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Tales from Ovid, Ted Hughes's masterful translations from the Latin of Ovid's Metamorphoses, include the stories of Phaeton, Actaeon, Echo and Narcissus, Procne, Midas and Pyramus and Thisbe, as well as many others.
Ted Hughes was born on 17 August 1930 in Mytholmroyd, a small mill town in West Yorkshire. His father made portable wooden buildings. The family moved to Mexborough, a coal-mining town in South Yorkshire, when Hughes was seven. His parents took over a newsagent and tobacconist shop, and eventually he went to the local grammar school.In 1948 Hughes won an Open Exhibition to Pembroke College, Cambridge. Before going there, he served two years National Service in the Royal Air Force. Between leaving Cambridge and becoming a teacher, he worked at various jobs, finally as a script-reader for Rank at their Pinewood Studios.In 1956 Hughes married the American poet Sylvia Plath, who died in 1963, and they had two children. He remarried in 1970. He was awarded the OBE in 1977, created Poet Laureate in December 1984 and appointed to the Order of Merit in 1998. He died in October 1998.Ted Hughes's first book, The Hawk in the Rain, was published by Fabe
During his lifetime, the first-century Latin poet Ovid made a notoriously reluctant moralist. Ever since the Middle Ages, however, when commentators took the Metamorphoses for divinely inspired Christian allegory, readers have freely attached their own morals and glosses to Ovid's witty, melancholy tales of supernatural lovers in hot pursuit. Hughes is no exception. With a bravado that recalls Robert Lowell's Imitations, Hughes riffs at every turn on his original. Punished by Zeus with floods, mankind "Floats like a plague of dead frogs." Pygmalion's prudishness turns "Every woman's uterus into a spider." These extra-Ovidian flourishes are not Hughes's only innovation. In his "Pygmalion," for instance, it is suddenly Galatea, "sick of unbeing," who possesses Pygmalion and brings herself to life through his hands. Clearly, Hughes proves a more resistant medium than his sculptor-hero: as a translator Hughes prefers partnership to possession. Luckily, there's a natural affinity between Ovid and the British poet laureate, a writer known for both his delightful bedtime stories and dark, earthy animal myths. Hughes captures brilliantly the "human passion in extremis" that is for him Ovid's chief interest, while Ovid's compression curbs Hughes's old penchant for list-making, show-stopping oratory. Yet for all their insight into the feeling between Ovid's lines, these absorbing fables are unmistakable, very welcome Hughes. (Dec.)
Hughes, the renowned author of innumerable works of poetry, prose, and children's literature and currently the poet laureate of England, offers a lively, readable, rendering of 24 tales from Ovid's Metamorphosis. The translations are unrhymed poems in their own right, but this collection is most welcome for making the most popular book of the classical era‘a veritable source-book for writers during the Middle Ages, not to mention Chaucer and Shakespeare‘so pleasantly accessible to the general reader. A fine addition to all libraries; highly recommended.‘Thomas F. Merrill, Univ. of Delaware, Newark
"Brilliantly succeeds at bringing Ovid's passionate and disturbing stories to life."--James Shapiro, " The New York Times Book Review" "One of the few unquestionable successes in the revolutionary vein Pound opened at the start of the century."--Donald Lyons, "The Wall Street Journal" "Hughes is as broad as Ovid and as subtle, as violent and as erotic, as elegant and as folksy-and often all at the same time. It is simply a beautiful match."--Michael Hofmann, "The Times "(London)