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Introduced by Audrey Leigh on 21 October 1997
The talk began with a biography of the Roman poet Publius Ovidius Naso and a survey of his
poetry, showing that he was a prolific, versatile and innovative poet from his early work, the Amores, (love
poems) to the Metamorphoses (Bodies changing Shape), his greatest work, and the Tristia (Lamentations),
the poetry of his exile. This was followed by a survey of the powerful influence of his poetry on the culture
of Western Europe and the predominance of Ovid during the Middle Ages. when attempts were made to
christianise his work, and his influence was felt by many writers including Boccaccio, Dante and Chaucer.
His popularity continued during the Renaissance. Artists, including Correggio, Botticelli and Titian drew on
his work as did the early composers of opera. He was widely read in schools and was Shakespeare's
favourite poet. His influence was less marked by the late 17th and early 18th centuries, though he was still
esteemed, but with the rapidly changing world of the 19th century he was in decline and was neglected in
schools and universities. Gradually during this century there has been a revival of interest and currently
Ovid is receiving much attention and seems to be in tune with the spirit of the 90s.
The discussion ranged over uninspiring school lessons on the Metamorphoses, fashions in
teaching and pronouncing Latin here and abroad and members' recommendations of recent translations.
Readings selected by the speaker from several different works brought out the beauty of his poetry, his
sympathetic imagination and his sophisticated wit. The timelessness of his subjects came out vividly in a
reading by a member of her favourite Rumour from The Expedition to Troy in Book 11 of Metamorphoses,
which demonstrated that Rome in the first century A.D. also had its village gossips, tabloids and spin-
doctors. The reprint of Golding's translation, used as a textbook in schools from the 16th until the last
century, was noted. Altogether members felt they had been introduced to a new grown-up Ovid that they
could read with much pleasure.