- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: OUP Oxford; Reissue edition (11 Sept. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199537372
- ISBN-13: 978-0199537372
- Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 3.8 x 13 cm
- Average Customer Review: 109 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 32,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Metamorphoses (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 11 Sep 2008
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`This translation will quickly establish itself as _the_ transation for English speaking readers and students of this great Augustan epic.' Dr A.H.F. Griffin, University of Exeter
'a work of the highest quality which provides pleasure and information in generous measure.' JACT Review
The theme of the Metamorphoses is change and transformation, as illustrated in Graeco-Roman myth and legend. On this ostensibly unifying thread Ovid strings together a vast and kaleidoscopic sequence of brilliant narratives, in which the often paradoxical and always arbitrary fates of his human and divine characters reflect the never-ending flux and reflux of the universe itself.
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"Ovid's Metamorphoses is one of the most influential books ever written. One can see the influence of it in literature through Montaigne's The Complete Essays, where it is often quoted, via Shakespeare and Dante, right down to Pound and Ted Hughes. Painters from Titian to Salvador Dali have also drawn on the stories in this book. My own introduction to it came initially from retellings and variations of stories by modern poets in After Ovid: New Metamorphoses which lead Ted Hughes, a contributor, to do a generous selection of his own versions in Tales from Ovid: Twenty-four Passages from the "Metamorphoses". That last volume remains one of my favourite Hughes, and I treasure a memory of hearing him read some of his versions with a voice that seemed to reach back across time to Ovid and into the myths.
All this led me to explore the full text for myself. My first incursion, not having enough Latin, was with a Penguin Classics prose translation (Metamorphoses (Penguin Classics)) which still makes for a good read. Like a number classic works such as the epics Homer and Virgil, the Metamorphoses works well in prose. Here is the source, or in some cases a retelling, of many myths that have reappeared over the years from before even Roman times to present day sometimes reappearing more recently for us in film, or on television. It is a collection of folk stories, creation myths, and even in small ways of history (though that is mythologised) as much as a continuous poetic narrative. The one common feature of each story is that it involves some form of transformation, hence the title.
Being inclined towards poetry, I wanted to read this book in verse. There is a classic version in English, which Penguin Classics publish, by Arthur Golding (See (Metamorphoses (Penguin Classics)). The main drawback of this is that it's in Elizabethan English which we may be familiar with from Shakespeare and Marlowe. But beautiful though that is, it's not always as immediately approachable as the modern English of Hughes. However, much as I love that, it does not have all the stories. Sometimes he also intentionally used poetic licence and added modern allusions in the text, hence his versions should be taken as Hughes rather than literal translations, though they honour Ovid's spirit magnificently.
This outstanding translation will serve to bring readers closer to the words of the original. The translator, David Raeburn, has clearly also learned from Hughes. The text also reads well as narrative. Hence, from my point of view, it is the version of Ovid to have, even above the prose version. Not just because Ovid was a poet. In a certain ways this book can be used as an encyclopaedia of Greek and Roman myths. There are wonderful notes at the back to explain various references as the long poem unfolds, plus a helpful Glossary-Index which is helpful if one wants to find various stories and characters in Ovid's narrative when not reading the book as a whole. Readers unfamiliar to poetry will have no difficulty following the narrative line here. But in verse there is more space on the page which makes it easier to find things in the text, whilst in the prose version sometimes the details are lost in the density of paragraphs.
All in all, a marvellous Ovid which nobody should be without, though I still also love the Hughes. Here I can revel in being poly-amorous, and enjoy both. This translation is probably as close as anything can be to get to Ovid's original words in modern English".
I love the Metamorphoses - it's like a brilliantly told compendium of the old legends, including humour, pathos, and a fair number of racy bits. I've been listening to these disks in the car, and loving every minute of it.
The only thing that stops me giving it five stars is that Naxos have been a bit cheapskate in the production. What I mean is, I don't think it's unreasonable to find some sort of enclosed booklet (giving at the very least a track listing to help you find your favourite bits). After all, this is a massive 14 disc set. But no - there's just a web link telling you where to go if you want to see what's on your disks.
Very cheapskate and mean, so I've knocked off one star (and was sorely tempted to knock off two)
But in all other respects, this is great, and highly recommended.
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