The Metamorphoses

The Metamorphoses

Book - 2013
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Ovid's famous mock epic--a treasury of myth and magic that is one of the greatest literary works of classical antiquity--is rendered into fluidly poetic English by world-renowned translator Allen Mandelbaum.

Roman poet Ovid's dazzling cycle of tales begins with the creation of the world and ends with the deification of Caesar Augustus. In between is a glorious panoply of the most famous myths and legends of the ancient Greek and Roman world--from Echo's passion for Narcissus to Pygmalion's living statue, from Perseus's defeat of Medusa to the fall of Troy. Retold with Ovid's irreverent flair, these tales are united by the theme of metamorphosis, as men and women are rendered alien to themselves, turned variously to flowers, trees, animals, and stones. The closest thing to a central character is love itself--a confounding, transforming, irrational force that makes fools of gods and mortals alike.

The poem's playful verses, both sensually earthy and wittily sophisticated, have reverberated through the centuries, inspiring countless artists and writers from Shakespeare to the present. Frequently translated, imitated, and adapted, The Metamorphoses has lost none of its power to provoke and entertain.

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, [2013]
ISBN: 9780375712319
Characteristics: xxv, 539 pages ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Mandelbaum, Allen 1926-2011


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May 10, 2017

Ovid's Metamorphoses is a source for many of the most enduring tales and memorable characters in literature - Phaethon, Adonis, Narcissus, Orpheus, Icarus, Midas, Arachne, Pygmalion, Atalanta, and many others besides. Even when the stories are familiar due to repetition, the manner in which they are artfully interwoven is delightful. Some of the tales are surprisingly brief, others deliberately drawn out. Ovid peppers his tales with humor, as when Perseus slays the wedding guests

...and Dorylas,
who was very rich, and the end of all his fortune
Was a spear jabbed through the groin...

Apollo, Venus, Bacchus, and Cupid - the gods of rapture - preside over Ovid's living tapestry of tales of transformation, but some of the most memorable passages concern more direct personifications - Famine, Sleep, Rumor. In the closing chapters he brings the story up to his own day, and ends with a fully justified boast,

Now I have done my work. It will endure,
I trust, beyond Jove's anger, fire and sword,
Beyond Time's hunger. The day will come, I know,
So let it come, that day which has no power
Save over my body, to end my span of life
Whatever it may be. Still, part of me,
The better part, immortal, will be borne
Above the stars; my name will be remembered
Wherever Roman power rules conquered lands,
I shall be read, and through all centuries,
If prophecies of bards are ever truthful,
I shall be living, always.

Nov 16, 2015

Reputedly filled with over 250 metamorphoses, I only counted around one hundred. The language in this translation is very American sounding, with little breadth of vocabulary. There are lots of notes and a name index/ glossary for all of the places and gods.


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