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4.6 out of 5 stars27
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 13 July 2009
The large paintings post Renaissance of mythical events left me cold. I never understood what could drive someone to paint such quantities of flesh doing odd things. I knew the stories, bawdlerised, confined to footnotes. I had never read Ovid. Ted Hughes translation transmits the passion, the telling detail, the sexual twist that previous generations knew and loved when their education meant reading these imagination-stirring gems. Phaeton crashing his father's sun chariot after careering all over the sky with it to prove himself lives on in every boy racer. I luxuriate in this book: it has been loved 2 thousand years so why not me too?
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on 3 January 2004
Read this majestic, exciting volume of poems as soon as you can.
It's a truly wonderful and brilliant work. The best book by a British writer during the 1990s.
Hughes's Ovid is better than the old Ovid!
The original Press reviews said it was a very fine book - even Steiner in The Observer! - and they were right. A classic.
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on 23 August 2009
My wife and I read this slowly, being sure to read the entire book out loud. During our semi-nightly ritual of reading out loud to one another, which mostly involves me reading to Amy, I found myself shivering with the visceral, accurate, and beautiful writing that Hughes engages to re-tell these most famous of stories: Ovid's Metamorphoses.

I was introduced to this book some time back by a dear friend of mine who loved Hughes's translation of the story of Echo and Narcissus and read it while studying Classics. That was indeed one of my favourites in the collection, accompanied too by the stories of Arethusa, of Venus and Adonis (and Atalanta), of Actaeon, of Arachne, and of so many others. My wife also studied classics and we resolved some time ago to purchase the book and read it aloud, which was a fantastic, though extended, experience. Now, I almost cannot imagine these stories read silently.

Hughes represents forcibly Ovid's core theme of metamorphosis: the fact that men and gods are vulnerable to change and flux. Furthermore, Hughes also captures the messages of the stories well in his physical and robust language - you feel Arachne's pride as she takes on Minerva, you internalise the urgent, visceral need that Narcissus feels for himself, you experience the change of body to water as Arethusa tries to evade Alpheus and they both metamorphose. Ovid's original stories contain violence, rape, murder, and vengeance and Hughes's presentation of these acts is vivid and transformative. Again, in the story of Arethusa you cannot help but understand the sense of pursuit, of intent to fulfill passionate ravishment, the urge to penetrate, to touch, to clutch. Reading this book is unlike reading a novel, and unlike reading most contemporary poetry. The stories are long and require concentration, but the translation (itself a metamorphosis, oh how clever) and re-creation are superb. I must recommend this book strongly to those interested in classic literature and 20th century poetry.
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on 27 January 1999
Tales from Ovid. This is more like reading a rattling good novel than poetry. Having said that the language is stunning with imagery to fill the screen of the widest imagination. Driving narrative and brilliant, graphic language embroil the reader in these steamy, violent, amoral myths.Physicality bursts through the language in the way it did in Hughes 'Crow' twenty odd years ago, except this time its people whose hearts and loins are thrashing on the page. Be warned, it's gorey stuff. E.M. Forster, in a personal view of Heaven, surmised that the solidity of those that abided there depended on the degree to which they were remembered on earth. Zeus & co. may all have been on the verge of becoming fast-fading entities but Hughes pumps the very teeth and spunk of life back into the old gods. It's like they're still carrying on their capers down in the blue blazing Aegean.
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on 8 June 2013
Poetry tends to be the great divider in literature; you either love it, or hate it. And, until I found a poet I could understand and connect with on some level, I thought poetry was dull, self-indulgent, and alienating. But this was before I found poets like Ted Hughes. Hughes, unlike many so-called "Greats," will not hide a narrative beneath many layers of metaphor or pretence. Hughes' work, unlike the work of many so-called "Greats," has a timeless quality. And, if you have always wanted to enjoy poetry but have never been able to do so, I would highly recommend Hughes and Tales from Ovid.
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on 12 January 2004
I've never been a particular fan of Ted Hughes, but this volume of translation of Ovid's wonderful stories is nothing short of astonishing. Rarely has such meaty, bold, exciting poetry been written. The phrasing is exquisite, with raw, graphic imagery, and moments of emotional purity which can be deeply moving. Taking the original Latin to soaring new heights, this is a masterpiece.
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on 22 March 2010
To witness a major poet of the twentieth century recreating in his own language the imaginative work of a poet who wrote two thousand years ago is a vertiginously exciting experience. And when the poet is such a technical master and virtuoso as Ted Hughes the pleasure is intoxicating. A wonderful read, I was delighted to find this second hand on Amazon - very good value.
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on 13 April 2014
What carries me away is Ted Hughes' conjuring of a godscape that has not the slightest relevance to contemporary existance. A work of the imagination endowed with a life that we cannot know except through a narrative created by a poet. The economy of his línes is startling. They are neither verse nor prose but their clarity makes this work sing. We are in a world of wild sensuality overwhelmed by passions so far removed from our planet that we seem to be astride a comet laughing out loud at global warming, polítical correctness and contemporary relevance. I enjoyed the ride.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 October 2006
I'm not knocking this text as like the other reviewers here I think it's gritty, raw and imaginative - but I do dispute the idea of it being a 'translation' of Ovid, because it isn't: it's Hughes own take on the mythology of the world. Nothing wrong with that, but just be aware that this is a work to be read on its own merits, and if you want to read Ovid then try the David Raeburn translation published by Penguin.
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on 30 June 2003
Ted Hughes's translation of Ovid's epic is nothing short of sublime. He manages to capture the two abiding qualities of the original: its sinuousness and its crystalline precision. The magic of The Metamorphosis lies in it's calculated effect on the imagination; it is only in the mind's inward eye that the wondrous transformations can take place. Hughes has managed to tap into the magic and power of the tales for a modern ear. The language used in 'Phoeaton' and 'The Rape of Prosipina' is unforgettable.
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