Monday, July 11, 2005

New Sappho Poem

Thank you Sappho, for daring to broach the subject of aging. I'm sure even in classical Greece (maybe especially??), there were serious feelings about aging... This poem, from the TLS, includes the author of the piece's notions about how the poem might have been filled out.

These in brackets:
[You for] the fragrant-blossomed Muses’ lovely gifts
[be zealous,] girls, [and the] clear melodious lyre:

[but my once tender] body old age now
[has seized;] my hair’s turned [white] instead of dark;

my heart’s grown heavy, my knees will not support me,
that once on a time were fleet for the dance as fawns.

This state I oft bemoan; but what’s to do?
Not to grow old, being human, there’s no way.

Tithonus once, the tale was, rose-armed Dawn,
love-smitten, carried off to the world’s end,

handsome and young then, yet in time grey age
o'ertook him, husband of immortal wife.

And here is the first few lines without:

the fragrant-blossomed Muses’ lovely gifts
girls, clear melodious lyre:

body old age now
my hair’s turned instead of dark;

But I do want to think that Sappho went on to appreciate her gnarled limbs, tough as olive trees. And I have to confess that for me, now, there is only Carson's translations... I did at one time love Mary Barnard's translations. Now they seem so even, so orderly, so Poundish, so thoroughly "modern", that I am aware of how little I was hearing "Sappho" in the poems. Perhaps now I'm only hearing Carson, but it seemed to me that when I first read her translations aloud a shiver ran up my spine and really, it seemed I could hear the rustle of thighs as she reached for something cool to drink, so parched was she after waiting all these years to speak...

No comments: