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Ovid in English (Penguin Classics)

af Ovid, Christopher Martin (Redaktør)

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391494,527 (3.5)Ingen
Witty, erotic, sceptical & subversive, Ovid has been a seminal presence in English literature from the time of Chaucer & Caxton to Ted Hughes & Seamus Heaney. This collection brings together complete elegies from the Amores, Heroides & poems of exile.

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I have most of the books in this great series from Penguin Poets in Translation. Each volume provides various English translations of an author across time. My favorite so far (obvious if you see my reading history), was the one on Homer; however, I did enjoy this Ovid collection. There were a few highlights, although I found I didn't like many of the earlier translations, especially those from male writers. The ones by men often seemed laborious and ostentatious. However, several of the early female translators had flowing, fast, light verse that I quite enjoyed.

Martin has a good introduction, including this interesting tidbit: William Caxton translated Ovid into English, but he used as his source a French translation of a redacted Latin adaptation (p. xxiv) ... i.e. Caxton didn't (or couldn't) consult the original Latin work.

Moving on to individual entries, I enjoyed Wye Saltonstall's translation of the Tristia (1.3) from the mid 17th century (~ 1630-40): "When I remember that same fatall night, / The last that I injoy'd the Cities sight; / Wherein I left each thing to me most deare; / Then from mine eyes there slideth downe a teare, / For when the morning once drew neare that I, / By Caesars sentence must leave Italie" (p. 148-9).

Anne Killigrew (1660-1685) did a wonderful translation of my favorite letter of the Heroides, the first one from Penelope to Ulysses (pp. 234-5). Mary, Lady Chudleigh (1656-1710) did a beautiful, flowing translation of Ovid's story of Icarus from the Metamorphoses (pp. 237-8). Joseph Addison (1672-1719) produced nice speed in his verse of the the story of Phaeton and Helios' chariot from Metamorphoses 2 (pp. 248-253). William Congreve (1670-1729) did well with his version of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice from Ovid's Metamorphoses (pp. 268-272). Ted Hughes (1930-98) rendered a very good translation of the four ages (Metamorphoses 1.89-150) (pp. 391-5).

One of the more modern translations was "beyond amazing" (as I scribbled in the margins). Florence Verducci (1940-), a classics progressor at UC Berkeley (at the time of publication) rendered Heroides 15, the letter from Sappho to Phaon beautifully (pp. 358-367). This is by far the best piece in this collection of Ovid translations and worth reading. "Tell me: with your first glance at this learned and passionate hand, / did you eyes instantly tell you it was mine? / Or if you had not read the name of the writer, Sappho's name, / would you fail to know from whose hand this brief letter came? // And perhaps you will ask why I write in elegy's rhythms / when my sure gifts lie in the lyric mode. / This love of mine demands tears: elegy is the music for pain. / No lyre can fit its intervals to my grieving." (pp. 358-9). And then later, "But once I seemed beautiful enough, when I read my poems to you. / You swore that – alone among women– I took grace always from the words I spoke. / I would sing, I remember ... lovers remember it all... / As I sang, you returned me my kisses, kisses stolen while I sang." (p. 360). A great poem by Ovid, rendered beautiful into English by Verducci. ( )
  drew_asson | Dec 3, 2020 |
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Witty, erotic, sceptical & subversive, Ovid has been a seminal presence in English literature from the time of Chaucer & Caxton to Ted Hughes & Seamus Heaney. This collection brings together complete elegies from the Amores, Heroides & poems of exile.

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