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Metamorphoses by Ovid
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Metamorphoses

by Ovid

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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10,41283457 (4.09)1 / 303
Metamorphoses--the best-known poem by one of the wittiest poets of classical antiquity--takes as its theme change and transformation, as illustrated by Greco-Roman myth and legend. Melville's new translation reproduces the grace and fluency of Ovid's style, and its modern idiom offers a fresh understanding of Ovid's unique and elusive vision of reality.… (more)
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English (71)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (2)  French (1)  Danish (1)  Finnish (1)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (82)
Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
I read this for one of those bucket-list reasons, having read a bunch of scholarly articles in college that constantly quote from Ovid... but I had NEVER READ THE ORIGINAL.

Alas. How many years has it been, with that guilt slowly creeping up on me?

So I did it. I read Ovid.

And I fell in love.

What the hell was I thinking? Avoiding this? I mean, how many damn mythology books have I read that go on and on about all the Greek classics, touted for their clear and concise styles, but really what I should have been doing is read the damn book of prose/poetry by the first-century master!

Even in translation, it's clear, entertaining, full of action and wit and subversiveness and plain JOY. And get this: it's not much longer than those full mythology books.

SO SILLY! Enjoy the ART! The action! The joy of beautiful text!

We even get poetical treatments of segments of the Illiad and Odyssey! But my favorites were Orpheus and the whole damn slew of the poor mortals getting f***ed over by the gods. :)

Granted, if you're not already familiar with the kind of name-dropping that comes with a world that normally knowns all these legends, it might seem rather overwhelming, but for all of you who've read at least one book on the Greeks and are tolerant of learning on the fly, I TOTALLY recommend Ovid.

I fairly danced with fun as I read this. I felt like I was watching the original Clash of the Titans for the first time. This had some really bloody sequences! The funny ones and the clever ones and even the LGBTQ ones are spread throughout, too! :) I'm frankly amazed we don't just have THIS to read in school. It's much better than most!

lol *shakes head* ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Very readable and likeable translation. I pick this book up very often to dip in and out of. Excellent! ( )
  seshenibi | May 3, 2020 |
This book was mentioned on Episode 2 of Checking Out. Listen here!
  rachelreading | Apr 20, 2020 |
Metamorphoses is a poem in 15 books in which Ovid has collected a variety (and variation) of Greek and Roman myths and legends with the overarching theme of transformation. Some of the stories are well known, others somewhat obscure. Ovid starts with the creation of the ordered universe from Chaos and ends with the diefication of Julius Caesar. In between, there is a lot of sex/rape, violence, love, bad decisions, vivid scenes and emotional passages. Metamorphoses is episodic in nature, with one story/myth/legend leading into another and includes many story within a story devices.

I started out with the Penguin Classics edition, translated by David Raeburn into hexameter verse. Then found an old copy of the Penguin Classics Mary M Innes prose translation and also an Indiana Press copy translated by Rolfe Humphries into ten-beat, unrhymed lines. I decided to alternate between these translations (why not, if I have the books anyway?). All these editions have notes, commentaries and introductions. The David Raeburn/Penguin Classics edition includes a map of Ovid's Mediterranean World, which is rather useful. Each edition is perfectly readible and enjoyable, though I did in the end prefer the Raeburn translation.

I've included a few lines from each translation I've come across, for anyone interested in comparing:
___________________________

Translation by A.D Melville
BOOK VII
MEDEA AND JASON

AND now the Argonauts from Thessaly
Were cutting through the billows. They had seen
Old Phineus* dragging out his helpless age
In endless night and Boreas’ two sons
Had driven the Harpies from his piteous lips.
At last illustrious Jason and his men
Reached after many travails the swift stream
Of muddy Phasis.* Going to the king,*
They claimed the famous Golden Fleece* and learnt
The fearful terms and monstrous toils imposed.
And then it was Medea, the king’s daughter,
Conceived a mastering passion; long she fought
Her frenzy, but the voice of reason failed.
‘Oh, vain!’ she cried, ‘Medea, is your struggle;
Some deity must thwart you. Strange if this—
Or something surely like—is not called love.
Else why do my father’s orders seem too harsh?
Too harsh they are indeed! Why do I dread
His death whose face I first have seen today?
What cause, what reason for a fear so great?
Thrust down the flames that burn your virgin heart,
If you have strength!——Such strength would be my cure!
But against my will some force bewitches me;
One way desire, another reason calls;
The better course I see and do approve—
The worse I follow.*——Why long thus for him,
A princess for a stranger, why admit
Wild thoughts of wedlock with an alien world?
This land too offers what may win your love.
Whether he live or die, the gods decide.——
Yet may he live! That prayer, though I loved not,
Were surely licit. What has Jason done?
What heart would not be touched by Jason’s youth,
His prowess, his proud birth? Who, if all else
He lacked, would not be moved by Jason’s beauty?
My heart for sure is moved! Unless I help,
The bulls’ hot breath will blast him; he will meet
Fierce foes of his own sowing, earth-created,

Or to the dragon be cast for prey and prize.
If I permit such things, I’ll surely own
A tigress* was my dam and in my heart
I nurture iron and stone!*——Yet why not watch*
Him dying there, my gazing guilty eyes
Sharing the crime? Why not urge on the bulls,
The earth-born warriors and the unsleeping dragon?——
The gods forfend! Yet it’s not what I pray
But what I do! Shall I betray* my father’s throne,
And by my aid preserve some nameless stranger,
Who, saved by me, without me sails away
To win another wife across the sea
And I, Medea, am left to pay the price!

______________________
Translated by David Raeburn
Book Seven
Medea and Jason

Behold the Argonauts ploughing the sea on their voyage from Greece!
Behind them was Thrace, where they’d seen King Phíneus, blind and impoverished,
passing a bleak old age, and Bóreas’ twins had routed
the Harpies who’d tortured that wretched old man by snatching his food.
After many adventures under their captain, Jason,
they finally came to the muddy stream of the swift-flowing Phasis.
On reaching Aeëtes’ palace, they laid their claim to the Golden
Fleece,* and the king dictated his terms to the heroes, a series
of hard and dangerous tasks. Meanwhile, his daughter Medéa
fell deeply in love with the handsome Jason. Despite a long struggle
against her feelings, her reason was powerless to master her passion.*
‘It’s useless to fight, Medea,’ she said. ‘Some god is against you.
This, or something akin to it surely, is what they call love.
How else should I find my father’s conditions
excessively harsh? For certain they are too harsh. How else should I fear for the life
of a man I have only just seen? – But why should I feel so afraid?
How wretched I am! I must extinguish the fire which is raging
inside my innocent heart. I should be more sane, if I could!
I am dragged along by a strange new force. Desire and reason
are pulling in different directions. I see the right way and approve it,
but follow the wrong. I am royal; so why should I sigh for a stranger,
or ever conceive of a marriage which takes me away from my home?
Love can be found here too. It rests in the lap of the gods
whether Jason survives or is killed. – But I want him to live! I don’t
have to love him to pray for that. What crime has Jason committed?
Only a cruel and heartless person could fail to be struck
by his youthfulness, breeding and courage. And who could be blind to his handsome
looks, if he lacked all else? My heart, at least, has been stirred.
But unless I assist him, those fire-breathing bulls will blast him to ashes;
the warriors sprung from the seeds which he sows in the earth will fight
and destroy him; or else the greedy dragon will make him its prey.
If I can allow all this, I’ll confess that I’m born of a tigress,
confess that my heart is composed of nothing but rock and steel. –
Oh, why don’t I watch him dying and so infect my eyes
with the taint of the spectacle? Why don’t I shout to the fire-breathing bulls
or the earth-born brutes or the sleepless dragon to charge and attack him? –
O heavens, grant me better than that! Yet better is not
to be idly prayed for but done! – By me? Is it truly better
that I should betray my king and my father, that some tall stranger
should owe his life to my kind assistance, only to thank me,
the woman who saved him, by spreading his sails to the wind without me,
marrying somebody else and leaving Medea to be punished?
______________________
Translated by Mary M. Innes
Book Seven

Now the Minyans were cutting their way through the waters, on board the ship built at Pagasae. Thy had seen Phineus, old and helpless, dragging on his life in the eternal darkness of the blind, and the young sons of the North wind had scared away from his lips the harpies that tormented the wretched old man. At last, when they had come through many dangers and difficulties under the leadership of the famous Jason, they reached the swift-flowing waters of the muddy river Phasis.

While they were entering the presence of King Aeetes, and were asking for the fleece of the ram which had carried Phrixus, while Aeetes was imposing his monstrous conditions, requiring them to perform prodigious tasks, the king's daughter, Medea was seized by an overwhelming passion of love and, though she long fought against it, her reason could not subdue her mad desire. 'Medea, you struggles are useless,' she said to herself, 'for some god, though I know not which, is opposing you. Surely this, or something like it, is what men call love. Why else do my father's commands seem to me too harsh? And indeed they are too harsh! Why am I afraid lest Jason perish, when I have only just seen him? What is the reason for such fear? Unhappy girl, rid your inexperienced heart, if you can, of the flames that have been kindled there. Oh, if I could, I should be more like myself! But against my own wishes, some strange influence weights heavily upon me, and deisre sways me one way, reason another. I see which is the better course, and I approve it; but still I follow the worse. Why do you, a princess, burn with love for a stranger? Why dream of marriage with a foreigner? This land, as much as any other, can provide you with one to love. Whether Jason lives or dies, is in the lap of the gods. Yet I hope that he may live! I can pray for that, even without loving him: for what wrong has he done? who but a monster of cruelty could fail to be stirred by his youth, his noble birth, his valour? Though he had none of these virtues, who would not be moved by his words? He has certainly touched my heart. But, unless I help him, he will be blasted by the breath of the bulls, or come into conflict with the crop of earth-born foemen, raised from the seeds which he himself must sow; or else, like some creature of the wilds, he will become the prey of the greedy dragon. To allow this to happen is to confess myself the child of a tigress, to admit that I have a heart of stone or iron. Why should I not go further, and incriminate my eyes by watching him die? Why should I not encourage the bulls against him, urge on the earth-born warriors and the sleepless dragon? Heaven grant him a happier fate! But I must work for that, not pray or it!

'Shall I then betray my father's kingdom, and by my help rescue an unknown stranger so that, thanks to my efforts, he may set sail without me, and become another woman' husband, while I, Medea, am left to be punished?
_________________
Translated by Rolfe Humphries
Book Seven
The Story of Jason and Medea

So over the deep the Minyans went sailing.
They had seen Phineus, dragging out his years
In everlasting night, and Boreas’ sons
Had driven the Harpies from the poor old king.
They suffered much, but came at last with Jason,
Their brilliant leader, to the muddy waters
Where Phasis meets the sea. They went to the king,
Claiming the golden fleece, by Phrixus given,
And heard the dreadful terms, enormous labors.
And the king’s daughter burned with sudden passion,
And fought against it long, and when her reason
Could not subdue her madness, cried: “Medea,
You fight in vain; there is some god or other
Against you. I am wondering whether this
May be the thing called love, or something like it.
Why should my father’s orders seem too cruel?
They are too cruel! A fellow I have hardly
Much more than seen may die, and I am fearful!
What for? Unhappy girl, shake from the bosom
This burning fire, if you can. If I could do it,
I would be more sensible, but some new power
Holds me against my will, and reason calls
One way, desire another. I see, approving,
Things that are good, and yet I follow worse ones.
Why do you burn for a stranger, royal maiden?
Why think of marriage into a foreign circle?
This land can give you something to love. If he
Should live or die, let the gods decide; but let him
Live! That I can pray for, even without loving.
What has he done? Only the cruel-hearted
Would not be moved by Jason’s youth, his manhood,
His noble birth. And even if these were lacking,
His beauty would move a heart of stone—at least
It has moved mine. And if I do not help him,
The bulls will blow their fiery breath upon him,
The enemy he has sown in earth attack him,
The greedy dragon snatch and seize upon him.
And this, if I allow it, will prove me daughter
Of tigress, stony-hearted, iron-hearted!
Why can not I look on as he is dying,
Disgrace my eyes by looking on? Why can not
I urge the bulls against him, and the warriors
Sprung from the earth, and the unsleeping dragon?
God grant me better grace! But this is not
A question of praying, but doing. Shall I then
Betray my father’s kingdom, rescue a stranger,
Who, saved, sails off without me, marries another,
Leaves me to punishment? If he can do it,
If he can place another woman above me,
Then let him die, the ingrate! No! He could not,
He does not look as if he could, his spirit
Is noble, his body handsome. I need never
Fear he would cheat me, or forget my service.

_____________________

P.S.: Don't piss Hera/Juno off by having the misfortune of being raped by her husband, Zeus/Jove. She's likely to turn you into something, probably a cow! ( )
  ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
What a way to start off 2017. Charles Martin’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses has skyrocketed into my list of favorite books. I savored each page and made sure I was calm and focused each time I sat down to read so that I wouldn’t miss anything. If I had to quote the best part, I’d say it was: “My mind leads me to speak now of forms changed / into new bodies … and if there is truth in poets’ prophesies, / then in my fame forever I will live” (Book I:1 - Book XV: 1112).

I enjoyed Ovid’s grouping of history into four ages: Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron. In the beginning, we had beauty, no need for laws, peace and nature. By the time we find ourselves in the Iron Age, we have war, greed, and despoiling of nature in furthering of those two desires. Ovid writes that in the age of Iron we dig in the ground to unearth gold and iron, the latter to kill and secure the former (p. 20).

I was fascinated with all the origin myths of the gods and heroes of the classical world. I am thankfully to have come to Ovid after having read so many other things from Greek and Roman mythology. Encountering Ovid first would have been confusing and not as wonderful an experience. As I’m a huge Homer fan and of the larger Epic Cycle, I enjoyed the “Ajax versus Ulysses” section of Book XIII, which deals with the awarding of Achilles’ armor after his death at Troy. I also enjoyed Pythagoras’s thoughts on the moral imperative of vegetarianism in Book XV. I loved seeing the seeds of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in Ovid’s tale of Pyramus and Thisbe (Book IV, p. 125). Ovid didn’t invent this theme of forbidden love but I was so surprised reading this section that was written almost 1600 years before Shakespeare’s play.

The only part of this translation I didn’t enjoy was the “rap” part in Book V with the “The daughters of Pierus.” It just seemed full of pandering to stereotypes. One thing I found troubling, not with Ovid or the translation but with the mythology, was a thought I had in Book XI (though it built up over the entire work). Were all females, either goddesses or woman, raped to produce the male “heroes” of the classical world?

Almost all of Ovid’s metamorphoses (transformations) are of beings (gods or humans) being turned into flora or fauna. There are physical changes, mental fogginess, and the loss or change of spoken language. This death of personality can also be seen as a birth of sorts, whereby a new object comes into being, sometimes one beloved like various birds, trees or streams.

I’ll close this review with a note I wrote on the inside cover of my edition: “What wonder, to write when Homer, Ovid, Virgil and Horace wrote. To describe the world when it was new.” As a writer, I hope to try reinvent this newness and address it with my simple prose and verse. ( )
  drew_asson | Mar 22, 2020 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ovidprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anguillara, Giovanni Andrea dell'Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bosselaar, Didericus ErnestusEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dryden, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ehwald, RudolfEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feeney, DenisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garth, Sir SamuelEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gay, ZhenyaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Golding, ArthurTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gregory, HoraceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hane-Scheltema, M. d'Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haupt, MorizEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Humphries, RolfeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Innes, M. M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knox, BernardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Korn, OttoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mandelbaum, AllenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, CharlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Müller, Hermann JohannesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, Frank JustusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parramon i Blasco, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pattist, M.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pepermans, G. M. A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pepermans, G. M. A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Proosdij, B.A. vanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raeburn, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarrant, R. J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tissol, GarthIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vondel, Joost van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
This translation of Ovid's seamless song
is inscribed to my brother in law and in love,
Leonard Feldman, and my sister, Rayma.
First words
Now I shall tell you of things that change, new being / Out of old: since you, O Gods, created / Mutable arts and gifts, give me the voice / To tell the shifting story of the world / From its beginning to the present hour.
My purpose is to tell of bodies which have been transformed into shapes of a different kind. You heavenly powers, since you were responsible for those changes, as for all else, look favourably on my attempts, and spin an unbroken thread of verse, from the earliest beginnings of the world, down to my own times. [Mary M. Innes translation, Penguin Books, 1955]
My soul would sing of metamorphoses.
(Tr. Allan Mandelbaum)
My mind would tell of forms changed into new bodies;  gods, into my undertakings (for you changed even those) breathe life and from the first origin of the world to my own times draw forth a perpetual song!
(Tr. Z Philip Ambrose)
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014044789X, 0140422307

Indiana University Press

An edition of this book was published by Indiana University Press.

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W.W. Norton

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