Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.02.16

Charbra Adams Jestin, Phyllis B. Katz, Ovid Amores, Metamorphoses Selections.   Wauconda:  Bolchazy-Carducci, 1998.  Pp. xx, 195.  ISBN 0-86516-414-2.  $15.00.  

Reviewed by Paul Murgatroyd, McMaster University (
Word count: 1438 words

This text book is aimed mainly at the intermediate level. The selections consist of Amores 1.1, 1.3, 1.9, 1.11, 1.12, 3.15 and Metamorphoses 1.452-567 (Apollo and Daphne), 4.55-166 (Pyramus and Thisbe), 8.183-235 (Daedalus and Icarus), 8.616-724 (Baucis and Philemon) and 10.243-297 (Pygmalion). The text for the Amores comes from Kenney's Oxford Classical Text, and for the Metamorphoses the Loeb third edition revised by Gold is used. There are introductions to Ovid's life and literary output, to the Amores and Metamorphoses in general, and to the particular poems and passages selected. Beneath the Latin text (about ten lines of text per page on average) there are notes on grammar, meaning and effects of style, rhythm and sound. Further grammatical notes are added later in a Questions and Answers section. There are also maps (showing places referred to in the selections), appendices (explaining metrical terms and figures of speech mentioned in the notes), a vocabulary and a high-frequency word list (containing Latin words which appear five times or more in the poems and passages selected).

The selections themselves are generally appealing, although the editors might have considered cutting some of the domestic and culinary detail in the Baucis and Philemon story, which students may well find rather tedious, and Am. 1.11 and 1.12 may not have that much immediate attraction for less experienced readers (if the editors wanted a diptych, Am. 2.7 and 2.8 are much livelier). None the less most users should enjoy the wit, humour and story-telling techniques in evidence here and be keen to read on in the Latin.

The introductions are useful (especially those that provide a synopsis of the selection to come), and in them the remarks on Nachleben are to be welcomed (but could have been more detailed, giving titles of works inspired by Ovid more often). Generally in this book the stress is on comprehension rather than literary criticism, although the notes do comment on Ovid's technical skills quite frequently and do contain occasional insights relevant to appreciation (e.g. on p. 15 in Am. 1.3 the mythological heroines who illustrate the power of poetry to confer immortality on its subjects were loved by Jupiter in adulterous relationships, which may reflect subtly on Ovid's promise in the poem of eternal fidelity). The maps and appendices provide helpful elucidation (but the appendix on metrical terms would benefit from a brief explanation of quantity for those not already able to scan). The purpose of the high-frequency word list is not stated, but students could be encouraged to memorize any of the common words appearing there which they did not already know (rote learning is effective, if unfashionable). The notes under the text are clear, easy to use and not cluttered. Excessive clutter is avoided thanks especially to the Questions and Answers section. This is an interesting experiment. In the left hand column readers are asked various pertinent questions about the meaning of the Latin (what case is puella, what is the construction in versato cardine? etc.). They are encouraged to try to answer them on their own, but if they are stumped, the answers are given in the right hand column. If the answer column is covered up, students in this way would be encouraged to really think about the Latin and analyse it carefully. However, I am not convinced that the experiment is a total success: more advanced students will hardly need to consult this section at all; but the weaker brethren will, and they will be forced to flip between text plus notes, Questions and Answers and the vocabulary.

Overall this is an attractive book, and the intention (to make Ovid available at intermediate as well as advanced levels) is laudable. However, I do have reservations about the execution, and I cannot wholeheartedly recommend the work in its present form. I thought that the most useful thing that I could do now would be to list infelicities and errors in the hope that the editors will address them soon in a revised edition (and in the meanwhile readers can be put on their guard).

I spotted misprints on pp. xv ('Latin poetry was written be heard'), 20 ('deservistis' in the text of Am. 1.9.24), 75 ('custos' instead of custodes in the note on Met. 4.94), 108 (unwanted comma after vetus in the text of Met. 8.699), 109 (trucos in the note on Met. 8.720), 134 (the question is omitted at the top of the left hand column), 137 ('capillos' instead of capillis in the answer on 564), 150 ('dabitus' instead of dabitur in the answer on 691) and 192 (tingo instead of tinguo). In addition on pp. 31 and 33 references are made to McKeown and Barsby, but no bibliography with further information has been included.

There are more serious mistakes. Incorrect explanations are offered for potentia in Am. 1.1.14 (p. 8), nimium in Am. 1.3.3 (p. 12), votoque in Met. 1. 489 (p. 55), laurea in Met. 1. 566 (p. 65), the construction in Met. 4.74 (p. 73), exierint in Met. 4. 86 (p. 74), the arrangement of words in Met. 4. 113 (p. 77), the function of -que in Met. 4. 147 (p. 81), the construction in Met. 4. 157 (p. 82), the reference in egit iter at Met. 8. 225 (p. 93), the allusion in Pelopeia at Met. 8. 622 (p. 100), the subjunctive in Met. 8. 635 (p. 101), the type of ablative at Met. 8. 656 (p. 103), the construction at Met. 10. 271 and the sense of vota at Met. 10. 278 (p. 118), the reference in Paphon at Met. 10. 297 (p. 120), dandis at Am. 1.11.4 (p. 128), the use of proiectae at Am. 1.12.13 (p. 131), the construction with multa at Met. 4.84 (p. 139), the construction with moneo at Met. 8.203 (p. 145), credas at Met. 10. 250 (p. 153) and non ausus at Met. 10. 275 (p. 155). In addition, scansional errors occur on pp. 49, 75 and 157, and on p. 171 Mercury is said to be the son of Atlas.

I found the notes confusing or unhelpful on pp. 14 (rei si ... fides in line 16), 59 (notes on nostra and sagitta are out of order), 60 (re corpora in line 527), 80 (re coma in line 139), 132 (the answer on the construction with cum in line 10), 143 (on the kind of ut construction in line 156 and the subject of requiescit in line 166) and 147 (on the subject of peractum est in line 619).

I felt that more help or a fuller explanation was necessary for Am. 1.1.30, 1.3.12, 17, 21, 22, 1.9.13, 25, 37, 1.11.24, 1.12. 8, 28, 29f., 3.15.9, Met. 1. 465, 466, 484, 487, 517f., 4.60f., 138, 8.214, 222, 626, 668f., 721, 724, 10. 243, 250f. and 274-6.

The following additions to the vocabulary at the back also need to be made: accendo = cause to blaze up (for Met. 10.279), ad = at (for Met. 4.145), ago = pass (for Met. 8.708 and 10.243), arx = height (for Met. 1.467), aura = air (for Met. 8.228), capio = contain (for Am. 1.12.23), casus = event, fortunes (for Met. 8.714), celeber = festive (for Met. 10.270), contra (adverb) = to the other side (for Met 4.80), curro = fly quickly (for Met. 8.203), dominus = owner, possessor (for Met. 1.524, 8. 685), duco = develop (for Met. 4.65), et = even (at several points), fletus = tears (for Met. 4.140), furca = wooden support (for Met. 8.700), ignis = star (for Met. 4.81), imus = bottom of (for Met. 8.193), inferior = second (for Am. 1.1.3), iungo = marry (for Met. 8.632), levis = easy to bear (for Met. 8.634), loquor = say (for Met. 8.705), mitto = shoot (for Met. 8.696), ne (in prohibition) = do not (for Met. 1.508), opus = function, handiwork (for Met. 1.469, 10.249), palus = floodwater (for Met. 8.696), perdo = waste (for Met. 1.531), pluma = feather cushion (for Met. 10.269), quam = than (for Met. 4.122), quo = to which degree, by how much (for Met. 4.64), signum = sign (for Met. 4.160), socia = partner (for Met. 10. 268), sub (+acc.) = towards, just before, at the base of (for Met. 4.79, 162), tempto = test (for Met. 10.254), teneo = preserve (for Met. 4.160, 10.297), ut = since (for Met. 10.277) and vel = at any rate (for Met. 4.75).

I do hope that a revised edition will come out soon, as an improved version of Ovid Amores Metamorphoses Selections will do much to promote the study of Latin in schools and universities.

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