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Metamorphoses (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – April 15, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

`This translation will quickly establish itself as _the_ transation for English speaking readers and students of this great Augustan epic.' Dr A.H.F. Griffin, University of Exeter

'a work of the highest quality which provides pleasure and information in generous measure.' JACT Review

About the Author

Publius Ovidius Naso, a Roman poet known to the English-speaking world as Ovid, wrote on topics of love, abandoned women, and mythological transformations. Ranked alongside Virgil and Horace as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature, Ovid was generally considered the greatest master of the elegiac couplet.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199537372
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199537372
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.5 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The five stars are for Ovid. This note discusses the Indiana University Press edition of Rolfe Humphries' translation of the _Metamorphoses_.

Humphries provides a clear, workmanlike translation.

So far as I can tell, of all the editorial reviews and customer reviews currently (9/11/04) displayed on the page for Rolfe Humphries' translation of Ovid's _Metamorphoses_, only the customer review posted by "elemental master" clearly refers to the Humphries translation.

The _editorial_ reviews describe a Cambridge University Press _Latin_ edition containing only Book Thirteen. Humphries' translation includes all fifteen books, of course. Several customer reviews evaluate books containing translations by Dryden, Innes, and Melville. Often, it is not possible to determine which translation a reviewer is considering. The work offered for sale on the page for Rolfe Humphries' translation of Ovid's _Metamorphoses_ contains only Humphries' translation.

In short, shoppers should be aware that the reviews displayed on the page for Rolfe Humphries' translation of Ovid's _Metamorphoses_ actually discuss wildly disparate works; most of them have little or nothing to do with the book being offered for sale.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is wonderful. The Rolfe Humphries is THE translation. This printing is also very nice. The paper, the type, everything makes it a good book. When you turn the page, it turns nicely and lies flat; how refreshing.

The stories of the Metamorphoses are, of course, wonderful. It's the book itself that I want to talk about.

The beautiful Waterhouse painting on the cover spans the front and part of the back covers. The line numbers at the top of each text page are those of the Latin text in the Loeb edition; how many translators would go to that kind of trouble for you? Rolfe Humphries' introduction is light, funny, and enjoyable. His love of his work shines through. The last line of his intro is, "So - here he is [Ovid], and I hope you like him."

The table of contents is annotated, making it easy to find any major story you are looking for. I also love the designs at the beginning of each book/chapter: such details enhance my enjoyment of reading this edition.

If you have never read Ovid's Metamorphoses, don't be intimidated. It is a collection of mythology stories, and you will find much that is probably familiar to you (Echo and Narcissus, Jason, Pygmalion, and more). If you are at all serious about literature, this is a basic building block in your knowledge. And even if you're not, it's just a damn good book.

The translation itself is so fluent and enjoyable. Just listen to the introduction:

My intention is to tell of bodies changed
To different forms; the gods, who made the changes,
Will help me - or so I hope - with a poem
That runs from the world's beginning to our own days.

This is exciting, eloquent stuff! Please do yourself a favor and make sure you read this at some point during your lifetime.
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Format: Paperback
This edition is published by Oxford University Press and is translated from the Latin into English prosody by A. D. Melville, who was "a scholar of King's College, Cambridge [!!], where he gained a double First in Classics...."
To my mind, this is the best of the English translations available at this site. The format is poetic...as it should be, I believe...which means that the reader will have to adjust (change) his usual perceptive modes...go slower... follow the thought from line to line...as if tracking some wondrous mythic figure through a forest of sparkling silvery leaves...and flickering flashes of sunlight... There is an excellent "Introduction" as well as a truly insightful "Translator's Note"...one can tell the quality of the mind which worked on this translation from a quote from the "Introduction": "This it may be suggested is the point of a passage of the *Metamorphoses* that has puzzled some critics and bored others ...the great speech of Pythagoras. What is formally a long digression is accommodated to the argument of the poem with great skill bridging the long interval between Numa and Augustus and achieving a climax on a theme that informs and dominates the whole book: apotheosis, divinization, the supreme change to which human beings can aspire. The speech turns on the premiss[sic] that in all the constantly changing universe one thing remains unchanged, *anima*, the soul [Melville's translation of the lines follows...] our souls/ Are still the same for ever, but adopt/ In their migrations ever-varying forms.../ We too ourselves, who of this world are part,/ Not only flesh and blood, but pilgrim souls...
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Format: Paperback
Maidens become trees. Young hunks turn into flowers. Men become women; women become invincible warriors. And every time you blink, another poor wretch becomes a bird or turns to stone. In Ovid's Metamorphosis, nothing stays the same for long. A rich compendium of Greco-Roman mythology and history all ingeniously linked together by the theme of transformation, the Metamorphosis is a surprisingly sophisticated, erotic, and gory classic of ancient literature.

Rapes, murders, wars, and all manner of perversion abound. Death is lingered over with almost forensic precision. The slaughter of arrogant Niobe's fourteen children, for example, is recounted in an exhaustive detail that would do any contemporary slasher flick justice, as one by one they're picked off in various grisly ways. This is classical gore--Ovid sounding like the Clive Barker of ancient Rome as in this excerpt from the massacre of the centaurs:

[Exadius] found a weapon, a stag's antlers
Hung on a pine tree...
And Gryneus' eyes were pierced by those twin prongs,
Eyeballs gouged out; one of them stuck to the horn,
The other rolled down his beard till a blood clot caught it.

This is the sort of wonderfully nauseating detail that is repeated countless times in a masterpiece that often reads like the National Enquirer. It's hard not to believe that Ovid, like Shakespeare, was aiming his work for the mass audience of his time, which just goes to show you that the product of one age's pop culture is another's venerated classic. One only has to read Ovid's over-the-top account of the love-sick Cyclops to realize that black comedy ala the B-movies of Herschel Gordon Lewis had already been mastered some two thousand years ago.
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