Ovid Translations

OvidBecause Ovid’s verse is relatively easy to translate (compared to Horace, say, let alone Catullus), there’s a tendency to undervalue his ability as a poet. (This isn’t a situation limited to Roman literature, of course; some critics seem to equate opacity with literary merit.)

I find Ovid a remarkably skillful craftsman. He and Tacitus are the two Latin authors who’ve taught me the most about composition and storytelling (and by the way, they have absolutely nothing in common but their ability). This past year I’ve been translating a fair amount of Ovid’s work, and for the first time I’ve done written translations. I’ve learned that if I don’t write it down, there are going to be gaps that I never really figure out. (That’s particularly true of mythological allusions and specialist sections like the description of weaving in the story of Arachne.) 

For no particular reason, I’ve decided to run the translations here on my website for anybody who wants to see them. I started with the third volume of the Amores, picking up where my bookmark happened to be from the last time I dipped into that particular Oxford Classical Text. I’ve done a couple chunks from the Metamorphoses, unquestionably Ovid’s masterwork, but mostly I prefer to concentrate on lyrics of 20-40 lines apiece. The more noteworthy portions of the Metamorphoses involve blocks of several hundred lines apiece.

Strange things happen when you do something like this. I started translating the verse discussing the funeral of Propertius while sitting in a motel room, preparing to go to my Dad’s funeral. It was a stressful year.

If anybody out there would like me to translate some particular chunk of Latin literature, send me a note through the contact form. I make no promises, but I’ve got a very extensive collection of Latin texts and I’m willing to consider other people’s whim while I indulge my own.

And with that thought, maybe in a few days I’ll throw in one of the Corpus Priapeorum which is attributed to Ovid. He was a very urbane, very witty, man.

Dave as Ovid

Dave as Ovid declaiming his translation of Amores I:6 at Jennie Faries’ birthday party, June 2003.

To read through my Amores translations, go here.
To read through my Metamorphoses translations, go here.

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