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This review is taken from PN Review 34, Volume 10 Number 2, November - December 1983.

PROTEUS Poetry and Metamorphosis, Charles Tomlinson (Cambridge) £9.95

Metamorphosis is the theme, but the art of transformation is singularly Charles Tomlinson's. No contemporary English poet has made himself more qualified than Tomlinson to study the implications for poetry of changed states, re-creation, and translation, particularly in the way that they bear upon Dryden, Eliot, and Pound. Tomlinson's origins and evolving powers as a poet qualify him for the task, but his recent interest in The Metamorphoses itself goes back to his Oxford Book of Verse in English Translation. Ovid appeared there in excerpts from the Golding translation and, more significantly, from the 1717 Garth edition translated by Dryden and contemporaries. In these Clark Lectures, The Metamorphoses enter again, though appropriately altered: not only a text Englished by Dryden, 'the Poundian figure of his age', but a great instance of the renovative power itself- the spirit by which artists make themselves over to the refining, broadening force of past achievement, in new continuity going beyond the narrows of ego or era. It takes Ovid to make Dryden outgo his Restoration self as public poet and theatrical entertainer, becoming (with an intimacy and energy that run in the unfinished translation of the Iliad) the 'great poet of the tenderness of married love' by the way he recreates the Ovidian episode of Baucis and Philemon. Even when The Metamorphoses are not the textual starting point, as with Cowley's translation of Horace's Anacreontics, they are like the heightening yet sobering power through which a minor writer finds the style of speech ...


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