‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]

‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.

There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Hesiod in Early Middle English

[Following on from this post, in which the first 50-or-so lines of the Iliad are translated into Beowulfian Old English, I've beguiled a few hours this Sunday morning turning the opening passage (first 50 lines of the Greek) of Hesiod's Theogony into early Middle English, modelled very roughly on the language of Laȝamon's Brut with a splash of Piers Plowman. This is a bit of a cheat: scholars don't know exactly when Homer composed, or Hesiod either, but they tend to assume they were roughly contemporaneous, '8th-7th Centuries BC'. That covers a lot of ground. For my purposes I've decided to believe that Homer is late 9th and Hesiod mid 7th-C, and to render the former into a 9th/10th-Century English and the latter in a sort of 12th-Century-ish idiom. In fact the Greek of Homer and Hesiod is not so different from one another as the English of Beowulf and Brut; but I'm cutting myself some slack. Nothing about this project is going to involve precise parallels, after all.]

Heesiod, his Þeogonie

Fram þeo Muses of hiȝe hooly Helcon swoote mæidens þeir muȝik
Let ūsic begin, whan þei frolic on flotte feete atte þeo fontaine
Of Croenos his son, and clanse þeir comly careynes in Permeȝes
Or in Stedes-Springen or Olmaeuȝe, and mak þeir swoote steppes
In daunce devout wiþ deintie feet, dowelyng ypon hiȝe Helcon.
Þens þei ariȝe and go aboute at niȝt, synging in armonye
Þorow an þicke myst, wiþ þryving towches aprayȝe of troned God,
And of hiȝe Hera, Hargoȝes queene, and hir shooen of gold,
And Goddes dohter Aþene of þe glad eeyen, and glisnande Apolo,
And Artemis armèd wiþ arrowes, and aglich Posidonne who shakeþ al arthe,
And þankworþ Þemise, and Þryes-gladd Afrodyte cwic-glenten,
And Hebe hed goldfaȝen, and hevened Dione, Leyto and Hiapete,
And Cronos þe craftig counsailer, Heeliuȝe and Heos, and comlych Seleyn
Arthe anan, Occean almiȝtig, and asshenblacke Niȝt,
Al þe deaþless and hali wiȝts wa wondres ay ævere.

Ac on ane daie þei Heesiod ytauȝt ane aþel armonye
Þewhyl he sheaphierde was of sheep yspradde on hooly Helcon,
Þes sustren to me sæden, singers of Alympus, Æȝis Goddes seede:
“Sheaphierdes of þeo wyldren, wofyl men, meere wombes
Wotte we þeo wei to spende fals wyckednesse as trow
Bot wotte we yf we wille yt to spende trow witnesses among.”

Swulche declarèd þeo defte voysed dohters of drede God
And þei ypluckt and past me ane pole of lorrer puyre
Mervayl to me, that moȝt ane maȝt godlic to muȝik
And prayȝe in phalmes yf past and swulche wil comme
Ybad me blowe of þeo blysfol goddess, aeternal and blyþe
Þei syng to selven of selven atte start and ende.

But wens þis writelinge? Comst þu, in womann wyse
Wiþ Muses wo mak gladnes micel in miȝhtig Goddes brest
In prayȝe Alympus of past afore and swulche anan to com,
Wiþ voys þat vorseyde was virtue in al wiȝhtes.
Unweryng floeþ þeo facound fayryȝe þeir lippes fram
Gladd ys hire fader hooly hus, God þeo felle-þunorer
In licnes of ane lilly þeir lossom voys lyȝteþ from Alympus
Soundeþ ofer snaw and faleþ a swogh þro þeo deþless stedes;
And þei in prayȝe þeir ondying voys oloft an orisoun:
Of þeo hali godes, hu þei were hewen of Erth and hende Heven,
And þeir goddechilder, giferes of good þings to þeo grete.
Þan feir Muses forsang of þeo Faþer of goddes and men, ȝeos yclept.
Þeo mayster, meast mervaylous of goddes and al yn miȝt.
And þei wayl in þis wyse of mortal wiȝts and wodwos geant
And Goddes heorte is gladened in gaynlich Alympus
Atourned he wiþ þeo Æȝis, bi his dohters, Muses of Alympus.

[Let us begin with the muses of high and holy Mount Helicon, sweet maidens and their music, who dance on soft feet about the spring of the almighty son of Cronos, and, when they have washed their comely bodies in Permessus or in the Horse's Spring or Olmeius, make their fair, lovely dances moving with nimble feet upon highest Helicon where they dwell. Thence they arise and go abroad by night, veiled in thick mist, and voicing their beautiful music in praise of Zeus on his throne, and queenly Hera of Argos who walks in golden sandals, and of the daughter of Zeus bright-eyed Athena, and Phoebus Apollo, and Artemis who delights in arrows, and terrible Poseidon who shakes the earth, and worthy Themis, and quick-glancing Aphrodite thrice blessed, and Hebe with her head adorned with gold, and heaven-fair Dione, Leto, Iapetus, and Cronos the crafty counsellor, Eos, and great Helius, and bright Selene, Earth, too, and great Oceanus, and Night black as ashes, and all the dealthless and holy beings that live in wonder for ever.

And one day they taught Hesiod most noble song while he was shepherding his lambs under holy Helicon, and this word first the goddesses said to me—the Muses of Olympus, offspring of Zeus who holds the aegis: “Shepherds of the wilderness, wretched men, mere bellies as you are: we know how to speak many false things as though they were true; but we know as well, when we choose, to utter true things.”

So said the ready-voiced daughters of dread Zeus, and they plucked and gave [30] me a rod, a shoot of perfect laurel, a marvellous thing, and breathed into me a divine voice to sing psalms of praise of things that once were and thing that shall be; and they bade me sing of the race of the blessed gods that are eternally, but ever to sing of themselves both first and last.

But whence this warbling? Come you, let us begin with the Muses who gladden the great spirit of their father Zeus in Olympus with their songs, telling of things that are and that shall be and that were aforetime with consenting voice. Unwearying flows the enchanted sound from their lips, and the holy house of their father Zeus the dread-thunderer is glad at the lily-like voice of the goddesses as it spreads abroad, and the peaks of snowy Olypmus resound, and the homes of the immortals. And they, raising up their immortal voice, celebrate in song: the gods and how they were created by Earth and lovely Heaven, and the gods begat by these, givers of good things to the Earth. Then next, the goddesses sing of Zeus, the father of gods and men, the most marvellous among all the gods and greatest in power. And again, they chant of mortal men and giant beings, and Zeus’s heart is gladdened upon gracious Olympus,—the Olympian Muses, daughters of Zeus the aegis-holder.]

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