had written
grave and serious works which no one could censure,
and who had never wronged any man by slanderous
verses, over whose fall no one rejoiced, but many had
mourned.

" Pennit these pleas thy mighty will to sway.
Great Lord, thy country's Father, Hope, and Stay !
Return I ask not ; though at last thy heart,
Touched by long suffering, may the boon impart ;
Let not the penalty the fault exceed :
Exile I bear ; for peace, for life I plead."

It is probable that the poem was despatched to Eome
immediately after its author had reached Tomi. He
would not have ventured to put in a plea for the miti-
gation of punishment before he had at least begun to
suffer it ; but it is equally certain that the plea would
not be long delayed. The third book of the ' Sorrows '
was likewise composed and sent off during the first
year of his banishment. The twelfth out of its four-
teen elegies speaks of the return of spring. The win-
ter of the Pontus, longer than any that he had known



THE TRISTIA, OR THE 'SORROWS: 121

before, had passed away; lads and lasses in happier
lands were gathering violets ; the swallow was build-
ing under the eaves ; vineyard and forest — strangers,
alas ! both of them, to the land of the Gette — were
bursting into leaf. And in Rome's happier place,
which he might never see again, all the athletic sports
of the Campus, all the gay spectacles of the theatre,
Avere being enjoyed. The poet's only solace was that,
as even in these dismal regions spring brought some
relief, and opened the sea to navigation, some ship
might reach the shore and bring news of Italy and of
Gesar's triumphs. The next elegy must have been
written about the same time. Ovid's birthday (we
know it to have been the 20th of March) came, the
first that had visited him in his exile. " Would that
thou hadst brought," he says, " not an addition but an
end to my pain ! "

" What dost thou here 1 Has angry Caesar sent
Thee too to share my hopeless banishment ?
Think'st thou to find the customary rite —
To see, the wliile I stand in festive white,
"With flowery wreaths the smoking altars crowned.
And hear in spicy flames the salt meal's crackling sound ]
Shall honeyed cakes do honour to the day,
While I in words of happy omen pray ?
Not such my lot. A cruel fate and stern
Forbids me thus to welcome thy return ;
With gloomy cypress be my altars dight.
And flames prepared the funeral flames to light !
I burn no incense to milieeding skies, —
From heart so sad no words of blessing rise ;
If yet for me one fitting prayer remain,
'Tis this : Return not to these shores again ! "



122 OVID.

The gloom of his lot was aggravated by causes of
which he bitterly complains in more than one of his
poems. In the third elegy, which he addressed to his
wife, she must not wonder that the letter was written
in a strange hand. He had been grievously, even
dangcrouslj^, ill. The climate did not suit him ; nor
the water (Ovid seems to have been a water-drinker),
nor the soil. He had not a decent house to cover his
head ; there was no food that could suit a sick man's
appetite. N^o physician could be found to prescribe
for his malady. There was not even a friend who
could while away the time by conversation or reading.
He felt, he complains in another letter, a constant
lassitude, which extended from his body to his mind.
Perpetual sleeplessness troubled him ; his food gave
him no nourisliment ; he was wasted away almost to a
skeleton. Writing about two years after this time, he
assumes a more cheerful tone. His health was restored.
He had become hardened to the climate. K it were
not for his mental trouble, all would be well. Another
pressing matter was anxiety about his literary repu-
tation, which the offended authorities at home were
doing their best to extinguish. He imagines his little
book making its way with trembling steps through the
Avell- known scenes of the capital. It goes to the
temple of Apollo, where the works of authors old and
new were open for the inspection of readers. There it
looks for its brothers, — not the luckless poem which had
excited the wrath of Ci^sar, and which their father
wished he had never begotten, but the unoffending
others. Alas ! they were all absent ; and even while



THE TRISTIA, OR THE 'SORROWS.' 123

it looked, the guardian of the place bade it begone.
l!^or was it more successful in the neighbouring library
of the temple of Liberty. Banished from public, its
only resource was to find shelter from private friend-
ship. To such shelter, accordingly, the volume is
commended in the last elegy of the book. This friend
was, it seems, a patron of literature, — " a lover of new
poets," Ovid calls him. And the author begs his fa-
vour and care for his latest work. Only he must not
look for too much. Everything was against him in
that barbarous land. The wonder was that he could
write at all. " There is no supply of books here to
rouse and nurture my mind ; instead of books, there
is the clash of swords and the bow. There is no one
in the country to give me, should I read to him my
verses, an intelHgent hearing. There is no place to
which I can retire. The closely-guarded walls and
fast-shut gate keep out the hostile Getae. Often I look
for a word, for a name, for a place, and there is no one
to help me to it ; often (I am ashamed to confess
it) when I try to say something, words fail me ; I
find that I have forgotten how to speak. On every
side of me I hear the sound of Thracian and Scythian
tongues. I almost believe that I could write in
Getic measures, ^^ay, believe me, I sometimes fear
lest Pontic words should be found mixed with my
Latin." We have the same complaints and fears re-
peated in the fifth book. After some uncomplimentary
expressions about the savage manners of the people,
and their equally savage dress and appearance, — the
furs and loose trousers by which they sought, but with



124 viD.

ill success, to keep out the cold,- and tlieir long
and shaggy beards, — he goes on to speak ahout the
language : —

" Among a few remain traces of the Greek tongue, but
even these corrupted with Getic accent. There is scarcely
a man among the people who by any chance can give you
an answer on any matter in Latin. I, the Roman bard,
am compelled — pardon me, O Muses ! — to speak for the
most part after Sarmatian fashion. I am ashamed of it,
and I owni it ; by this time, from long disuse, I myself can
scarcely recall Latin words. And I do not doubt but that
there are not a few barliarisms in this little book. It is not
the fault of the writer, but of the place."

No one has ever discovered any " Ponticisms " in
Ovid. They are probably as imaginary as is the
" Paduanism " which some superfine critics of antiquity
discovered in Livy.* One of the poet's apprehensions
was, however, we shall find, actually fulfilled. He did
*' learn to write in Getic measure," for he composed a
poem in the language.

One of the elegies in the third book has been
already noticed. It is addressed to Perilla, and the
question whether this lady was, as some commentators
suppose, the daughter of the poet, has been briefly
discussed. The name is certainly not real. It is of
Greek origin, and it has been already seen that none
of the letters in the ' Sorrows ' are addressed by name
to the persons for whom they are intended. Besides
this, we are elsewhere informed that Ovid's daughter
was married, and was the mother of two children, and
tliat, at the time of her father's banishment, she was
* Li\7^ was a native of Padua (Patavium).



THE TRISTIA, OR THE 'SORROWS.' 125

alisent in Africa, having probably accomi:)anied her
husband to some post in that province. These circum-
stances do not suit the poem addressed to Perilla :
" Go, letter, hastily penned, to salute Perilla, the
faithful messenger of my words ; you -will find her
either sitting with her dear mother, or among her
books and ]\Iuses." He reminds her of how he had
been her teacher in the art of verse, and tells her that
if her genius remained still as vivid as of old, only
Sappho would excel her. Let her not be terrified by
his own sad fate ; only she must beware of perilous
subjects. Then follows a noble vindication of his art,
and of the dignity which it gave to him, its humble
follower : —



" Long years will mar those looks so comely now,
And age will write its wrinkles on thy brow.
Mark how it comes with fatal, noiseless pace,
To spoil the blooming honours of thy face !
Soon men will say, and thou wilt hear with pain,
' Surely she once was lovely ; ' and in vain,
That thy too faithful glass is false, complain.
Small are thy riches, though the loftiest state
Would suit thee well ; but be they small or great,
Chance takes and brings them still with fickle wing —
To-day a beggar, yesterday a king.
Why name each good ? Each has its little day;
Gifts of the soul alone defy decay.
I live of friends, of country, home, bereft, —
All I could lose, but genius still is left ;
This is my solace, this my constant friend ;
Ere this be reached e'en Ctesar's power must end."

It is needless to go on in detail through what re-



126 OVID.

mains of the 'Sorrows.' The tenth poem of the
fourth book should he mentioned as being a brief
autobiograpliy of the poet. Its substance has already
been given. Elsewhere he pursues, with an iteration
which would be wearying in the extreme but for his
marvellous power of saying the same thing in many
Avays, the old subjects. The hardships of his lot,
the fidelity or faithlessness of his friends, the solace
which his art supplied him, and the effort to discover
some way of propitiating those who held his fate in
their hands, — these topics occupy in turn his pen. The
following elegant translation by the late Mr Philip
Stanhope Worsley, of one of the latest poems of the
book, may serve as a good specimen of his verse : —

" ' Study the mournful hours away.
Lest in dull sloth thy spirit pine ;'
Hard words thou writest : verse is gay,
And asks a lighter heart than mine.

No calms my stormy life beguile,
Than mine can be no sadder chance ;

You bid bereaved Priam smile,
And Niobe, the childless, dance.

Is grief or study more my part,

Whose life is doomed to wilds like these ?

Though you should make my feeble heart
Strong with the strength of Socrates,

Such ruin would crush wisdom downi ;

Stronger than man is wrath divine.
That sage, whom Phoebus gave tlie crown.

Never coidd write in grief like mine.



THE TRISTIA, OR THE 'SORROWS.' 127

Can I my land and thee forget,

Nor the felt sorrow wound my breast !

Say that I can— but foes beset
This place, and rob me of all rest.

Add that my mind hath rusted now,

And fallen far from what it was.
The land, though rich, that lacks the plough

Is barren, save of thorns and grass.

The horse, that long hath idle stood.

Is soon o'ertaken in the race ;
And, torn fi-ora its familiar flood,

The clunky pinnace rots apace.

Nor hope that I, before but mean,

Can to my former self return ;
Long sense of ills hath bruised my brain,

Half the old fires no longer burn.

Yet oft I take the pen and try,

As now, to build the measured rhyme.

Words come not, or, as meet thine eye,
Words worthy of their place and time.

Last, glory cheers the heart that fails, .

And love of praise inspires the mind —
I followed once Fame's star, my sails

Filled witli a favouralile wind :

But now 'tis not so well with me,

To care if fame be lost or won :
Nay, but I would, if that might be.

Live all unknown beneath the sun."

It remains only to fix the date of the ' Sorrows.'
Its earliest poems were penned during the voyage from



128 OVID.

Eomc. The latest belongs to the earlier part of the
third year of his exile. "Thrice, since I came to
Pontus, has the Danube been stopped by frost, thrice
the wave of the sea been hardened within." It is
probable that Ovid reached Tomi somewhere about
the month of September, a.d. 9. The " third winter "


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