Saturday, 24 June 2017

Sappho: three epigrams and a mourning song

Brief intro
Today I bring to you 4 poems by Sappho. I put them together because they are somewhat related (they all have something to do with death) and because they are very short. First, we have the three epigrams. Now, it seems that the authorship of these is disputed. The only source for those, which is the Anthologia Palatina, ascribes them to Sappho, but apparently scholars believe they are probably Hellenistic, which means they were written after Sappho's death.
  • The first one features a tombstone speaking about the girl buried in the tomb it marks.
  • The second one recounts the mourning of the person it speaks about, who was cremated.
  • The last one makes us picture a grave with fishing tools left on it as a memory of the life of the person buried in it.
All of these are in elegiac couplets, and were rendered accordingly in the translations, as you will see (the second element of the couplets features a line split into two rhyming half-lines), or maybe in some cases I just went for regular rhyming couplets in English and Italian.
Lastly, we have two lines of a mourning song for Adonis. Those are reported by Hephaestio's Handbook on Meters, introduced as «τῶν δὲ τετραμέτρων τὸ μὲν καταληκτικὸν καθαρόν ἐστι τὸ τοιοῦτον» (of the [choriambic?] tetrameter the pure catalectic one is like these). The authorship is conjectured because of "Pausania IX, 29, 3", which is a passage in a text which reports a "name issue" about Adonis and might refer to this fragment. This is rendered with the same meter in Latin, and by keeping the rhythm in English and Italian. The meter is xx–uu– –uu– –uu–x, so the rhythm (u = unstressed, – = stressed) will be –u–uu– –uu– –uu–u.
The epigrams were translated between 30/12/2010 and 28/8/2011, whereas the mourning song was translated between May (9th?) 2010 and 30/12/2010.

Epigram 1: the girl Aethopia
Παῖδες, ἄφωνος ἔοισα τόδ' ἐννέπω, αἴ τις ἔρηται,
φώναν ἀκαμάταν κατθεμένα πρὸ πόδων·
Αἰθοπίᾳ με κόρᾳ Λάτως ἀνέθηκεν Ἀρίστα
Ἀ Ἐρμοκλείδα τῶ Σαϋναϊάδα,
σὰ πρόπολος, δέσποινα γυναίκων· ᾆ σὺ χάρεισα
πρόφρων ἀμμετέραν εὐκλέϊσον γενέαν.

O fanciulle, pur muta ciò dico, a quella che chiede,
Voce͜ instancabile ché      messami͜ ho sotto͜ a li piè:
Ad Etopìa, la figlia di Leto, Arista mi diede
Figlia d’Ermoclidé          il Saünaïadé,
Tua͜ attendente, sovrana di donne; di le͜i ti compiaci,
Ed alla nostra famiglia, benevola, deh, onor faci.
Pu͞ellǣ, vōcēm nūllăm hăbēns dīc’ hōc rŏgĭtāntī,
Nūmquām fēssăm hăbēns vōc’ ăpŭd hōscĕ pĕdēs:
M’ Ǣthŏpĭǣ pu͞ellǣ Lētūs dōnāvĭt Ărīstă
Ēx Hērmōclīdē e͞o Săŭnāĭădē,
Sērvă tĭbī, fēmnû̄mquĕ rĕgīnă, mĕāmquĕ sĕcūndă
Ga͞udēns īllā dēs glōrĭăm ād fămĭli͞am.

Women, though I have no voice, I do tell this, if anyone asketh,
Voice that no tiring can beat      having placed here at my feet:
T’ Aethopia, the daughter of Leto, did give me Arista
Daughter of Hermoclides          the Saünaïades;
She’s your attendant, the queen of all women: you take in her pleasure,
And benevolentlỳ                     do honour my familỳ.

Epigram 2: Timas
Τίμαδος ἄδε κόνις, τὰν δὴ πρὸ γάμοιο θάνοισαν
δέξατο Φερσεφόνας κυάνεος θάλαμος,
ἆς καὶ ἀποφθιμένας παῖσαι νεόθαγι σιδάρῳ
ἄλικες ἰμμέρταν κρᾶτος ἔθεντο κόμαν.

Questa è la cener di Timade: pri͜a di sue nozze lei morta
Di Persefone͜ accolser cinerëo talamo e porta;
Già mentre questa moriva con spade di fresco͜ affilate
Chiome graziose le su͜e coëtane͜e tutt’ebber tagliate.
Tīmădĭs hǣccĕ cĭnīs, quām nūbĕrĕt ānt’, hăbŭīt mōrs,
Pērsĕphŏnǣ tĕnŭīt ātĕr ĕām thălămŭs,
Quā mŏrĭēnt’ ōmnēs fērrō bĕn’ ăd hōccĕ părātō
Ēxcīsērĕ cŏmās pūlchrĭcŏmǣ cŏmĭtēs.

Timad’s ashes here lie, whom dead ’fore she could get a-married
Persephone’s ashy bed                  honored, to which she was led.
As she was dying, all girls of her age th’ pretty hair that they carried
With freshly-sharpened blade       all from their heads fall off made.

Epigram 3: Pelagon the fisher
Τῷ γρίπει Πελάγωνι πάτηρ ἐπέθηκε Μένισκος
Κύρτον καὶ κώπαν, μνᾶμα κακοζοΐας.

Al pescator Pelagone Menisco, il padre, ha messo
Reti e remo davanti, memoria che mal visse esso.
Prō Pĕlăgōnĕ pătēr pēscātōr’ ēiŭ’ Mĕnīscŭs
Pōsu͞it rēt’ ēt rēm’, ūt mĕmŏrēnt măl’ ĭtĕr.

Pelagon, who was a fisher, received from his father, Meniscus,
Naught but a net and an oar     bad life reminding he bore.

The mourning song: Adonis is dying
κατθνάσκει, Κυθέρη’, ἄβρος Ἄδωνις· τί κε θεῖμεν;
καττύπτεσθε, κόραι, καὶ κατερείκεσθε χίτωνας.

Muore, o Citere͜a, ’l dolce Adon; no͜i che facciamo?
Percuotiamoci, fanciulle,͜ e le vesti͜ or ci strap-
Mŏrĭtūr, Cy̆thĕre͞a, dūlcĭs Ădōnīs; quĭd ăgāmŭs?
Vēstēs rūmpǐtě, pu͞ellǣ, ĕquĭdēm, pērcŭtĭt’ ēxquě vōs.

Cytherea, Adonis is a-dying; what d’ we do now?
Hit yourselves, o you girls, and rend your clothes: that’s what we’ll do

Critical notes

I already mentioned the sources and the authorship issues above. For textual issues, I start by leaving you the whole critical note to the epigrams in Bergk's edition:

Critical note to the epigrams in Bergk

Apart from subscript iota issues and the sources giving us an Attic version of this which I decided to Aeolicize because, you know, Sappho wrote in Aeolic, the only controversial line is l. 1 of epigram 1.
  • It seems manuscript tradition gives τέτ' where I wrote τόδ'. Bergk emends to τότ'. Back in the days, I only knew of two options: τόδ' ἐννέπω (my choice) and ποτεννέπω (Campbell). Now I chose my option to have an explicit object in the line. Another emendation is Edmonds' τόρ', "clear", so "Though I have no voice I say, clearly, that…". Might be even better, but the translation used τόδ', so I have to keep that.
  • The other doubtful word is παῖδες. Back in the days, besides the chosen word, I had another option, καίπερ, "although". Back then, I discarded it because I wanted a vocative of the addressees instead of an "although" which can be inferred from the participle. Nowadays, analyzing the sources, it seems the only source with "although" is the weird safopoemas, which is definitely not a trustworthy source, so I have another reason to discard it.

As for the mourning song, it seems manuscript tradition gives a unilateral καταθνάσκει, which doesn't scan, and everyone amends as I did. Moreover, except for a single "right" codex, we see a unilateral Κυθέρει'. That is at least what Bergk seems to say in his critical note.
Let me have a look at Campbell now. He seems to say codexes have κατερύκεσθε.
Also, the Pausanias quote is right after this fragment, on p. 154.

Note: these are all the references I ever used for Sappho as of now. I may not have used all of these in the present post.

Related Stack Exchange Posts

No comments:

Post a Comment