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
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.
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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