176. Amores by Ovid (c. 8 BC)

Plot:   Three volumes (originally five) of lusty love poems, some quite earthy and many with a strong sense of humour.

My copy was part of The Erotic Poems by Ovid, published by Penguin and translated by Peter Green (9780140443608)

My thoughts

The Amores are most excellent fun, a little bit raunchy and often very funny due to Ovid’s self-deprecation, sexual boasting, and mixture of supposed conquests and rebuffs. His chief mistress Corinna is married but Ovid manages to send her messages and arrange rendezvous.

At one point he reassures Corinna that he is not having an affair with her maid Cypassis as well (2.VII), but in the very next poem he admonishes the same maid to stay quiet about their love making (2.VIII)

A recurrent theme is Ovid’s distaste for Corinna’s demanding gifts and money, which he cannot afford, when after all, his poetry will make them immortal.

There is also humour in Ovid trying to persuade a husband to allow his wife to have extramartial liaisons (with Ovid first in line, no doubt) (3.IV) and yet another time he berates a husband for not taking more care over his wife, taking away any challenge to their trysts (2.XIV).

Yet Ovid is not always successful. Sometimes he is blocked by guards, locked doors, unco-operative slaves or other suitors. And in 3.VII, he suffers erectile failure despite his girl’s repeated  efforts to get him aroused.

Favourite lines/passages

Ovid sits across from Corinna and her husband at a dinner party : so close and yet so far

“Don’t let him put his arms around your neck, and oh, don’t lay that darling head of yours on his coarse breast. Don’t let his fingers roam down your dress to touch up those responsive nipples. Above all, don’t you dare kiss him, not once….

I’m scared all right, and no wonder. … I’ve often petted to climax with my darling at a party, hand hidden under her cloak…”  (1.IV)

But is rewarded another time when she visits his bedroom (or is it a dream?)

“In stole Corinna, long hair tumbled around her soft white throat, a rustle of summer skirts, like some fabulous Eastern queen en-route to her bridal chamber …. When at last she stood naked before me .. smooth shoulders, delectable arms, nipples inviting caresses, the flat belly outlined beneath that flawless bosom, exquisite curve of a hip, firm youthful thighs … nothing came short of perfection”   (1.V)

Ovid explains his success in unlocking doors to his paramours via his love poems

“There’s magic in poetry, it’s power can pull down the bloody moon, turn back the sun, make serpents burst asunder or rivers flow upstream”  (2.I)

Oh I forgot 2.IV where Ovid tells us he has no favourite ‘sort’ of woman – he loves them all. Shy, pert, intellectual or featherbrained, fans and critics, singers, dancers, tall and short, fair and brunette – he is omnisusceptible.

Digressions/diversions:  Would a cold shower count?

Personal rating:   8/10 (which probably reflects my tastes tellingly)

Other reading:

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. A young orphan and a gang of giant talking insects have a series of adventures in a runaway giant peach.  Fun but not instilled with the same charm as Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The BFG. But who else would have conceived using a giant peach as a means of transport?

A Rare Benedictine by Ellis Peters. Three short stories featuring the amateur detective Cadfael, including a brief window into his decision to join the brethren of Shrewsbury Abbey. Enjoyable for fans but not as satisfying as a full mystery novel.  

The Dwarves by Marcus Heitz. First in a fantasy series uniquely focused on dwarves. More like Shanarra than Middle Earth. Some very good ideas but the simplicity of the plot and some illogical scenes let it down. I won’t be bothering with the subsequent volumes.

Next :  The Art of Love (Ars Amatoria) by Ovid

One comment

  1. Haha – sounds as if Rabbie Burns may have been his reincarnation – another poet who cheerfully offered immortality in return for a bit of how’s-your-father. Amazing what an effective technique it appears to be… 😉


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