Davenport’s Sappho and Alkman

Following on from yesterday’s post. Here’s a few more selections from Guy
Davenports book of classic Greek translations. We’ll start off with, arguably, Sappho‘s most famous lyric – phainetai moi  (Sappho 31) –

Φαίνεταί μοι κήνος ἴσος θέοισιν
ἔμμεν ὤνηρ, ὄστις ἐναντίος τοι
ἰζάνει, καὶ πλυσίον ἆδυ φωνεύ-
        σας ὑπακούει

καὶ γελαίσας ἰμερόεν, τό μοι μάν
καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόασεν·
ὡς γὰρ εὔιδον βροχέως σε, φώνας
        οὺδὲν ἔτ’ εἴκει·

ἀλλὰ κὰμ μὲν γλῶσσα ἔαγε, λέπτον δ’
αὔτικα χρῷ πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμακεν,
ὀππάτεσσι δ’ οὐδὲν ὄρημ’, ἐπιρρόμ-
        βεισι δ’ ἄκουαι.

ἀ δέ μίδρως κακχέεται, τρόμος δέ
παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας
ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ’ ὀλίγω ‘πιδεύης
        φαίνομαι [ἄλλα].

ἀλλὰ πᾶν τόλματον, [ἐπεὶ καὶ πένητα].

He seems to be a god, that man
Facing you, who leans to be close
Smiles, and, alert and glad, listens
To your mellow voice

And quickens in love at your laughter
That stings my breasts, jolts my heart
If I dare the shock of a glance
I cannot speak

My tongue sticks to my dry mouth
Thin fire spreads beneath my skin
My eyes cannot see and my aching ears
Roar in their labyrinths

Chill sweat slides down my body
I shake, I turn greener than grass
I am neither living nor dead and cry
From the narrow between

But endure even this grief of love.

William Carlos Williams’ translation:

That man is peer of the gods who
face to face sits listening
to your sweet speech and lovely

It is this that rises a tumult
in my breast. At mere sight of you
my voice falters. my tongue
                    is broken

Straightway, a delicate fire runs in
my limbs, my eyes
are blinded and my ears

Sweat pours out: a trembling hunts
me down. I grow
paler than grass and lack little
of dying

Ed Sanders translation

Equal to the gods
is the man who sits
in front of you leaning closely 
and hears you sweetly speaking
and the lust-licking laughter
of your mouth, oh it makes
my heart beat in flutters

When I look at you
Brochea, not a part of my
voice comes out
but my tongue breaks,
and right away
a delicate fire runs just beneath
my skin

I see a dizzy nothing
my ears ring with noise
the sweat runs down
upon me, and a trembling
that I cannot stop
seizes me limb and loin,
o I am greener than grass,  and
death seems so near…..

Some Davenport Alkman, from his introduction: “Alkman, born in Sappho’s Lydia and a resident in a city where Archilochos would have felt at home, Sparta, is something of a mixture of those two. Like Sappho he wrote songs for girls to sing, like Archilochos, he looks at the world with a tempered eye..”

from the Fragments

And Kastor and Polydeukes
The glorious skilled horsemen
Tamers of wild stallions

A: Sing, O Muse. sing high and clear
     O polytonal many-voiced Muse
B: About the towered temple of Therapne
C: Waves rolling seaward to a silent shore

Girls scattered helter-skelter
Chickens and hawkshadow

O Father Zeus
That I had a husband

Ino, queen of the sea,
Upon whose breasts

One roll of the dice
Stirs up the ghosts

My hearth is cold but the day will come
When a rich pot of red bean soup
Is on the table, the kind that Alkman loves,
Good peasant cooking, nothing fine
The first day of autumn, you shall be my guest

Seven tables, seven couches
Poppy cakes, flaxseed cakes,
Sesame cakes, drinking cups
Of beaten gold

Artemis! O thou dressed
In wild animal skins

Whoever they are
Neighbors are neighbors

Come dancing, come singing
Bright-eyed angel of music
Join us in song, in praise,
Master of the graceful foot
O Kalliopa, daughter of Zeus

This is the music Alkman made
From partridge dance and partridge song
With his flittering partridge tongue

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