THE NEW SAPPHO.

Back when I first heard about the new Sappho poem (or, to be more accurate, filled-out version of Lobel-Page’s fragment 58) I said I’d love to see the Greek; now, thanks to serendipity (and I’m very happy to report that Chris is back and blogging up a storm), I can reproduce it here:


῎Υμμες πεδὰ Μοίσαν ἰ]ο̣κ[ό]λ̣πων
κάλα δῶρα, παῖδες,
σπουδάσδετε καὶ τὰ]ν̣ φιλἀοιδον
λιγύραν χελύνναν·
ἔμοι δ᾽ἄπαλον πρίν] π̣οτ᾽ [ἔ]ο̣ντα
χρόα γῆρας ἤδη
ἐπέλλαβε, λεῦκαι δ’ ἐγ]ένοντο
τρίχες ἐκ μελαίναν·
βάρυς δέ μ’ ὀ [θ]ῦμο̣ς̣ πεπόηται, γόνα
δ’ [ο]ὐ φέροισι,
τὰ δή ποτα λαίψηρ’ ἔον ὄρχησθ’ ἴσα
νεβρίοισι.
τὰ <μὲν> στεναχίσδω θαμέως· ἀλλὰ τί
κεν ποείην;
ἀγήραον ἄνθρωπον ἔοντ᾽ οὐ δύνατον
γένεσθαι
καὶ γἀρ π̣[ο]τ̣α̣ Τίθωνον ἔφαντο
βροδόπαχυν Αὔων
ἔρωι φ̣ . . α̣θ̣ε̣ισαν βάμεν’ εἰς
ἔσχατα γᾶς φέροισα[ν,
ἔοντα̣ [κ]ά̣λ̣ο̣ν καὶ νέον, ἀλλ’
αὖτον ὔμως ἔμαρψε
χρόνωι π̣ό̣λ̣ι̣ο̣ν̣ γῆρας, ἔχ[ο]
ν̣τ’ ἀθανάταν ἄκοιτιν.
Martin West’s translation:

[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.

(Via Sauvage Noble.)

Comments

  1. The Greek text of this is a fascinating example of modern textual corruption. :)
    Your text is originally from the classics-l list. There are two typos. There should be a space on line 5 (a spacing problem: “the spirit”) and there’s a pi-for-rho substitution in the last word of line 11.
    (I tried to enter unicode in the comments, and it produced mush. I have a corrected version in PDF here.)

  2. I’m not surprised about the textual corruption. Thanks for pointing out errors.
    That would be “ὀ [θ]ῦμο̣ς̣” on line 5 and “ἔμαρψε” on line 11, right?
    Then there’s the problem that the first line of the translation is often quoted as “fragant-bosomed”. But the TLS article signed by Martin West definitely said “fragant-blossomed”. On the other hand, my amateurish attempts at figuring out the Μοίσαν ἰ]ο̣κ[ό]λ̣πων bit lead me to κόλ̣πος (cut-and-paste text entry, can’t make out the diacritics), which should mean “bosom”, not “blossom”.
    (Caelestis, are you reading this?)

  3. LSJ equates ἰό-κολπ-ος [ïó-kolp-os] with ἰό-ζων-ος [ïó-zōn-os] ‘with purple girdle’. West seems to be taking the compound as ‘with violet(-scented) bosom’, from ἴον [íön] ‘violet (flower)’ + κόλπος [kólpos] ‘bosom’. *^_^*

  4. Many thanks to Wm Annis for correcting the typos and to Chris for providing the Unicode for me to paste in; I welcome any further corrections.

  5. Great to have a classics scholar around!
    Hm, purple-bosomed somehow appeals to me.
    Seriously though, you say “purple-girdled” and “fragrant-bosomed” would make some sense. (I can’t spell “fragrant”; I don’t think I’ve ever pronounced the word either.)
    But then why did the TLS article say “fragrant-BLOSSOMED”. Was the hardcopy version different? The Reuters wire cited West’s translation differently from the article that appeared under his name.

  6. That’s an awesome meter:
    x – ∪∪ – – ∪∪ – – ∪∪ – ∪ – x

  7. (The on-line LSJ has ϊος [ïos] ‘of/belonging to a maiden’, so at first I was tempted to interpret it as ‘maiden-bosomed’! But I can’t find the word in the hardcopy LSJ, and the entry and linked texts seem to point to παρθενήιος [partʰenḗios], so there’s something funny going on apud Perse[a].)

  8. (Please forgive the betacode…)
    I see the I)O- prefix as I)/ON “violet” (or whatever flower it is). Hesiod uses I)OEIDH/S to describe the color of a spring (Theog. 3). So some flowery (colored?) item of clothing?

  9. Jimmy Ho says:

    Angelo,
    It is disturbing, indeed, and something has been obviously lost in the transition from print to online edition.
    It can probably be explained by the fact that there is no specific entry for “parthenê’ïos” in the hardcopy Liddell-Scott (for the record, I am using the 1907 Greek edition, without the Supplement). Like most poetic forms, it is presented as a variant in the entry for “parthe’n-eios” (poet. -ê’ïos). The desinence -ê’ïos has been given an entry of its (her?) own, with what are actually the definition and examples of the whole word “parthenê’ïos”, which in turn does have an entry in Slater’s Lexicon to Pindar.
    That is only one more thing that confuses me about that online edition, along with the lack of any accent notation (given the many problems with Unicode polytonic, I’m fine with the romanization, even though it slows down the reading, but how about marking the accented letters as you and I just did?).

  10. Jimmy Ho says:

    The desinence -ê’ïos
    That should be -ïos, of course.

  11. The ïos entry does indeed correspond exactly to the one for παρθεν-ειος on pg. 1139 of the 1996 edition, starting with -ήἴος. Other giveaways are that headword occurrences in the references are abbreviated p. and not i. and where the arrows at the bottom go.

  12. Thanks! I’ve been hoping to read this since I started seeing the annoying teaser articles that always ended “buy our weekend edition to read it”.

  13. You have no sword but you must Greek, eh?
    Hahahahahaha! I kill me.

  14. Chris found the German translation. Iokolpos is rendered as purpurgegürteten ‘purple-girdled’. Boh!

  15. In regards to:
    “I see the I)O- prefix as I)/ON “violet” (or whatever flower it is). Hesiod uses I)OEIDH/S to describe the color of a spring (Theog. 3). So some flowery (colored?) item of clothing?
    Posted by: Wm Annis at June 30, 2005 09:01 PM”
    I wonder if it is not the same references the Etrusci would have had to Springtime colors:
    Pastel.
    They were really into pastel polychroming on terra cotta for architecture and clothing. The Greek notions from the same general habitation area may have referenced something that was a common knowledge term in the Mediterranean at the time.
    Cordially, Deb Huglin (I’m an Etruscologist, too…took a break from it while it was not particularly popular for some reason. I did not find them mysterious, and their places are really pretty homey rather than veiled in mists of something-or–other. Maybe it’s diesel fuel?)

  16. I Englished it more to my satisfaction here;
    http://www.ablemuse.com/erato/ubbhtml/Forum24/HTML/000217.html
    m.

  17. Noetica says:

    Those violet-wearing Muses’ lovely gifts
    and tuneful lyres enjoy, O maidens dear!
    My own once tender body’s hard with age;
    this hair once ebony is changed to white.
    A heavy heart – and slow, these faltering knees
    that once would whirl me, dancing, like some fawn.
    But why complain, when nothing can be done?
    Necessity decrees we all grow old.
    Tithonus, loved by rose-armed Dawn, we’re told,
    was carried by his love beyond the world:
    comely, young – but Age still found him there
    in time, despite his deathless wife’s intent.
               — Translation © Noetica, 2005

  18. quiggin says:

    Here are two new TLS translations of the new Sappho poem. I found the Morgan line “forgot that he would grow old and grey”–as we all just happen to–effective.
    Sappho to Her Pupils
    Live for the gifts the fragrant-breasted Muses
    send, for the clear, the singing, lyre, my children.
    Old age freezes my body, once so lithe,
    rinses the darkness from my hair, now white.
    My heart’s heavy, my knees no longer keep me
    up through the dance they used to prance like fawns in.
    Oh, I grumble about it, but for what?
    Nothing can stop a person’s growing old.
    They say that Tithonus was swept away
    in Dawn’s passionate, rose-flushed arms to live
    forever, but he lost his looks, his youth,
    failing husband of an immortal bride.
    LACHLAN MACKINNON
    Sappho and the Weight of Years
    Girls, be good to these spirits of music and poetry
    that breast your threshold with their scented gifts.
    Lift the lyre, clear and sweet, they leave with you.
    As for me, this body is now so arthritic
    I cannot play, hardly even hold the instrument.
    Can you believe my white hair was once black?
    And oh, the soul grows heavy with the body.
    Complaining knee-joints creak at every move.
    To think I danced as delicate as a deer!
    Some gloomy poems came from these thoughts:
    useless: we are all born to lose life,
    and what is worse, girls, to lose youth.
    The legend of the goddess of the dawn
    I’m sure you know: how rosy Eos
    madly in love with gorgeous young Tithonus
    swept him like booty to her hiding-place
    but then forgot he would grow old and grey
    while she in despair pursued her immortal way.
    EDWIN MORGAN

  19. Thanks very much for that. What a wonderful poet Edwin Morgan is!

  20. Ahhh, much better now (looking at my bone white bangs reflected in the mirror of the monitor over her poems and laughing like Sappho at the sight of it.)
    I still think it’s pastel, or maybe the ancient version of paisley, who knows?

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