Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Anactoria Poem

Some there are who say that the fairest thing seen
on the black earth is an array of horsemen;
some, men marching; some would say ships; but I say
            she whom one loves best

is the loveliest. Light were the work to make this
plain to all, since she, who surpassed in beauty
all mortality, Helen, once forsaking
            her lordly husband,

fled away to Troy--land across the water.
Not the thought of child nor beloved parents
was remembered, after the Queen of Cyprus
            won her at first sight.

Since young brides have hearts that can be persuaded
easily, light things, palpitant to passion
as am I, remembering Anaktória
            who has gone from me

and whose lovely walk and the shining pallor
of her face I would rather see before my
eyes than Lydia's chariots in all their glory
            armored for battle.



Pam Hart said...

This is beautiful Suzanne. Who is the translator, do you know?
Thanks -- Pam

Suzanne said...

Hi Pam, this is from from Greek Lyrics, edited by Richard Lattimore.

Pam Hart said...

Thanks Suzanne. Here's another version of the last verse, from Anne Carson's translation of Sappho, If Not Winter:

I would rather see her lovely step
and the motion of light on her face
than chariots of Lydians or ranks
of footsoldiers in arms.

Good luck at your reading.

Lyle Daggett said...

I have to say I've never been a big fan of Richmond Lattimore as a translator, but I love Sappho's poetry. Of the translations I've read, the ones I like best are by Diane Rayor, in Sappho's Lyre, an anthology she edited and translated of lyric poems from ancient Greece, including most of the surviving work of Sappho and several other Greek women poets. It was published by the University of California sometime in the 1990's.

One of the things I like about Rayor's translations is that she doesn't feel the need to pad the lines to make the fragments read cohesively in English -- where there are gaps in the surviving manuscripts, she leaves them. She also meddles fairly little with the originals in general -- she doesn't try to "improve" Sappho, as some translators seem to have tried.

In Lattimore's version here, as I read it, he seems in several places to arbitrarily fill in lines with extra words in order to maintain a more or less syllable count (though he allows himself to deviate from the count here and there). That wouldn't have been my choice.

Thanks for posting this -- in spite of my misgivings about the translation, I much enjoyed reading it.

Lyle Daggett said...

Sorry, left out a word -- that should say "...a more or less consistent syllable count..."