edited by Antigone
[The following text provides a faithful translation of the Latin critical introduction.]
“Here, where Rome now stands,” Ovid once wrote, “is the capital of the world.” Yet, as he also taught us, “Rome may stand in whatever place fortune chooses.” We shouldn’t be so shocked, then, that Giggleswick, the Yorkshire town that was once a haunt of the Brigantes tribe, should throw up a capital chunk of a person long since unseen. Now is really not the time to collect, collate and calibrate the various threads by which Ovid’s poetic corpus survived through so many centuries. For now it will suffice to say that almost all of his works – which were always popular and always read – survived the murky mists of those most turbid times. Yet at some point, by some accident or perhaps foul play, those two works that were particularly praised – the Medea and his mysterious juvenalia – disappeared from view. We critics thought that these works were lost for ever. As Ovid himself wrote, “Fate ordered a long time of rest” – until, that is, a most remarkable event occurred: the long-nosed Fates uncovered the Nose of Naso!”
So let’s treat the facts in brief. An older chap who lived in Gigglewick, whom we will name only as ‘Ralph’, had headed out for his typical Friday shopping round.
At this point we are advised on legal grounds to replace our own account with what the the store in question describes as a
Yes, an ‘incident’ indeed! However, once the manager had dealt with the apparent fire, Ralph found a prize he could scarcely credit. Among the bits and bobs of one of the broken polystyrene heads there emerged a piece of paper.
At first he throught that this was just an old receipt that had somehow fallen from his pocket. But he soon realised that it was something much more ancient, covered as it was in some strange, antique writing. In fact, twenty verses are written across the page in what we now call ‘cursive’ script (of the 1st cent. AD?). Thankfully, Ralph was very careful to bring this fragment home with him; unfortunately, he seems to have thrown it into the river Ribble after making a copy of it. That said, our diving team cannot corroborate the shocking claim of papyrocide.
To turn to the facts on the ground, we have one manuscript surviving to us. Regrettably, this is not the ancient manuscript that emerged from the mannequin head. It is instead the piece of paper that was recently copied by Ralph’s senile hand. A picture of this copy can be seen here.
To summarise, then: our ‘Supermarket Ovid’ clearly offers a great deal that is new about Naso and his nose. But, to avoid wasting your time any further, you nosy parker, we have published these ancient verses, along with various conjectures upon them. Should you read the poem carefully, you’ll doubtless turn up some better and truer ideas. But, most importantly, you may be able to look again at poor Ovid without turning up your nose.
In closing, we should thank those friends who love these aspects of Classics: M.R. Arbabzadah, J.S. Boparai, D.J. Butterfield, A. D’Angour, W. de Melo, O.H. Gibbs, M.A. Hardy, L. Holford-Strevens, L. Morgan, T. Meißner, P. Probert, A. Ramírez de Verger, K. Volk, and the best of the rest.
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