• Tag Archives Ovid
  • The End of the Beginning

    Spring                                                               New (Planting) Moon

    The story of the golden fleece has been entirely translated, though I’ve not yet checked my work.  I feel ready now to go back to Book I and begin the task I set myself a while ago, the translation of the Metamorphoses.  As I wrote here earlier, this will mean a change in the mode of translation, with more careful note-taking, review of other versions of the myths in other authors, comparison of my work at some point to other translators, then working toward the best English I can imagine.  I will start notes for a commentary, though how long that project will last alongside the primary one, I can’t tell at this time.  Maybe the whole way.

    (Golden Fleece pub in Heidelberg)

    It’s deeply satisfying to have reached this point, the end of the beginning.


  • In A Dark Wood Wandering

    Spring                                                                               Bloodroot Moon

    Another Latin session with Greg finished.  We went once a week for about two years, perhaps a little less, then shifted to every two weeks, the pace we continue to follow.  At first we followed lessons in Wheelock, the grizzled Latin classic, updated, but following in the original’s historic pattern.


    About midway through it Greg said he felt I was a global learner, more like himself, and we switched to work with the Metamorphoses itself.  I translate as best I can then we go over my translation when we meet.  By phone.  All of my lessons, every one, has been done over the phone, not skype, but over the old fashioned landline telephone.  At least in my instance.  Greg uses a cell phone.

    It was my passion for learning what lay behind the English translations of Ovid’s masterwork that started me on this path and Greg felt I’d learn best following it.  He’s been right.  It means I encounter things I don’t know from time to time, but that provides an opportunity to learn and not only that but to learn in context, not in the abstract as a textbook does.

    (The Young Cicero Reading, Vincenzo Foppa, 1464)

    At first I wandered through the Latin like I was lost in a briar patch.  I’d come up scraped and raggedy with sentences to match.  As I have put more reading behind me, it has been more like following an ancientrail through a strange forest.  I can follow it, even if I don’t always know where I’m going.  And, at times, I turn down the wrong path and have to find my way back or, if I can’t do it by myself, Greg shows me the way.

    At some point, I think after I finish the story of Jason and Medea, a long one, I will return to the start, Book I, and begin to work my way forward.  At some point, too, I want to read some other authors, follow different trails through the Big Woods that is ancient Rome.  But for now Ovid is enough.

  • And Jazz Saxophone after it all

    Imbolc                                                              Valentine Moon

    Here we go.  A perfect day.  Revising Missing before 11:00 am.  A sentence from Ovid before lunch.  Nap.  Working with pre-Raphaelites until 4:00.  Some chess until 5.  Workout.  A movie with Kate.  As I said.

  • Plateaus

    Imbolc                                                                          Valentine Moon

    After the Swede saw, lunch and a nap followed by another sentence, 6 verses long, in Ovid’s retelling of the Jason and Medea narrative.  When I have a week off from translating, or almost a week, like I had when I spent time rearranging and reorganizing, I wonder if I can still do it.  Sometimes I convince myself that what I’ve learned has dropped away and I’ve wasted all the time up to that point.  Silly, yes, but real nonetheless.

    (Medea, Batumi, Georgia)

    As a result, it is a relief when I return to the work and find myself able to translate.  This time in fact I managed a translation of a clause without looking up a word.  Something is seeping into the lower crevices of my brain.  Language work, at least for me, is slog, slog, slog, plateau.  Plateau, plateau, plateau.  Slog, slog, slog, slog.  Plateau.  So on.

    Right now I’m gaining facility at recognizing words and verb forms and sussing out grammatical forms, though I’m wrong as often as I’m right.  That’s without Perseus (the online classics web engine), without Anderson (the scholarly commentator on Ovid) and without Wheelock (the grammar text).  There’s the plateau.

    I can only advance part way into the text without the books.  With the books now I increase my facility by maybe another 25%.  So a lot of the time I can translate the literal sense of Latin correctly, but at least a quarter of the time, I’m lost.  That’s where my tutor comes into play.

    (Ovid, Constanta, Romania, 2012)

    He unsticks me from my stuck places and has been invaluable as a role model for tactics and strategy when approaching unfamiliar text.  He also guided me through the initial learning phase, about two years, when the grammar and vocabulary were still largely alien (foreign) to me.

    My personal goal is to be 90 to 95% successful on my own by the end of this year.  Then, I imagine, I’ll use Greg (my tutor) less often and then as a backup.  That’s unless we decide together to get back on the commentary track.  That still sounds fun to me.


  • A Comment-ary

    Spring                                                                  New Beltane Moon

    An interesting proposition.  Greg, my Latin tutor, and I have talked off and on about  writing a commentary for new learners of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  Today he asked me to think about it with an eye toward moving our teacher-student relationship more toward collaborators.  It sounds fun and worthwhile to me.

    Ovid’s text serves as the headwaters for most of Greek mythology as it enters the Western literary stream.  In that sense it is an important work in the historical study of Western literature.  A great read, too, it’s full of stories, captivating narratives that have a major twist at the end, so it is, as well, an excellent example of Western literature itself.

    And commentaries last.  A good commentary on The Metamorphoses, even one that covers only part of the 15 books, could introduce students to this elegant citizen of Augustan Rome for decades, even centuries to come.

  • A Morning During Our Long November

    Winter                            First Moon of the New Year

    Our long November continues.  Patchy snow, mostly bare ground and leafless trees.  Occasional sunshine, like today, otherwise gloomy and gray.   I’m disappointed in the season since I believe we have to earn our springs here and I’m not sure we’re going to this year.  Of course, last year may have counted for two.

    Action method and Evernote have both made my work on the computer much more productive.  I can switch seamlessly among projects now without having to do a lot of hunting for files and resources.  Since my days have become more and more study oriented this means a lot to me.

    (remember last winter?)

    Kate’s out having lunch with a friend, Penny.  I worked on Ovid, finished up my ten verses for this week.  This afternoon I’ll check out my objects for my two China tours tomorrow and probably enter some more of the material I wrote last March at Blue Cloud.

    I’m getting close to having that finished.  Once I do, I’ll go back over my notes and start writing again.  I expect I’ll have a rough draft finished in February if things go well.  I’ll start on Book II after that.


  • On Moving Toward Doing the Work Only I Can Do

    Winter                              First Moon of the New Year

    Spent yesterday shifting to my new work schedule.  A couple of hours on Ovid, plus analyzing some of Caesar’s Gallic Wars.  Edited three portions of the Tailte Mythos:  Book I and began clipping postings from Ancientrails to consult for my first essay in the Reimagining project.

    Also learned that I can’t go to sustaining status at the MIA until I’ve had 8 years as a docent.  Sustaining would cut my tour requirements in half.

    This means I’m going to have duck out of the Sierra Club sooner than I had planned.

    No plant starts this year.  I’m going to buy already started plants and of those only those we decide to grow for particular, planned uses.  We’re going to shift our gardening now toward minimalism, toward those things we’ll preserve.  Two colonies of bees.  Emphasizing less maintenance everywhere, planting towards a time when the gardens will need even less, eventually very little care.

    Life’s focus changes as our lives change and now I’ve become focused on those kind of things only I can do.  Only I can write the Tailte books.  Only I can set down my scattered thoughts about a sort 0f ur-faith, a common reverence all of us on the planet might share.  Others might/will translate Ovid, but only I will work toward a beginner’s level commentary, one similar to Pharr’s commentary on Vergil.

    Not sure why now for this shift except to say that I know my time is finite.  Yes, it always has been, that’s true, but now it seems existential.  No, I’m not covering something up here, I’m not ill, in fact, I just got a set of labs that Kate says are typical of a 40 year old.

    Long ago, in my 20’s, I read an article about when certain professions reach their maturity.  You know the material about mathematicians and scientists, early ripe, but certain other professions matured much later, writers and artists, for example, with the oldest age of maturation according to this reckoning being 50, for philosophers.

    Factoring in my drinking and an early career emphasis on politics and the practical side of religion, I don’t find 65 to far out of range for me.  I feel mature in my thinking and writing skills now and I need to deploy them or my unique contribution will be lost.

  • How the New Year Might Look

    Winter                                           First Moon of the New Year

    At an inflection point with the Latin.  Either I keep the pace I currently follow, maybe 6 hours a week; or, I ramp up, say to 10 or 12, maybe a couple of hours each day.  Some analysis of other texts–maybe Caesar or Suetonius or Julian, I have all of these in Loeb Library volumes–plus more translating of the Metamorphoses.  My inclination is to ramp up, do more, focus on Latin and the novel.  That’s what my heart tells me.

    That other project, too.  The one I’ve got slotted for 5,000 word essays each month next year.  Where I’m going to give voice to my whirling ideas about the earth, about ge-ology, about what would help us help our home planet.  That one, too.

    When you add these things together, they constitute real work and I feel good about that, not trapped or bummed.  Now all I need is a way of allocating my time so I can work them all in and still manage the art, the garden, the bees and family.

    That may be my new year’s work.  Pruning activities and creating a new schedule.



  • Ovid. Again.

    Winter                              First Moon of the New Year

    An Ovidian morning.  Holding words, conjugations, meanings, clause types, prepositions and adverbs in the head while whirling them around like a Waring blender.  It’s satisfying when a sentence finally pops up, like a good smoothie.  Not always a straight on logical process, though logic can critique the result.

    About ten verses a week now.  Takes, hmmm, 4-6 hours.  So, if there are 15,000 verses, that’s 1,500 weeks or 6 to 9,000 hours.  Which is, what?  3 to 4.5 working years full-time or 30 years a week at a time, taking some time off for vacation.  Mmmm.  Don’t look for that book jacket anytime soon.


  • More Fun With Ovid

    Lughnasa                                                 Waning Harvest Moon

    More fun with Ovid.  The curtain has begun to roll back a bit more.

    Many of my friends have second and third languages, but until now I only had the one.  A bit of French.  A little Hebrew.  A little Greek.  But nothing solid.  The ability to look on a page filled with Latin words, words I would once have brushed over with little attempt at comprehension, and see meaning emerge delights me.

    The words still look strange to me, foreign, but now they carry a pulse of meaning, one I can get if I look a bit longer, or turn to a book.

    The same work I mentioned above, All Things Shining, that critiques Western individualism, has a section on the decline of craft, the disappearance of embodied learning, of skill at making.  Again, I find myself pushing against their analysis and in this instance Latin came to mind.

    To translate requires a subtle knowledge of the original language and an idiomatic grasp of the home language.  This type of intellectual work is a skill, a craft like that of. woodworkers or, the example used in the book, wheelwrights.  It requires a mind numbing series of early, simple steps that build only gradually into a suite of skills.  My guess is that the traditional seven years to move from apprentice to journeyman is not far off for Latin.