Friday, 13 February 2015

Ovid: revenge, revenge!

When Ovid was allegedly banned to the Black Sea in 8 AD, he did not quit writing. One of the works written there is the Ibis. It is a poem address to an unknown former friend and now enemy of Ovid.  This man is referred to as ibis after a poem of Callimachus with the same name. Callimachus wrote an invective poem against his former friend and pupil Apollonios Rhodios , who was librarian at Alexandria.  The ibis is revered in Egypt, but despised – don’t know why – in Greece, so it had two different characters depending on the perspective. Ovid uses his large knowledge about mythology to come up with all kinds of punishments and curses in this 644 line poem. This may sound heavy stuff, but Ovid is humorous as ever: It is so over the top and full of exaggeration that it is hard to take it seriously. Actually, I wonder if ibis refers to a real person at all. Indeed, I doubt the reality of the exile to the Black Sea.
In the following lines Ovid imagines himself standing at an altar and invoking the gods to help him making his curses effective. As literature has an eternal value, these words may still help when you want to take revenge on someone by cursing him or her. And don’t forget to put anger in these words! Take Leonie Rysanek performing Ortrud in Wagner’s Lohengrin as an example:   

Ovid, Ibis  67-96.

Di maris et terrae, quique his meliora tenetis
     Inter diversos cum Iove regna polos,
Huc, precor, huc vestras omnes advertite mentes,
     Et sinite optatis pondus inesse meis:               70
Ipsaque tu tellus, ipsum cum fluctibus aequor,
     Ipse meas aether accipe summe preces;
Sideraque et radiis circumdata solis imago,
     Lunaque, quae numquam quo prius orbe micas,
Noxque tenebrarum specie reverenda tuarum;               75
     Quaeque ratum triplici pollice netis opus,
Quique per infernas horrendo murmure valles
     Inperiuratae laberis amnis aquae,
Quasque ferunt torto vittatis angue capillis
     Carceris obscuras ante sedere fores;               80
Vos quoque, plebs superum, Fauni Satyrique Laresque
     Fluminaque et nymphae semideumque genus:
Denique ab antiquo divi veteresque novique
     In nostrum cuncti tempus, adeste, chao,
Carmina dum capiti male fido dira canentur               85
     Et peragent partes ira dolorque suas.
Adnuite optatis omnes ex ordine nostris,
     Et sit pars voti nulla caduca mei.
Quaeque precor, fiant: ut non mea dicta, sed illa
     Pasiphaes generi verba fuisse putet.               90
Quasque ego transiero poenas, patiatur et illas;
     Plenius ingenio sit miser ille meo!
Neve minus noceant fictum execrantia nomen
     Vota, minus magnos commoveantve deos:
Illum ego devoveo, quem mens intellegit, Ibin,               95
     Qui se scit factis has meruisse preces.

quique =  et (dii) qui
teneo: (often) to live, dwell
polus: heaven
opatis meis: (in) my things wished for
pondus, ponderis (n.): weight
Tellus, Telleris (f.): earth
aequor, aequoris (n.): sea
summe aether
prex, precis (f.): prayer, curse
Lunaque, quae numquam quo prius orbe micas: and you moon, who never shines with your orbit by which (you shone) previously. (This refers to the changing face of the moon.)
quaeque: the three Parcae or goddesses of Fate, who spin (neo) with their fingers (pollex, pollicis m., thumb, finger) the thread of life. As no one can escape this, it is an unfailing (ratum) work.
quique… amnis = et amnis inperiuratae aquae, qui (i.e. the Styx. The gods had to take oaths by this    water. As we all know, gods never swear falsely, so this water is  inperiuratae ` that is never sworn falsely by’.)
Quasque ferunt: and those who people say (i.e. the three Furies, whose hair is wreathed by snakes (vittatits angue) and sit in front of the prison of underworld.)
superum = superorum (an archaic  gen. plur. like semideum = semideorum)
ab antiquo Chao
carmina: (here) incantations
capiti male fido: by a treacherous heads (= mouth)
peragent partes.. suas: perform their tasks
adnuo (+ dat.): to nod, approve
omnes ex ordine: all one by one
Et sit pars voti nulla caduca mei : and be no part of my vow failing!
Pasiphaes generi: the son in law (gener) of Pasiphae (i.e. Theseus who cursed his son Hippolytus.)  
putet: may one believe
trans-eo: to sum up
Plenius ingenio sit miser ille meo: may that wretched person be more full (of punishments) then my mind (can imagine)
ex(s)ecror: to curse 
devoveo: to curse
Qui se scit factis has meruisse preces: who knows that he has deserved these curses because of his deeds.

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