Book Review – The Metamorphoses of Ovid

by Erin on December 1, 2011

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Today, I’d like to talk about a rather large tome that takes up a considerable amount of space on my book shelves. This big, beautiful book is The Metamorphoses of Ovid A New Verse Translation by Allen Mandelbaum (even the title is large). I received it as a gift from a good friend in college, many years ago. And I still treasure it, after all of this time.

Let’s begin the review with a bit of background about Ovid and his Metamorphoses. Essentially, the Metamorphoses is a series of tales about various characters from Greek and Roman myth, organized loosely around the theme of transformation. The book is an excellent ancient source for some of the most enduring stories of gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines. Some highlights include the myth of Midas and the golden touch, or the legend of the spinner Arachne.

Now, to the specifics of Allen Mandelbaum’s translation of the Metamorphoses. Here are the opening lines:

“My soul would sing of metamorphoses.
But since, o gods, you were the source of these
bodies becoming other bodies, breathe
your breath into my book of changes: may
the song I sing be seamless as its way
weaves from the world’s beginning to our day.”

(prologue to the Metamorphoses of Ovid)

The main issue I have with this book basically boils down to a single complaint - it isn’t written to be a scholarly reference. This is both a good and a bad thing. Good in that The Metamorphoses of Ovid is first and foremost a work of art. It is a gorgeous translation. Bad because it is more difficult for me to use as a resource for mythology. So yes, a petty quibble on my part. I do miss having the line numbers clearly and distinctly marked. And the index could be a little better organized. It simply means that I read this version for pleasure more than I use it for reference.

This book is available at

The Metamorphoses of Ovid

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