Wednesday, January 06, 2010


I recently read the Penguin Classics edition of Ovid's Erotic Poems, translated by Peter Green. In the first sequence in the book, the Amores, I was quite struck by two poems in particular: number 13 in book 2 and number 7 in book 3. The former is about an abortion—a topic I would not have expected to find discussed in classical literature! How many abortion poems are there from before the late 20th century?

The latter is about impotence:
I imagined every variety of erotic pleasure, invented
No end of positions—in my head—
But still my member lay there, an embarrassing case of
premature death, and limper than yesterday's rose.
I suspect there are many more poems about impotence scattered across the centuries. In its tone and style, this one also reminds of Rochester's "The Imperfect Enjoyment"—but that one is about premature ejaculation, not about impotence!


Dr. M. L. Grim said...

Wasn't "Ozymandias" about impotence?

Andrew Shields said...

In a figurative kind of way, sure, but Ovid's poem is not metaphorically about impotence, but absolutely explicitly about impotence!

the admiral said...

Rochester's "The Disabled Debauchee" is about impotence, and so is Aphra Behn's *amazing* poem "The Disappointment."