Is the #MeToo Era too Proper for Ovid?

I would buy a ticket if Ovid gave a reading on Zoom. If he is resurrected from the dead let me know. I might even be persuaded to attend “Ovid in Conversation with a Modern Poet.”

Ovid is the wittiest, most elegant of Roman poets, but here is what translators conceal: he is extremely bawdy, positively filthy at times.

You would think Amores II.15, an elegy addressed to the ring he plans to give his mistress, would be simple and sweet. That would be too facile for Ovid, who glories in eroticism and jokes. I have translated a few lines to unveil the double entendres.

O ring, about to encircle my mistress’ finger…
May she put it on joyfully and rub it on her knuckles.
May you fit together as my cock fits her vagina,
and may you rub her finger – perfectly sized.

Did you know that Shakespeare used the word “ring” for “vagina” in The Merchant of Venice, V.1.307? Ovid was hugely influential.

Translators tone down the Amores, while scholars explicate the double entendres and argue over problems in the text. The sexual puns are Roman, understood by Roman readers.

Brilliant Ovid had his detractors. Augustus tried to legislate morality. He banished Ovid to an island for carmen et error, “a poem and an error,” and perhaps his poetry would raise hackles in the #MeToo era, too.

You know what I say: love the writing, but don’t bother about the writers’ personal lives. You don’t need to approve them as your best friends. You just need their words.