Apollo's Human Gardening in Ovid's Metamorphoses Essays

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Apollo's Human Gardening in Ovid's Metamorphoses

In Ovid's epic poem Metamorphoses, he uses many transformations of humanoids to explain the existence of many natural entities such as animals, plants, rivers, and so forth. Ovid uses the Roman gods to be the active agents in many of the metamorphoses, although some of them are caused simply by the will of the being. In the Melville translation of Metamorphoses, the stories "The Sun in Love" (book IV, ln226-284) and "Hyacinth" (book X, ln170-239) have occurrences of both agencies of transformation of people into plants. Apollo is the catalyst that causes the metamorphoses in each of the stories. The metamorphoses involved support the concepts of the "Great Chain of Being" and the
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Leucothoe's transformation into a frankincense shrub is Apollo's grant of immortality to her through the life of the plant. The deep roots and piercing shoots are representative of Leucothoe because she was buried into the ground and her fornication with Apollo. Clytie's transformation into a heliotrope flower represents her passion and lust in that the flower has red petals, her longing and desire in that the head of the flower follows the sun, and that she has a green stalk holding her to the ground because she was envious and static for the last nine days of her human existence. Both of these women's metamorphosis into a plant because becoming a plant is representative of death. The representation of death granted by their becoming plants also acts on another level that there is life after death in some form or another.

The Great Chain of Being that Lakoff and Turner propose has a hierarchy: humans; animals; plants; complex objects; and natural physical things. In the story "The Sun in Love," Clytie and Leucothoe are connected at a basic level with the plants they change into. Going along with this, Lakoff and Turner introduce the idea of a "Maxim of Quantity" which has the author - Ovid - being as "informative as required and not more so." (pg 171) Motive for the transformation is given in the line "Yet you shall touch the sky!"(Book IV, ln252), but motive for changing her into a frankincense shrub is not