The Candidus Lector



Ovid in exile, morose, ailing, on the next boat home (if only), considered the 'candidus lector' (Tristia 1.11.35; 4.10.132) to be his ideal reader. But who or what is a 'candidus lector'? Someone who only reflects the bright surface sheen of the Tomitan ice and takes it as being the only land there is? Until it melts? First of all, we can't guarantee 'candidus lector' will even recognise themselves in the words 'candidus lector'. So we should try to idenify them ourselves in case they don't shout 'eureka' from the rooftops.  We may see them as 'the dressed-in-white readers' who might however be a slave in a tunic. Or should we go for the say-it-as-he-sees-it reader or the hear-it-as-he recites-it orator?Then there's the admirable but naive 'disposed-to-always-seeing-the-best' reader.

To be serious and 'candidus', I like the white-dressed option. Ovid or Ovid's white-dressed people are involved in a holy ritual (Tristia 5.5.8; Fasti 4.906; Amores 2.12.23). They are in holy register. In Rome these types were especially prominent in January and early February with the addition of so many more feast days in honour of the royal house. Did they read out excerpts in all apparent innocence from the  Fasti as the incense crackled out its meaning?

To enter the spirit of 'candidus lector', we don our own white robes to fry the frank-incense. We're looking for favourable omens. The smoke starts drifting towards our noses. There's the omen. We make a wish: 'Please, please tell us how to sniff out Naso-the-Nose like a good 'candidus lector' should. A muffled reply is heard from the bowels of the earth. 'Get the wrong end of Dikaiopolis' stick'. Gosh that was clear, not. How do we know which end of his stick is his right one. And ls that stick brown and sticky, or pure white and non-adhesive? Could that stick be rather a cudgel and could that cudgel be rather a membrum virile. And could that membrum virile ('korine') be rather an etymololgy for Ovid's elusive girl-friend Corinna ('Korinne')?

[Sigh.  Another Theseus rolling up Ariadne's ball]

He's a one that Dikaeopolis. 'Ye gods and, Oh, the [poor] city! DI-KAI-O-POLIS! What shall we do? Stop plucking out all your hairs out & come here. How, Dikaiopolis, would you interpret Tristia 3.9.9-10: 'impia desertum fugiens Medea parentem / dicitur his remos applicuisse vadis' ('the undutiful Medea fleeing her deserted dad / is said to have brought her oars against these shoals')?'

'Ooh shoals of anchovies. Great. show me the way.'

Dikaiopolis, the naive interpreter of poetry, has a stick, one end of which represents the sophisticated, figurative translation ('it's pie in the sky'). That one he allows you to grasp because it's well just 'pie in the sky'. The real pie in the sky is in Peace where the hero rides a dung beetle to heaven. For lunch he'll be carrying a succulent cow-pat into the sky. That's what we need to get a handle on. Oh those sibylline voices...

Yes but just join the holders of the stem of Dikaiopolis' knob and you'll be fine.

I feel queasy. i don't feel so fine.

Clear off then. Next!