No sword had bitten its own Reflection in the shield No trumpetsMagnified the battle criesOf lions and bullsOut through the mouth holes in helmets From the Age of Iron Now sails bulged and the cordage crackedIn winds that still bewildered the pilots.
And the long trunks of treesThat had never shifted in their livesFrom some mountain fastnessLeapt in their coffinsFrom wavetop to wavetop,Then out over the rim of the unknown.
Ted Hughes translation interpretation of some of the tales from Ovid s Metamorphoses is a really good example of the way translation is always an interpretation he s played to that, and used anachronistic images and modern language, and created something dynamic and energetic and entirely his It s much like the way Seamus Heaney and Simon Armitage took Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and used their own dialects to flavour it, bringing in what felt appropriate to them and what might make the old stories interesting to a modern audience You might disagree with the decision, but the vitality is undeniable.
The stories themselves, well, they ve always been some of my favourite mythology Ted Hughes didn t translate all of these stories I really need a good version that does, perhaps for my Kindle but he translates some good ones I love the story of Arachne, and there s a lot to be said for the story of Pygmalion or Midas or Yeah, I just kind of love Ovid.
When Michael Hofmann And James Lasdun S Ground Breaking Anthology After Ovid Also Faber Was Published In , Hughes S Three Contributions To The Collective Effort Were Nominated By Most Critics As Outstanding He Had Shown That Rare Translator S Gift For Providing Not Just An Accurate Account Of The original, But One So Thoroughly Imbued With His Own Qualities That It Was As If Latin And English Poet Were Somehow The Same Person Tales From Ovid, Which Went On To Win The Whitbread Prize For Poetry, Continued The Project Of Recreation With Passages, Including The Stories Of Phaeton, Actaeon, Echo And Narcissus, Procne, Midas And Pyramus And Thisbe In Them, Hughes S Supreme Narrative And Poetic Skills Combine To Produce A Book That Stands, Alongside His Crow And Gaudete, As An Inspired Addition To The Myth Making Of Our Time A retelling of 24 of the over 100 tales from Ovid s Metamorphoses This translation is delivered in free verse The stories included are Creation Pygmalion Hercules Arachne Midas and Pyramus and Thisbe.
Hughes poetry is delicious, and a further aid to help me get a rounder sense of Ovid s text Hughes, unlike the other two translations I have read Golding and Raeburn allowed himself to deliver his poetry in free verse In doing so, his telling is done in fewer brushstrokes but what s amazing is that he does it without losing the essence of the tale For me, the other big difference from Golding and Raeburn is Hughes poetry is easy to follow It s different from his other stuff where there are hidden messages to unlock but here there s no need to do this Hughes makes it easy work to try understand these 24 tales by Ovid.
Though, they are not dumbed down, when I finished reading this it also further added to my understanding of Ovid s work What was a surprise to me, and it would have escaped my attention if I had not read the full text by Ovid, is the stories are not told in sequence Not that it matters These poems can stand on their own and can be read out of order or at random Some poems in this book are short and a very quick read, but I found myself lost in the magic of description and sounds making this a wonderful read It made me realise that Ovid s work as classic as it is does not need to be hard work to read and enjoy it This is a really neat and handy way to read the classics without having to chew over the tough bits Sometimes, reading needs to be fun, chilled out, and this is what Hughes delivers in this book of poetry.
Wat hou ik van deze verhalen Sommige vertellingen herinnerde ik me nog omdat ik ze ooit als tiener uit het Latijn moest vertalen Ik vertelde 3 verhalen Phaeton, Callisto Arcas en Echo Narcissus ook aan mijn zonen omdat ze zo mooi en magisch zijn How I loved reading these tales I remembered some of them because I had to translate them from Latin as a teenager I told three stories Phaeton, Callisto Arcas and Echo Narcissus to my sons because they re so beautiful and magical.
This is not really a translation, since in rendering certain well known stories from the Metamorphoses into English Hughes makes up stuff out of thin air, sometimes quite a lot of material that is nowhere found in Ovid s Latin text But why should that be a problem This is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of work, one that effectively captures the essence of Ovid s brilliant style the shifting narrative tones, authorial interventions, subtle and not so subtle ironies, and storytelling that is fast paced, sensuous and vivid If you cannot read Ovid s Metamorphoses in Latin, this is as close as you can get to it in English.
Dare I say that Hughes is as brilliant in English as Ovid is in Latin Only a world class poet of unsurpassed skill would attempt to do what Hughes has done here, and it is breathtakingly successful It has been remarked that translation is like a woman If it is beautiful, it is not faithful If it is faithful, it is most certainly not beautiful Suffice it to say that Hughes woman here is a stunningly gorgeous one night stand Highly recommended.
Loved these Greek and Roman myths are some of my favourite things to read I don t know how much was Ovid s original and how much was Hughes translation, but it felt like a perfect blending of the two.
If I had picked up this book without ever having read the tales of Ovid, I might have enjoyed it merely for the fantastic stories of transformation, which are engagingly told in a rhythm that seemed modern than timeless to me But since I was already familiar with the tales, what really kept me turning the pages was Ted Hughes creativity as a translator Throughout the book there are passages that startled me with vivid imagery His use of anachronistic language and concepts made me change my mind over and over again about whether or not I liked the translation In the end, I realized my liking was irrelevant, Hughes had done his poet s work in making me read an old text in a new way.
Here is a comparison of Hughes translation to the same passage translated by Dryden So now Jove set his mind to the deletionOf these living generations He ponderedMass electrocution by lightning.
But what if the atoms ignited,What if a single ladder of flameRushing up through the elementsReduced heaven to an afterglow Hughes Already had he toss d the flaming brand And roll d the thunder in his spacious hand Preparing to discharge on seas and land But stopt, for fear, thus violently driv n,The sparks should catch his axle tree of Heav n.
Remembering in the fates, a time when fireShou d to the battlements of Heaven aspire,And all his blazing worlds above shou d burn And all th inferior globe to cinders turn Dryden I love this comparison, because it shows me that Hughes was not just translating words, but meanings and feelings Uncontrolled fire is not frightening today in the same way it was in the 17th century, so Hughes conjures imagery of the electric chair and nuclear chain reaction Had Hughes lived long enough to the see the completion of the Large Hadron Collider, I imagine his Jove might have worried about unleashing a singularity able to consume heaven and earth in a black hole I still love the Dryden translation It is comfortable and familiar and the first I read, but it no longer has the power to shock me the way Hughes translation sometimes did I only wish Hughes translation had been complete He only translated 24 tales.
The Poetry of PassionThe brief but brilliant introduction by former English Poet Laureate Ted Hughes to his Tales from Ovid says that the poems tell what is feels like to live in the psychological gulf that opens at the end of an era He might well have been talking about the end of his own century the collection was published in 1997 But no, he was referring to the original date of Ovid s Metamorphoses themselves, 8 CE, when the obsolete paraphernalia of the old official religion were lying in heaps, like old masks in the lumber room of a theatre, and the new ones had not yet arrived And chief among the new ones would be Christianity, but there is no hint of that here Instead, at least in the two dozen stories that Hughes selected, we have a prevalent spirit of violence, instability, old rules being broken, human beings changing into beasts The hunter Actaeon, for example, who chances upon Diana bathing naked, is transformed into a stag and devoured by his own hounds Callisto, seduced by Jupiter, is changed by the jealous Juno into a bear Arachne, who dared to challenge Minerva in tapestry weaving, becomes a spider King Tereus, for the crime of raping his sister in law Philomela and then cutting out her tongue, is served his own son chopped into a fricass e Philomela, though, is given her voice back as the nightingale.
Titian Diana and Actaeon Tales from Ovid is right this is far from a complete translation Over two hundred stories are mentioned in the fifteen books of the Metamorphoses, about half that number treated at length, and Hughes gives only a quarter of those Many of the tales I know best through art, opera, or other literature are left out Hughes omits, for example, the love stories of Apollo and Daphne, Jupiter and Europa, Perseus and Andromeda, Orpheus and Eurydice, Acis and Galatea, or the old couple Philemon and Baucis True, it is not all violence there are a few gentle tales such as Echo and Narcissus or Peleus and Thetis The Rape of Prosperpina, though beginning in violence, at least ends in the compromise that brings us the annual blessing of Spring And the story of Pygmalion, whose statue of the ideal woman at last comes to life as Galatea, even has a happy ending But although Hughes is marvelous at depicting the violent emotions, a dozen or stories in this vein eventually take their toll this is not the selection I would have advised had I been his editor G rome Pygmalion and Galatea I am not sure that it is even right to call this a translation Sometimes, Hughes follows the original pretty closely sometimes he illuminates ancient ideas with the language of the nuclear age often, he introduces passages that are entirely his own As an example, let s look at a few lines from the opening account of the creation of the world and the early history of mankind After describing the Ages of Gold, Silver, and Bronze, Ovid comes to the Age of Iron Here is the beginning of the passage in the original Latinde duro est ultima ferro.
protinus inrupit venae peioris in aevumomne nefas fugere pudor verumque fidesque in quorum subiere locum fraudesque dolusqueinsidiaeque et vis et amor sceleratus habendi.
vela dabant ventis nec adhuc bene noverat illosnavita, quaeque prius steterant in montibus altisAnd here it is in an early 18th century translation by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, and othersHard steel succeeded then And stubborn as the metal, were the men Truth, modesty, and shame, the world forsook Fraud, avarice, and force, their places tookThen sails were spread, to every wind that blew Raw were the sailors, and the depths were newFinally, here is the same passage from Hughes Last comes the Age of IronAnd the day of Evil dawns.
Modesty,Loyalty,Truth,Go up like a mist a morning sigh off a graveyard.
Snares, tricks, plots come hurryingOut of their dens in the atom.
Violence is an extrapolationOf the cutting edgeInto the orbit of the smile.
Now comes the love of gain a new godMade out of the shadowOf all the others A god who peersGrinning from the roots of the eye teeth.
Now sails bulged and the cordage crackedIn winds that still bewildered the pilotsThree things to note Hughes layout, his language, and his invention In place of Ovid s heroic hexameters or the regular meter of earlier translators, Hughes paints freely upon the page, sometimes continuing in quasi regular stanzas for a page or , sometimes with wide variations of line length Note how effective is the separation of Modesty, Loyalty, Truth to give each word a single line And his language out of their dens in the atom into the orbit of a smile He draws imagery from physics or microbiology, from late 20th century life, that Ovid could never have known But he does it often in lines that Ovid did not even write there are ten lines here ten brilliant lines that have no equivalent in the original at all note how he gets back to some sense of regularity when he returns to direct translation Poussin The Triumph of BacchusSome of Hughes flights of fantasy are truly marvelous Near the beginning of the story of Bacchus and Pentheus, there is a short passage three lines of Latin, four in the Garth Dryden translation describing the frenzy when the young god comes to town For now through prostrate Greece young Bacchus rode, Whilst howling matrons celebrate the God All ranks and sexes to his Orgies ran, To mingle in the pomps, and fill the train.
Hughes, however, expands Ovid s three lines to eighteen, a headlong tumble of invention that surely channels the Browning of The Pied Piper of Hamelin The god has come The claustrophobic landscapeBumps like a drumWith the stamping dance of the revellers.
The city poursIts entire population into the frenzy.
Children and their teachers, labourers, bankers.
Mothers and grandmothers, merchants, agents,Prostitutes, politicians, police,Scavengers and accountants, lawyers and burglars,Builders, laybouts, tradesmen, con men,Scoundrels, tax collectors, academicians,Physicians, morticians, musicians, magicians,The idle rich and the laughing mob,Stretched mouths in glazed faces,All as if naked, anonymous, freedInto the ecstasy,The dementia and the deliriumOf the new god.
Physicians, morticians, musicians, magicians Hughes is worth reading for such language alone Kevin McLean Cinyras and MyrrhaI mentioned that many of my favorite stories were absent But there were some that were real discoveries None less than the tale of Myrrha, who, in an inversion of the usual incest stories, is consumed by the carnal desire to have sex with her father Eventually, she gets her nurse to sneak her into his bed every night for a week, while her mother is away On the last night, her father Cinyras takes a light to see who is this mysterious girl who has been offered to him Myrrha flees from his wrath and wanders for nine months, at the end of which she is turned into a tree, the myrrh bush, in the very act of giving birth to Adonis.
Luigi Garza The Birth of AdonisA horrible subject, and Ovid makes the most of it It is masterly how he handles the suspense, first of all warning the reader not to go any further, then building up the psychological anguish in Myrrha s mind It combines the technique of a horror movie with the sexual pathology of the Salome of Oscar Wilde and Richard Strauss Hughes has no need to add or embellish he merely has to translate Here is a short section first a few lines in the Garth Dryden translationTwas now the mid of night, when slumbers close Our eyes, and sooth our cares with soft repose But no repose cou d wretched Myrrha find, Her body rouling, as she roul d her mind Mad with desire, she ruminates her sin, And wishes all her wishes o er againAnd then the Hughes Midnight Mankind sprawledIn sleep without a care.
But Myrrha writhed in her sheets.
To cool the fiery gnawings throughout her bodyShe drew great gasping breaths.
They made the flames worse.
Half of her prayed wildly In despair under the crushingImpossibility and half of her coollyPlotted how to put it to the test.
She was both aghast at her own passionAnd reckless to satisfy it.
Like a great tree that sways,All but cut through by the axe,Uncertain which way to fall,Waiting for the axe s deciding blow,Myrrha,Bewildered by the opposite onslaughtsOf her lust and her conscience,Swayed, and waited to fall.
Either way, she saw only death.
Her lust, consummated, had to be death Denied, had to be death.
She tries to resolve it by hanging herself, but is rescued by her nurse, who winkles the secret out of her and realizes that the only way to save her is to help her bring her wish about This is perhaps an extreme example, but it bears out another point that Hughes makes in his Introduction All Ovid wants is the story of hopelessly besotted and doomed love in the most intense form imaginable And on that, Hughes delivers read it indeed but I would suggest small doses I ve not read any other translations of Ovid and I don t know Latin, so I have little choice but to take these selections from the Metamorphoses at face value.
That value is very high Hughes writes gripping, driving poetry that impatiently whips you along the narrative, with hardly a chance to catch your breathe sometimes Faster paced than many a novel, there is no chance of being lulled to sleep by endless iambs here Startling, powerful, often brutal metaphors pay no heed to shouts of Anachronism and use whatever image suits Hughes purpose There is hardly a dull moment in the entire volume.
Anybody who thought narrative poetry was dead needs to think again Hughes brought nature observation back to the fore front of modern poetry with The Hawk in the Rain and subsequent volumes here he rescues narrative verse from the Romantics and gives it to anybody who loves a good story.
Further if you had no interest in the Classics before, you will after reading this.
I have to look back to Crow to find the previous volume of Hughes poetical works that I responded to so uniformly positively.