Metamorphoses – Ovid (8 AD)

by Chingiz Ismailov

“Beauty” isn’t a quality I tend to appreciate all too often. But Ovid’s Metamorphoses as translated and introduced by Mary Innes, taught me what beautiful literature truly is. From the invocation of the heavens, to the destiny of Augustus, this narrative poem in 15 books took me on a journey from the creation of the earth, ocean, and heaven, to the foundation of the great city of Rome, and it was beautiful.

Metamorphoses has everything: spine tingling descriptions of mass destruction from the heavens, tales of true love (often unrequited), political intrigue, speeches from the greatest heroes and warriors of the ancient world, and of course, people turning into other things.

Ovid himself is an excellent storyteller: one thing that especially kept me reading was the structure of the narration. An “unbroken thread of verse” winds sinuously through the mythical ages Magnolia style, and often characters within stories will tell their own tales within tales. A new and tasty story every few pages, which somehow managed to flow sinuously from the previous meant that several hours passed before I realised that I’d been utterly drawn into Ovid’s world.

Shakespeare himself is said to have drawn volumes of inspiration from this work of Ovid’s, and inspiring it surely is. These are no mere bed-time stories: there are morals, vivid allegory and metaphors, terrors, love, hate, and of course, graphic depictions of strong and bloody violence.

A must for anyone who loves the printed word.

“I grabbed a pile of dust, and holding it up, foolishly asked for as many birthdays as the grains of dust, I forgot to ask that they be years of youth.”