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Helen, after reading the epistle sent by Paris, as if offended at his boldness, begins by reprimanding him; and then, with a counterfeit modesty, seems to reject his proposals, as contrary both to virtue and honor; yet in such a manner, that she would not have herself thought entirely insensible to his passion. By degrees she opens herself more plainly, and at last shews her inclination to be favorable to him. The whole is a remarkable example of the extreme artifice of females, and places their inconstancy, and seeming reluctance to comply, even when it is their most earnest desire, in the strongest light. The same poet, de Arte Amandi, admirably describes this foible of the sex in a few lines: “Forsitan et primo venit tibi litera tristis,
Quaeque roget ne se solicitare velis.
Quod rogat illa timet; quod non rogat, optat ut

'Perhaps you may at first receive a letter that reproves your boldness, and begs you will no farther solicit her for a favor which she cannot grant: she trembles lest you should comply with her desire, and wishes you may persist in demanding what seemingly she denies.' It is conjectured by some, that this Epistle was not written by Ovid, but Sabinus. But it is so much in Ovid's manner, and is moreover allowed by all to be so complete a model in its kind, that I am unwilling to deprive our poet of the honor of it. Some manuscripts have these two verses written upon the margin, to serve as a beginning to this Epistle: “Si mihi quae legi, Pari, non legisse liceret,
Servarem numeros sicut et ante probae.

[2] Non rescribendi. This verse is capable of a double sense, as you refer the particle non to rescrbendi or levis. I have chosen the latter, as being more plain and expressive. Gloria rescribendi est visa mihi non levis, or parva; instead of Putavi magnam gloriam mihi fore rescribere tibi, quia affecisti me magna iniuria. This agrees best too with the artifice so remarkably expressed in this Epistle. She would make her very writing to him appear not so much the effect of inclination and compliance, as a just indignation and resentment of his boldness.

[3] Hospitii temeratis advena sacris. The rights of hospitality were deemed so sacred among the ancients, that the violators of them were branded with heinous criminality. For this reason the poets, when they wished to give us an idea of a perfectly abandoned character, never failed to represent a violation of these rights, as one of its distinguishing parts.

[7] Diversa quamvis e gente; 'a nation differing from ours in its laws and customs.' It is necessary for the reader, before he can fully enter into the meaning of this verse, to reflect, that all foreign people were by the Grecians accounted barbarians, and that the Spartans in particular had an unconquerable aversion to strangers. Paris was therefore under a double tie of gratitude to Menelaus, who, among a people of this temper, had afforded him so kind a reception.

[14] Dum-que tenor vitae. Helen's reasoning is just and strong: What pity that one who knew so well what was honorable and becoming, had not resolution and command of herself, sufficient to restrain her from so base a compliance! It is not generally so much for want of knowing better that we do amiss, as for want of courage to withstand our passions.

[15] Si non, &c. Helen seems to wonder whence he could form a notion so much to her disadvantage, as to believe he might hope for any success in his attempts upon her virtue. Her smiling looks, her easy and frank behaviour, were most likely to raise this presumption. She begins therefore here, and observes, that as her fame was hitherto spotless, this ought to have given him no encouragement. Men who pretend to know the sex tell us, that those who affect a rigid severity, are sooner won than the free and open. Paris, whose character was that of a man well acquainted with all the ways of love and gallantry, must not be supposed ignorant of this: but as Helen, in the latter part of this Epistle, plainly discovers how much she was already prepossessed in his favor, we may conclude that he, who could not be insensible of it, was thence encouraged to make known his passion.

[21] An quia. &c. This was another particular from which Paris might draw hope. 'I have been carried away before, and partly (you may think) by my own consent.' To this she pleads her innocence, that when force was used, all that she could do was to shew resistance; and that she kept so good a guard over herself, that nothing dishonorable was offered.

[31] Reddidit intactam. It was natural for Helen to give this account; it is moreover consisten with tradition; yet Pausanias observes, that, by some accounts, Iphigenia was the daughter of Helen by Theseus.

[35] Nec tamen irascor. All Helen's former protestations were merely to save appearances, and the affectation of a false modesty. She now begins to discover her real sentiments, but, we may observe, with all the artifices common to her sex; for she frequently breaks out in praise of chastity, and insinuates her own resolution not to break it; as if all the concessions she makes were purely accidental, and had slipped from her unperceived

[47] Nil ego, si peccem. We see here what notion we are to form of all Helen's mighty boasts of chastity. It was more the fear of reproach and infamy, than any detestation of vice, that kept her from giving way to her passion; and accordingly we find in the end, that this restraint was too feeble to retain her long in her duty. True virtue is of a very different nature, and derives its value from itself, without any regard to the opinion of others. “Oderunt peccare boni virtutis amore,

says Horace. Hopes of escaping undiscovered can be no motive to a man of this character; because he places his happiness in self-approbation, and dreads the reproach of his own mind, more than that of the world.

[60] Quintus. His genealogy, as delivered to us by the ancients, is this: Paris, Priam, Laomedon, Ilus, Tros, Erichthonius, Dardanus, Jupiter. According to this account Paris is the seventh from Jupiter, whereas Helen makes him only the fifth. We must therefore conclude, that either the text is corrupted, or that the genealogy here referred to by Ovid, differs from that which is commonly received. Perhaps he designedly makes Helen fall into this error, as she was not supposed to be conversant in these points. We meet with several examples of this kind in our poet.

Primus; for Jupiter was the father of Helen. It is therefore with reason she boasts of her own pedigree, as more illustrious than that of Paris, because she was nearer to Jupiter. The notions that now prevail with regard to birth and a noble descent, seem to be of a very different kind. The farther any one is removed from some distinguished hero who ennobles the race, the more honorable is he reckoned, from an imaginary value put upon the antiquity fo their line. If true nobility consists in personal merit, one should think the nearer to this, the greater the honor. It is hard, according to my apprehension, to conceive, how a hero who lived a hundred years age, cannot give the same credit to his descendants now, as he will do five hundred years hence.

[63] Siiam. Helen allows that Asia was more wealthy, and better stocked with inhabitants; but then, as it was a country of barbarians, (for so the Greeks accounted all other nations,) it could be no temptation to her to abandon Sparta. This passage deserves a particular remark. Paris, in his Epistle to Helen, endeavours to draw her over by great promises, boasting of his illustrious descent, and the wealth and opulence of Phrygia. Helen is equally eager to convince him that none of these things can be of any weight with her. But all this was only to ingratiate herself the more with him, by insinuating that he was the only temptation, and that no other passion but what he had inspired, could make herswerve from virtue. The poet can never be enough commended for his artful manner and address.

[72] Auctor quoe pretiosa facit. Helen still continues the same artifice to gain upon Paris. She had before seemingly slighted his gifts; here she retracts, and speaks of them as what were very acceptable to her; but, at the same time, takes care to intimate, that they derived their value entirely from the giver. This has been always looked upon as a sure sign that the passion of love has taken deep root; whence Paris might form great hopes of success. Terence in his Eunuch, when he brings in the parasite flattering his master, that he was greatly in favor with Thais, makes him offer, as an evidence of it, the value she set upon his present: “Loeta est, non tam ipso quidem dono,
quam abs te datum esse: id vero serio triumphat.

'She is pleased, not so much with the gift itself, as that it comes from you; for that in reality is what gives her the greatest joy.'

[84] Non satis occultis erubuique notis. Helen does not censure Paris for these signs and tokens of his affection; she only blames him for not taking care to dissemble better, lest he should raise suspicions in Menelaus. All the circumstances are finely cnceived, and with that happy luxuriance of imagination which was peculiar to our poet.

[88] Amo. Love is fertile in expedients to attract the notice of the object beloved. The reader is highly pleased with observing the manner and ingenuity of Paris, and the notice taken of it by Helen was a sure sign both that she had remarked it with pleasure and that it had not been without effect.

[97] Disce meo exemplo. This verse is thus explained by Hubertinus: Disce meo exemplo, quae, licet non habeam maritum pulchrum, tamen eo sum contenta; which, it must be owned, is ingenious enough. If we can, however, credit Homer's account of Menelaus, he appears to have had a fine person. Even Paris himself, in his Epistle to Helen, does not deny him that merit; he only things that a comparison would not be to his own disadvantage. Yet Helen, indeed, plainly gives the preference to Paris, adn even owns that she loves him, and that virtue only restrained her from yielding in everything to his desires.

[98] Est virtus placitis abstinuisse bonis. This indeed is a degree of virtue which very few are able to attain. It comprehends a compleete mastery over our passions, and a well-informed judgment, able to distinguish between what is really profitable, and what hurtful; for virtue does not absolutely forbid us all pleasures and enjoyments, but only such as are injurious to others, and prejudicial to ourselves. Epictetus, that consummate moralist, was wont to say, that the perfection of virtue was comprised in these two words, “Sustine et abstine.

[105] Priums de mille. Helen, while she is seemingly endeavouring to convince Paris of the impossibility of what he aims at, still goes on to give him all th proofs of her affection that he could wish for, and thus artfully encourages his hopes that he may one day bring her to yield to his utmost wishes. Had you addressed me (say she) while I was yet under no engagement, and free to bestow my heart wherever my inclinations led me, you would have gained the prize from a thousand suitors, and Menelaus himself must have justified my choice.

[107] Possessa praeceptaque gaudia. Possessa, id est ad ea gaudia quae aliorum sunt praecepta, praeoccupata. Some read prarepta; but as Ovid frequently elsewhere uses praecepta in this very sense, it seems reasonable to give it the preference. Thus, in the Elegy upon the death of Drusus, he says, “Fingebas redcucem, praeceptaque mente fovebas
”; And, in the eleventh book of the Metamorphoses, “Phoebus anum simulat, praeceptaque gaudia sumit.

[110] Invitam sic me nec. Helen still maintains the character of an admirable dissembler, and occasionally drops some expressions which seem to bespeak a steady and virtuous mind. If she was not able to conquer entirely her growing inclination for Paris, she yet pretends to struggle with spirit against it, and to retain that regard for Menelaus, which decency and her engagements required. She therefore prays Paris not to urge her to what was so contrary to her honor and duty, or to take advantage of the strong and seemingly irresistible inclination which she had for him. There is great artifice in this; for she insinuates, that it would not be in her power to hold out long, if he persisted in his solicitations; and, from what passed in her own mind, she did not believe that her faint entreaties would prevail upon him to desist.

[115] At Venus hoc pacta est. We have seen already in the foregoing Epistle, gave the decision in favor of Venus, she promised him Helen as a reward.

Coniux Tyndaridos eris; 'you shall be a husband to a daughter of Tyndareus:' for though Helen was really the daughter of Jupiter, vet, as Leda was wife to Tyndareus, he was her reputed father.

[123] Ut me.] Helen here speaks of Venus's promise to Paris, as a circumstance too much to her honor to be hastily credited. We see confirmed by this a common observation made upon the sex; that they are generally more concerned for the reputation of beauty, than virtue. Helen's fancy is so full of the imaginary honor done her by the Goddess, in preferring her beauty to that of every other woman, that she does not consider how far it implied infidelity to her husband, and breach of the marriage vow.

[129] Succense nimium miki. It is pleasing to trace Helen through all the windings and turnings of her affection, and observe how she gradually rises in her advances to her lover. She owns that she is pleased with the promise made to him by Venus, and wishes it to have been true. She even proceeds so far as to shew an anxiety, lest he should be offended at her backwardness to credit his relation; and, to soften the matter, pretends that she considered it as an affair of too great moment to be rashly believed, because a disappointment would expose her to the most cruel mortifications.

[135] Ergo ego sum virtus, &c. Helen's reasoning is admirably ealealated to excuse her weakness, and quiet the alarms and checks which her own reflection would be apt to give her. She dresses up the merit of Paris, and what he had done for her, in the most bewitching light, to make her compliance appear a point of gratitude. When the mind has once determined upon a thing, it is never at a loss to find out excuses and palliating reasons to avoid its own reproaches. What would appear horrid and shocking to it when well-disposed and untainted, will now be decorated with such circumstances. as will disarm it of all its terrors and guilt. This is exemplified in the most lively manner in Helen. How different does she now appear from what she was at the beginning of this Epistle? There she is full of resentment, accuses Paris accuses Paris of violating the sacred rights of hospitality, and wonders at his insolence in offering to make any attempt upon her honor. How much is the case changed here? She views every thing he had done with a different eye. His preferring her to valor and a kingdom, exposing himself to the dangers of the sea for her sake, and suffering all the anguish of a smothered love, are now placed to the account of merit. She no longer considers him as an enemy to her virtue and honor, one who intended to rob her of what should be most valuable and dear to her, and expose her to eternal infamy: but as a suffering lover, one more deserving of pity and compassion, than severity and frowns. By this she is led to think that gratitude and humanity require her to make some returns, and would, if possible, persuade herself, that her weakness in not rejecting at once his addresses, was rather a virtue than a crime.

[139] Quid bikulum. It is more, we see, from an apprehension of the impossibility of the thing, than any abhorrenes of the crime, that Helen shews so great a resistance. She looks upon it as a vain project to indulge a passion for a stranger, and like to yield to more profit, than ploughing up the sandy beach. Many obstacles would intervene to obstruct their happiness:--busy whispers, the suspicions of her husband, and the necessity of his speedy return to his own country; all which are represented with a happy vein of wit and fancy.

[146] Difficilem culpoe suspicor. The poet paints after truth and nature: and therefore his sentiments are just, and what every one's experience will teach him. It is certain that they who have been trained up to virtue, are very much shocked at the first advances to vice. They feel a reluctance which disquiets and makes them unhappy, and are apt to fancy that every thing betrays them. Helen very naturally descabes this to be the case with her. Although no particular familiarities had passed between her and Paris, yet, being conscious of what was likely to happen, she already imagines that it had taken air. Guilt made her quick-sighted in observing every nod and whisper. Looks and gestures that at another time would have passe: unobserved, are now construed to have a meaning. Nothing could have been more finely conceived.

[153] Maior non maxima. Helen is now disposed to approve his passion, and to allow him whatever liberties he could take with prudence. Paris had told her, that Menelaus by his own behaviour urged her to a compliance, as his absence afforded her the best opportunity in the world, to indulge the stolen delights of love. She allows it; but, at the same time, thinks they ought to act with great circumspection, because, notwithstanding her husband's absence, there were still spies upon her conduct, who would not fail to aggravate every circumstance severely. What was this but telling him that she would withhold none of her favors from him, when a fair opportunity offered of granting them without danger of a discovery?

[161] Vix tenui risum. The reader may perhaps be shocked at this behaviour of Helen upon her husband's going to Crete. The concessions she has hitherto made, have been accompanied with an air of modesty and reserve. She would rather have them ascribed to pity and tenderness, than to any loose inclination. Here, on the other hand, she seems to own, that even before her husband's departure, she had not only received favorable impressions of Paris, but determined to grant him all without reserve; and had gone so far, as to ridicule Menelaus, and despise him, for his easy simple credulity. But this must be understood with some softenings: it is plain, from her manner of relating it, that she wished for his absence; but her smiling at his committing the Trojan guest to her care, might not proceed so much from contempt, as her own consciousness that she was fully disposed to obey his commands, and a certain pleasure she might take in perceiving he had no suspicion of their private. designs.

[169] Eadem mihi gloria dammo est. The greater part of commentators give but a confused and unsatisfactory explication of this passage. Helen says, that the reputation of beauty, which on many accounts could not be disagreeable to her, was in the present case rather a disadvantage, because it made her remarkable, and the object of general notice. This obliged her to a strict attention over her actions, even over her looks and words, it being almost impossible that the least slip should pass unobserved. She feared therefore that her present sentiments for Paris could not long be a secret, and wished that her fame had been less, rather than be thus exposed to the hazard of a discovery. This I take to be the true meaning of the passage.

[171] Nec, quod abest, mirare. We see here a confirmation of what I have advanced in a former remark; that we are not to interpret Helen's smiling at her husband's recommending the Trojan to her care, as done in contempt of his easy temper and simplicity. She is so far from viewing it in that light, that, on the contrary, she thinks he had all the reason in the world to trust her; for that, however her beauty and fame might expose her to solicitations, her known virtue was sufficient to secure him against all suspicion of her ever proving unfaithful to him.

[172] Vitae cred dit ille meae. Helen, as she more than once tells us, had hitherto lived without reproach; Menelaus therefore cannot be charged with imprudence in leaving her with this stranger, whom probably he thought well of, and in whose honor and virtue he reposed great confidence. However, the event made it appear, that a woman's being hitherto chaste, is no security for her future chastity.

[179] Et vir abest nobis. This detail in the mouth of Helen is very happily imagined by the poet. She collects all the circumstances that invited her to a compliance, with a minuteness and strength of fancy, that give us plainly to understand her thoughts were often employed this way: and that her only concern was how to bring it about without ruining her reputation with the world, or shocking the delicacy of her lover.

[185] Utinam bene cogere possis. Helen here throws off the mask entirely, and owns her willingness, if proper care should be taken to afford her some excuse for her weakness. There is nothing more here than what is to be met with in all her sex. What favors they grant of this kind, proceed usually from the warmest inclinations: yet they would rather have them appear extorted by violence and force, than a free grant. They fear that their lover may despise a victory too easily gained.

[187] Utilis interdum est ipsis iniuria passis because it is by this seeming injury that they excuse their fault. Whoever reads over this Epistle with attention, will see that Ovid has exhausted all his wit and ingenuity upon it; nor is there in all his writings so strong a view of the turns and artifices of women. I cannot therefore sufficiently wonder how it ever entered into the head of a critic, that this Epistle was not written by Ovid.

[189] Potius coepto pugnemus amori. What a strong picture of inconstancy! “Varium et mutabile semper foemina.

Helen, by this sudden change, not only counterfeits modesty and reluctance, but at the same time inflames her lover, and raises his ardor to a greater height.

[193] Hypsipyle; deserted by Jason.

Minoia Virgo; Ariadne, daughter of Minos, forsaken by Theseus.

[207] Non ita contemno. We have here a long detail of the reasons that prevented her from following Paris to Troy. None of them are drawn from the amiableness of virtue, or the baseness of the crime itself. these had no weight with her. She is concerned only for her reputation, and particularly wishes to avoid infamy. She foresees too, and with good reason, that such a step might bring her into contempt, even with the person in favor of whem it was taken. What security, says she to paris, can you afterwards have of my fidelity? will not my easy consent to your proposal make you suspect me with every stranger that lands upon your coasts? This reasoning is unanswerable. No union can be firm and permanent, unless it be founded upon virtue. Where a false step has once been made, every temptation alarms; and we are apt to suspect that she who could not resist in one case, will he as little able to resist in another.

[230] Pulsa est aesonia, &c. Paris had made great promises to Helen; but these were usual in soliciting favours of this kind; and, though given with the greatest air of sincerity, were very little regarded afterwards. She therefore tells him, that these promises could give her little security, since it appeared from numberless examples, that those who trusted to them were in the end deceived. She instances particularly in Medea, and insinuates her fears of a like fate to herself.

aeetes to whom she could fly for relief, no mother Ipsea, or sister Chalciope to hear her complaints. I indeed fear none of this; but neither did Medea fear: love often contributes to its own deceit. What ship now tossed by stormy waves, did not sail first from the port with a favorable wind? I am terrified too by the flaming torch, which, in your mother's dream, seemed to spring from her womb before your birth. Add to this the prophecies which foretell that Ilium shall be consumed with Grecian fire. It is true that Venus favors us, because she carried off the prize, and by your judgment triumphed over two. But then I fear again the resentment of the two, who in this contest, so much to your honor, lost their cause by your sentence. Nor can it be doubted, if I follow you, that troops will be raised to recover me. Our love (alas!) must make

[231] Non erat aeetes. aeetes indeed was still alive, but not likely to afford her any succour. With what confidence could she approach a father whom she had so basely abandoned, and whose son she had cruelly murdered? We are informed however by Apollodorus, that, notwithstanding all this, she fled to him, and was instrumental in restoring him to his kingdom, from which he had some time before been expelled.

[232] Non Ipsea parens. Manuscripts differ here very widely; whence there is room to suspect that the text has been corrupted. There is still the greater reason for this opinion, because we do not mect with one instance in all antiquity of Medea's mother being mentioned under the name of Ipsea. We may therefore, relying upon the authority of Hesiod, Apollonius, Apollodorus, and Hyginus, instead of Ipsea, read Idya; this being the general opinion, though some mention her by a different name.

[233] Sed nec Medca timebat. The reflection is just and well-timed. She would not appear to suspect her lover's honor and fidelity, and therefore is willing to trust him. But she immediately reflects that this was also the case with Medea. She had no distrust of Jason, but confided in his promises, and the event testified how far she had been in an error. Is there not reason to fear, says Helen, that I may have the same fate? Nothing can be more natural, or better judged.

[248] Atracis Hippodamia; Hippodamia of Atrace, or Atracia, a city in Thessaly. Some indeed make Atracia a name for Thessaly in general. According to a fabulous account, Hippodamia was the daughter of the river Atrax.

Haemonios viros. This refers to what happened at the manrrage of Pilithous and Hippodamia, where a quarrel arising between the Centaurs on one side, and Theseus, Hercules, and the Lapithae, on the other, the former were partly slain, and put to flight.

[268] Sed nimium properas. Helen, after giving a particular answer to every thing that Paris had said in his letter to encourage her, as if she

meant after all to reject his suit, concludes with an almost unexpected promise that she will be favorable, but requires him to have patience. followed is known to almost every reader. Paris took her with him to Troy; and the destruction of that famous city was the consequence of that unjustifiable act.

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