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Norton Critical Edition Metamorphoses Paperback – Jan 1 2010

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1 pages
  • Publisher: W W Norton; Reprint edition (Jan. 1 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039392534X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393925340
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 558 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,316,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Smoothly readable, accurate, charming, subtle yet clear.... A lucidly fluent version of this most flowing of poems."

About the Author

Charles Martin is a poet, critic, and translator. His translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses received the Harold Morton Landon Award from the Academy of American Poets in 2004. In 2005, he received an Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the author of Signs & Wonders and Starting from Sleep: New and Selected Poems.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
Publius Ovidius Naso (the last name, "Nose," was a family inheritance from an ancestor who presumably had a big one), though admired by Shakespeare, was distrusted in the nineteenth century as an immoralist and dismissed for most of the twentieth as a lightweight, but is now back in favor. Read the first page
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Format: Hardcover
I read the story of Phaeton aloud to my college students and they were rapt throughout. That in itself is an encomium. When I mentioned that to a friend, she said her daughter's junior high school English class had been studying Phaeton as well: it's an excellent allegory for today's young, and they seem fascinated by the details. Mr. Martin's translation is fast-paced and exciting, direct and lucid.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9da29abc) out of 5 stars 34 reviews
70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa304dd44) out of 5 stars A great classic and great translation Dec 4 2007
By Taka - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ovid, or Publius Ovidius Naso, justly deserves his acclaim as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature alongside Horace and Virgil. And he knows it and doesn't bother to hide it, as he appends this bit of encomium to himself at the very end:

My work is finished now: no wrath of Jove
nor sword nor fire nor futurity
is capable of laying waste to it.
wherever Roman governance extends
over the subject nations of the world,
my words will be upon the people's lips
and if there is truth in poets' prophesies [sic, Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus, as the Romans would say]
then in my fame forever I will live.

So he is the worst kind of genius: a genius who knows he is a genius. Witty, elegant, and lively, his Metamorphoses is a masterpiece of epic poetry that tells of the myriad odd transformations that mythical (and sometimes historical) figures from Orpheus and Icarus to Romulus and Julius Caesar go through. Throughout, he is delightfully and cuttingly mocking of pretty much the entire epic tradition and every great poet that came before him, including no less authors than Virgil and Homer themselves. In at least three elaborate scenes, he makes so much fun of epic battles and they are hilariously and eerily reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino's comical massacre scene in his Kill Bill Vol. 1. Hell, Ovid can be tragic, comic, moving, and sarcastic/satirical all at the same time without lacking in elegance. The poem, 15 books of 1,000 lines per book, so seamlessly integrates story after story of wildly differing genres and plots and lengths that it feels like you're reading a single monomyth without getting bored or overwhelmed. In fact, befitting its title, the stories are constantly changing and sprouting out - each little story feeding into the next and each book spilling into the next without pauses - always keeping the reader on his toe and more often than not leaving the reader breathless and reeling.

Charles Martin did a superb job translating the work. He uses free verse in rendering Latin dactylic hexameter into iambic-friendly English, and it is really good. It's lively, swift, and above all, elegant - or in other words, as Ovid ought to be. Except in the scene where the Muses battle it out with the Pierides, a.k.a. P-Airides whose verse is rendered in modern rap, the translation had everything right and good (though even the surreal rap battle scene was not so bad - just weird). If you're looking to read Ovid, buy this edition. It apparently doesn't add anything new to the original (as many editions do, rather profusely and liberally and thus preposterously), faithful to the original, and very reader-friendly. In my opinion, it belongs to the best translations of the classics.
58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9eb17984) out of 5 stars My Workshop Participants Love this Translation! Feb. 19 2007
By Amy Barr - Published on
Format: Paperback
I teach mythology and literature in translation. In my mythology section I had my students read a version of Ovid available online. They found the experience painful and dull, even though they were somewhat familiar with the story line. So, when I assigned a translation for my workshop on Ovid, I chose this one on the strength of various reviews. Its a real pleasure to have a group of students become ecstatic about a piece of ancient literature! The Lukeion Project will now being using this translation as required reading.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9eb17468) out of 5 stars Disappointed in the translation Jan. 18 2014
By John - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This edition came highly praised, particularly by Robert Fagles, whose translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey are, in my opinion, the best in the English language. But the review here is for Charles Martin's translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses. It is one thing to translate into prose, the vernacular, but into vulgarisms and slang, is another. Without going page by page, citing numerous examples, I decided enough is enough in Book V at page 160, where the text reads that after Perseus threw a spear at Phineus, missing him but hitting Rhoetus "full in the face", that, "the crowd went totally ballistic." Yes, that is exactly as written..."the crowd went totally ballistic." I found that phrase totally amazing, and went, like, totally, like, gag me with a spoon. Actually, the phrase "going totally ballistic" is similar to "gag me with a spoon" in that a few years from now it will have fallen out of fashion and will sound just as silly and out of place. Certainly the reader of today knows what Mr. Martin means by a "crowd going totally ballistic," but the reader also knows of other and better ways of expressing it in modern English without resorting to the slang of the day. Why, if Mr. Martin had worked on this translation a few decades or so ago he may have written this phrase as "the crowd went completely Postal." If you're over 50 you'll get it.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9eb171ec) out of 5 stars Outstanding Translation of Ovids masterpiece Jan. 9 2008
By Serge Marinkovic MD - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ovids Metamorphoses was Leonardo Da Vinci favorite piece of literature with this well written translation I have become a lover of his work. This edition is both well documented with footnotes and endnotes that are clear and concise. The books print is also easy to read. Metamorphoses is collection of short stories some with morales and many with just plain ideas on conduct with in society. Ovid is a master story teller with beautiful fluidity of prose and ideas. His imagery is so colorful that the characters truly come to life on the page before us. This is the third translation I have read and this is by far the best version it is well worth the invest because to introduce your children to this epic with this translation will be magic to their imaginations. Good reading.
44 of 56 people found the following review helpful
By Terese Coe - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I read the story of Phaeton aloud to my college students and they were rapt throughout. That in itself is an encomium. When I mentioned that to a friend, she said her daughter's junior high school English class had been studying Phaeton as well: it's an excellent allegory for today's young, and they seem fascinated by the details. Mr. Martin's translation is fast-paced and exciting, direct and lucid.