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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

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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

 

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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.

  __________

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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