Tales from Ovid, Ted Hughes’s masterful translations from the Latin of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, include the stories of Phaeton, Actaeon, Echo and Narcissus, Procne, Midas and Pyramus and Thisbe, as well as many others.
When Michael Hofmann and James Lasdun’s ground-breaking anthology After Ovid was published in 1995, Hughes’s three contributions to the collective effort were nominated by most critics as outstanding. He had shown that rare translator’s gift for providing not just an accurate account of the original, but one so thoroughly imbued with his own qualities that it was as if Latin and English poet were somehow the same person. Tales from Ovid, which went on to win the Whitbread Prize for Poetry, continued the project of recreation with 24 passages, including the stories of Phaeton, Actaeon, Echo and Narcissus, Procne, Midas and Pyramus and Thisbe. In them, Hughes’s supreme narrative and poetic skills combine to produce a book that stands, alongside his Crow and Gaudete, as an inspired addition to the myth-making of our time.