Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Ovid's successful ape"

Mussy points us to a nice online version of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis. The epithet of the poem might be of interest:
vilia miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo
pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua,
The lines appear in one of Ovid's Amores (1.15) -- the whole poem, concerned with poetic immortality and the ephemeral effect of envy, is here. The lines Shakespeare chose are in bold in their immediate context below:
So although the boulders with the tooth of the patient plough
Perish with time, poetry is absent from death:
Let kings and the triumphs of kings yield to poetry,
Let the bountiful banks of gold-bearing Tagus yield.
Let the common people admire common things; to me may golden-haired Apollo
Serve cups filled with Castalian water,

And may I wear myrtle on my hair that fears the frost
And be much read by anxious lovers.
Envy feasts on the living; after death it is silent,
When each man’s fame protects him as he deserves:
So, even when the final flame has consumed me,
I shall live, and a considerable part of me will survive.
In tracking down the epithet, I came across a brief but thoughtful talk about Shakespeare and Ovid by Jeremy McNamara entitled "OVIDIUS NASO WAS THE MAN." Here's one snippet:
Shakespeare certainly had a love affair with the classics, particularly Ovid. The connection between the two writers has been noticed from almost the beginning of Shakespeare's career. In 1598 Francis Meres in Palladis Tamiawrote: "the sweete wittie soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred sonnets among his private friends, etc." The early 20th century delineator of classical mythology, R. K. Root, says that the whole character of Shakespeare's mythology is essentially Ovidian and that "Shakespeare himself has shown that he was proud to be Ovid's successful ape."

Apollo and Hyacinthus 

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