My soul is wrought to sing of forms transformed to bodies new and strange! Immortal gods inspire my heart, for ye have changed yourselves and all things you have changed! Oh lead my song in smooth and measured strains, from olden days when earth began to this completed time!
Invocation, translated by Brookes More
This month’s Book Club selection is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. We previously read Books 12 and 13 in January 2017. This time we will read Books 1 and 2, starting with the creation and featuring stories of gods, mythical creatures, and mortals. And we’ll read another selection next year!
Publius Ovidius Naso was born at Sulmo in 43 BCE and initially studied law, but soon pursued his love of poetry, and the social life of Rome—illustrated in his early works, the Amores and Ars Amatoria (‘The Art of Love’) which includes allusions to classical myths. The Metamorphoses incorporates a series of mythological stories, connected with various narrative devices and with the broad theme of transformation.
He was initially held in favor by the emperor Augustus until, apparently due to some indiscretion, Ovid was exiled from Rome to Tomis on the Black Sea, where he continued to write, and where he died in 17 CE.
You can read from any translation you like. Here is a selection of versions that are available online for free:
A.S. Kline—online, at the University of Virginia
Frank Justus Miller (1916)—read online or download in various file formats, at archive.org
Brookes More (1922)—online at Perseus, where you can also find the Latin text
This translation is also online at theoi.com
This translation is also available as a Librivox audio recording at archive.org
Mary Innes (1955)—to read online or download, at archive.org
Henry T. Riley (1889)— to read online or download, at archive.org
Discussion starts and continues in the Forum, and we will meet via Zoom on Tuesday, May 30 at 11 a.m. EDT.
1 Summarized from ‘Ovid’s Life and Works’ in the Introduction to Mary Innes’ translation, pages 10–12.
Innes, Mary. 1955. The Metamorphoses of Ovid. London.