Saturday, 5 August 2017

An apparent captatio benevolentiæ (Sappho?)

Today I bring you a Sapphic stanza, quoted by Athenaeus as falsely attributed to Sappho (he says «ὅτι δὲ οὔκ ἐστι Σαπφοῦς τοῦτο τὸ ᾆσμα παντί που δῆλον», i.e. «that this poem is not by Sappho is clear to everyone»), reported by Bergk in his Sappho edition, not reported by Edmonds in his Sappho, and not reported by Campbell as either Sappho, Alcaeus, or "Sappho or Alcaeus", so Campbell appears to think this thing is not by any of them two. In fact, he has it as a testimonium for Sappho, that is, something by someone else that tells us something about Sappho. Well, whatever, I had no idea of that back in the days, so I translated it. I even aeolized it, because, well, "it is Sappho, so we aeolize". It is Bergk 30, and I will leave the critical note to him. The Athenaeus quote can be found at Greek Wikisource, it is book XIII (βίβλον ιγʹ) of Athenaeus's Δειπνοσοφισταί (Deipnosophistæ, Sophists at Dinner). The meter is rendered in the usual way, besides Italian having a different rhyme scheme, and indeed I have two Italian versions, the better one having a different rhyme scheme, and the worse one (same rhyme word in all three hendecasyllabics, ambiguity of "nobile" and "dalle donne d'oro" seeming to be referred to the singer as opposed to the land of Teos) with the usual rhyme scheme. English also uses that altered rhyme scheme. This seems to have been particularly hard to translate, in all languages. Latin had trouble with composed adjectives ("pretty-womaned", "gold-throned"). I don't remember what the note said about the other languages and don't feel like looking again. Let's just get to the translations. One last thing though: the title of this post comes from my interpretation of this stanza as a captatio benevolentiæ, i.e. a remembrance of a nice past event to propitiate the goddess.


Κῆνον, ὦ χρυσόθρονε Μοῖσ', ἔνισπες
ὔμνον, ἐκ τᾶς καλλιγύναικος ἔσθλας
Τήιος χώρας ὂν ἄειδε τέρπνως
πρέσβυς ἄγαυος.

Italian (different rhyme scheme)

O Musa trono d’or, l’inno cantasti
Ch’illustre vecchio di Te͜o ascoltasti,
Terra d’ belle donne, nobil, cantare
E dilettare.

A͞urĕī thrŏnī cĕcĭnīst’ ĕ’ hȳmnŭm
Mūsă, quēm sĕnēxquĕ cănēbăt īllā
Nōbĭlī pūlchrīsquĕ mŭli͞erĭbūs Te͞o
Ūt’quĕ plăcēntĕr.


O golden-thronèd Muse, that hymn you sang
Which that old noble man from Teo sang
Enjoyably, fro’ th’ noble land which hosts
Girl-beauty’s hosts.

Italian (normal rhyme scheme)

Cantasti l’inno,͜ o Musa trono d’oro,
Che vecchio͜ illustre della terra d’oro
Di Te͜o, nobile, dalle donne d’oro
Dolce cantava.

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.

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