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Jason, upon his arrival in Colchis, was kindly treated by Medea, the daughter of Aeetes, king of that country; and she soon become enamored of him. The conditions of obtaining the prize being proposed to Jason, he, despairing of success without assistance, applied to Medea, who, when he promised marriage, enabled him by her instructions to surmount every difficulty. After obtaining the golden fleece, he fled privately from Colchis his with Medea; who, hearing that Aeetes was in close pursuit of her, cut in pieces the body of her brother Absyrtus, and strewed his mangled limbs along the road, that her father might be retarded in gathering up the bones of his son. By this artifice the fugitives were enabled to reach Thessaly in safety; and Medea restored Aeson, Jason's father, worn out with years, to youth. Jason afterwards transferred his love to Creusa, daughter of Creon king of Corinth, and married her. Medea, enraged at his perfidy, writes this epistle, in which she charges him with the highest ingratitude, and threatens a speedy revenge, unless he would restore her to her former place in his affections. Both Euripides and Seneca wrote plays called Medea; so did Ovid, but only two lines of it survive: “Servare potui: perdere an possim, rogas?”, quoted by Quintilian, and “Feror huc illuc, vae, plena deo”, quoted by Seneca.

Critics, in this Epistle, as in the rest, have furnished us with two lines for an exordium. “Exul, inops, contempta novo Medea marito
Dicit, an a regnis temporo nulla vacant.

At tibi Colchorum. The epistle begins abruptly, and with an air of astonishment. To be deserted by Jason, who had so often vowed an eternal fidelity, and whom she had bound to her by such importan services, was what of all things she least apprehended, and could not reflect upon without wonder. Many of Ovid's Epistles begin thus: and it is a particular beauty in them, though some injudicious crities have pretended to supply these seeming defects.

Colchorum. The Colchi were a people of Scythia, inhabiting the eastern side of the Euxine Sea. She calls herself the queen of this country, as being the daughter of Aeetes the king.

Vacavi; Operam praestiti, inservivi; I willingly undertook, I found leisure to help you.

[2] Ars; magic arts; for Medea was famed for her enchantments.

[3] Mortalia fila Sorores. The Parcae, or Sisters, were three in number, to whom was committed the duration of human life. The poets represent this by a thread in which each Sister had a separate province. The first was employed to spin it out, the second to wind it up, and the third to cut it, and thereby put an end to life. This may serve to illustrate the manner of expression used in the next verse, Fusos evoluisse meos; 'ought to have wound up the thread of my life,' i. e. finished my days.

[8] Phryxeam ovem; the golden fleece consecrated to Mars by Phryxus.

Pelias arbor; the Thessalian bark, so called from Pelion, a mountain of Thessaly, where the trees of which the ship Argo was built were cat. As is natural to that sex, she deduces the cause of her misfortunes from the remotest events that gave rise to them.

[9] Magnetida Argo; Thessalian Argo; from Magnesia, a region of Thessaly, in which was mount Pelion.

[10] Phasiacam aquam; the water of the Phasis. The Argonauts were obliged to sall up this river, before they could reach the palace of Aeetes.

Bibistis. To drink of the water of any place, is a phrase often used by the ancients to signify inhabiting that place, arriving at, or residing in it for any time. An interrogation, in this place, is much stronger than if she had said, 'She wished the Argonauts had never seen Colchis.'

[12] Linguae gratia ficta tuae. She artfully interweaves an excuse for her own weakness, in being so much enamored of Jason, and breaking through so many obligations to give him the desired aid. His charms were such as might easily ensnare an innocent unpractised heart. Add to all this, the irresistible eloquence of a smooth and deceitful tongue. It is certain, that where a man's person has already prepossessed us in his favour, we (but more particularly females) are willing to believe every thing he says, especially if it be what we ourselves with for. This weakness every one feels in himself in some degree or other, and therefore will be the more apt to excuse it.

[14] Nova puppis. Some give out, that Argo was the first ship in which men ventured upon the sea. But I am rather apt to think it ought to be interpreted strange, uncommon. A ship was an unusual thing in Colchis; perhaps, too, it might have been the first that ever appeared on that coast. But that Greece, and some other parts of Europe, had shipping long before this, is indisputable.

[15] Anhelatos ignes; ignes or fourorum ahenipedum navibus emissos; 'the frame proceeding from the nostrils of the brazen-footed bulls.'

Non praemedicatus; 'not fortified by my draughts and medicines:' for it was by Medea's instructions, and the magic potions with which she furnished him, that he was enabled to tame the brazen-footed bulls, and lull the watchful dragon that guarded the golden fleece.

[16] aesonides; Jason, the son of aeson king of Thessaly.

[18] Ut caderet, &c. This verse is thus explained by Helvetius. Ut Jason, qui tanquam agricola dentes serpentis in terram misisset, ab hostibus armalis, qui ex illo semine nascerentur, interficere-

tur: 'Till Jason, who had cast the serpent's teeth into the ground, after the manner of a sower, should perish by the armed enemies who sprang from the seed thus sown.'

[27] Ephyre; the ancient name of Corinth, called here bimaris, as being situated between two seas. So Horace, “Bimarisve Corinthi moenia.

Scythiae latus ille nivosae omne tenet. Copies differ very much with regard to this passage. Some have it as above; others, Scythia tenus ille nivosa omne tenet. The Scythians inhabited the country near the Euxine, and also to the north of the Caspian Sea.

[33] Ut vidi, ut perii. The whole account here given of Jason's first appearance, and the beginning and progress of her passion, may be considered as a heautiful copy of nature. We may compare it with what Virgil says on the same subject, and in nearly the same manner. It is in Damon's part of the eighth Eclogue,

Sepibus in nostris parvam te roscida mala
(Dux ego vester eram) vidi cum matre legentem:
Alter ab undecimo tum me iam ceperat annus;
Iam fragiles poteram a terra contingere ramos.
Ut vidi, ut perii, ut me malus abstula error!

'The first time I saw you, was in your tender childhood, when your mother was with you, and your little hands were gathering the desty apples about our bedres, in which I was your guide. I was at that time just twelve years old, and could scarcely reach from the ground the nodding branches. How did I gaze, how was I lost, and hurried away by a fatal error?'

Virgil was, without doubt, a greater master in every kind of poetry than Ovid; and it must be owned there are some soft and tender strokes in these lines that affect us strongly; yet both poets have suited their subject to their design, and in that light equally merit our praise. Virgil depicts a tender complaining passion, that urges the lover to end his misery with his life: Ovid describes a strong and violent one, that, slighted, pushes on to revenge. They both imitate Theocritus. Ut vidit, ut periit, ut in profundum satlavit amorem. Idyll. iii. ver. 42.

[36] Abstulerant oculi lumina nostra tui; that is, says Helvetius, Nisi te, nihil amplius videre poterant 'They were so immoveably fixed upon you, that they could regard no other object.' This is one of the great characteristics of love.

[39] Dicitur interea tibi lex. Medea, after describing the manner in which her passion began, its growth and violence, adverts to the many obligations she had heaped upon him, the dangers to which he was exposed before he could obtain the wished-for prize, and the care she look to fortify him against them; from all which she infers his baseness and ingratitude in deserting her.

[41] Martis erant tauri, &c. These two lines are rejected by Heinsius as spurious, and unworthy of Ovid. There is some reason for this: and yet it is hard to think how they can be dispensed with.

[46] Devota manu; 'with a devoted, or consecrated, hand;' Manu (say Hubertinus) qua se huic fato devoverat. Thus those who rushed into the midst of the enemy in any case of impending danger, were said to devote themselves for the benefit of their country.

[47] Lumina custodis; the eyes of the watchful dragon, who had the care of the golden fleece.

[62] Soror; Chalciope, who was anxious for the safety of the Argonauts, because her four sons by Phryxus were engaged with them.

[65] Petit altera, et altera habebit. Petit altera, my sister Chalciope. Altera habebit Creusa, the daughter of Creon. One shall intereade for them, and another enjoy the benefit. So commentators generally explain it: but Heinsius fancies an error in the text, and supposes the original reading to have been, “Orat opem Minyis soror altera, et altera flevit;
Aesonio iuveni, quod petit illa, damus.

τὸ soror (says he) exciderat, pro quo male feriati correctores petit supposuerunt. Altera flevit, vel fiebat, facilis mutatio ex altera habebit vel habebat, quod in multis scriptis est.

[67] Est nemus. The descriptions interspersed in this Epistle, make it very interesting. The impression, which the story makes upon us, is the stronger; we become, in a manner, spectators of the several scenes, and are insensibly led to concern ourselves as parties. A poet's chief art is to produce this effect in his readers; and, when he succeeds here, it is a sure sign that his performance is good.

[79] Per triplicis vultus Dianae. Diana is called here the threefold goddess, on account of the fables of the poets, who feigned that she was the Moon in heaven, Diana upon the earth, and Proserpine in hell.

[80] Et si forte alios gens habet ista Deos. Almost all manuscripts have aliquos Deos. Yet Heinsius is of opinion, that it was originally as above. He is the more confirmed in this, because Gryphius has annexed it to the margin of his edition; whence he conjectures that he probably met with it in some of the copies which he inspected. Mistakes of this kind are not unusual in copies of ancient works.

[83] Quod si forte, &c. We have a remarkable instance how much a man's views and sentiments will change, upon a change of his circumstances. When Jason was in the Colchian capital, pressed with the dangers that attended his enterprise, and saw no other relief but in Medea, he addressed her with suppliant humility. He thought it the greatest happiness to enjoy her favor, and dreaded that she might despise him as a stranger. Now the case is changed. He had obtained his great object, brought his enterprise to a successful issue, and escaped safe with Medea into Thessaly. As he has now no pressing interest to bias him, his heart is more open to impressions from others. A more advantageous match offering itself, Medea is soon abandoned, and reduced to supplicate in her turn.

Pelasgum; a Greek: for the Pelasgi were a people of Greece whose name became common to all of that country.

[84] Meosque Deos; instead of propitiosque. How can I flatter myself that the Gods will favor me so far, as to make me appear agreeable to you?

[89] Quota pars. She here endeavours to set his baseness in the strongest light, by a representation of the many promises which he had falsified.

[91] An pars est fraudis. This is much the same with what the poet has before made Phyllis say, in his Epistle to Demophoon: “Credidimus lacrymis: an et hae simulate docentar?
Hae quoque habeat artes, quaque iubener eunt?

We have there taken putieular notice of the natural turn and beauty of the sentiment.

[93] Jungis et aeripedes. Medea, after reminding him of the promises made to her, his insinuating address, and the success it had in gaining her love, proceeds to relate how, by means of the assistance she gave him, be had the good fortune to accomplish the several tasks assigned to him by her father. She then reproaches him with his baseness in deserting her, after he had obtained his aims, and attaching himself to another, who had only her riches to recommend her, which in the day of perplexity were far from his thoughts.

Inadusto corpore. Some refer this to the bulls; but doubtless it belongs to Jason, whom by this we are to consider as having yoked the bulls, unhurt by the fiery exhalations from their nostrils.

[104] Quique maris gemini distinet Isthmos, &c the Isthmus of Corinth, which divides the seas that wash it on each side.

[110] Munus in exilio quodlibet esse tuli. Heinsius thinks this verse ought to be read, “Et minus exilio quodlibet esse tuli:

That is, as he explains it, 'I preferred a banishment with you to all the pleasures of life, of which I had so fair a prospect.' He confirms this conjecture, by citing abundance of similar passages. It is certain we have no other authority for the vulgar reading, than the single manuscript of Padua.

[112] Cum cara matre; by some thought to be Hypsea, by others Idyia.

[113] At non te, germane. Her misfortunes had now opened her eyes, and left her at liberty to reflect upon her crime in all its circumstances of guilt. She was before so far influenced by her passion for Jason, that no sacrifice appeared too great, if made for his sake. When she fled with Jason from Colchis, she had taken her brother Absyrtus with her; and, as we have related in another note, she murdered the unhappy youth.

[114] Deficit. She avoids a direct mention of her cruelty to her brother, and satisfies herself with barely hinting at it; as if she had said, 'Of all that I have done for you, this is the only thing that shame and sense of guilt oblige me to draw a veil over.'

[117] Quid enim post illa timerem. Helvetius has the following remark upon this passage: Ne iocum his verbis male captasse Naso videatur, Medeae totam sententiam sic accipe: Quanquam nunc non audeam scribere, quae ipsa patrasi; non verita sum tamen antea mari me credere: nam quid non ausa esset, quae potuit ea omnia, quae in patrem et fratrem peccavi, admittere? 'Although I now dare not write, what I yet dared to commit, I was not however afraid, even at that time, to expose myself to the dangers of the sea. For what would I not have ventured upon, after so many crimes against my father and brother?' Se fatetur (adds Helvetius) antea inconsulte ac veluti per dementiam, aut rabie quadam divexatam, omnia fecisse.

[121] Compressos Symplegades. The Symplegades were two islands, or rather rocks, in the Thracian Bosphorus, which were feigned by the ancients sometimes to part asunder, and sometimes to rush against each other with great force. It was thought extremely dangerous to sail between them, because, if by any accident the ship should be detained longer than was expected, these rocks, running together, would be sure to crush her in pieces. Jason is related to have passed between these rocks with imminent danger of his ship; for it is said, that the rocks, meeting before the ship had passed quite through, carried off her stern. What probably gave rise to this fable was the appearance of these rocks to ships that sail between them; for, in bearing down upon them, while the ship is yet at some distance, they seem to be joined in one: but, as she approaches nearer, they by degrees open; and, when ressels have passed through them, and have proceeded to some distance on the other side, they again seem to run together and unite. This, in the first ages of he world, while navigation was yet in its infancy, and the plgenomena of vision were little understood, might pass among ignorant people for a real motion in these rocks; and hence arose this monstrous fiction.

[123] Scylla. Scylla and Charybdis were dangerous places to mariners sailing between Italy and Sicily. Scylla was a huge rock, round which the waves constantly dashing, and throwing up great quantities of foam, the poets, on account of the great noise and roaring always heard in this place, feigned that she was a monster, resembling in the upper part a woman, but from the middle downward surrounded with sea-dogs and wolves, or other noisy harking monsters. They tell us that she was a nymph of Crete, and daughter of Phorcus: that Glaucus the sea-god fell in love with her, and met with an equal return of passion. Circe loved Glaucus at the same time; and being fille! with indignation that her rival Scylla was preferred, poisoned the fountain in which she used to wash herself. The nymph, ignorant of what had been done against her, came to the fountain, according to custom, to bathe; which she had no sooner entered, than she perceived that from the middle downward she was a monster and an object of horror. Deeply regretting the loss of her former beauty, she threw herself into the neighbouring sea, where she was changed into a rock that afterwards became famous for shipwrecks. This is the Scylla most commonly referred to by the poets. But Ovid here seems to confound her with another Scylla, the daughter of Nisus, king of the Megarensians. She, becoming enamored of Minos while he besieged Mesara, betrayed to him her father and country; but he afterwards despised and abandoned her. Hence we have the reason of Medea's saying, “Debuit ingratis Scylla nocere viris:

For she, finding herself east off by Minos, for whom she had done so much, might with reason be supposed an enemy to ungrateful men.

[125] Quaeque vomit. She means Charybdis, a rapid whirlpool on the coast of Sicily, which draws in and threws out the water with incredible force and swiftness twice every twenty-four hours. This Charybdis, as the poets feign, was a very voracious women, who having stolen the oxen of Hercules, Jupiter struck her with a thunderbolt, and threw her into the sea, where she yet retains her former nature, and swallows all that come near her.

[126] Trinacriae; Sicily; so called by the Greeks from its figure, the three sides of the island forming a kind of triangle.

[129] Quid referam Peliae. Medea here puts Jason in mind of another act of kindness she had done him. Pelias was king of Thessaly, and uncle to Jason, and therefore put him upon the expedition of the golden fleece. He had three daughters, Alceste, Amphinome, and Evadne, who, trusting to the false promises of Medea, cut him in pieces: for she had made them believe that she would restore him to youth. But her only object was to remove him out of the way, on account of the ill-will he bore Jason.

[145] Diversi; that is, in diversis domus locis, hic illic; 'some on one side, some on the other.' The word is used in the same sense by Sallust, in his History of the Jugurthine War.

[147] Nescire iuvabat. Omne quod est interea tempus priusquam id rescitum, lucro est, says an ancient comic poet.

[159] Laese pater. From reflecting upon her own calamities, she turns the discourse to those whom she had injured; and, as is very natural for one in her circumstances, concludes, that her present disasters are the just judgment of heaven upon her for those offences.

[160] Inferias umbrae fratris habete mei; that is, Umbrae fratris mei, este placatae, et habete vobis factas infer as ex malis meis. Inferiæ; are properly sacrifices offered to the manes of the dead. These are thought to be propitiated, when such as had been their enemies died, or met with any signal disister

[175] Forsitan et. Ovid very happily introduces this sentiment here, than which nothing can be more natural and agreeable to experience. Medea was now cast off, and another received in her room. We may therefore easily suppose, that her thoughts would be full of the good fortune of her rival; she would be frequently imagining the lovers together, and fancying to herself what scenes might possibly pass between them. In this train of reflection it would naturally come into her mind, that their discourse must sometimes turn upon her; and as she was no stranger to the structure of the human heart, especially of a heart in love, she easily concludes, that Jason, upon these occasions, would endeavour to recommend himself to his new mistress, by depreciating and undervaluing her charms, and that she, on the other side, would feel a sensible joy to be thus preferred to her rival.

[180] Flebit, et ardores. Medea here threatens Creusa with the disaster which afterwards befell her. See the note upon the 211th verse.

[189] Et imagine tangor; Moveor. Medea does not rest satisfied with prayers and entreaties; her expressions are full of love and tenderness. Notwithstanding the many reproaches she throws out against him, she occasionally drops some sentences that shew the sure hold he still had of her heart. The reproaches, far from manifesting any decay of her passion, are the clearest evidences of it's strength, and flow from a sense of ill-requited love.

[211] Viderit ista Deus. The catastrophe was dreadful. Jason paying no regard to the prayers and entreaties of Medea, but commanding her forthwith to leave the city for she was at that time in Corinth, she with some difficulty obtained of Creon one day's delay. Disguising herself so as not to be known, and entering the palace privately in the night, she set fire to it by means of a composition invented by Circe, of which the nature was such, that the flame raised by it could not be extinguished. Jason escaped by leaping; but Creon and Creusa perished in the flames.

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