“O gods, if any there be who will listen to my prayer, I do not refuse the dire punishment I have deserved; but lest, surviving, I offend the living, and, dying, I offend the dead, drive me from both realms; change me and refuse me both life and death!” [...] Even as she spoke the earth closed over her legs; roots burst forth from her toes [...] her blood changed to sap, her arms to long branches, her fingers to twigs, her skin to hard bark. And now the growing tree had closely bound her heavy womb, had buried her breast and was just covering her neck; but she could not endure the delay and, meeting the rising wood, she sank down and plunged her face in the bark. (Myrrha, at 10.483-498)
Ovid’s Metamorphoses is a long and curious poem, telling stories of people getting transformed into animals, plants, or stones; stones turning into people, and language getting perverted every which way. Suzanne and Chris talk about the issues in translation, the way language can be lost, creation and the natural world, Ovid’s ideas of gender and sexuality, and medieval (and later) interpretations of these stories. They also wrap up this first cluster—on so-called “foundational” texts that turned out to have an unexpected common theme—and announce the next cluster.
The passages we discuss:
Narcissus and Echo, 3.339–510
Deucalion and Pyrrha, 1.313–347
Some later works inspired by the Metamorphoses:
Bernini, Apollo and Daphne
Rubens, Deucalion and Pyrrha
Benjamin Britten, 6 Metamorphoses for solo oboe after Ovid
Ted Hughes, Tales from Ovid
The Ovide moralisé is currently being translated into modern English. Meanwhile here’s a translation into Middle English done by William Caxton.
[Correction: Ovid was exiled in modern-day Romania.]