Talent versus the overrated amateur

Many consider Publius Ovidius Naso (Ovid) to be a literary genius, and continue to do so even now in the twenty-first century. Having read his Poems of Exile, I came away with the feeling that his was a childlike approach to writing. Hardly the pen of a competent adult writer. Judge for yourself:

For you no purple slip-case (that’s a colour 5 goes ill with grief), no title-line picked out in vermilion, no cedar-oiled backing, no white bosses to set off those black edges: leave luckier books to be dressed with such trimmings: never forget my sad estate. 10 No smoothing off your ends with friable pumice — appear for inspection bristly, unkempt. And don’t be embarrassed by blots. Anyone who sees them will sense they were due to my tears.c

Ovid. The Poems of Exile: Tristia and the Black Sea Letters (p. 3). University of California Press. Kindle Edition.

Reading Ovid you begin to wonder about his state of mind. Or at least I do. Reading his poems there is no sign of him being a literary genius despite what is said about him. There is bitterness at being banished to Tomis on the Black Sea by the then Roman Emperor Augustus if you read between the lines.

~~~

When it comes to true genius, another Italian, Michaelangelo Merisi da Carravaggio, was the real deal. Yes he was not a nice individual. Yes he was a drunkard. Yes he was a brawler, and a murderer. But when it came to wielding a paint brush, he left his contemporaries and those before him like Michaelangelo di Lodovico Buonorotti Simoni (Michaelangelo) in his dust:

Caravaggio Judith Beheading Holofernes.jpg

Give me Carravaggio every time!

By the way, I haven’t completely dismissed the idea of writing a novel based on him…

😉

 

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4 thoughts on “Talent versus the overrated amateur

  1. Do write the novel…
    I confess I have not read Ovid, didn’t do the classics at school and have not learned Latin. Perhaps something is lost in translation! But I agree Caravaggio is a genius. Whatever trends come and go in art, to be able to paint people and make them look so real, capture light and shade is perfect art. Unlike literature we don’t need to speak the same language to appreciate painting.

    Like

    • Like most egotists today Ovid was a loud-mouthed pain in the neck. If it hadn’t been for the fact that he came from a patrician family, his fate could have been far worse than mere banishment by the Emperor Augustus. As for him being a literary genius? Never!

      Liked by 1 person

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