‘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.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Pindar in Late Tudor English

Here is a translation of Pindar's 'First Olympian' in a Wyatt-y, or Spenser-ish English. I'm heading towards doing Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides as Marlowe, Shakespeare and Jonson; but these Pindaric odes can't really be rendered into the Elizabethan English that the actual Pindar's chronological position would indicate (hence the rather mealy-mouthed 'Late Tudor' of the blogpost title, there). Actually he was a couple of years younger than Aeschylus. But my justification for a rather more antiquated idiom is that Pindar's Greek harks back to epic language, overlaid upon a rather artificially formal Doric, in a way not true of the Attic tragedians. Not that this is a precise analogy, any more than translation is an exact art.

For those wondering what's going on here, the rationale is in the first paragraph of this post.

[Note: I originally published the first quarter of this as a placeholder, and then added stanzas over two days. It proved hard to write this one, though; much harder to write than the earlier samples were. I'm not sure why. I'm afraid the result is more hit-and-miss than the earlier ones, as well. Too much of this lives up to C S Lewis's famous dismissal of Tudor poetry as Literature's 'Drab Age'. Though there are few lines I like, and a couple I like a lot. That said, and if I'm honest, I've never been the world's biggest fan of Pindar in the first place. Genius and all that; but, whew!]

Strophe A.

Natures croun is water, and golde most bryght
In gentil gleame that goeth throw the nyght
     Is of wealthe best;
     Yet, o mine breast,
If ye would sing of mannes contest wunne
No heigher wot ye than the shyning sunne
The Sport Alympic that in peake of skye doth wone.
               Thence cometh hymn of gloried prayse
               That loudly singeth Crounos sonne,
               An wrapt what wysest poet saies:
               Yon holie hearthe of Hieronne.

Antistrophe A

For Hieronne ist who rules in Sicilye
By sceptre holdynge lawe in right degree
     At vertues prime
     Renowned in rime.
That hospyte banquet heareth choysest quyre
Reach thou from doun its peg the Doric lyre
If Pizan splendour and Phrencus dooest thee inspyre!
               And swetest thoghts besyde Alphurse
               As runnynge stede that noght can tyre
               He needeth not the pricking spurrs
               To winne the race for Suracke squire.

Epode A

His glory shineth most in the citye
That Lydian Pelopps first had founded, hee
Whom erthe’s great holder Poseydon loved moost;
Whan Clothoo tooke him out the pure cauldrone
And shyning ivry capped his shouldebone.
Yet wondres throng the world, and what is troost
Maie haply wear the garb of glitterynge lies
That leede men not to goode, but otherwys.

Strophe B

And Grayce, who fashyons gentil things for menn
Confers esteeme and streyen to set eyen
     All force of faithe
     Agaynste meschief,
But daies to com are witnesses most wise.
Semely it is the god to well apprize
To ward of blame. Tantalouses sonne, I thee surmize
              Quete other than how menn saie thus:
              Thy father summonéd all deityes
              To feasten with his Siseyfus
              The Trydent god took thee as prize.

Antistrophe B

His minde quite overthrowen by lustes neede
He bore thee far awaie on golden steede
     To high paleuse;
     Of honourde Zeus,
To which at after time cam Ganemayde
To lye with Zeus as thou wast layde;
But thou evanishéd, thy mother left dismayed
              Some envyous man then proved the lyer
              And thou wert slitt by knif, he sayd:
              And chopped and boiled upon the fire
              And thy choys limbes to victuals mayd.

Epode B

Mann most not clepe the goddes canniball
I do not so! lest evil-spekers fall.
If ere a mortall wyte was honouréd
Then Tantalous was hee: but unfit leude
He felle from hight to ruin and to grede.
A heavie stone was balaunced ore his head
And hee it yearnynge ay to throst awaie
So strays he stil from joies festivitye.

Strophe C

Thus neverendynge was his life of toile
Fourthe labor efter third did hym embroile:
     That, thief, he baar
And goddes nectar swete that they him fed
To purger death and mak him god instead:
If any think to fool goddes, be he better led!
               Tantale they banishéd below
               A beard dounynge his mortal hed;
               And as his youth begann to grow
               Bethoght him of the marryage bed.

Antistrophe C

Hee thought to win mensk Hippodaimes hande
From father hir, lord of the Pisan lande
     He beacht the sea
     And calléd hee
In darknesse unto Poseydon the grete
Who cam and sait the mortall at his feet.
Sayd he: ‘if ever gifts of Cyprus semed you swete
               Swerf Oenomaiouses spear!
               And mak my chaariot most flete,
               Let me to Royalness apere
               Forteenth, yet suitor the moste mete.

Epode C

Bot highest prize dar fitte no coward wight
We all dye: why sitt cherlishe in the night?
In this contest I pledge to stande ful bold.
May you holp my acheve!” And so he spake
And naver framéd words as oathe to breke.
The god him gafe an chaariot of gold
And winged steedes that never wearyéd
And thuswise fixéd honor to his sted.

Strophe D

And thus hee Oenomaious overcame
And marryéd the maiden to his name
     And had sixe sonne
     Het glorie wonne:
That now he wonne an holie funerall
And resteth by the holie Alphurse fal
Were to his tombe ful manie visitants doe cal
               Here shyneth blessynge from aferr
               That by his fame Alympicall
               At Pelopps racing courses there
               By foot and hand are tested al.

Antistrophe D

A winner who has wonnge the conteste palme
Enioyes for al his life a honyed calme
     As such renowned
     He most be cronwed.
With horse hymne sunge in the Aeolyane straine
This ist a thinge no rival can obtaine
Of knowledge wonne by beautie and by maine
               Adornd with gloried foldes of song
               Ambitions watched by godde aine
               Heiron, thy prosper to prolonge
               And I to hymne thee soone againe.

Epode C

Thy chaariot let spede to victory stille
And I sing helpynge song on Crounos Hill
For me the Muse suplies hir mightyest speare.
Som men excel in this and som in that
But limmit hight for man is kinges stat.
Do nat ye lok beyond the godds frontere!
May thou walke hih thy wholest life along
And I be blesst with souch to stande among.

[Here's the Project Perseus translation of the relevant Greek. A: 'Water is best, and gold, like a blazing fire in the night, stands out supreme of all lordly wealth. But if, my heart, you wish to sing of contests, [5] look no further for any star warmer than the sun, shining by day through the lonely sky, and let us not proclaim any contest greater than Olympia. From there glorious song enfolds the wisdom of poets, so that they loudly sing [10] the son of Cronus, when they arrive at the rich and blessed hearth of Hieron, who wields the scepter of law in Sicily of many flocks, reaping every excellence at its peak, and is glorified [15] by the choicest music, which we men often play around his hospitable table. Come, take the Dorian lyre down from its peg, if the splendor of Pisa and of Pherenicus placed your mind under the influence of sweetest thoughts, [20] when that horse ran swiftly beside the Alpheus, not needing to be spurred on in the race, and brought victory to his master, the king of Syracuse who delights in horses. His glory shines in the settlement of fine men founded by Lydian Pelops, [25] with whom the mighty holder of the earth Poseidon fell in love, when Clotho took him out of the pure cauldron, furnished with a gleaming ivory shoulder. Yes, there are many marvels, and yet I suppose the speech of mortals beyond the true account can be deceptive, stories adorned with embroidered lies.'

B: So Grace, who fashions all gentle things for men, confers esteem and often contrives to make believable the unbelievable. But the days to come are the wisest witnesses. [35] It is seemly for a man to speak well of the gods; for the blame is less that way. Son of Tantalus, I will speak of you, contrary to earlier stories. When your father invited the gods to a very well-ordered banquet at his own dear Sipylus, in return for the meals he had enjoyed, [40] then it was that the god of the splendid trident seized you, his mind overcome with desire, and carried you away on his team of golden horses to the highest home of widely-honoured Zeus, to which at a later time Ganymede came also, [45] to perform the same service for Zeus. But when you disappeared, and people did not bring you back to your mother, for all their searching, right away some envious neighbour whispered that they cut you limb from limb with a knife into the water's rolling boil over the fire, [50] and among the tables at the last course they divided and ate your flesh. For me it is impossible to call one of the blessed gods a glutton. I stand back from it. Often the lot of evil-speakers is profitlessness. If indeed the watchers of Olympus ever honoured a mortal man, [55] that man was Tantalus. But he was not able to digest his great prosperity, and for his greed he gained overpowering ruin, which the Father hung over him: a mighty stone. Always longing to cast it away from his head, he wanders far from the joy of festivity.

C: He has this helpless life of never-ending labor, [60] a fourth toil after three others, because he stole from the gods nectar and ambrosia, with which they had made him immortal, and gave them to his drinking companions. If any man expects that what he does escapes the notice of a god, he is wrong. [65] Because of that the immortals sent the son of Tantalus back again to the swift-doomed race of men. And when he blossomed with the stature of fair youth, and down darkened his cheek, he turned his thoughts to an available marriage, [70] to win glorious Hippodameia from her father, the lord of Pisa. He drew near to the grey sea, alone in the darkness, and called aloud on the deep-roaring god, skilled with the trident; and the god appeared to him, close at hand. [75] Pelops said to the god, “If the loving gifts of Cyprian Aphrodite result in any gratitude, Poseidon, then restrain the bronze spear of Oenomaus, and speed me in the swiftest chariot to Elis, and bring me to victory. For he has killed thirteen [80] suitors, and postpones the marriage of his daughter. Great danger does not take hold of a coward. Since all men are compelled to die, why should anyone sit stewing an inglorious old age in the darkness, with no share of any fine deeds? As for me, on this contest [85] I will take my stand. May you grant a welcome achievement.” So he spoke, and he did not touch on words that were unaccomplished. Honouring him, the god gave him a golden chariot, and horses with untiring wings.

D: He overcame the might of Oenomaus, and took the girl as his bride. She bore six sons, leaders of the people eager for excellence. [90] Now he has a share in splendid blood-sacrifices, resting beside the ford of the Alpheus, where he has his attendant tomb beside the altar that is thronged with many visitors. The fame of Pelops shines from afar in the races of the Olympic festivals, [95] where there are contests for swiftness of foot, and the bold heights of toiling strength. A victor throughout the rest of his life enjoys honeyed calm, so far as contests can bestow it. But at any given time the glory of the present day [100] is the highest one that comes to every mortal man. I must crown that man with the horse-song in the Aeolian strain. I am convinced that there is no host in the world today who is both knowledgeable about fine things and more sovereign in power, [105] whom we shall adorn with the glorious folds of song. A god is set over your ambitions as a guardian, Hieron, and he devises with this as his concern. If he does not desert you soon, I hope that I will celebrate an even greater sweetness, [110] sped by a swift chariot, finding a helpful path of song when I come to the sunny hill of Cronus. For me the Muse tends her mightiest shaft of courage. Some men are great in one thing, others in another; but the peak of the farthest limit is for kings. Do not look beyond that! [115] May it be yours to walk on high throughout your life, and mine to associate with victors as long as I live, distinguished for my skill among Greeks everywhere.

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