Sappho Translated

Detail from Pompeiian fresco painting of Sappho holding a stylus. Photograph: Mimmo Jodice/Corbis

Detail from Pompeiian fresco painting of Sappho holding a stylus. Photograph: Mimmo Jodice/Corbis

A week ago — on the 22 February to be accurate — I posted the original Greek version of the recently rediscovered poem by Sappho addressing/chiding her brother, without the rather stiff academic translation that accompanied the poem. I suggested that I’d be interested in a better translation and — no major surprise, really (I had hopes that he would take the bait), though a very pleasant one — poet & translator George Economou  has now sent in his version, which I’ll post below (followed by the Greek, plus here, the link to the original TLS blog that gives needed context). Enjoy — & thanks, George! P.s. If you haven’t yet, get & read Economou’s marvelous Ananios of Kleitor.

Sappho’s “The Brothers Poem”

Ah, there you go again about Charaxos making landfall
in a well-stocked vessel. Such stuff, I suppose, Zeus
knows all about together with the other gods, stuff you
even contemplate

Rather have me go and call out
numerous entreaties to Queen Hera
that he get back home here safely navigating
his ship, Charaxos,

and find us safe and sound. As for everything else,
let’s just turn that over to the gods.
For good weather can follow foul,
quickly from stormy to serene.

To those whom Olympos’ King chooses
to assign a guardian daimon, deliverance from grief
and from that time forth blessed serenity
and great wealth.

As for us, if Larichos would straighten up
and once and for all attain manhood,
from this heavy-heartedness of ours
we’ll quickly find release.

[. . .]

ἀλλ’ ἄϊ θρύλησθα Χάραξον ἔλθην
νᾶϊ σὺν πλήαι. τὰ μέν οἴομαι Ζεῦς
οἶδε σύμπαντές τε θέοι· σὲ δ᾽οὐ χρῆ
ταῦτα νόησθαι,

ἀλλὰ καὶ πέμπην ἔμε καὶ κέλεσθαι
πόλλα λίσσεσθαι βασίληαν Ἤραν
ἐξίκεσθαι τυίδε σάαν ἄγοντα
νᾶα Χάραξον

κἄμμ’ ἐπεύρην ἀρτέμεας. τὰ δ’ ἄλλα
πάντα δαιμόνεσσιν ἐπιτρόπωμεν·
εὐδίαι γὰρ ἐκ μεγάλαν ἀήταν
αἶψα πέλονται.

τῶν κε βόλληται βασίλευς Ὀλύμπω
δαίμον’ ἐκ πόνων ἐπάρωγον ἤδη
περτρόπην, κῆνοι μάκαρες πέλονται
καὶ πολύολβοι·

κἄμμες, αἴ κε τὰν κεφάλαν ἀέρρη
Λάριχος καὶ δή ποτ᾽ ἄνηρ γένηται,
καὶ μάλ’ ἐκ πόλλαν βαρυθυμίαν κεν
αἶψα λύθειμεν.




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1 Response

  1. This still doesn’t sound like the lyrical wedding songs that Sappho typically wrote. And it provides no new info on Sappho, but merely “confirms” what was already known. If these fragments are accepted as true Sappho poems, the financial value would be immense. Is no one else genuinely skeptical?

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