Monday, 29 January 2018

Amores by Ovid.

Ovid by Luca Signorelli (1499 - 1502).
Amores is the first completed work by Ovid, the Roman poet most famous for his Metamorphoses (8 A.D.), and it was finished in 16 B.C. It's a collection of poems or elegies describing his affair with Corinna, and it perhaps contributed to Ovid's exile from Rome.

There were originally five books of the Amores but Ovid edited them down to three. In the first poem Ovid writes of how he intended to write an epic however was struck by Cupid:
Arms, warfare, violence - I was winding up to produce a
Regular epic, with verse-form to match -
Hexameters, naturally. But Cupid (they say) with a snicker
Lopped off one foot from each alternate line. 'Nasty young brat,' I told him, 'who made you Inspector of Metres?
We poets come under the Muses, we're not in your mob.
What if Venus took over the weapons of blonde Minerva,
While blonde Minerva began fanning passion's flame?
Who'd stand for Our Lady of Wheatfields looking after rides and forests?
Who'd trust the Virgin Huntress to safeguard crops?
Imagine long-haired Apollo on parade with a pikestaff
While the War-God fumbled tines from Apollo's lyre!
Look, boy, you've got your own empire, and a sight too much influence
As it is. Don't get ambitious, quit playing for more.
Or is your fief universal? Is Helicon yours? Can't even
Apollo call his lyre his own these days?
I've got off to a flying start, clean paper, one magnificent
Opening line. Number two brought me down
With a bump. I haven't the theme to suit your frivolous metre:
No boyfriend, no girl with a mane of coiffured hair -'
When I'd got so far, presto, he opened his quiver, selected
An arrow to lay me low,
Then bent the springy bow in a crescent against his knee and
Let fly. 'Hey, poet!' he called, 'you want a theme? Take that!
His shafts - worse luck for me - never miss their target:
I'm on fire now, Love owns the freehold of my heart.
So let my verse rise with six stresses, drop to five on the
downbeat -
Goodbye to martial epic, and epic metre too!
Come on then, my Muse, bind your blonde hair with a wreath of
Sea-myrtle, and lead me off in the six-five groove!
He then describes this affair: how he came to fall in love, and then a series of poems on how he loves her, at one point likening love with war (reflected in the style of it, I think, and the opening in which he immediately refers to war as Homer referred to rage in the Iliad and Virgil "of arms and the man" in the Aeneid. He includes even every day matters, such as when his mistress ruined her hair trying to style it, and some big events in their life such as when she gets pregnant and tries to provoke a miscarriage. There's also some details on his jealous and lack of trust: it is not simply a collection of poems on how wonderful his lover is.

The poems aren't entirely serious: there's a light and occasionally humorous element to them, and they are fun to read though I wouldn't say they were great poems: they do seem quite dull in comparison to his magnum opus Metamorphoses. One thing I do regret is not reading Christopher Marlowe's translation, it simply didn't occur to me last week when I was reading them. But as I do plan on reading Marlowe's translations at some point this year I will be reading it soon!

And that was my fifth title for the Deal Me In Challenge. Next week - Medea by Seneca the Younger (and there's still no sign of any essays or short stories coming up!).

4 comments:

  1. i wonder about the translator: he does seem a bit juvenile; although i presume he was when he wrote it; i believe i'd like the Marlowe translation better if i could ever find it. So much catching up to do, reading wise!

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    1. There's a Marlowe's Complete Poetry by Penguin Classics - it's in that. I got it for Christmas, but I didn't realise Amores was in it worst luck!

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  2. Very different from Metamorphosis indeed. He seemed to have cast a wide net when describing this "love" ...from how it happened to the minute details of everyday mundane life after "falling" in love. I did not know Marlowe wrote a translation. Now I am sorely tempted!

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    Replies
    1. I'm so annoyed with myself for not realising Marlowe translated it! I really wish I'd read it! :)

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