1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Owen, John (Welsh epigrammatist)

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OWEN, JOHN [Ovenus or Audoenus] (c. 1560–1622), Welsh epigrammatist, was born at Plas Dhu, Carnarvonshire, about 1560. He was educated under Dr Bilson at Winchester School, and at New College, Oxford. He was a fellow of his college from 1584 to 1591, when he became a schoolmaster, first at Trelleck, near Monmouth, and then at Warwick, where he was master of the school endowed by Henry VIII. He became distinguished for his perfect mastery of the Latin language, and for the humour, felicity and point of his epigrams. The Continental scholars and wits of the day used to call him " the British Martial." He was a staunch Protestant besides, and could not resist the temptation of turning his wit against the Roman Catholic Church. This practice caused his book to be placed on the Index prohibitorius in 1654, and led a rich old uncle of the Roman Catholic communion to cut him out of his will. When the poet died in 1622, his countryman and relative. Bishop Williams of Lincoln, who is said to have supported him in his later years, erected a monument to his memory in St Paul’s cathedral with a Latin epitaph.

Owen’s Epigrammata are divided into twelve books, of which the first four were published in 1606, and the rest at four different times. Owen frequently adapts and alters to his own purpose the lines of his predecessors in Latin verse, and one such borrowing has become celebrated as a quotation, though few know where it is to be found. It is the first line of this epigram:—

Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis:
Quo mode? fit semper tempore pejor homo.”
(Lib. I. ad Edoardum Noel, epig. 58.)

This first line is altered from an epigram by Matthew Borbonius, one of a series of mottoes for various emperors, this one being for Lothaire I.

Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis:
Illa vices quasdam res habet, illa vices.”

There are editions of the Epigrammata by Elzevir and by Didot; the best is that edited by Renouard (2 vols., Paris, 1795). Translations into English, either in whole or in part, were made by Vicars (1619); by Pecke, in his Parnassi Puerperium (1659); and by Harvey in 1677, which is the most complete. La Torre, the Spanish epigrammatist, owed much to Owen, and translated his works into Spanish in 1674. French translations of the best of Owen's epigrams were published by A. L. Lebrun (1709) and by Kérivalant (1819).