cover image Metamorphoses


Ovid, trans. from the Ancient Greek by Stephanie McCarter. Penguin, $38 (608p) ISBN 978-0-525-50599-0

“Ovid’s Metamorphoses resists easy categorization. It is, strictly put, an epic poem, but one that upturns almost every convention of ancient epic poetry,” McCarter (Carmen Saeculare) writes in the fascinating introduction to her trailblazing translation. As the first female translator of Ovid’s epic into English in over 60 years, she brings thoughtful attention to the poem’s subjects, remarking that “(power, defiance, art, love, abuse, grief, rape, war, beauty, and so on) is as changeable as the beings that inhabit its pages.” Her knowledgeable contextualizing remarks address questions of accuracy in translation and past representation of women in Ovid’s oeuvre, while her use of iambic pentameter gives the poem a regularity that doesn’t sacrifice the dynamism of its language. In one of the most famous scenes, “Apollo Attempts to Rape Daphne,” she describes, “Then with the blunted dart the god struck Daphne/ and pierced the sharp one through Apollo’s bones./ One loves at once; one flees love’s very name... Though many sought her, she refused them all./ She did not want a man and never had.” McCarter’s excellent poetic instincts and thorough understanding of the text makes this a timely and invaluable contribution to classical and poetic scholarship. (Oct.)