25 March 2014

Poem of the Week 2014/13 (part 2)

Sappho: Fragment 104 x 25

Part 1 may be found here and part 3 here.

The first entry is from the Loeb Classical Library; since their translations are meant to serve as a crib for the original on the facing page, they provide a straightforward, fairly denotative sense of what the words mean, and bearing them in mind you can see what changes are wrought by the different translators. The rest follow according to the date of their first publication (to the best of my knowledge). I've added comments below some of the translations, but have skipped commenting if I've already mentioned something earlier.

Hesperus, bringing everything that shining Dawn scattered, you bring the sheep, you bring the goat, you bring back the child to its mother.

from Greek Lyric I: Sappho and Alcaeus in the Loeb Classical Library, edited and translated by David A. Campbell (1982)

You'll note that in this version the child returns to "its mother": I assume the Greek is gender neutral; as you will see, some translators use its, some use his or hers, and some make the child into children going to their mother.


O Hesperus! Thou bringest all things home;
All that the garish day hath scattered wide;
The sheep, the goat, back to the welcome fold;
Thou bring'st the child, too, to his mother's side.

from Greek Poets in English Verse, translated by William Hyde Appleton (1893)

Like many early translations of Sappho, this one favors not only a regular rhythm but rhyme. Though rhyme was not used by ancient Greek poets, it does help create the sense of a formal structure to the words, which is an important element of the original that is difficult to convey in translation, especially given the fragmentary nature of what survives, which can look very much like free verse. Also, to most late-nineteenth-century readers of English poetry rhyme would signal that the poem is a lyric (unrhymed poetry in English generally being epic, tragic, or at least narrative and lengthy).


Hesperus, bringing together
All that the morning star scattered, –

Sheep to be folded in twilight,
Children for mothers to fondle, –

Me too will bring to the dearest,
Tenderest breast in all Lesbos.

from Sappho: One Hundred Lyrics, translated by Bliss Carman (1904)

Earlier translators of Sappho felt it appropriate to shape what were after all ambiguous remnants into something that felt to them more like a complete poem in line with what they knew or supposed of the poet's personality and work (to add to the complications, my understanding is that many of them were working from inferior or inadequate editions of the Greek). So Carman's version turns the authentic lines into part of a love song, since Sappho had come to be seen as one of the great poets of love. Such an approach to translation was similar to the approach taken to the restoration of paintings or buildings in the late nineteenth and into the early twentieth century, which frequently involved wholesale repainting or rebuilding, often in ways that owed more to current notions of how Old Masters or old churches should look than to historical actuality. This attempt to make the past look current and pristine gradually gave way to the current mode, which is to keep restorations minimal and non-invasive, and to make clear what is an original survival, what a conjecture, and what a blank, even at the expense of smoothness and consistency of style or even of coherence.



Thou, Hesper, bringest homeward all
     That radiant dawn sped far and wide:
The sheep to fold, the goat to stall,
     The children to their mother's side.

from Love, Worship and Death: Some Renderings from the Greek Anthology, translated by Rennell Rodd (1919)

Again, we have the use of regular meter, and even more rhyme than in the Appleton version above. And as was common at the time, this version evokes both the distant past and an elevated world of "poetic" diction by using forms that had long dropped out of English speech and prose ("Thou" and "bringest". . . ).



Children astray to their mothers, and goats to the herd,
Sheep to the shepherd, through twilight the wings of the bird,
All things that morning has scattered with fingers of gold,
All things thou bringest, O Evening! at last to the fold.

from Sappho: A New Rendering, translated by Henry De Vere Stacpoole (1920)

This one reverses the original's order; it starts with the child (made into children), then the goats and sheep, and adds a bird, which are always poetic, all moving towards the Evening (rather than the Evening Star). It's a lovely evocation of the power of nightfall, but to me it loses the emotional impact of ending with the child returning to its mother. It's a very pretty poem, with some extra filigree (which I don't necessarily hold against it, and a bit of what can seem like padding is bound to happen when you're translating into regular meter and rhyme). An approach like this or Carman's goes against our current views of what translation is and should do, but such versions were meant as an honest attempt to recreate the lost work of a great poet, and not just as freehand fantasias on themes from Sappho (which is a legitimate approach to take, only nowadays there would be objections to considering such works translations; sometimes it's a fine line, and tomorrow we'll see some examples).


Hail, gentle Evening, that bringest back
All things that bright morning hath beguiled.
Thou bringest the lamb, thou bringest the kid,
And to its mother her drowsy child.

included in The Songs of Sappho in English Translation by Many Poets, translated by Edwin M Cox (1924)

Beguiled at the end of the second line is clearly there to rhyme with child in the fourth, but it adds an interesting element not found in most of the other versions: the sense that the day's activities have seduced and fooled you, and that what is authentically valuable is only found in "gentle Evening." Again we have the use of archaic diction: "thou bringest" and the Miltonic "Hail."


Hesperus, thou who bringest all things that the bright dawn scattered, thou bringest the sheep, though bringest the goat, thou bringest to the mother her child.

from The Songs of Sappho, translation by David Moore Robinson (1925)

This one was meant as a close prose transcription of the original, in the style of the Loeb Classical Library; even so, it retains the archaic diction of contemporary poetic versions. This particular edition (which advertises itself on its title page as "including the recent Egyptian discoveries") matched Robinson's scholarly versions with more fanciful rhymed recreations/adaptations by Marion Miller (whose version will appear tomorrow).


Evening Star that bringest back all that lightsome
Dawn hath scattered afar; thou bringest the sheep, thou
bringest the goat, thou bringest her child home to the
mother. . .

from You Burn Me, translated by J M Edmonds (1928)

The ellipsis at the end of this version seem like an interesting early attempt to convey the fragmentary nature of what remains of the original (by 1928, of course, Pound and Eliot had already published major work). "Lightsome" is an interesting word; perhaps it's a bit on the obscure side, but it does convey the sense of the rising light of Dawn, as well as nimble, light-hearted, graceful (making this version imply the opposite of the one above that had Dawn beguiling all things; beguiling can mean to while away the time, but there's often a sense that something deceptive or ultimately harmful is going on, whereas lightsome lacks the implications of deception and harm).


To the Evening Star

Evening Star, thou bringest home
All that Dawn had sent to roam,
Back to one another;
Thou bringest the sheep, thou bringest the goat;
Thou bringest the child to his mother.

from Swans and Amber, Some Early Greek Lyrics Freely Translated and Adapted by Dorothy Burr Thompson (1948)

Thompson gives herself a lot of leeway in her versions, which are advertised in her title as both "freely translated" and "adapted," but even so this version seems closer to the original than some of the earlier versions. The third line seems added mostly to provide a rhyme for mother in the last line. I find the line kind of awkward, as if the sheep, the goat, and the child were all returning to each other, instead of to their separate places of rest. Thompson's adaptations in general do have a freshness and charm.


You are the herdsman of evening

Hesperus, you herd
homeward whatever
Dawn's light dispersed

You herd sheep – herd
goats – herd children
home to their mothers

from Sappho: A New Translation, translated by Mary Barnard (1958)

I love Barnard's famous translation of Sappho, which was the first I read, and one of the first to avoid archaic and elevated "poetic" language and attempt to make Sappho speak in modern English, but reading over this one in the context of all these other versions, I'm a bit puzzled by what she's doing here. I'm not sure where she's getting the "herdsman of evening" concept, and while using herd for the sheep and the goats is fine, it sounds both harsh and ludicrous to talk about herding children to their mothers.


Dusk and western star,
You gather
What glittering sunrise
Scattered far,
The ewe to fold,
Kid and nanny home,
But the daughter you send wandering
From her mother.
(                 )
Hesperos, most beautiful
Of stars.

from 7 Greeks, translations by Guy Davenport (1965)

There are a couple of textual variations that appear in this version: first, the papyri are not only fragmentary but often in worn or tattered condition, and there are some scholars who read the last words of our fragment to mean that while evening brings the sheep and the goat home, it sends the child away from its home – the supposition is that the child is a daughter, and this is a song about marriage, in which nightfall sends her away from her childhood home and to her husband's house. Second, Hesperos is the subject of another fragment (often called 104b, making our fragment 104a), which is sometimes taken as part of this poem, and joined to it by some translators, as it is here after the empty parenthesis, used to indicate a break in the text. (The Loeb translation of 104b is "the fairest of all the stars.") Kid and nanny are interesting words to use for the goats, since kid is slang for a child, and a nanny is a child's caretaker as well as a mother goat. These puns (maybe it would be better to call them "word of ambiguous meaning" since pun implies some level of comedy) convey the other version of the text, in which the child goes home to its mother, before offering the alternate version. It kind of underplays the goats though.


Evening Star

Hesperos, you bring home all the bright dawn disperses,
bring home the sheep,
bring home the goat, bring the child home to its mother

[with a footnote: "In [classicist] Bruno Snell's reading the bright dawn brings out the sheep and goat, and the child away from its mother."]

from Sappho and the Greek Lyric Poets, translated by Willis Barnstone (1965)

This is very similar to Barnstone's later version (which we looked at yesterday); his footnote acknowledges the possible different ending of the poem.


Evening Star, you bring back
all that was scattered
in the shimmer of Dawn.
You bring the sheep, you bring the goat, and
you bring her child to the mother.

. . . the most beautiful of all stars

from The Poems of Sappho, translated by Suzy Q. Groden (1966)

This is a straightforward lovely version, with an interesting touch in the last line: most versions have the child returning to her/his/its mother, with an emphasis on the action of the child; this one puts a delicate stress on the mother instead by having the possessive refer to the child, so that the emphasis is on the mother who has been awaiting the child's return. The 1928 Edmonds translation above does the same thing; oddly it struck me more in this version, possibly because Groden's version has a cleaner, more modern sound, making nuances jump out a bit.


you gather all
to your breast

from Sappho, translated by Richard O'Connell (1975)

A very stripped-down version, in which Hesperus gathers everything into itself, which seems like an image of death – peaceful death, given that things are gathered home, but still death.


Dusk, you restore all that the glittering dawn has dispersed, –
bringing the sheep, bringing the goats, – but you keep the bride from her mother.

from Three Archaic Poets: Archilochus, Alcaeus, Sappho, translated by Anne Pippin Burnett (1983)


Hesperus, you bring everything that
          the light-tinged dawn has scattered;

you bring the sheep, you bring the goat, you bring
          the child back to its mother.

from Sappho: Poems & Fragments, translated by Josephine Balmer (1984)


Evening Star who gathers everything
shining dawn scattered –
you bring the sheep and the goats,
you bring the child back to its mother.

from Sappho's Lyre: Archaic Lyric and Women Poets of Ancient Greece, translated by Diane Rayor (1991)

Since the repetition of "bring" is a key rhetorical and emotional element of this poem, I'm not sure why the sheep and the goats are lumped together; to me it loses the rhythm.


Hesperus, loveliest of all the stars . . .
bringing back all that glowing Dawn sent forth:
you bring the sheep,
you bring the goat,
you bring the girl to a home away from her mother.

from Greek Lyric Poetry, translated by M L West (1993)


Evening star, you bring back all that the bright dawn scattered,
Bringing the sheep and the goat, and bringing the child to its mother.

from Sappho, translated by Robert Chandler (1998)


Star of Evening

you bring
home everything
which light of day dispersed:
home the sheep herds
home the goat
home the mother's

from The Love Songs of Sappho, translated by Paul Roche (1998)


     you gather back
          all that dazzling dawn has put asunder:
                                             you gather a lamb
                         gather a kid
gather a child to its mother

of all stars the most beautiful

from If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, translated by Anne Carson (2002)


Hesperos, you bring all that the bright dawn scattered,
the lamb, the kid, the child to its mother.

     fairest of stars

from Sappho: Poems and Fragments, translated by Stanley Lombardo (2002)


Evening Star

Hesperos, you bring home all the bright dawn scattered,
bring home the sheep,
bring home the goat, bring the child home
to her mother.

from Sweetbitter Love: Poems of Sappho, translated by Willis Barnstone (2006)


Most beautiful of all the stars
O Hesperus, bringing everything
the bright dawn scattered:
you bring the sheep, you bring the goat,
you bring the child back to her mother.

from The Poetry of Sappho, translated by Jim Powell (2007)


Hesperus, you are
The most fetching star.
What Dawn flings afield
You bring back together –
Sheep to the fold, goats to the pen,
And the child to his mother again.

from Stung with Love: Poems and Fragments, translated by Aaron Poochigian (2009)

A recent version that uses rhyme, which was, as you have seen, out of favor for several decades. Poochigian's reasoning is that rhyme helps signal to an English-language reader that these are songs, and indeed all of Sappho's poetry was originally meant to be sung, either solo or in chorus, to musical accompaniment. "Fetching" is very clever, meaning both to bring something back and to be attractive and charming, though of course that's a cleverness in the English language that is added to the original.

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