STRUCTURE, CHRONOLOGY, TONE AND UNDERTONE: AN EXAMINATION OF TONAL VARIATION IN OVID'S EXILIC POETRY

Jo-Marie Claassen

Abstract


As with other aspects of Ovid ian self-deprecation and recusatio in the Tristia and Epistolae ex
Ponto, the poet's ostensibly candid admissions that his poetry is "not only sad but
monotonous"! have been granted more credence than they deserve. The word "monotony"
refers to "singleness of tone", not of content. By "tone" is meant the effect upon the
sensibilities of the reader of the prevailing attitude of mind of the speaker. Discrepancy of
tone and content is often an indication of ironic intent, colouring with new insights the
reader's perception of what has gone before.2 Reversal and inversions of tone are aspects of
the general poetic principle of variatio.3 This paper will attempt to demonstrate that the
principle of variatio applies to tone and shifts of tone in Ovid's exilic oeuvre, both within
individual poems, and within the various collections that comprise Ovid's exilic works.
The paper will first discuss the various critical concepts involved, relating these to a
descriptive "micro-analysis" of shifts of tone in some poems, touching very briefly on the
stylistics by which these shifts are achieved. Readers will then be offered an opportunity to
discover for themselves contrasts in tone in prose translations of three consecutive poems. The
paper will end with a consideration of Epistolae ex Ponto 4.16 as the emotional culmination of
the poets' oeuvre.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/37-3-4-827

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