Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ovid's Tearful (Tristia) Transformation (Metamorphoses)

Ovid, famous in his own day for his Art of Love, but today for his Metamorphoses (Transformations), reflects on his Metamorphoses in his tearful Tristia (Lamentations), which were written after he was banished from Rome, exiled to the Black Sea:

There are also fifteen books of Metamorphoses, worksheets
lately saved from my exequies:
To them I bid you say that the new face of my fortunes
may now be reckoned one more
among their bodily changes: by sudden transformation
what was joyful once is made fit matter for tears.
(Ovid, Tristia, I.1.117-22; trans. Peter Green)

There is a certain painful, sad commentary here. At the end of his Metamorphoses, Ovid basically says that he (and his book--he equates them) is the only thing that will endure, not change. His exile, his separation from all his friends, from his homeland, changes him physically, psychologically, and emotionally, transforming his joy into tears. His persona in the Metamorphoses has, itself, transformed through dislocation.

No comments: