The Influence of Ovid. An unsigned review of Ovid and his Influence, by Edward Kennard Rand
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[ 795 The Influence of Ovid An unsigned review of Ovid and his Influence by Edward Kennard Rand London: G. G. Harrap, 1926. Pp. xii + 184. Times Literary Supplement, 1274 (1 July 1926) 442 Professor Rand, who is an authority on Boethius and on early medieval Latin, is well qualified both by scholarship and by urbanity of mind for writing a popular introduction to Ovid’s poetry.1 This volume is one of a series (“Our Debt to Greece and Rome”) which appears to be of Transatlantic inception, though it includes such names as Professor Mackail, Signor Ferrero, Mr. Sheppard and Mr. Lucas.2 It is worthy of such a series: it is useful for anyone studying Ovid for the first time, and also for anyone studying in detail the work and its influence. Indeed, if there is any case among poets where the “influence” is as important as the poetry it is that of Ovid. Of this Professor Rand is well aware: both by his choice of title and by the space – nearly a half – which he devotes to the influence in this short book of 184 pages. Dr. Rand was, perhaps, restricted by the requirements of the series for which his book was written. The only adverse criticism we have to make, therefore, is one of which the author may possibly be quite conscious: that the “ influence” of Ovid is too sharply tabulated into influence here and influence there, instead of being shown as a continuity, as one of the most important currents of European civilization. For instance, “Ovid in the Middle Ages” has subdivisions (i.) Elegiac Comedies; (ii.) The Tale; (iii.) Vagabond Poetry; (iv.) Romance and Epic; (v.) Arts of Love and the Knightly Code; (vi.) Forgeries; (vii.) Transformations; (viii.) Dante and Chaucer. Our objection is that this tabulation illustrates the variety, but not the strength or importance , of Ovid’s influence. For this dispersion we may partly accuse the exigencies of writing a primer to type, to be included in a series. Yet even in detail Professor Rand seems to slight certain very important events. He observes that “the spirit of Ovid the lover, chastened and refined, comes to Dante through the troubadours and the singers of the dolce stil nuovo”; he admits that in the verse of Dante it is exalted “to heights of which Ovid 1926 796 ] never dreamed” [144]. But he does not make clear the nature of one of the most extraordinary and triumphant metamorphoses in the history of civilization : the fusion, in the work of Dante and his contemporaries, of Ovid with Christianity; of the Art of Love with the Worship of the Virgin; the formation consequently of the most complete and most exalted erotic (to coin a needed word) that the world has ever known. The history of the influence of Ovid is the history of the European erotic – by which we mean not “eroticism,” but the conscious refinement and intensification of the sexual impulse – which is one of the great achievements of Europe. The history of the Art of Love lay perhaps outside of what Dr. Rand took to be his province in this book; nevertheless, it is noticeable that, while he gives due emphasis to the influence of Ovid upon Chaucer, he seems to underestimate Ovid’s importance for Dante. Perhaps he is blinded by Dante’s explicit devotion to Virgil; but certainly it is less than the truth to say that “Ovid hardly touched the spirit of Dante” [145]. But, after making every deduction or reservation, Professor Rand’s book deserves much praise. And of the poetry of Ovid, apart from its influence, Dr. Rand shows sound judgment and an appreciative enjoyment uncommon at the present time. Notes 1. Edward Kennard Rand (1871-1945), professor of Latin at Harvard University, was the joint editor and translator of the Opuscula sacra [Theological Tractates] (ca. 512-21) and De consolatione philosophiae [The Consolation of Philosophy] (ca. 524) by the sixth-century philosopher Boethius (ca. 480-ca. 525/6). 2. The multivolume series, edited by American classicists for publishers in Boston and London, included monographs by distinguished European and American scholars, including Oxford classicist J. W. Mackail, who contributed Virgil and His Meaning to the World of To-day (1922); the Cambridge classicist J. T. Sheppard (1881-1968), who wrote Aeschylus and Sophocles: Their Work and Influence (1927), and the Cambridge classicist F. L. Lucas (1894-1967), who contributed Euripides and His Influence (1923). The liberal historian Guglielmo Ferrero (18711942 ), known...