Ovidian Delight IV

Ovid has left us a treasure trove of humorous quotations. Truly hilarious and a comic master. The first comes from his opening lines of his poem the Amores:

Arma gravi numero violentaque bella parabam edere, materia conveniente modis. par erat inferior versus—risisse Cupido dicitur atque unum surripuisse pedem.

I was preparing to sing of arms and violent wars in a serious metre, With material fitting to the measure. It was good enough for a lesser verse-but it is said that Cupid laughed And stole one foot!


Now Ovid is not literally saying that Cupid came and stole his foot or his shoe. This is a very clever opening. In the first line, Ovid announces that he was initially intending to produce an epic poetry about wars. He echoes the first line of Virgil's Aeneid: 'arma virumque cano' (arms and the man I sing). The metre for epic verbse in the ancient world was called the hexameter, six feet. The first and third lines of this opening have six feet. However, the second and fourth have five, the elegiac metre (a lyric metre). So, in saying Cupid stole one foot, he is saying Cupid played a joke on him by stealing a metrical foot as a way of telling Ovid NOT to write epic, and stick to love poetry. Ovid is a very witty poet.

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