Ovid’s personification of Envy is powerfully vivid, animated with gesture, diet, sounds and colour. It is a remarkable portrait, painterly, even filmic. Its depiction of Envy evokes its malignant nature. This is from Allen Mandelbaum’s rather beautiful translation.
she saw that Envy was intent upon
a meal of viper flesh, the meat that fed
her vice. Minerva turned aside her eyes.
But Envy sluggishly rose from the ground,
leaving the half-chewed dregs of serpents’ flesh
and coming forward with her faltering steps.
And when she saw the splendid goddess dressed
in gleaming armor, Envy moaned: her face
Contracted as she sighed. That face is wan,
that body shriveled; and her gaze is not
direct; her teeth are filled with filth and rot;
her breast is green with gall, and poison coats
her tongue. She never smiles except when some
sad sight brings her delight; she is denied
sweet sleep, for she is too preoccupied,
forever vigilant; when men succeed,
she is displeased – success means her defeat.
she gnaws at others and at her own self—
her never-ending, self-inflicted hell.
gak… can all that really be in the translation? or was Ovid happy writing that stuff? yuk…
It’s all there. It is so powerful I had to compare a few different translations in order to see how other translators have portrayed Envy. Spenser’s Envy “still did chaw / Betweene his canker teeth a venomous tode,” which I rather liked. Spenser was not the only person to make Ovid’s Envy male, though in Ovid, she is apparently definitely female.
i wonder if Blake had anything to say about her/it/him…