globulon's Reviews > Ovid's "Metamorphoses"

Ovid's "Metamorphoses" by Ovid
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's review
Jul 01, 2009

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bookshelves: poetry, books-i-own
Read in June, 2009

"While Ceres was a-eating this, before her gazing stood
A hard fast boy, a shrewd pert wag that could no manners good;
He laugh`ed at her and in scorn did call her greedy gut."

I read the Arthur Golding translation from 1567. This was somewhat trying and became a bit of a test of endurance over time. On the other hand the language, at least in this edition, seems quite modern. There is a glossary for the unfamiliar words, but I didn't need to use it very often.

On the whole I did find reading it rewarding. I read substantial portions of it aloud. The whole thing is written in fourteeners which at times would get rather drowsy in a dum-de-dum-de-dum-de-dum kind of way. However, attention to meter is one of my weaker points in reading poetry so I was looking for something with regular meter to help me track it. There was also a lot of complexity at times with the way that the semantic stress of sentances overlay the natural rythm of the lines, particularly because they are such long lines that they tend to have a rythm that wants to read like a sentence. The lines are also rymed in pairs. I definitely feel that though still quite an amateur in these matters the reading of this whole book with these constant auditory cues has helped me to be more attuned to this level of craftsmanship in poetry but I suppose the final judgment on that will have to come when I try to read something else.

As for the content, I found it to be somewhat similar. The stories were for the most part entertaining but there is a similar effect to plodding rythm in the repetition of certain elements. A lot of people were turned into trees, birds, or for the occaisonal variation, flowers. There are also at times passages that really had very little interest to me and I must admit I skimmed. There weren't very many of these. There is also a bit of the geneology type stuff that can get old in terms of someone being the related to some god or another this way or that.

Of course it is was also rewarding in that these stories form the backbone of much of western culture. It's amazing for me to think at times about the fact that these stories were ancient Greek folk tales that had been recast by a first century AD Roman poet, translated by a 16th century Englishman, and being read by me a person in 21st century America. Furthermore, this being the version of Ovid that Shakespeare read, that these stories have impacted western culture and me in a deep way through that poets work as well. This was driven home for me particularly in noticing the parallel between the story of Pyramus and Thisbe and Romeo and Juliet, although I had know this story long ago.

At it's best, interesting stories flow seamlessly into one another. At it's worst it can be a plod of uninteresting details and material without much narrative form. On the whole worth the work.

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