A TYPICAL ACHIEVEMENT of its period is the Elizabethan great house. Often built to resemble a giant E, sometimes topped by a file of huge three-dimensional stone letters, which as they march around the parapet spell out a punning Latin motto, its massive and complex fabric is almost always rich in symbolism. Just as charged with literary meaning are many details of the vast interior. From the lofty chimney-pieces, the carved screen that completes the hall and the ribbon of plaster bas-reliefs that surround the state apartments, look down a fantastic parade of allegorical or mythological beings-- divinities and demi-divinities, muses, satyrs, fauns and nymphs, among homelier hybrid figures, half classical and half contemporary. In their English surroundings, they rarely seem quite at home: they appear embarrassed by their own naked flesh; their limbs are squat and heavily muscled; and their broad-checked, big-eyed faces are apt to wear a slightly doltish smile. Since they left their native southern landscape, they have travelled far and suffered much; but, although they have kept little of their antique elegance, they retain a faint aura of their distant Grecian past and suggest how deeply that past had stirred the Elizabethan mind. The intrepid navigators of the New World were also re-discovering Rome and Hellas; and the chief guide who led the Elizabethans back into the miraculous territories of Graeco-Roman legend, where the Graces danced, the fatal Sirens sang, and the god, pursuing a nymph, clasped a swathe of reeds or embraced a branch of fragrant laurel, was the Augustan erotic poet Publius Ovidius Naso, now recognized as the prince of lyricists and the main source of ancient lore and fancy.