To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Joe Safdie, from SCHOLARSHIP: “Ovid in Exile” & “Coda: On a British Literary Debate”

 Ovid in Exile

           After some years at the height of fame in the center of the
           world, he was abruptly exiled to the far reaches of the
            empire on the weather-beaten shore of the Black Sea
            where, he complained bitterly, the barbarous
            inhabitants couldn’t even understand Latin.  
                 --David L. Pike, “Ovid,” The Longman Anthology
                    of World Literature

when leaving St. Elizabeths
Pound said that Ovid
had had it worse

his last nine years
on the Black Sea coast
modern Romania     not too bad

except for the Romanian part
he wrote his last poems there
Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto

letters to the emperor
and his third wife
to whom he longed to return

belying his reputation
as a womanizer.
But Augustus Caesar –

Virgil’s patron
and a priggish moralist
in Antony and Cleopatra,

HBO’s Rome, and all other
known histories –
exiled him, blaming

his scandalous poetry
(a joke even then) –
he had just worked six years

on the Metamorphoses,
more tenuous
than the endlessly repeated

thesis statement
of The Aeneid:
“This is you, Romans!”

            This study considers exile as a place of genuine suffering
            and a metaphor for poetry's marginalization from the
            imperial city . . .  [u]nderstanding Ovid’s exile as a
            poetic place, a literary construct deeply informed by
             an actual reality.
                         --Matthew M. McGowan, Ovid in Exile

I killed a woman
I lied to her
abandoned her

and as a result
have been exiled
to southern California

I’m guilty and my punishment
shows it      myths arise
from ordinary events

careless remarks
offhand slights
the everyday being

taken for granted
all in the name of poetry
Omnia vincet Amor: et nos cedamus Amori.

“Love conquers all; we too must yield to Love” -- Virgil
Et mihi cedet Amor
“Love too shall yield to me” – Ovid

            Virgil seems to have been homosexual, Horace
            liked Greek flute-girls and mirror-lined bedrooms,
            Tibullus and Propertius suffered, with articulate
            masochism, under demanding or indifferent
            mistresses.  Ovid may not have been the ideal
            husband, but at least he tried.                                                                                 
              ---David Green, Introduction to The Erotic Poems

his greatest transformation
was himself,
Roman sophisticate hurtled back

to primitive times,
Geats and Greeks
and Sarmatians,

riding down the streets
on horseback or tall bicycles
with their ever-present quivers

of poisoned arrows and surfboards
which they are not reluctant to use.
They dressed in skins,

wore their hair and beards long,
went about armed . . .
wine froze in the jar

and was served in pieces . . .
fawning notes to the emperor
composed in the same meter

as the erotic poems
that had gotten him exiled.
No longer seeking out scandal

but mocking the official line,
the author of The Art of Love
never wrote about it again . . .

Coda: On A British Literary Debate

What is “fantasy”?
To what extent is Grendel
an analogue to marauding tribes
and the poem an Anglo-Saxon dream
of liberation? The Arthurian legend
started with Virgil’s Aeneid,

even more fictitious
than Romulus and Remus,
but it did give Rome some
cosmopolitan flair, somewhat removed
from their jackass rustic morality –
the Republic, still invoked

by followers of Ayn Rand,
lasted 500 years, until Augustus,
27 BC, Virgil changes poetry
into minor court entertainment,
Ovid discovers sex, realism
follows romance, Philip Larkin wakes

from Uncle William’s
enchantment – “all that crap
about masks and Crazy Jane . . .
It all rang so completely unreal” –
the princess awakes, Orpheus
returns from the underworld
[Author’s Note On “Scholarship”: There are some lines in Pound’s early version of The Cantos that have always stuck with me: 

                       say I take your whole bag of tricks,
      Let in your quirks and tweeks, and say the thing's an art-form,
      Your Sordello, and that the modern world
      Needs such a rag-bag to stuff all its thought in

They’re highly conditional propositions, of course, but this manuscript is indeed a kind of rag-bag in which I’ve tried to stuff a lot of things – history, myth, contemporary politics, speculations about poetry and the poetry world, autobiographical narrative, criticism, prose – while still writing “poetry.” Hope it works, for at least a few people . . .]


Ed Baker said...

"it" works-for-me

sort of

but, what do I know ?

or as zI put "it" a dozen plus 3 years ago:

What's a phantasy ?

my little character "Mu" went along with it...

do tell
when DID Ovid discover sex ... exactly/precisely ?

Joe Safdie said...

Ed, thanks. Peter Green, whose translations I've been using, says this in his fine introduction to The Erotic Poems: "We can reconstruct Ovid's life in more detail than that of any other Roman poet." So we know that he got married for the first time when he was 16 -- 27 B.C. -- so sometime around then!

Antony and Cleopatra had just died three years before that . . .

Ed Baker said...

thanks right back at you.... I shld have recalled those dates... in fact
wasn't it because of Peter Green's translation of Ovid's
Erotic Poems that Ovid was banished from Rome

on the way up my ladder to the top shelf where I keep my Ovid and my (other 'ancients)

I found more in my "stash" re: erotic poetry ....and sketches:

E.E. Cummings' "erotic poems"


that huge book (almost even too "hot" for me and/or Peter Green :

PICASSO " "Art Can Only Be Erotic"


s far as married at 16 ? My grandmother had my father when she was just 16

in Baltimore, 1916.... but she was married to Harry and not Ovid

Historical "stuff" is phun, eh ? yours, mine and Ovids....

material for poems and research papers !