Ovid’s Nineteen on Covid-19

20th March 2020

The great poet’s name rhymes with the viral pall that hangs above us.

What can Ovid (43BC – 17AD) have to say on Covid? 

Besides being one of the most eloquent observers of human behaviour, he was  also Roman, and today (March 20th) happens to be his birthday. That’s too much rhyming not to take notice. So I did.  

I have dipped into the noble phrases of Publius Ovidius Naso (aka Ovid), in search of fresh thinking in these Corona days. I’ve chosen nineteen quotes,  and arranged them in a manner of my choosing. 

As Italy suffers, and the world is full of weeping, some Roman wisdom brings perspective and light. 

I found the exercise uplifting, despite discovering that Bono got here first…   




On Shock

(1) The cause is hidden, but the result is well known

(2) We’re slow to believe what wounds us


On Change & Coping

(3) No species remains constant: that great renovator of matter, Nature, endlessly fashions new forms from old

(4) Habit makes all things bearable

(5) Drops of water hollow out a stone


On Human Nature

(6) We take no pleasure in permitted joys. But what’s forbidden is more keenly sought

(7) I see better things, and approve; but I follow worse

(8) So I can’t live either without you or with you


On Action

(9) Resist beginnings; too late is the medicine prepared, when the disease has gained strength by long delay

(10) Bending a bough the right way, gently, makes it easy; use brute force, and it breaks

(11) Love is a kind of warfare


On Finances 

(12) Not being able to pay them in presents, I pay my mistresses in poetry

(13) Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish

(14) Abundance makes me poor


On Loss

(15) And it is a smaller thing to suffer the punishment than to have deserved it


On Philosophy

(16) Thus all things are but altered; nothing dies

(17) Now are fields of corn where Troy once stood

(18) It is right to learn even from an enemy


On Ovid

(19) My name shall never be forgotten



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