previous next


Delos was an island of the aegean sea, and the most distinguished of all the Cyclades. Here Diana had a temple, and was worshiped with a particular solemnity. Acontius, a young man, being present at the celcbration of these sacred rites by a numerous assembly of the finest ladies of the island, happened to cast his eyes upon Cydippe, a lady of high rank and beauty, and became deeply enamored of her. But not daring to make known his passion, as he was so unequal in rank, having devised a new method of deceit, he took one of the fairest apples he could find, and wrote upon it the two following verses. “Juro tibi sane, per mystica sacra Dianae,
Me tibi venturam comitem, sponsamque futuram.

"I swear to you inviolably, by the sacred mysteries of Diana, that I will join myself to you for ever as your companion and bride."

This done, he throws it at the feet of the young lay, who, not suspecting the deceit, took it up and read it, and thereby solemnly devoted herself to Acontius. For at that time there was a law in force at Delos, that whatever any person should swear in the temple of Diana, should stand good, and be inviolably observed. But her father having some time after (not knowing what had passed promised her to another, she was seized with a sudden and violent fever, just at the time when the marriage solemnities were to have been performed. Acontius hearing of it, and willing if possible that the business should take a turn in his own favor, writes to Cydippe this epistle, in which he endeavours to persuade her, that the fever was sent from Diana, as a punishment of the breach of the vow made in her presence. This, and the other arguments which on such an occasion would occur to a lover, form the whole subject of this letter.

Heinsius observes of this epistle, that it has suffered more, perhaps, than any other from the carelessness and incorrectness of transcribers, and that in many places it is so defaced, one is at a loss how to gather any consistent sense. I have been deeply sensible of this in the translation, and must own that there are several passages about which I am not myself satisfied. However, I have taken all possible pains not to mistake the author's meaning, and have generally fixed upon that sense which seemed to be most natural and easy, and to agree best with the whole tenor of the epistle. The oldest editions, and some manuscripts, present us with the following distich, as fit to be prefixed to this epistle: “Accipe, Cydippe, despecti nomen Acontî,
Illius in pomo qui tibi verba dedit.

"Receive, Cydippe, this, subscribed by your despised Acontius, by him who deceived you with the inscription upon an apple."

Pone metam. Acontius, as we have seen, had already deceived Cydippe: she might therefore be apprehensive of some now fraud, and in this notion refuse to read his letter. Acontiu, endeavours to prevent this, by assuring her that he had no farther intentions of that kind, and that, satisfied with having once obtainad her promise, he meant no more, than to remind her of her engagements, and give such advice as might tend to her recovery.

[4] Uila parte dolente. If Acontius was the cause of any disaster to Cydippe, he would easily persuade her that he has so purely by accident. He intended no more than to secure her to himself. Her own disregard of her vow had occasioned that illness, of which he suffered all the anguish in the most sensible manner.

[13] Sed idem tamen acrius illad. This is one of these passages I have already mentioned which cannot easily be explained. It is uncertain what we are to understand by this idem twice mentioned, or to what it ought to be referred. The sense I have affixed to it, though perhaps not altogether satisfactory, was yet what, upon due consideration, appeared to me the most probable.

[22] Fiaudis causa feratur amor. Acontius seems here to accuse himself, but with the greatest cunning and art. He has discovered the way of owning his crime in such a manner, as to give it rather the air of a merit. It was excess of love that hurried him to that bold step. A fault arising from this, can plead many little circumstances to alleviate it; and the person against whom it is committed, is usually the first to forgive it.

[24] Id me, &c. Heinsius remarks severely upon this line, and is so far displeased with it, that he rejects the couplet entirely, as unworthy of Ovid. But whoever considers our poet's manner, and how much he delights in these and iguities and pointed turns, will see no reason for so harsh a criticism. Crispinus has very well paraphrased the passage, and so as to give as the sense clear and distinet. "Id, nempe tibi jungi, quod tibi querimoniae causam praebuisse putas, id ipsum est quod potest nos conciliare." Marriage not only joins our persons, but reconciles minds that were before at variance.

[28] Adstrinxit verbis, &c. The reader cannot fail to be pleased with the ingenious manner in which Acontius excasus his fraud, by throwing the blame wholly upon love. He pretends that he had neither a natural turn for expedients of this hind, nor an apiness acquired by use and practice. This is extremely well calculated to gain upon Cydippe, as it speaks a passion strong and lively, and at the same time insinuates, that she was the first who had made a conquest of his heart.

[29] Sponsalia; a contract of marriage; for, as we have before seen, the vow into which Cydippe was so artfully betrayed, bound her to join herself for ever to Acontius in wedlock.

[32] Silamen est. Ovid is remarkable for the ingenious turns he gives to things. This reflection, thrown in naturaily after owning the fraud, quite effaces that idea, and leads us insensildy to excuse a step for which he alleges so plausible a plea.

[33] En iterum. It is worth while to observe with how much artifiee and ingenuity Acontius blends his former fraud of the inseription upon the apple, with this latter one of writing her a love epistle, and, in each case, throws the blame entirely upon the person and attractive charns of Cydippe. By this he means to insinuate, that, as in the latter instance there was nothing read, criminal, it might in like manner he inferred that the former was equally harmless.

[39] Plures imponere nodos. It may at first seem strange to the reader, that Acontius, who had just before owned his crime, and endeavoured to alleviate it from the circumstances in which he found himself, should suddenly so far change his mind, as to avow it openly, and profess himself ready to repeat it a thousand times, did the case admit. But, as we have aheady remarked, he had quite changed the idea of the thing, and, by the ingenious turn he gives it, makes it appear rather as a merit. It was therefore well judged after this, to boast rather of an action that spoke the strength of his passion, and to avow, that far from repenting of it, he was ready to repeat it, to give that fresh testimony of a continued unalterable love. He had already bound her with one chain; and so earnest was he to secure her to himself, that were it possible to tie her down by a thousand more, he would gladly take that method, to prevent a possibility of losing her.

[41] Clico sudamus in imo. That is, "I have already attempted, but with little appearance of success: yet I am still determined to continue, and leave no means untried that I think may be effectual."

[49] Non sum qui soleam. Acontius introduces this, to show that his resolution was fixed and unalterable, and that he was not to be deterred by any views of danger. His temper naturally inclined him to follow the more soft and gentle methods; but, if these were unsuccessful, he wanted not courage to take an effectual course. His disposi-

tion did not lead him to blame either Paris or Thoseus; and even a certainty that death must ensue, would not startle him, or shake his purpose.

[55] Tufaeis hoc. Acontius studiously softens what he says, by giving it such a turn as was most likely to make it agreeable to his mistress. Cydippe could scarcely refuse to forgive a fault, that took its rise from an admiration of her charms. Flattery is one of the chief ways by which we advance to the confidence and love of that sex, and, if well managed, seldom fails of success.

[60] Et Thetidi quales vix rear esse pedes. Thetis was a sea-goddess, the daughter of Nereus, and mother to Achilles. She was particulaily remarkable for the whiteness of her feet; insomuch that Homer gives her the epithet, ἀργυρόπεζα, argenteos habens pedes, the silver-footed goddess.

[66] Insidiis esto capta phella mots. Ovid delights much in playing with words, and using them ambiguously. The manner in which we are to interpret capta here, furnishes a clear instance of it. Cydippe would readily own she had been deceived: and she complained of it as an injury. But whether she had been so far duped, as to be under an obligation to marry Acontius, was the point in question.

[68] Cur suus a tanto crimine. It seemed hard to Acontius to bear all the blame of a crime, and reap no advantage from it. His view in deceiving Cydippe by the stratagem of the apple, was to gain her to himself. Here he was accused without any hopes of the desired recompence; for his mistress was upon the point of being given up to another. This naturally calls into his mind the fate of others, who in like circumstances had yet been far more fortunate.

[69] Hesionen. Hesione was the daughter of Laomedon king of Troy, who, being chained to a rock to be devoured by a sea-monster, was delivered by Hercules. Her father had promised him, as a reward for so great a service, a present of some fine horses; but, by violating his engagements, he so inceused the hero, that Troy was seized and pillaged. Telamon, who had in a remarkable manner distinguished himself on this occasion, and was the first to mount the walls, received Hesione as the prize of his valor.

Telamon; the son of aeacus, and father of Ajax. He was one of those engaged with Jason in the Argonautic expedition, and a companion of Hercules in the sacking of Troy, where Valerius Flaccus makes him next to that hero in valor.

Briseida; a beautiful young virgin of Lyrnessus. That and other cities being sacked by the Greeks under Agamemnon, Briseis, in the division of the captives, fell to the share of Achilles. For the rest of her history, see the notes upon her Epistle to that hero.

[71] Quamlibet accuses. Quamlibet is here for quantum vis, quantumlibet: blame me, complain of me as much as you please.

[79] Ignoras tua iura. Voca. Acontius professes himself her slave, and is willing to submit to all that can be exacted of one in that station; but seems to insinuate at the same time, that she uses him with more rigor than was commonly exercised, even to the lowest of that tribe. She would not allow him to plead his own cause, but condemned him without hearing. Voca: quia non debes damnare nisi eitata parte. "Summon me before you; it is unjust to condemn without hearing." This is the manner in which some of the best

commentators have explained the words; and I am the more inclined to coincide with them, in consideration of what immediately follows in the same line, Cur arguor absens?? Crispinus, however, is not satisfied with this, which he thinks does not sufficiently express the poet's meaning, and therefore paraphrases it thus: "Non jure tuo in servum uteris, quae absentem accuses, cum ipsum vocare, praesentemque male multare, liceat." 'You refuse to use the right you have over me as a slave, when you condemn me in my absence, though you are empowered to summon me before you, and manage the trial in my own hearing.' This construction put upon the passage, though seemingly different, amounts, in my opinion, to the same meaning. Both insinuate that he only wants an opportunity to converse with her, in hopes that he might justify himself, and bring about a reconciliation.

[93] Hoc quoque quod ius est. Manuscripts differ greatly as to the manner of reading this line. Some have, Hoc quoque quod iussit, sit scriptum injwia nostrum. Others, Hoc quoque quod jussit senplum est injunia nestri, or nostra, or nostrum. Again: Hoc quoque quod vis sit: hoc quod opus iussit. Heinsius, after weighing them all, proposes as the most likely reading, “Hoc quoque cum ius sit, sit scriptum injuria

But, at the same time, he is so dissatisfied with the uncertainty of the thing, that he is for rejecting the whole distich. Amidst so much confusion and variety, it was no easy matter to give any tolerable meaning to the words. I was therefore chiefly concerned to study their connection with what follows, as thinking that a more likely way to attain some consistent sense. I leave it to the reader to judge whether I have succeeded tolerably.

Sit scriptum. The reading, according to which I have translated it, is this: “Hoc quod amor iussit, sit scriptum injuria nostrum.

"But allow that the words I wrote, induced by love, are an injury." Sit scriptum, i. e. Illud scriptum nostrum in pomo, sit injuria in te.

[95] Falli. Fallere Deos was a common way of speaking among the Romans, when they meant to express the neglect of performing a vow made to any of the Gods.

Delia; Diana; so called from the isle of Delos, where she was born and esucated.

[101] Testis erit Calydoms aper. Heinsius inveighs much against this distich, which, he thinks, was foisted in by some scholiast, who, having added the example of the Calydonian boar to the other two of Actaeon and Niobe, might perhaps turn it into a distich, and afterwards, in transcribing, insert it in the text. This boar, as we have seen already, was sent by Diana to ravage the country, because oeneus, in offering sacrifice to the Gods, had neglected her.

[103] Actaeon; the son of Aristaeus and Autonoë, and grandson of Cadmus. He was fond of hunting, and always kept about him a great number of dogs. He once surprised Diana as she was bathing, and was emboldened by his curiosity to look at the Goddess. To punish his insolence, she turned him into a stag. Soon after, his hounds coming up, and mistaking him for a real stag, attacked and killed him.

[105] Parens; Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus, and wife of Amphion king of Thebes, by whom she had seven sons, and as many daughters. Foolishly boasting that in her fruitfulness she exceeded Latona, she provoked the anger of Apollo and Diana, the son and daughter of that matron; who, causing all her children to be slain, changed the mother herself into a stone.

[106] Mygdonia; a region of Asia minor, in which was mount Sipylus, much frequented by Niobe, as we learn from the Metamorphoses.

[18] Colas. Acontias was chiefly anxious that Cydippe should not forget her vow. He is therefore very properly introduced as admonishing her to repair frequeatly to the temple, that being the most likely way to remind her of her obligation.

[188] Erciderint. This is most artfully introduced by Acontius, who was aware that a promise of that kind was not like to slip out of Cydippe's memory. It was however his interest to suppose it, because, by furnishing her with this excuse, he gave her a fairer opportunity of owning that she had been before in the strong, to neglect a promise she had so solemnly made in the presence of a Goddess.

[189] Cassibus. Some manuscripts have Casibus: but our peet elsewhere, and also Tibullus, make frequent use of the word Casses in subjects that relate to love. Here it means the sickness by which Diana endeavoured to prevent Cydippe from contracting the guilt of perjury.

[190] Quos quoties tentas fallere. The poet seems here to have deviated into a flat contradiction. It is only two lines before that Acontius supposes her to have forgotten her engagements; and yet here she is represented as contriving to avoid that sickness, which was sent as a punishment for her forgerfulness, and of which consequently she could have no foresight or apprehension. Crispinus endeavours to obviate this difficulty, by supposing hat tentare fallere is here metonymically put for fallere, and that fallere is the same as negligere or non cogitare; according to which the meaning will be: "Those fetters, which, so long as you attend not to the real cause whence they spring, bind still the faster."

[192] Luciferas adferat illa manus. Women in child-bed always invoked Diana Lucina, who was supposed to have in a peculiar manner the charge of them, and to assist in bringing the child to light. Hence the poet gives the epithet luciferas to her hands. Heinsius speaks of two silver coins, with the emblem of Diana bearing a torch, and this inscription, Dianae Luciferae.

[195] Promitles votum. It was the custom of those times, when any thing of consequence was demanded of the Gods, to make a vow, if the request should be granted; and the people were so superstitious as to believe that the Gods had a particular regard to these vows, and were the more ready to hear their prayers.

[221] Coryciis nymphis; the Muses. so called from Corycus, the name of a cave in moum Parnassus.

[222] Cea; an island in the aegaean sea, not far from Euboen.

[229] Phoebe; Dianae, so called, because the sister of Phoebes, a go at huntress, and consequence Dea Jaculatrix.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: