Reading Ovid: Metamorphoses – Book Two

Metamorphoses
Ovid
Translated by David Raeburn

Title: Metamorphoses
Author: Ovid, translated by Daniel Raeburn
Published: Reprint, 2004
ISBN-13: 978-0140447897
Publisher: Penguin Classics

Book OneBook ThreeBook FourBook FiveBook SixBook SevenBook EightBook Nine Book Ten Book Eleven Book TwelveBook ThirteenBook FourteenBook Fifteen

Book Two has 875 lines on 43 pages.

So much already vaguely familiar and so much new to learn.  They’re right, Ovid is everywhere in our history, literature, art, etc.  It’s like sitting down with a great history book, in which I learn the origin of every day things.

As is to be expected, Phaethon‘s ride in his father’s (Helios) carriage was a cataclysmic disaster.  Never swear on the river Styx unless you are truly willing to do whatever is asked of you.  Gods sure can be dumb sometimes.

Good grief, the men in Ovid’s tale are just …

When Jupiter spied her [Callisto] lying exhausted and unprotected,
he reckoned:  ‘My wife will never discover this tiny betrayal;
or else, if she does, oh yes, the joy will make up for the scolding!’
(lines 422-424)

Mercury:
He assumed no disguise, as beauty is always so full of confidence.
Justly sure of his charms…
(line 731-732)

The story of Envy is really something. Minerva is angry with Agraulos for her greed in promising to help Mercury gain the love of Herse. Minerva goes to the caves of Envy and orders her to strike Agraulos. When Mercury returns, she refuses to move away from Herse’s door, so he turns Agraulos into a statue.

“… She simply sat there, a lifeless statue;
the stone was not even white, but stained by her own black envy.”
(lines 831 – 832)

Jupiter returns for the last story in Book Two, turning himself into a gentle bull so as to lure Europa onto his back and into the sea for … well, we all know by now what Jupiter is best known for when he’s after a woman not his wife.

There’s also the theme of talking too much, and out of turn, as in the story about Raven and Crow in which Crow tries to warn Raven that he will be turned black for gossiping. And Old Battus who sells Mercury out to himself by accepting a reward from him for both promising not to tell anyone where Mercury’s cows are, and for telling Mercury, in disguise, where his cows are. Ouch.

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