Saturday, October 29, 2016

Odious Ovid, Avian Aficionado

Ovid liked birds. He wrote an elegy on a dead parrot (I couldn't help but immediately think of the Python sketch) which he imagined going to bird heaven. Or to an avian Elysian Fields, rather. I swear, half the people in the Metamorphoses transformed into birds. I think he had an story for the origin of every single winged species, including bats.

And George R.R. Martin ain't got nothing on Ovid when it comes to blood weddings. Talk about all the gory details. After the first time everybody but the bride and groom got decapitated, skewered, eviscerated, and/or was ripped limb from limb in a dramatic reception tiff, you think you'd require the guests to check their swords and pikes at the door. Then again, the heroes and demigods were a resourceful lot, and knew how to use punch bowls as devastatingly effective offensive weapons.

I wonder if anybody has actually tried to mix up the facial mask recipe that Ovid included with his love poetry. There are actually two recipes, but the other contains white lead, which I understand is frowned upon by the dermatological community these days. He promised both concoctions did wonderful things for the skin. The ingredients are all natural, and not exactly on the eye of newt level – stag horns may a lot of collagen in them.

 Ovid's love poetry is definitely R-rated, quite modern. Lots of bed scenes and the anticipation thereof. You can visualize the guy – a skinny scholar with lots of winsome words and little cash hitting on girls. His (possibly married, or possibly a prostitute) girlfriend had an abortion, which really upset him. And he suffered from ED at least once. Of course, he could've been writing from different creative perspectives, not all his own, but the emotions feel raw and real, and doubtless the scenarios are representative. One poem describes his remorse over beating his girlfriend (!). Another talks about witnessing a traditional religious festival in his wife's hometown. Still others lament not being able to gain access to his married lover's bed.

What I found interesting and did not expect in Ovid's love poetry was the echo, or rather the original, of some phrases I associate with St. Paul. Ovid preceded Paul by a generation or so (the poet was exiled to the Crimean peninsula and died there c.17-18 AD), and clearly Saul of Tarsus was up on his Roman bestsellers, because there are phrases that, at least in translation, come across as almost identical to those in the epistles, though used in diametrically different contexts (for example, when Ovid was talking about doing what he didn't want to do, and not doing what he wanted to do, he certainly wasn't talking about his personal struggle with his sin nature). And there is the mention by Ovid that "not all Cretans are liars" (the original claim that they are is attributed to a Cretan by the name of Epimenides, generating one of those paradoxes of which logicians are so fond), which Paul referenced in Titus 1 in affirmation (or so I have read it) of regional-cultural tendencies to particular vices.

In his "how to get laid" manual for guys, Ars Amatoria, Ovid talks about various promising locations for seduction, and then various means of doing so. In that book, "no" meant "yes": he recommended if men got a chance to kiss the girl they liked, they might as well go ahead and rape her, because she would like it--he quotes a whole host of mythological examples to support his case. What the hell?! That's seriously sick. Of course, he also said that suitors shouldn't pass up the opportunity to sleep with the woman's maid, either. Cuckolding husbands was a really involved process. In one of his early poems, the poet pled with a husband to be more suspicious, because it wasn't any fun to seduce a woman who wasn't kept under close watch. Only the forbidden enticed.

Speaking of forbidden and enticement, having a cat is a lot like having a toddler. I end up talking to Trixie like she's a misbehaving two-year-old: "Get off the counter! You know you're not allowed up there." The shiny objects (a bunch of semi-finished necklaces) had drawn her attention.

When she flops on the floor like an odalisque and looks seductively up at me through hooded pistachio colored eyes, it's hard to fuss. Still, as I got out of the shower this evening, I managed to resist the allure: "I may be willing to bury my face in the tummy fur that you licked with the same tongue that you just licked your butt with, but I refuse to rub your tummy next to your litter box. I have standards, you know."

They are low, but they are standards. Which is why I need to decide whose name to write in the ballot's presidential slot before Tuesday week. I was disappointed to find that we can't spontaneously name someone on our Georgia ballots; rather, write-in candidates have to be pre-approved with paperwork. This is clearly no obstacle, as it's quite a slate...more than forty individuals, including Jesus Christ--allegedly of College Park--and Ming the Merciless. And some dude whose given name is "Damn." I hope I can find someone who's reasonable. Reason seems to be pretty thin on the ground lately.

I do pray for my country. And I ask the Almighty's guidance as I continue in my quest to go to South Korea. Come Monday, I'm sending my background check off to the State Department to be apostilled. When that is returned, I'll put all of my documents in a packet and mail them off to Jeju Island. We shall see.

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