Tag Archives: Overviews

Metamorphoses Book 15 Last Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

27 Mar
George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses

TRANSFORMATIONS

Started in February 2013, 17 poets, 15 months,  creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid‘s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page For More Details

Here we are at the end of March with our deadline for Book 14  poetry being today Thursday 27th March

This post sets out to provide an overview of the last book of Metamorphoses Book 15 with a deadline for the poems inspired by this  book being Wednesday 30th April.  This is the last overview I’ll be writing for this particular collaboration. I’ve learned a lot from doing them.

The latest batch of Book 13 poems went out yesterday and featured KARIN HEYER and ELEANOR PERRY  (here).  Book 14 and 15 poems will be posted out across April and May.

If you missed out on some of the other  Book 13 poems you can find them  here, here, here . I’ve also created a ‘Transformations Poems Tab’ on the site menu for ease of access if you want to see more.

Thank you to all those who have taken an interest in these overviews, and to all those in the Transformations project who have stuck with it through until the end. It means a lot. Here’s to the next one!

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Overview of Book 15: 

In this book we are transported into the present time of Ovid’s world. It is a space where mortals are turned into Gods, and imperial order is established and where battle is transformed into peace.  Ovid initially, rather than moving forward chronologically leaps forward in time to focus on Romulus’ successor Numa (where he is told the tale of Myscelus and Hercules). In  book 15 notions of morality are questioned (Mysecelus); the character of Pythagoras is foregrounded so the origins and causes of life can be explored retrospectively; and Ovid uses the character of Hippolytus to re-introduce notions of heroism. The book is finished with an Epilogue which serves to delve into the relationship between poet, poem and longevity.

 Summary of the Tales in Book 15

Pythagoras

Pythagoras

 Meanwhile the question is who will sustain
The burden of so great a charge, who can
Succeed so great a monarch. For the throne
Fame, truths prophetic herald nominates
Illustrious Numa
 
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The Myths and Key Characters: Myscelus, Pythagoras, Egeria and Hippolytus, Cipus, Aesculapius, The Apotheosis of Julius Ceasar, Epilogue

.Hercules

..

Myscelus

 In a dream Myscelus (a descendent of Hercules) sees a vision of Hercules (the son of Zeus). He tells him to leave the city (which was at the time an act with a penalty of death attached to it). As he prepares to leave he is captured and tried for his crime. However, a serendipitous transformation occurs  as the voting pebbles used in the court change from black (guilt) to white (innocence) occurs, and he is allowed to leave. He departs to build a new city.

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Pythagoras 2

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Pythagoras

We move on to see Pythagoras (greek philosopher and mathematician) describe at length to Numa (second king of Rome) , how the universe came into being. He covers such themes as divinity and  the origin and causes of life.

Over the previous two books in Metamorphoses we have seen Hercules, Aeneas and Romulus deified; transformed from mortals to gods.  Pythagoras’ speech almost acts as a long recapitulation of everything that we have read previously. The speech ranges from touching on: vegetarianism (Cyclops in book 13 and Lycaon in book 1 in the Iron Age); the idea of sacrifice (to fulfil the desires of the gods); and notions of the human soul (which can just as easily be held in a non-human form).

Pythagoras goes on to address the theme of death and old age (which we are not to dread). Neither are we to fear the Underworld as our souls are immortal. He indicates that all is in flux including time:

All is in flux. Any shape that is formed is constantly shifting (Lively:146)

We then move on to the concept of cosmology. In book one we saw chaos and disorder, and here at the end we are once again thrown into a similar cosmic chaos where the elements are thrown into asunder.  There is a perpetual state of flux between earth, air, fire and water. Pythagoras posits that the cosmos is in eternal competition with its elements. Once again this description could be describing Metamorphoses, the book, itself.  Pythagoras takes us through creation and the formation of bodies of water and transformations of geography. He then takes us through a list of cities and their fate: ‘the rise and fall of civilisations and cultures’ (147). They range from Sparta to Rome with Aeneas’ power transforming the city into a super-power.  Pythagoras makes a prophecy that Rome will be the greatest of all cities and the most powerful. However, if everything is flux, surely this cannot be permanently true? Ovid does not declare that this power will be permanent. Rome can still be transformed. It’s power may not last.

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Egeria and Hippolytus 

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Egeria and Hippolytus

Numa took Pythagoras’ tenets and used them to reign over the states he ruled over- in peace and in war, until he died.  Egeria, his wife flees into the woods full of sorrow where he meets Hippolytus (son of Theseus)  worshipping at an alter for Diana (goddess of the hunt, moon and birthing). Hippolytus tells of his own troubles in order to salve Egeria’s grief.

In bringing in Hippolytus at this time he re-introduces the notion of a Roman hero and transformation (as Hippolytus, wounded is healed and resurrected by Apollo (god of light, sun, truth and prophecy) and Diana. Once changed he reigned over Latium in Italy under the name of Virbius. Hippolytus’ journey represents great strength and fortitude.

As Philip Hardie puts it, this movement is:

‘one of the culminating moments in the accelerating movement of the last books of the poem from the Greek to the Roman world. ‘ (Liveley: 140)

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Cipus

Cipus

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Cipus

Even though Hippolytus has tried to cheer Egeria up, her sorrow is still not assuaged.  She weeps so much that she dissolves into her own tears. Both Diana and Hippolytus are amazed at this. Ovid uses this story to jump into a sequence of transformations and tales which involve amazement, particularly that of Cipus (a famous Roman general) who one day found horns growing out of his head. This tale seems oddly placed within the narrative as Ovid uses it to  jump to the telling of a later period of Roman history.

Cipus returns from a battle conquest and finds horns coming out of his head, confused he goes to a seer and is told  he is Rome’s new king.  However, Cipus is a republican and rejects the kingship. He is exiled and lives outside the city walls. By way of thanks the people of the land give him as a reward as much land as he can plough; and a memorial is carved on the city gates.

It is Cipus, within this tale, that finally brings in the figure of Julius Ceasar who also had refused to accept his crown, and in so doing Ovid brings the story nearer to his own times.

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220px-Asklepios_-_Epidauros

Aesculapius

Aesculapius

Ovid calls to the Muses as he begins to tell the story of Aesculapius (a man-made God) celebrated in Rome for healing a devastating illness that fell upon the people and which brought about their destruction.

In the form of a snake, the god is welcomed into Rome with great verve comparable to those welcomes of the great generals like Julius Caesar. The masses  gather to welcome him. As Aescalapius sheds his snake skin the people are healed of their disease. As Julius Caesar would heal the politics of Rome.

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Augustus Caesar

Augustus Caesar

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The Apotheosis of Julius Caesar

We enter the age of Augustus (founder of the Roman Empire).

In this section of Metamorphoses Ovid ignores Caesar’s deeds in preference to focusing on his metamorphosis.  He reminds us that it is in fact Augustus that made Caesar a god. This is a reversal of the deifications we have seen previously, where mortals were made gods for their great acts of bravery (Hercules, Aeneas, Romulus).  Caesar is made god because of the divinity of his chikdren. Ovid argues that Augustus must be the son of god, therefore Caesar must be that god. Ovid then turns to Venus, as the mother of Rome, who has concerns for Caesar. She tries to save Caesar from the murderous plotting that surrounds him. However she cannot save him as the Fates will not allow it.  Jupiter reassures Venus of her destiny. He states that Caesarr will die, be made a god and Augustus will take over. Augustus is praised on high.  The same level of attention to the Caesars is given in the final book as in book 1 in order to balance the tale at its conclusion.

Ovid returns us to the beginning. The whole continuous poem has been an exploration of the causes that have lead up to this moment- to the Age of Augustus.

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Ovid Rocks

Ovid

Epilogue

Here in the epilogue we are treated to one, final, concluding transformation, that of Ovid himself: that with the existence of Metamorphoses his life will be perpetuated. He will be immortalised by his work. As Lively puts it: ‘the poet will become his own poetry’ (153).  And as the ages pass and change so will he, in flux- his identity and life embeded in his poem.

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Themes, Analysis and Relevance

In Book 15 some of the following ideas and themes are explored:

  •  Overview of History:  In conclusion Ovid takes on an eclectic journey engaging with both battle and quietude. Giving us a very particular take on the journey he has lead us through.
  • Origins and Causes of Life: Through the character of Pythagoras Ovid engages with the impermanence and flux of life and how this connects to notions of mortality. How men are made immortal through deification and the ramifications of this. He looks back through the previous books to do so.
  • Notions of Heroism: In this last book Hippolytus, a great Roman hero, wounded badly,  is saved by Apollo from dying bringing into question the exact nature of heroism.  Is Hippolytus really a hero if he has been saved by a god? Hippolytus endures and prevails against all odds, but what is the real value of this?
  • The immortality of a Poet through his Poem: The relation between a writer and their work has been explored perpetually by writers themselves and by critics. By creating a poem about creation, renewal and death that embodies prehistory and history Ovid immortalises himself for the rest of time by his endeavour.

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Things of Interest:

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The Importance of Ovid

http://www.editoreric.com/greatlit/authors/Ovid.html

 

Hippolytus by Euripides

http://classics.mit.edu/Euripides/hippolytus.html

 

Magic

by Ovid:

YE elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him
When he comes back, you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites; and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimm’d
The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,
And ‘twixt the green sea and the azur’d vault
Set roaring water; to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire, and rifted Jove’s stout oak
With hiw own bolt; the strong-bas’d promontory
Have I made shake, and by the spurs pluck’d up
The pine and cedar; graves at my command
Have wak’d their sleepers, op’d, and let ’em forth
By my so potent art.

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/magic-58/

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Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts:  Storm, Hero, Sins, Mystery, Filaments, Dreams, Mountains, Violin, Perishing, Childhood

 

Verse Form:  

Hir a Thoddaid

Is the most common form of a welsh form of verse called the Awdl

Each line has 10 syllables – in no particular metre, though I seem to have lapsed into iambic pentameter here. All lines of each stanza, except for the penultimate one, rhyme together in the conventional way. The penultimate line rhymes with them all in an unconventional way – its seventh, eighth or ninth syllable contains the rhyme. Furthermore, the word at the end of the penultimate line rhymes with a word somewhere in the middle of the last line.

The first 4 lines are the hir, and the last two are the toddaid (which mutates to thoddaid when you put the phrase together, due to the endearing peculiarities of the Welsh language). The hir can have 2 lines or 6, rather than the 4 used here, but all its lines must always rhyme together.

See here for more information.

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n.b. I will shortly put up  an audio of the Epilogue in case any of you are too busy to read the book.

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Watch out for more poetry inspired by Book  14 and 15  coming out throughout March and April.

To confirm: the deadline for Book 1 Poetry is today Wednesday 30th April

 

 

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References:

Brunauer, Dalma H (1996) The Metamorphoses of Ovid, New Jersey Research and Education Association

Hughes, T (1997) Tales from Ovid, London: Faber and Faber

Liveley, G. (2011) Ovid’s Metamorphoses, A Reader’s Guide,  London: continuum

Ovid (1986) Metamorphoses, World Classics, tr. A.D. Melville, Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

 >>>>

 

 

Metamorphoses Book 14 Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

27 Feb
George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses

TRANSFORMATIONS

Started in February 2013, 17 poets, 15 months,  creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid‘s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page For More Details

Here we are at the end of February with our deadline for Book 13 poetry being today Thursday 27th February

This post sets out to provide an overview of Book 14 with a deadline for the poems inspired by this  book being Thursday 27th March. I can hardly believe that we’re nearly at the end of this epic poetic journey. 

The latest batch of Book 12 poems went out  on Wednesday and featured KATE GARRETT and ELEANOR PERRY  (here).  The last poem from book 12 poems will be posted out next week and then the book 13 poems will be posted out  across our new season of work starting on Monday.

If you missed out on some of the other  Book 12 poems you can find them  here, here, here . I’ve also created a ‘Transformations Poems Tab’ on the site menu for ease of access if you want to see more.

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Overview of Book 14: 

Book 14 continues the story of Glaucus and Syclla started in Book 13 with the transformation of Scylla into rock. It also continues the story of the aftermath of the Trojan War and the settling of Rome by Aeneas and his followers. As per usual, in contrast to his predecessors and their ‘take’ on this epic battle,  Ovid focuses on the minor stories of the journey of Aeneas. In particular the book famously features a reverse transformation:  of Aeneas’ ships into nymphs. The book also has within it the last love story in Metamorphoses that of ‘Pomona and Vertumnus’. This tale is significant for its handling of the themes of violence, deception, victimhood and the objectification of women.

 Summary of the Tales in Book 14

. Circe by John William Waterhouse

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‘Goddess’, he said,
‘Have pity on a god. I beg of you. 
For you alone can ease this love of mine.
If only I am worthy. No one knows
Better than I the power of herbs,
for I was changed by herbs..
 
 
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The Myths and Key Characters: Glaucus and Syclla, The Wanderings of Aeneas II, Aeneas’ Descendants, Romulus

.Glaucus and Syclla Book 14

..

Glaucus and Syclla:

 Circe (goddess of magic) encounters Glaucus (sea-god, born mortal and turned immortal) and Syclla (a monster that lived on one side of a narrow channel of water). Circe falls head over heals in love with Glaucus when he, ironically,  visits her to get a love-potion so that Syclla can fall for him.  Glaucus pushes Circe away and she is angered hugely, and seeks revenge on Syclla. She puts poison in one of Syclla’s favourite pools and sprinkles magic herbs in it to lure her in.  Sycllla cannot resist, and she goes into the pool waste deep only to find  that the lower half of her body has been transformed into a mass of horrific barking dogs’ heads.  Horrified, Syclla tries to escape from the dogs, but to her dismay she can’t as they follow. The transformation in itself symbolises the fate of her life now as a victim.

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Aeneas_and_Turnus

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The Wanderings of Aeneas II

Ovid briefly mentions bits of the story of Aeneas’ (Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises)  journey to Italy.  He only focuses on the parts of the story that make reference to transformations.  He almost sidelines Aeneas’ hero importance unlike Virgil’s version of the events.  Ovid does make some extended reference to Aeneas’ meeting with the Sibyl Cumae though.  

However, by preference, Ovid focuses on two  comrades of Ulysses. These  tales are outlined by Achaemenides (son of Adamastus of Ithaca, and one of Odysseus‘ crew) ranging from the story of him hiding from the horrific Polyphemus (giant son of Poseidon and Thoosa)  whilst watching his peers being eaten alive by the Cyclops, to his tale of being rescued by Aeneas. The character of Macareus (one of the Heliadae, sons of Helios and Rhodos) then takes up the tale of his encounters with Aeolus (son of Poseidon) and his time on Ulysses’ ship as well as the flesh eating Laestrygonians (tribe of giant cannibals).

After this Ovid takes us to the island where Circe lives. He retells the story of Circe’s most famous transformation of Ulysses’ men into pigs, (this is the oldest tale of human transformation in the canon of western literature (137)). We hear this tale through Macareus.  However Ulysses manages to persuade Circe to undo her spell and the metamorphosis is reversed.

Ovid  follows Aeneas through his fight against Turnus ( King of the Rutuli, and the chief antagonist of the hero Aeneas) for the hand of Lavinia  in marriage. (the daughter of Latinus and Amata, and the last wife of Aeneas) He tells a sequence of tales and ends up focusing on the tale of Venulus (a representative of Evander) within which he tells the tale of a local shepherd who had mocked some local nymphs and been turned into a wild olive tree (the bitterness of his words represented by the  bitter berries of the tree).

Even the reverse transformation and the warning of the shepherd being turned into an olive tree does not stop Turnus from pursuing Aeneas to the death. Ovid  briefly touches on this tragedy, and we are left at the end of this tale seeing Aeneas firmly rooted in Italy with a large Trojan settlement. All the gods democratically agree that Aeneas should be deified and he becomes a god.

 

Pomona and Vertumnous 

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Aeneas’ Descendents

Ovid then takes us on a little journey through the other kings of Rome before Aeneas, and settles down to tell the love story of Pomona (goddess of fruitful abundance) and Vertumnus (the god of the seasons) which is the last love story in Metamorphoses as a whole. It is a tale within a tale like many of the others we’ve seen previously.

Vertumnus attempts to seduce Pomona through the power of his words alone. He even tries to dress himself as a woman to fool her. But none of his efforts have any real effect and he eventually resorts to force as like many of the gods before him. Brutality wins out. However, the rape proves unnecessary when Pomona eventually sees how attractive he is without his disguise. This tale is significant for its handling of the themes of violence, deception and the objectification of women and the notion of victimhood.  These themes, having been established, are then followed through in the next story. 

Romulous and  Remus Jean_Auguste_Dominique_Ingres

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Romulus

After the ‘love story’ of  Pomona and Vertumnus Ovid returns to the history of Rome. He covers the conflict between Proca’s  (one of the Latin kings of Alba Longa ) sons; the rise of Romulous’  to power; and the rape of the Sabine Women. Ovid then recounts Romulous’ deification and how he became founder of Rome and joined the gods under the new identity of the name Quirinus. His wife Hersilia also joins him with the gods ,,,which leads us into book 15……

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Themes, Analysis and Relevance

In Book 14 some of the following ideas and themes are explored:

  •  Refocusing on the detail: Throughout the books overtly dealing with the Trojan war (12-), Ovid very deliberately, in direct contrast to say Virgil, focuses our attention on minor stories and occurrences putting the major battle and its calamity into a form of relief. Preferring to focus our attention on emotional issues and their texture, which by their very contrast force us to question the nature of war.
  • Reverse Transformation: In this book we see for the first time the metamorphoses of inanimate objects back into human form in the tale of how Aeneas’ ships were turned into nymphs. At this late stage in the sequence of books he puts a twist on the patterns of transformations.

 nb. In this book we are also introduced to the oldest tale of human transformation in the cannon of western culture, in the form of how Ulysses men were turned into pigs.   

  • The Last Love Story: In the story of Pomona and Vertumnus we see how Ovid questions and addresses notions of power (whether by word or physical force). He does so, once again by focusing on the rape of Pomona. In so doing he questions the notion of love subtly and foregrounds the brutality which underpins much of Metamorphoses’ depiction of love.

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Things of Interest:

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Dido and Aeneas:

by Henry Purcell

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The History of Rome

 A weekly podcast tracing the history of the Roman Empire, beginning with Aeneas’s arrival in Italy and ending with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, last Emperor of the Western Roman Empire. 

http://www.revolutionspodcast.com/the-history-of-rome

You can scroll through and find some interesting audios on the Trojan War.

Odysseus and Circe:

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Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts:  Mirrors, Moon, Sighs, Divinity, Remembering, Consequences, Battle, Desire, Spirit, Friendship
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Verse Form:  

Ode

An ode has more than one stanza. There are 10-line per stanza rhyming ababcdecde, with the 8th line iambic trimeter and all the others iambic pentameter

See here for more information.

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Here is  an  audio of the tale of Syclla and Glaucus in case any of you are too busy to read the book.

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Watch out for more poetry inspired by Book  13 and 14  coming out throughout March.

To confirm: the deadline for Book 13 Poetry is today Thursday 27th February.

  __________

References:

Brunauer, Dalma H (1996) The Metamorphoses of Ovid, New Jersey Research and Education Association

Hughes, T (1997) Tales from Ovid, London: Faber and Faber

Liveley, G. (2011) Ovid’s Metamorphoses, A Reader’s Guide,  London: continuum

Ovid (1986) Metamorphoses, World Classics, tr. A.D. Melville, Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

 >>>>

 

 

Metamorphoses Book 13 Overview and Prompts: Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project

31 Jan
George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses

TRANSFORMATIONS

Started in February 2013, 17 poets, 15 months,  creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid‘s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page For More Details

Here we are at the end of January with our deadline for Book 12 poetry being yesterday, Thursday 30th January 

This post sets out to provide an overview of Book 13 with a deadline for the poems inspired by this  book being Thursday 27th February.

The fourth batch of Book 11 poems went out  this Wednesday featuring  NAT HALL and GREG MACKIE  (here).  There’s one more great Book 11 poem and then Book 12 poetry will be posted out for the rest of February.

If you missed out on  Book 11 poems you can find them  here, here, here . I’ve also created a ‘Transformations Poems Tab’ on the site menu for ease of access.

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Overview of Book 13: 

Book 13 is the longest of all of the books in Metamorphoses.  It endeavours to embrace, at great length, as many of the same stories and characters as are featured in either  The Illiad or The Aeneid.  Ovid, in a similar fashion,  also creates an ‘epic cycle’. However Ovid, in contrast to his predecessors, also attempts to  challenge and  transform the actual epic form at the same time. As in previous books Ovid does so once again by engaging with a variety of different forms of narratives, creating his own textual transformations. In so doing  he retells and reshapes many of the tales therein. He focuses particularly on the small happenings between the large scale events, in contrast to those usually featured in the Greek and Roman tradition. Ovid picks on unfamiliar aspects of some tales in a micro manner. He formerly uses a particular rhetorical technique called ‘variato’ which was often deployed in a variety of  rhetorical debates (Lively: 127) to serve this purpose. You can see this particularly at work in the debate between Ajax and Ulysses (Odysseus).  He is in effect creating a new form of storytelling which subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) subverts the classic tradition.  The themes of elegy and lament (Ajax and Ulysses) are also touched upon, as is an exploration of heroism- feminised  in ‘The Sorrows of Hecuba’.

 

Summary of the Tales in Book 13

. The Fall of Troy

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The captains took their seats; the rank and file
Stood in a circle round. Then Ajax rose,
Lord of the sevenfold shield, now quick as ever
To anger, and turned his smouldering gaze towards
The fleet that lay along Sigeum’s shore,
And, pointing to them cried ‘Before these ships,
By Jupitor I plead my cause-and my
Opponent is Ulysses!
 
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The Myths and Key Characters: The Debate Over the Arms of Achilles,The Sorrows of Hecuba, Memnon, The Wanderings of Aeneas, Galatea and Polyphemus

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..Odysseus

The Debate Over the Arms of Achilles

In this particular story Ovid wryly squishes the whole of the Trojan war into a few lines in order to focus on the more micro elements of the tale.  The narrative starts off with Ajax (the son of Telemon and Penboea) and Ulysses (Greek King of Ithaca) listing  the events of the Trojan war in their own fashion. Each also outlines why they should inherit Achilles’ armour instead of the other.

Characterised as a man of action Ajax eventually suggests to Ulysses that they should fight over who inherits the armour. Ulysses, rather than attacking Ajax directly with his words, instead targets his reply to the Greek leaders who are around him,  through their response moves his argument towards ‘us’ the readers. Ulysses’  eloquence is well known and the leaders are persuaded by his argument. They award him Achilles’ armour, which exemplifies the fact that:

‘Words carry more weight than deeds’ in Metamorphoses. (Lively 129).

This is in direct contrast to the tone of the other epic narratives.  Instead of depicting the full breadth of the heroes’ action, Ovid  gives us the power of their words;  he lets them speak. In this particular section Ajax is foregrounded as a more traditional hero, and Ulysses as a more dynamic, new version. Ovid lets the latter win as the better storyteller. He takes on the rhetoric of elegy and we are met with the themes of commemoration and lament. 

As the fight climaxes Ajax  commits suicide by falling on Achilles’ sword, and a purple hyacinth springs up from his blood. The petals in a pattern of AIAI. The flower then acts as a memorial lament for this epic hero (130).

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Hecuba

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The Sorrows of Hecuba

Book 13 then goes on to  commemorate the heroism of the Trojan survivors of war as they similarly honour their dead.  Ovid places much more emphasis on the act of this commemoration than on the actual deaths of Priam (King of Troy during the Trojan war)  and Paris his son.  Side-lining the entrapment of the Trojan women,  he Instead focuses on the Trojan queen Hecuba (wife of King Priam).  Ovid highlights the particulars of this and uses it as a metaphor for the fall of Troy. 

In an example of how the moral  weight of the dead  place a heavy burden on the living , Achilles (greatest Greek hero of the Trojan war) initially comes out of his grave and states that he wants a share of the Trojan women. In order to assert himself he also orders the slaying of Hecuba’s only surviving daughter (Polyxena) to commemorate his death. This imitates the sacrifice of Iphigenia (daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra)  at the beginning of the Trojan war. Polyxena is ripped from her mother’s arms and accordingly meets her death. She is depicted very much like an epic hero who courageously meets their foreshortened life (unlike Ajax and Ulyssses who fight against their deaths). She is, as Lively puts it,  a hero  in a ‘new-and improved-feminine form’ (131).  This in itself is a transformation of epic heroism.

Polyxena gives a very moving speech before she dies, and Hecuba in parallel  also lists her own burdens. Both women move everyone to tears.  As Hecuba then goes to clean her now dead daughter’s feet, she also happens up her dead son (Polydorus) and woe is piled upon more sorrow.  Hecuba cannot bear the torment of these two deaths and is stunned dumb -frozen. Hecuba transforms emotionally from grief to anger. She becomes livid and  snarls and rages and in so doing is transformed into a dog. Her transformation takes place so she can snarl and rage for the rest of her life. She does so at a place named Cynossema (the Dog’s tomb). A memorial to her strife.

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Aurora 

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Memnon

Everybody:  enemies, gods and the greek people around are overwhelmed and moved by the story of Hecuba, all apart from Aurora (goddess of the dawn) who has her own burdens of motherhood in the form of her son Memnon.  Ovid once again spotlights a minor story foregoing the bigger tales of an epic nature.

Aurora is still devastated by the death of her son who was killed years before in the Trojan war.  She pleads to Jupiter (god of the sky and thunder) to allow her to commemorate her son in some way. Jupiter agrees to Memnon’s body being burned on a funeral pyre. The fire appears to take on the shape of a bird. A metaphor becomes a metamorphosis and turns into real birds. This metaphor prepares us for the next retelling…

.Aeneas_and_Turnus

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The Wanderings of Aeneas

 In this particular part of book 13 we now follow Aeneas (son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite (Venus))  as he founds a new Troy (Rome). Aeneas flees, along with other evictees  and his father and son (Ascanius). He leaves his wife Creusa behind him, failing to pay her due regard (which is typical of an epic hero). This imbalance is then something that Ovid attempts to rectify.

The story continues to follow Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius to Delos where an  old friend (Delian king Anius) lays on a party for them. Anius tells the story of how his 4 daughters, who despite having the symbolic power to turn whatever they touched into wine, corn and oil had been turned into doves. Agamemnon  had forced the 4 daughters to use their powers against the might of Troy. Anius presents Aeneas with a gift of a delicate bowl depicting the story of his daughters. The tale depicted on the bowl parallels that of Anius’ daughters exactly. He also recalls the fate of Memnon and Polyxena and in so doing once again highlights the theme of female self-sacrifice and re-birth in Metamorphoses

Ovid then follows the refugees as they leave Crete and a variety of other places, finally ending up in Sicily where Syclla (not the Syclla in Book 8)  attempts to destroy their ship. Ovid details the terrifying nature of this new beast who was once a beautiful girl and is now a snarling dog

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Acis and Galatea

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Galatea and Polyphemus

Before the telling of Syclla’s love stories (a monster that lived on one side of a narrow channel of water) we are given the story of her sister Galatea  (sea-nymph and daughter of Nereus and Doris) . Syclla tells of a three way love story between Galatea’s lover Acis and the horrific Cyclops Polyphemus ( the giant son of Poseidon and Thoosa). In Ovid’s interpretation of this story, Polyphemus is transformed by Venus. His personage  starts to change moving away from his  beast-like appearance.  He even rejects his violent ways and sings and plays the pipes.  The Cyclops sings of Galatea, and he promises his love to her. He gives her gifts of fruit and cheese and a pair of small bears (which will (ironically) grow up to be as wild as him in their nature).  In his song he also threatens to hurt Acis his rival. And slowly his gentleness vanishes and he is transformed into something violent once again.  Polyphemus sees Galatea in Acis’ hands and crushes him to death with a huge rock. Galatea saves Acis by transforming him into a river god. She then swims away to join her sister Syclla in the sea.

The story then swaps to Syclla and we see her wandering the coastline. She is wooed by Glaucus (a sea god ). Syclla finds Glaucus abhorrent and runs away.  Glaucus then tries to get a love potion from Circe to change Syclla’s feelings.  Thje story of these two characters spreads into Book 14…

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Themes, Analysis and Relevance

In Book 13 some of the following ideas and themes are explored:

  •  Engagement With the Notion of Epic Texts: In Book 13, Ovid most overtly engages with the diverse range of epics that have preceded him and knowingly plays and transforms them. He plays with the notion of telling and re-telling in an overt way too. He focuses on smaller more micro happenings instead of the larger more epic narratives usually foregrounded  and in so doing draws our attention to the more subtle emotional aspects that bring depth. See the story of Ajax and Ulysses for this. 
  • Exploration of heroism and female self-sacrifice : In  ‘The Sorrows of Hecuba’ we are given a whole different take on the nature of heroism.  We have Polyxena who  embodies the male traits of heroism but in a transformed, feminised way. This juxtaposes against Hecuba’s soulful outpouring. Both are brave but in a different way that challenges our notions of what bravery and heroism is.

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Things of Interest:

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Greek Tragedy, Women and War, with Nancy Rabinowitz

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 Hecuba

by Euripides

Click the link and you’ll find the text of the play

http://classics.mit.edu/Euripides/hecuba.html

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Optional Prompts and Verse Form

Prompts:  Whistle, Murder, Wonder, Yelling, Speckled, Linoleum, Breaking, Triumph, Mountain, Beaten
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Verse Form:  

Rictameter

Form of syllable counting verse. It has the syllable count of  2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, and the first and last lines are identical.

See here for more information.

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Here is  an  audio of the tale of ‘The Fall Of Troy’ in case any of you are too busy to read the book.

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Watch out for more poetry inspired by Book  11 and 12  coming out throughout February.

To confirm: the deadline for Book 12 Poetry was Thursday 30th January.

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References:

Brunauer, Dalma H (1996) The Metamorphoses of Ovid, New Jersey Research and Education Association

Hughes, T (1997) Tales from Ovid, London: Faber and Faber

Liveley, G. (2011) Ovid’s Metamorphoses, A Reader’s Guide,  London: continuum

Ovid (1986) Metamorphoses, World Classics, tr. A.D. Melville, Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

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Transformations Collaborative Poetry Project: Deadlines and Optional Prompts: Book 1

29 Jan

TRANSFORMATIONS

February 2013-March 2014

 16 poets, 15 months,  creating 1 contemporary reworking of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

See the Transformations Page For More Details

George Braque Metamorphoses

George Braque Metamorphoses

And we’re off!

Transformers!

Here we are. Stepping out into the over and underworld! Exciting times. Not only are you shaping a collective  re-working of Ovid’s Metamorphoses you’ll also be creating, as you go along,  an individual one of your own too; your own personal epic narrative. This is an amazing feat, if you think about it.

Enjoy it! Be as free, as contemporary and as inventive as you like!

I shall post the poems out as they come in and place them on a page all of their own.

  • Deadline for Book 1 Poems: Thursday 28th February 

Each Poet Can submit a maximum of two poems per book.

  • Optional Verse Form Prompt: (which you can use to inform or inspire your poetry if you like):

Petrachan / Italien Sonnet (First 8 lines/ Octave a b b a a b b a; Followed 6 lines by Sestet c d c d c d)

  • Optional Word Prompts:

Fear, Fought, Missing, King, Blunt, Chaos, Believed, Stamp, Vile, Balancing, Botched, Justice, Sorry, Hardest, Wrong

  •   An Audio Version of the Io Story  (should you not have time to read Book 1)

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Couldn’t be more happy that we’re doing this!

All the very best! And if you need anything do let me know.

Thank you so much for your participation!  

N.B. I’ll be posting the overview of Book 2 on Monday 25th February

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