Ποικιλόθρον᾽ ὰθάνατ᾽ ᾽Αφροδιτα,
παῖ Δίοσ, δολόπλοκε, λίσσομαί σε
μή μ᾽ ἄσαισι μήτ᾽ ὀνίαισι δάμνα,
ἀλλά τυίδ᾽ ἔλθ᾽, αἴποτα κἀτέρωτα
τᾶσ ἔμασ αύδωσ αἴοισα πήλγι
ἔκλυεσ πάτροσ δὲ δόμον λίποισα
ἄρμ᾽ ὐποζεύξαια, κάλοι δέ σ᾽ ἆγον
ὤκεεσ στροῦθοι περὶ γᾶσ μελαίνασ
πύκνα δινεῦντεσ πτέῤ ἀπ᾽ ὠράνω
αἴθεροσ διὰ μέσσω.
αῖψα δ᾽ ἐχίκοντο, σὺ δ᾽, ὦ μάσαιρα
μειδιάσαισ᾽ ἀθάνατῳ προσώπῳ,
ἤρἐ ὄττι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι
κὤττι μοι μάλιστα θέλω γένεσθαι
μαινόλᾳ θύμῳ, τίνα δηὖτε πείθω
μαῖσ ἄγην ἐσ σὰν φιλότατα τίσ τ, ὦ
καὶ γάρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέωσ διώξει,
αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ ἀλλά δώσει,
αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει ταχέωσ φιλήσει,
ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλεπᾶν δὲ λῦσον
ἐκ μερίμναν ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι
θῦμοσ ἰμμέρρει τέλεσον, σὐ δ᾽ αὔτα
Allen Ginsberg’s 1980 Naropa class (from 1980 “Basic Poetics”) on Sappho continues
AG: Now, one more sounding of it (Sappho’s “Hymn to Aphrodite“) in Greek, and then (a) sounding of it in Catullus (another version of it). John Burnett, who you know, a fellow-student here [Naropa], is also a Greek scholar, and so we went over to see how his sounding would be [Allen to John Burnett] – “What was your… what was the nature of your training?
Student (JB): Well, I studied classics at the University of Utah, mostly, but..
AG: Uh-huh. And what was the angle of the way they taught their Greek there?
Student (JB): (I don’t know about the angle, they studied Greek Literature)
AG: I mean, in terms of pronunciation. Did they stress the…
Student (JB): They gave us.. they gave us the pronunciation that (Ed) Sanders is using, Sanders is using a pronunciation that was more or less invented by German scholars (it sounds very German, actually) and….
AG: Maybe you could come up, bring your chair up? bring this (microphone) closer, bring your chair..
Student (JB): So when you hear a meter, that will sound a good deal different from Modern Greek. Modern Greek, instead of being very harsh… like he (Sanders) says… can sound reasonable – or semi-reasonable. I actually taught the same period pronunciation, and then I had a lot of Greek in Church… Since I’ve had a lot of (experience of) pronunciation, I’ve learned to distinguish (the) German from (the) Greek
AG: So we’ll do that one Sappho, to the young girl, and then also Catullus, and you have both of these here. [to John Burnett] – maybe with your hands maybe you could mark the ends of the line, so you don’t have to..you don’t have to pause (there but if you) make a definite mark
Student (JB): Yeah, the interesting thing about this one is that she breaks words in the middle. I notice there’s some in the third line of the first verse that’s broken right in half, so she came up with a style there
AG: And you’ll find that in the translations – that the translator will break the word in the middle.
Student (JB): You all have it?
AG: It’s a the top. The first or second of the poems. The beginning, It’s where it all starts out. Has everybody got a copy of this?… Everybody got a copy? Anyone who needs one got a copy? – It’s the one with the Greek on it.
Student (JB) That’s the caesura
AG: Caesure in English.. Go on.
[JB reads, in the original Greek, Sappho’s “Hymn to Aphrodite]
Student (JB): I made two mistakes.
AG: Well, (in) which lines did you make a mistake?
JB: The last line should be.. σύμμαχοσ ἔσσο. [JB sounds it out]
AG: See, that sounds.. Well, that sounds slightly different. Everything sounds slightly different, according to what school and what teacher he (you) went to, really.
Student 1: That was what Ed Sanders read here last year.
Student 2 : No,what he read was the next page after that.
Lets go to the Catullus
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixteen-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately twenty minutes in]