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.