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PHAEDRA HIPPOLYTO

The Athenians having basely murdered Androgeos, the son of Minos king of Crete, he made war upon them, and compelled them to give seven of the sons of their nobility yearly, to be devoured by the Minotaur. The lot among others falling at last upon Thescus the king's son, he went into Crete, where he slew that monster, and at the same time happily escaped the Labyrinth by means of a clue, which he received of Ariadne, Minos' daughter. For this signal piece of service be engaged to marry her; and leaving Crete, took her and her sister Phaedra with him. But having afterwards, by the admonition of Bacchus, left Ariadne at Naxos, or as others will have it, at Chios, he married Phaedra her sister. Theseas had a son named Hippolytus, whom he had begotten on Hippolyte the Amazon. Of him Phaedra afterwards became enamoured, in her husband's absence. He, fond of a single life, and delighted only with hunting and the like exercises, made no returns to her passion. She is therefore supposed to write to him the following epistle, in which she confesses her love to him, and endeavours, by all the ways of art and persuasion, to inspire him with a mutual tenderness, and efface the horror which their being so nearly related might create against that infamous commerce. Euripides treats the story in his Hippolytus and Seneca in his Phaedra.

[2] Amazonio; for Hippolytus was the son of Theseus by Hippolyte queen of the Amazons.

Cressa; Phaedra, the daughter or Minos king of Crete.

[3] Quodcunque est. She was probably by this time no stranger to the genius of Hippolytus. He neglected the fair sex, and preferred the chase to female society. She may be supposed to have remarked some coldness in his behaviour, whence she not only doubted of success, but had reason to fear that he would not peruse her letter.

[6] Inspicit. She endeavours to persuade him by arguments, to what she knew he would naturally be averse to. First by raising his curiosity, and making him believe he would find things in it that would be agrecable; then by telling him that it was what an enemy would not refuse; much less ought he whom she loved so tenderly, and who in humanity could not but make some return.

[8] Destitit. Some read restitit, others consli-

tit; but Heinsius, with reason, thinks that the common reading ought to be retained. 'My tongue failed, and refused to perform its office.'

[10] Dicere quae puduit, &c. This contains an excuse for her forwardness. Shame would not allow her to speak her mind openly; and Love, fertile in expedients, had suggested to her this way of applying to him. She argues from the great power of that deity, who was in a manner irresistible, and from whose darts even the great gods themselves were not exempted. It was therefore less blameable in a weak woman to give way to him.

[25] Ars fit. She continues to plead her own cause, with all the address of which she is mistress. Love has seized her late, and therefore is the more raging and hard to be removed. Had she been accustomed to it from her younger years, she might have known how to suppress it; but her unpractised heart, unable to oppose, suffered itself to be wholly possessed by the passion.

[29] Est aliquid. This passage is very artful; she here applies to the weak side of mankind; for nothing is more common than to set a chimerical value upon some things, and pursue in that light what otherwise we would despise, or perhaps reject with horror.

[31] Si tamen. Phaedra begins here to reason with herself, and take a view of the crime she was going to commit. When we have once resolved upon a thing, we are never at a loss to find out plausible pretences for our justification. Such was Phaedra's case. As she had given herself up to this fatal passion, she can be satisfied with reasons, that in other circumstances would have appeared of no weight. Though she is forced to own that her designs are criminal, she yet thinks it some excuse that she was to offend with a man of merit; and, if one may be allowed the expression, disdained to commit an inglorious clime.

[35] Fratremque; Jupiter, who was both the brother and husband of Juno.

[37] Jam quoque. According to Ovid's own rules in his Art of Love, a lover ought to take delight in the person beloved. Agreeably to this notion, Phaedra here addresses Hippolytus, and as his chief delight was in hunting, prefesses herself to be fond of the same exercise.

[40] Delia; Diana, so called because she was born in the isle of Delos; her chief delight was in the forests and hunting.

[47] Bacchi furiius. This rage of the Bacchantes is often mentioned by the poets; Horace represents Penthcus and Lycurgus, as instances of it.

Eleleïdes; the votaries of Bacchus, so called after that god, who was named Eleleus, either from a town in which his orgies were celebrated; or (more probably from the vociferation and noise which attended those selemnities.

[48] Quaeque. She speaks here of the Galli or Idaei Dactyli, who were the priests of Cybele, and all eunuchs. Mycillus thinks we ought to read quique. But all ancient copies establish the former reading: besides, it was humorous in Ovid to describe them as women. Catullus, in like manner, calls them Galles. Lucian tells us, that women often joined in the chorus with them, and that they were commonly clad in women's apparel. These, as Euripides testifies, sacrificing to the mother of the gods, and inspired by her, ran in a wild procession from Ida, a mountain in Phrygia, to Olympus.

[49] Aut quas semideae Dryades. She speaks here of those who were called Lymphaties by the ancients. They were persons said to have seen some species of divinity, either some rural deity or nymph, which threw them into such transports as overcame their reason. The ecstasies expressed themselves outwardly in quakings, tremblings, tossings of the head and limbs, agitations; and as Livy calls them fanatical convulsions, extemporary prayer, prophecy, singing, and the like.

Fauniqu bicornes. Some were said to be influenced by nocturnal divinities, such as those in Latium, who used to consult in the night the Fauns. For, as we learn from Caius Bassus, Faunus, the son of Picus, first instituted sacred rites to his grandfather Saturn, and procured the reception of his father Picus, and sister Fauna, among the gods. Fauna was consecrated as wife to Faunus, and is the same who, according to Varro, was worshiped under the name of the Bona Doa. She was consulted by the women. The men applied to Faunus.

[51] Et Venus è tota. To understand this rightly, we must look back to the story of Venus and Mars. They were caught together in a net by Vulcan, Venus husband, who had been informed of their intereaurse by Phoebus. Venus, incensed at the injurious disclosure, kindled among the whole race of Apollo a fire of love, which raged so fiercely, that not a woman descended from him was able to keep her chastity. Thus Seneca, in his Hippolytus, says, “Stirpem perosa Solis invisi genus,
Per nos catenas vindicat Martis sui,
Suasque; probris omne Phoebeum genus
Oneral nefandis. Nulla Minois levi
Defuncta amore est.

[55] Jupiter Europen. The story of Jupiter and Europa is well known. That god, having transformed himself into a bull, deceived her and carried her off. The true history is this: Europa was the daughter of Agenor king of Phoenicia. Jupiter at that time reigned in Crete. Admiring Europa, and not being able to obtain her in any other way, he sailed for Phoenicia in a ship, which had on its stern the figure of a bull, and carried her off by stealth. Hence the fable took its rise.

[57] Pasiphae. She was the daughter to Phoebus, and wife to Minos king of Crete, who by her had Phaedra. This Pasiphae, enamored of a bull, applied to Daedalus a famous artificer, who, making a cow of wood, shut her up in it, and thus deceived the bull. This gave birth to the Minotaur, a monster; one half of whose body resembled a man, and the other a bull.

[59] Perfidus aegides. She gives another instance in her sister Ariadne, who, loving Theseus the son of aegeus, instructed him how he might overcome the Minotaur, and at the same time gave him a clue, by which he was enabled to extricate himself out of the Labyrinth.

[61] En ego. She had before spoken of Europa, as the first of her race, who gave way to this fatal passion; here she names herself as the last.

Parum Minoia, Lest I should be suspected to be not of the race of Minos, all so remarkable for this weakness.

[67] Eleusin. Eleusis was a city of Artica, westward of Atheus. Here was a temple sacred to Eleusinian Ceres, where her solumn mysteries

were celebrated. It was at the solemnisation of these sacred rites, that Phaedra first felt a passionate love for Hippolytus.

[71] Candida. She mentions what she saw and admired in him. His dress, his air, his manner; in a word, every thing about him was full of charms. If he was mounted on horseback, she was delighted with the skill and art of the rider. If he sent forth the flying javelin, she was pleased with his strength and agility. His dress was negligent and graceful, such as became a hero; his looks, whatever they might appear to others, spoke him in her eyes brave and courage, us. This is very natural, and what every one who knows what it is to be in love, has felt.

[93] Cephalus. Phaetha endowers to gain over Hippolytus to her wishes, by shewing that others before him, addicted to the same way of life, of which he was so fond, had yielded to the passion of love. The first whom she instances, is Cephalus. He was the son of Deioneus, or, according to others, of Mercury and Herse the daughter of Cecrops. He married Proeris, an Athenian princess, whom he loved in the highest degree. Aurora, who loved him, endeavored to gain him over, by making him jealous of Proeris. For this purpose she sent him hon e to her in the shape of a merchant. He, by offering her presents, at last brought her to yield to him; upon which, resumming his own shape, he reproached her with her baseness. Being at length reconciled to him, she gave him a dart which should never miss its aim. With this he afterwards slew her by mistake in a thicket, to which she had retired to watch him. We are not therefore to suppose, when the poet says, “Nec tamen Aurorae malè se praebebat amandum,
” that he returned Aurora's love; for this would be contrary to the truth of history; but only that, though fond of hunting and the like exercises, he was no enemy to the pleasures of love.

[97] Cinyraque creatum; Adonis, a most beautiful youth, whom Venus greatly loved. He was the son of Cinyras king of Cyprus, by his own daughter Myrrha.

[99] oenides; Meleager, the son of oeneus, already mentioned in a note to the Epistle of Briseis.

Maenalia; Areadian, from Maenalus, a high mountain of Areadia.

[105] aequora bina. Phaeedra tells Hippolytus that she is willing to share every fate with him, and can be deterred by no dangers. She is con-

tented to live with him, whether he chooses the woods or the cities. If he should prefer the woods, she will accompany him in all his diversions, and cheerfully submit to the fatigues of the chase. If the cities delight him, she is willing to live with him in Troezen, a place of his own choice. This was a city of Argolis in Peloponnesus. Here Pittheus reigned, who was father to aethra the mother of Theseus.

[109] Tempore abest. 'All things conspire to our wishes: Theseus is absent, and will be so for some time; he has greatly injured us both, and has no tribute of gratitude or fidelity to expect from us.' Neptunius heros: See the Epistle to Demophoön.

[110] Ra Pirithoi sui. The region where Pirithous dwelt was Thessaly, viz. that part of it which bordered upon the river Peneus, where, according to Diodorus, Ixion the father of Pirithous held the supreme command. The memorable friendship between Theseus and Pirithous has been already noticed.

[117] Prima. After mentioning the injuries done to herself, viz. his killing the Minotaur her brother, and deserting her sister Ariadne; she observes, that the wrongs done to Hippolytus equally deserved to be resented. He had for his mother Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons, whom Theseus cruelly murdered: she had not been received as a lawful wife; he was therefore excluded from the succession; and, as if all this had not been sufficient, to remove him yet farther from the throne, and cut off all hopes of rule, he had given him brothers.

[126] Viscera rupia forent. Hubertinus, one of the best commentators upon Ovid, is of opinion that Phaedra's prayer is directed against herself, and that she wishes she had died in labour, instead of bringing children into the world to his injury. But from her manner of introducing the prayer, there is reason to think that by viscera she means she child; wishing that it might have been suffocated at the birth.

[135] Illa coit. Her meaning is, that nearness of blood, and every other relation, ought to be no obstacle in matters of love. And this she urges, that she might remove the reluctance of Hippolytus to the daring and incestuous encroachment upon his father's honor.

[157] Genitor qui possidet aequora; a father who is king of Crete, and the neighboring islands; whose floats traverse the wide seas.

[158] Proavi. Jupiter was Phaedra's grandfather by the father's side; but by the mother's side he was her great grandfather; for she was the daughter of Pasiphae, the daughter of Sol, whose father was Jupiter.

[159] Avus vallatus. Vallatus, circumdatus, quasi vallis armatus, qui etiam pectines dicuntur. This way of speaking, frequent in Ovid, has been also imitated by other poets. Thus Silius Italicus says, “Et galea annosi vallatur dentibus apri.

And Seneca, “Saeva Tistphone caput--serpentibus vallata.

[168] Est mihi. After all other persuasions which she thought might induce Hippolytus to yield to her love, she gives him the hopes of a crown. I will put you in possession of Crete, a rich and powerful island, where Jupiter himself once reigned.

Creta Jovis magni medio jacet insula ponto.

[176] Finge. This last is happily added, and carries in it more strength than all the former arguments together; for nothing affects the mind more strongly, than what is suggested by the fancy. It was in vain, however, that Phaedra used so many artifices to seduce a chaste heart. Hippolytus stood out against all her attempts, and continued inflexibly virtuous. Her love was at last changed into hatred; and, burning with a desire of revenge, she accused him, to Theseus, of having offered violence to her person. He, finding his father inclined to believe her, fled. But his chariot-horses being frighted by some seacalves, that were by chance on the shore, ran towards the mountains, where his chariot was dashed to pieces, and himself slain. He was afterwards restored to life by aesculapius at Diana's request, and passed the remainder of his life in Italy.

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