dressing the man whose puella the lover is enjoying, asking the fool to please make it more interesting by at least trying to hinder their affair. A perverse kind of game is masquerading as love. In book 3 the lover and the poet fail, deservedly. The girl no longer trusts him and seeks her own happiness elsewhere; the lover is often deceived, rejected, and once even impotent; and the poetry seems to look outside the topoi of erotic elegy for material. Altogether, the collection strikes us as more loosely organized than Horace Satires, but still organized to work with some important themes and to dramatize the progressive failure of a lover who does not understand what love really signifies.
Ovid expressly denies organization or selectivity or variety as qualities of the Letters from the Black Sea; instead, he emphasizes lack of plan, monotony, and mere communication as the guiding principles, if such they may be called, of the three books. Well, monotony is an important theme, which often seems more evident in Ovid's constant iteration than in the actual poems themselves. Trapped in exile among barbarians far from Rome, Ovid does not in fact let himself sink into lethargy; he actively fights the cruel monotony of his existence and the seemingly monotonous indifference of his friends, Augustus, and the once-admiring audience he possessed in Rome. He writes to many different people in Rome, each of them a distinct problem of communication. And time passes on the Black Sea, drearily but season by wretched season. Thus, these letters do exhibit modest and useful organization: general chronological development of Ovid's years along with occasional developments in Rome at the end of Augustus's reign; a quite intricate variation of addressees; 23 but above all the dramatic movements of a sensitive poet who struggles to keep up his talent, to maintain contact with Rome and his friends, and to record for the world his sense of injustice at the punishment Augustus has inflicted on him. Granted, this is the most loosely organized collection of the Augustan era, but Ovid has ordered his poems to give rich interplay to his important themes and made his supposed lack of order just one more support for his poetic purposes, one further mark against Augustus.