Wednesday, September 30, 2009

261. Metamorphoses - Ovid

History: A narrative poem in fifteen books that describes the creation and history of the world. Completed in 8 AD, it has remained one of the most popular works of mythology, being the Classical work best known to medieval writers and thus having a great deal of influence on medieval poetry.
Plot: Ovid works his way through his subject matter, often in an apparently arbitrary fashion, by jumping from one transformation tale to another, sometimes retelling what had come to be seen as central events in the world of Greek myth and sometimes straying in odd directions. The poem is often called a mock-epic. It is written in dactylic hexameter, the form of the great heroic and nationalistic epic poems, both those of the ancient tradition (the Iliad and Odyssey) and of Ovid's own day (the Aeneid). It begins with the ritual "invocation of the muse," and makes use of traditional epithets and circumlocutions. But instead of following and extolling the deeds of a human hero, it leaps from story to story with little connection.
The recurring theme, as with nearly all of Ovid's work, is that of love — be it personal love or love personified in the figure of Amor (Cupid). Indeed, the other Roman gods are repeatedly perplexed, humiliated, and made ridiculous by Amor, an otherwise relatively minor god of the pantheon who is the closest thing this mock-epic has to a hero. Apollo comes in for particular ridicule as Ovid shows how irrational love can confound the god of pure reason. The work as a whole inverts the accepted order, elevating humans and human passions while making the gods and their desires and conquests objects of low humor.
Review: A number of things discouraged me about this - There’s some really gory stuff in this, absolutely grotesque violence. There's too much multilayering, a story within a story, and you get lost. Then there’s the incredible number of characters, many of whom Ovid presumes you already know about. Fair enough, he was writing for his contemporaries but now, you need a degree in Classical History to follow the thread.
But I listened to the entire thing, mainly because of the history. And the fact that I was learning the real stories behind the myths I thought I knew. This is a 400 page poem, and it's over 2000 years old.
I found this a bit of a trial from beginning to end.
Occasionally, it was worth reading. Take Cupid for instance. He was a nasty piece of work, a far cry from the cuddly Valentinian cherub. He had two arrows, one to cause love and one to cause repulsion. Using both his arrows on a couple resulted in their torment. I liked the ending commentary, and the metaphysical and spiritual feel to it, timelessness.
Opening Line: "My intention is to tell of bodies changed
To different forms; the gods, who made the changes,
Will help me – or I hope so – with a poem
That runs from the world’s beginnings to our own days."
Closing Line: "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."
Quotes: "Many women long for what eludes them, not like not what is offered them."
"At night there is no such thing as an ugly woman."
Rating: Good, historical important VERY GORY

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