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Well I still haven't managed to read that book we were talking about a
while back, but I did pick up a prizewinning and acclaimed Tales from Ovid
which is "Ovid for the Millenium" and "should entice new readers to the
ancient stories". And I came across this bit, from The Flood:

A few crowds are squeezed on diminishing islets
Of hill-tops.
Men are rowing in circles aimlessly, crazed,
Where once they ploughed straight furrows or steered waggons.

And that sent me back to a version some hundreds of years earlier:

Some climbed up to the tops of hils, and some rowde to and fro
In Botes, where they not long before to plough and Cart did go

Now the top one is in the present tense, which should give it that much
more in the way of immediacy, urgency, no? And yet, it seems to me that
all the energy is in the rough, monosyllabic sound of the second. Where
the first is weighed down with descriptors which pull the energy out of it
("diminishing" "aimlessly") the second carries no such extra baggage. And
whilst, obviously, the second is using a fairly conventional metre (which,
nevertheless, is made energetic by the irregular internal rhyming, and the
syntax), what is the first doing? Why is the line break where it is at the
end of the first line? it neither supports a movement nor creates tension
with it...

And so on. I hope there are folks out there who'll tell me just as
specifically why the first bit is so appropriate to our millenial times,
which I just can't see, except that it's scaled the whole event to a
passage of an official bbc report. I'm still waiting for the cris cheek
version - that, I'd guess, would put the energy and range back into it
which I find so sadly lacking, or which I just don't get, in the first
bit. I tried, as always, but I just don't get it.

RC 





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