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The Art of Love by Ovid
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The Art of Love

by Ovid

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Forget agony aunts and tips on sex and love in glossy magazines - two millennia ago, Ovid had already been there and done that in his Ars Amatoria. Ostensibly a manual for would-be lovers, the Art of Love is also a witty and irreverent satire on a society obsessed with wealth and physical pleasure. In this amoral context, it is praiseworthy to be as promiscuous as possible, as long as you do not get caught out by any of your lovers, just as it is recommendable to seduce the maid to get to her mistress. Gifts are the surest way to a women's heart, Ovid cynically observes, and he suggests some presents which provide good value for money. All's fair in love and war, as long as one gets to enjoy the spoils.

Ovid's entertaining prose does tend to get bogged down in copious classical and mythological references, which is where translator Cesare Vivaldi's erudite notes come in handy. This edition presents the original Latin prose alongside an Italian translation. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Dec 12, 2014 |
Ovid, along with Herodotus, is one of those authorial voices that brings a new friend into your world. Both are startlingly modern to our ears: cheeky, warmly humorous and humane; a person you would like to have met and talked with. Someone on Wikipedia put it well: "Readers can follow the allusive chatter of the poet with a smile, without ever being able to be quite certain how seriously he means any of it. The tension implicit in this uncommitted tone is reminiscent of a flirt, and in fact, the semi-serious, semi-ironic form is ideally suited to Ovid's subject matter." The Humphries translation is long out of print, but it is possible to run into copies in good used book stores. It's my favourite, but each to his own in such matters. A 2001 translation is available for free. You can read it online or download it here: http://goo.gl/vHNuV ( )
  Ron_Peters | Oct 23, 2014 |
If it were published today, I would probably think of this collection of works as silly fluff. But as it’s Ovid, writing from the time of Augustus Caesar, I found it quite interesting. I don’t believe a whole lot in the advice he doles out for the heartsick, which spans beauty cream recipes, advice for adulterers (and cuckolds), how to make the most out of one’s physical attributes, where to find partners, and, once found, how to keep the flame of their desires on ‘high’.

If it were someone today bragging about their sexual exploits, I would probably roll my eyes, but I can’t help but smile when Ovid boasts that “my record was set, if I remember correctly, with Corinna – nine times, all in a short summer night.” On the other hand, there are some cringe-inducing passages, like “Force is all right to employ, and women like you to use; what they enjoy they pretend they were unwilling to give”, though this sort of thing is certainly honest to the prevailing mindset, and explain the culture of violence against women that’s existed for thousands and thousands of years.

In general, though, Ovid is not violent, and just stands for screwing around for all one’s worth while one is still alive, and feels it’s his mission to tell others how to go about doing that. It’s not really love that he’s after, at least in the sense of romantic love, so the title is a misnomer.

However with all that said, his is a voice that is at once speaking to us out of the distant past, but also of the timeless struggle between the sexes. A day out at the horse races, where he admits “You watch the races, and I watch you”, silently imploring her that “That can’t be any fun, with your legs hanging over and dangling; why don’t you stick your toes into the railing in front?” is interesting aside from the fantasy we can all imagine in the present day, but also as the horse race with its procession of Roman Gods takes us back to a scene from everyday life from two thousand years ago.

Is he a profligate? Yes. Lecherous? Yes. Silly? Yes. Interesting? Yes.

Quotes:
On adultery:
“In the fields of our neighbor the grass forever is greener;
Always the other man’s herd offers the richer reward.”

On alcohol, when trying to forget love, from “The Remedies for Love”:
“Either get thoroughly drunk, or be a teetotal abstainer:
Anything in between causes the passions to rise.”

On the beauty of all women (or just Ovid’s desire to bounce around), from “The Loves”:
“There is no definite One whose beauty drives me to frenzy;
No: there are hundreds, almost, keeping me always in love.
If there’s a modest one, whose eyes are always cast downward,
I am on fire, in a snare, set by her innocent ways.
If one is forward and brash, I rejoice that she’s not country-simple;
I foresee quite a romp, bouncing around in her bed.
If she seems cold and austere, behaving like one of the Sabines,
I suspect that she craves more than she’s willing to show.
If she had read any books, I am overwhelmed by her culture;
Never read one in her life? – that makes her sweet and unspoiled.”

On dogs, from “The Remedies for Love”, interesting to me as it seems to predate other recognized sources:
“Man’s best friend is his dog.”

On rest, and ‘carpe diem’, from “The Loves”:
“For, stupid, what is sleep but old death’s twin?
The fates will give us ample time for rest.”

On sex advice for women, from “The Art of Love”:
“Let the woman feel the act of love to her marrow,
Let the performance bring equal delight to the two.
Coax and flatter and tease, with inarticulate murmurs,
Even with sexual words, in the excitement of play,
And if nature, alas! denies you the final sensation
Cry out as if you had come, do your best to pretend.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Aug 16, 2014 |
Bizarre to my 2011 sensibilities, more than a bit misogynist...hilarious. ( )
  newskepticx | Dec 18, 2013 |












Do I need to say anything more??

Now, only if I could figure out a way to play the James Brown track.


( )
  Praj05 | Apr 5, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (145 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ovidprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gleichen-Rußwurm, Alexander vonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lammers, F.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meihuizen, J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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If there be anyone among you who is ignorant of the art of loving, let him read this poem and, having read it and acquired the knowledge it contains, let him address himself to Love.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0253200024, Paperback)

"... Humphries has rendered (Ovid’s) love poetry with conspicuous success into English which is neither obtrusively colloquial nor awkwardly antique." —Virginia Quarterly Review

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:23 -0400)

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