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CANACE MACAREO

Macareus and Canace, son and daughter of Aeolus, God of the winds, indulging a criminal passion for each other, concealed their familiarity under the pretence of consanguinity. At last, Canace, proving with child, was, by the contrivance of her old nurse, privately delivered of a son. Aeolus sitting at that time with his council in the great hall, through which the only passage out of the palace from Canace's chamber lay; the nurse found means to carry off the child, under pretence of being engaged in the celebration of sacred rites. But when the nurse had almost made her way through the hall, the unhappy infant betrayed himself to his grandfather by crying. Aeolus, astonished at what he heard, and discovering the real case, was incensed in the highest degree at the impiety of his children, and commanded the innocent babe to be exposed to wild beasts. Reflecting upon the disgrace of such an amour, he sent an officer to Canace with a drawn sword, and ordered her to use it as she was conscious her late impiety deserved. Canace is supposed to have slain herself with it. But before she gave the fatal blow, she writes this letter to Macareus, who had taken refuge in the temple of Apollo; in which she pathetically represents her case, inveighs against her father's cruelty, and begs he will gather up the hones of the exposed innocent, and deposit them in the same urn with her own.

Although the story is not well known any more, it must have been more familiar in antiquity. Plato uses Macareus, along with Thyestes and Oedipus, as an example of a particularly horrendous type of crime (Laws 838c).

Si qua tamen. The word tamen seems to refer to some lines that went before; for which reason we find in some copies the two following verses prefixed to this Epistle: “aeolis aeolidae, quam non habet ipsa, salutem
Mittit, et armata verba notata manu.

But this beginning is quite superfluous. For Canace relates the matter afterwards fully, and her abrupt manner of beginning is a particular beauty, which would be lost by prefixing the above lines, which yet show the sense of the passage. [Si qua scripta; Si quae epistolae meae partes, 'If any of the lines be stained or blotted, think it is with the blood of her who sends them.' How warm and interesting the words are! how cold, if any thing be added to supply the sense!

[5] Haec est aeolidos; aeolis, aeolidos, a patronymic from Aeolus, the father of Canace.

[8] Auctoris; namely, her father, who had sent a drawn sword by an officer, which he commanded her to plunge into her own breast.

[11] Scilicet est aliquid. She here seemingly offers a reason in excuse of her father's cruelty: but it is to be considered as expressed in indignation, and by way of irony.

[13] Sithonio Aquiloni. Thrace is often by the poets called Sithonia, from Sithon, a mountain in it. The situation of Thrace, in respect of Greece and Italy, is northerly; whence the north winds and Thracian winds came to signify the same thing.

[14] Pennis; for the winds were feigned to have wings.

Eure proterve. These epithets of the winds are very common among poets. Virgil says, Aen. lib. i., “procacibus Austris”, and Horace, “Tradum protervis in mare Creticum portare ventis.

[17] Quid iuvat. In a case of danger and disgrace, she found that even a divine origin did not protect her.

Avorum. Helvetius makes the following remarks upon the use of this word in the plural number. "The word avorum used here in the plural number, seems designed not only to help the versification, but to add a dignity to the thing itself. And yet, upon a nearer examination, it has a quite contrary effect. For the nearer the poet placed Canace to Jupiter, the more illustrious was her pedigree. And this he might easily have done, since, according to some, Aeolus was the son of Jupiter. But, not to be too rash in passing a censure on the poet, it must be owned that the race of Aeolus is very obscure, and little known, and that mythologists differ very much in their sentiments about it. Hence it was the poet's business to derive Canace from Jupiter by a long series of ancestors, both on the father's and mother's side."

[19] Fumbria munera; Munera apta meo funeri.

[22] Leto serior. This is differently explained by commentators. Some think that it means, Utinam prius essem mortua, quam me unquam cognivisses. Others interpret is, Utinam nunquam venisset quae leti causa.

[28] Coacta. I loathed food, and swallowed it with reluctance. Canace's describing herself as wholly a stranger to love, and wondering at its effects, as not knowing whence they came, is an ingenious supposition of the poet, and, by spreading an agreeable variety over the subject, heightens the reader's pleasure.

[29] Anuua; very long, an if every night had seemed a year.

[33] Ammo anili; i. e. cauto et perito talium rerum. Virg. aen. lib. 4: Illa gradum studio celerabat anili.

[35] Pudor deiecit ocellos; the usual effect of shame; a description that all poets agree in giving of it. Virg. aen. lib. 3, says, “Andromache
Dejecit vultum, et demissa voce locuta est.

In like manner Statius, Theb. 2; “Candida purpureum fusae super ora ruborem,
Dejectaeque genas; tacite subit ille supremus
Virginitatis amor, primaeque modestia culpae
Confundit vultus.

[46] Denaque luciferos Luna movebat equos. Some read premebut; but the other is undoubtedly right. Val. Elaccus, lib. 3, writes, “Movet in gelitos Latonia currus.

And our poet, in the third book of his Fasti; “Luna resumebat decimo nova cornua motu;
Virgue pater subito, nuplaque mater eral,
Gratia Lucina.

So the most authentic copies have it, and not (as in the more common) decimo mense. This passage gives a sanction to the received reading in the verse now before us, and may serve to evince that we ought not to substitute plena luna instead of dena luna, as the learned Gronovius fancied. The great Scaliger thinks it was originally nona, as agreeing better with the thing referred to. But there is no necessity for such a nice calculation; for we find almost all the ancient poets allow ten months in this case: witness, that well-known line of Virgil; “Motri longa decem tulerunt fastidia menses.

Our poet also, in the second book of his Fasti; “Luna novum decies imphrat cornibus orbem:
Quae fuerat virgo credita, mater orat.

And Book 3; “Vel quia bis quinto femina mense parit.

And in his Metamorphoses, book 8; “Et quos sustinui bis mensium quinque labores.

So also Seneca, and almost all the poets. Now, as quini and deni calculi are commonly used for quinque and decem calculi, in like manner luna dena may here be supposed to imply the same as luna decima.

[51] Gemitus dolor edere cogit. We have here a strong picture of Canace's distress, at the time mentioned; urged by contrary and powerful motives, pain on the one hand, and shame on the other, she endeavoured to suppress an anguish, which it was not yet in her power wholly to stifle.

[56] Et grave mors quoque crimen erat. These words admit different meanings: for we may explain them either, 'that death, in this case, served only to increase my shame, by publishing it to all the world;' or, 'that even death itself here was a crime, because, by the steps which I was obliged to take in order to keep the matter secret, I exposed myself to manifest cancer, and might, in some sense, he said to be accessary to my own death.

[58] Pressa refovisti pectora nostra tuis. The whole scene, as here represented, is extremely affecting. Canace was conscious of her guilt, and therefore could not pretend to vindicate herself. Her chief concern therefore was to move compassion; and in this it must be owned she has succeeded wonderfully. By her pathetic representation of her distress, the reader's attention is drawn off from the view of her guilt, and he feels his compassion insensibly rise, until he is brought over, if not wholly to exense, yet at least very much to commiserate and favor her.

[60] Duos; you and your son.

Corpore unius, instead of corpore tuo.

[61] Fratri nam nupta futura es. In one very ancient manuscript, the old reading is effaced, and in place of it there is written, “Fratri es nam nupta futura,

Some have, “Germane nupta futura es;

which Heinsius supposes to be the true reading in the before-mentioned manuscript.

[62] De quo mater es. Macareus is speaking here of himself.

[64] Crimen onusque; instead of criminosum onus.

[65] Quid tibi grataris. This is an address to herself. Though you are safely delivered of your burthen, the danger is for from being over. The crane mast by all means be concealed from Aeolus, who will never be able to brook the disgrace. She then describes the difficulty that attended this material point. The only way from her apartment lay through a hall where Aeolus sat in council; and to convey off the babe, without a discovery, was very difficult. At last, the nurse devised a method, which, but for an unhappy accident, had nearly succeeded.

[67] Frugibus infantem; Mola salsâ, says Helvetius, qua in sacris ulebantur.

[70] Dat populus sacris; that is, says Helvetius, Omnes loco et via ecdunt, nec quisquam anui affert impedimentum. All gave way, as accounting it impiety to interrupt the solemnity.

[78] Quassus ab imposito. Her feer was so great, that the very bed shook under her as she lay trembling.

[80] Et vix a misero continet ore manus; that is, Vix continet se quin unguibus dilaceret mihi vultum, et eruct oculos.

[92] Inque meas unguibus ire genas. The meaning is: I was then at liberty to vent my rage against myself, and to give way to all the symptoms of despair.

[93] Patrius satelles; an officer from my father.

Vultu moerente; with a sad and sorrowful countenance, which too clearly presaged his fatal message.

[96] Ex merito; viz. tuo: that is. He concludes, that, from a sense of your crime, you will understand what he me as by the gift.

[105] Parea. The Parcæ; were three in number, Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos. Her marriage, she says, was not to be graced by the presence of Hymenaeus; the infernal Sisters were fittest to preside at that fatal tie.

[109] Si potuit. By this seeming concession, she more strongly asserts the habe's innocence. A new-born infant could be guilty of no crime; and to punish it for the fault of its parents, wherein it had no share, was cruel and unjust.

[116] In tua non tonsas ferre sepulera comas. Micyllus says, Sobbiat autem funerati more comas reserare, et in rogum andentem, aut sepulerum miltere. So our poet in the third book of his Metamorphoses, ver. 506: “Sectos fralri imposuere capillos.

[120] Nec fuero diu mater; because I must soon lose my son, from whom I derived the title of a mother. [Nec orba diu; because I must lose my son, and thus be rendered childless, yet my own death is not distant.

[121] Tu tamen. From lamenting her own fate and that of her son, she addresses herself to her brother Macareus, and entreats him to collect the scattered bones of that dear pledge of their former tenderness, and deposit them in the same urn with her own.

[125] Lacrymasque in funere funde So some read; but the greater part, and more authentic manuscripts, have vulnere. We are the more willing to admit this, as it is a way of speaking very common with Ovid. Met. book 4: “Viduera supplevit lacrymas, fletumque cruori Mucuit.

And book 13th: “Hic quoque dat lacrymas, lacrymas in vulnere fundit.

[127] Tu rogo. The greatest part of commentators reject this whole distich, as a spurious interpolation, and think it far short of the usual elegance of Ovid.

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