Marcia Karp wrote:
> Dear Carrol,
> I don't know about Dryden's favorite, but he spends years translating all of
> Virgil and can't keep him out of his prefaces. In the preface to his final work
> (_Fables Ancient and Modern_) Dryden was more subtle than to announce a
> favorite, characterizing the poets by talent and temperament, and arranging the
> generations into “lineal descents and clans.” Homer and Virgil represent two
> families of poetry to Dryden. Ovid has a great influence on the nature of the
I loved Dryden's _Aeneid_ -- or rather probably still do though I
haven't re-read it recently. I guess by "favorite poet" I mean the poet
that you can see reverberating in their lines, and Ovid seems to me to
be almost omnipresent in both Pope and Milton. (I was a bit careless in
throwing in Dryden; his poetry is not as much "part of me" as that of
Pope and Milton.) I gamble and open Pope's Homer at random, and here I
find Pope's note praising Agamemnon's speech as he bewails the feared
death of Menelaus, ending, "There is no Contradiction in all this, but
on the other side a great deal of Nature, in the confused sentiments of
_Agamemnon_ on the occasion. . . ." (TE VII, 230) The lines (IV.
186-219) are really quite fine -- and in many ways straight out of the
monologues of Ovid's titanic (if usually villanous) heroines:
Agamemnon's foresees the Eternal "Bare his red Arm" in striking out at
the Trojans, but suddenly that certainty of vengeance becomes an equally
powerful vision of Trojans of the future triumphing over Menelaus'
grave. Ovid's verbal turns only occasionally show up in translation
(They fled as though they were on wings, they were on wings"), but that
trope organizes whole long episodes, and that shows in translation, and
the turn operates similarly in Pope and in Milton. Eve's response to
temptation owes rather more to Ovid than to Genesis, as does Satan's
soliloquy on Mt. Niphates. (Milton critics often compare Satan to
Achilles, but comparison to Ovid's Medea or Niobe might be equally
> Why "of course" would they have lied about their favorite? Do you really think
> poets have to have a favorite other poet, rather than having poems that are
> important and/or pleasing to them?
No, not really. E-mail carelessness. :-)
Ovid and Homer rejoin in Pound -- a 'marriage' rather bluntly announced
by translating Homer in Canto I and Ovid in Canto II. And the 'marriage'
is perfect Canto VII.