Tales from Ovid: 24 Passages from the Metamorphoses (AMERICAN) Hardcover – Nov 1 1997
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England's poet laureate Ted Hughes first turned his hand to Ovid's Metamorphoses when he--along with other prominent English-language poets such as Seamus Heaney, Amy Clampitt, and Charles Simic--contributed poems to the anthology After Ovid. In the three years following After Ovid's publication, Hughes continued working with the Metamorphoses, eventually completing the 24 translations collected here. Culling from 250 original tales, Hughes has chosen some of the most violent and disturbing narratives Ovid wrote, including the stories of Echo and Narcissus, Bacchus and Pentheus, and Semele's rape by Jove. Classical purists may be offended at the occasional liberties Hughes takes with Ovid's words, but no one will quarrel with the force and originality of Hughes's verse, or with its narrative skill. This translation is an unusual triumph--a work informed by the passion and wit of Ovid, yet suffused with Hughes's own distinctive poetic sensibility.
From Library Journal
Hughes, the renowned author of innumerable works of poetry, prose, and children's literature and currently the poet laureate of England, offers a lively, readable, rendering of 24 tales from Ovid's Metamorphosis. The translations are unrhymed poems in their own right, but this collection is most welcome for making the most popular book of the classical era?a veritable source-book for writers during the Middle Ages, not to mention Chaucer and Shakespeare?so pleasantly accessible to the general reader. A fine addition to all libraries; highly recommended.?Thomas F. Merrill, Univ. of Delaware, Newark
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Hughes, in his brief but quite informative Preface, finds in both Shakespeare and Ovid a "common taste for tortured subjectivity and catastrophic extremes of passion." He continues : "Above all, Ovid was interested in passion. Or rather, in what a passion feels like to the one possessed of it. Not just ordinary passion either, but passion 'in extremis'" (pages viii-ix).
As a passionate man himself, one can understand the appeal that Ovid has for Hughes, and may suspect that he, if anyone, was the man to give us a modernized Ovid. Personally I found myself enthralled by Ted Hughes' versions of these tales. So what, if in furtherance of his poetic aims, he has reworked the tales to some extent? Hughes is an exceptionally talented poet, and I'll leave it to those who are his equals in poetic talent to argue with his procedures. I doubt there can be many.
Hughes' incredible skill as a poet is everywhere in evidence on these pages. His handling of image and sound and rhythm and line length, his lucid diction, and his stunning ability to find precisely the right word - as in such lines as "no earth / spun in empty air on her own magnet" (pages 3-4), or "Everwhere he taught / the tree its leaf" (page 5), or "Echo collapsed in sobs, / As her voice lurched among the mountains" (page 77), or "And there she was - the Arcadian beauty, Callisto. / He stared.Read more ›
My first encounter with Ovid was through Allen Mandellbaum Everyman’s Library translation. His rendering was modern, lucid, and thoroughly engaging. Ted Hughes, being Poet Laureate, remains modern – e.g. Jove “deletes” humanity and suggest building a better “model” – but his focus is poetry rather than clarity. You can pretty much run through Mandellbaum’s tales but you must walk (at times even crawl) as you plow through Hughes translation. Yes, it might be a bit more daunting (and you better have a hefty dictionary nearby), but for the most part the effort is worth it.
Partly due to Hughes’ superlative poetic imagination and partly due to the sheer insanity of the plot my favorite was the Tereus/Procne/Philomela tale. But, as one might expect, it is Pyramus and Thisbie – the original star-crossed lovers and one of the few tales which do not feature divine rape – which aptly conclude this collection.
For those new to Ovid I would probably recommend starting elsewhere, but whether you start or finish with Hughes’ Tales you would be doing yourself a grave poetic misjustice to neglect it altogether.
Most recent customer reviews
Some translations of Ovid are slow. Not this one. The Humphries -- long standard -- is clear but slow and earthbound. This is the most poetic translation I have found. Read morePublished on July 16 2004 by Ken Braithwaite
There's too much Hughes and not enough Ovid in these versions--and since Ovid was 20 times a better poet than Hughes, do the math yourself. Read morePublished on Oct. 7 1999
as i don't know latin i must plead ignorance on how well these stack up against the originals. but hughes has done a wonderful job of making these stories fresh, full of life and... Read morePublished on Jan. 26 1999
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