‘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.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

More Medieval Sappho: 'The Brothers Poem'

Two 'new' Sappho poems were recently discovered in papyrus form (you can find the text and literal translations here). Today's post is concerned with the one sometimes called 'the Brothers poem'. The TLS ran an article about these two lyrics earlier this year, including Christopher Pelling’s translation. Below I post my late medieval version, followed by the Greek, and (at the bottom) a more literal stanza-by-stanza rendering. [Eleswhere in this series: Sappho 31, and the best of these that I've done, Sappho's 'Hymn to Aphrodite'. A prospectus for the whole thing, and lots of other time-period-pastiche translations, here]

Sett ay again; say Cracksus cometh soon
His boet al ful of boety; Jovis wat
And al the eother goddes swich are knoown
Think not of that!

In sted of it: goe gush out many praoyers
To Hera Queene Divine; and fro her crave
To bring this boet back whol unto these shoars
To porte, and safe.

To chanse upon us stationed at the side
The rest let leave to Goddes keping baulme
Great stormblastes fill the sky and quicker ride,
Yet cede to calme.

Erst King Olympus send a gide to bless
The paysage home, and piloted from far
To safe againe: whens wealth and blessydness
Acheyéd are.

And us: yf Lareicus but lay his head,
And be the man of ydle eses loy
From souls in dragging depths encarcerréd
We rise to joy.

[. . .]

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.

[stanza 1] But though you talk of how Charaxus has returned with his ship full of cargo; in fact only Zeus and all the other gods can truly know. It’s not for you to say.
[stanza 2] Instead you should instruct me to offer up many prayers to Queen Hera, and beg her that his ship be brought safely back, intact.
[stanza 3] and that he be reunited with us, happy and healthy. We should leave all the rest of it to the gods. The ocean knows angry storms and tempests, but calm can return very quickly.
[stanza 4] If it is the will of the King of Olympus, we may find a helper, a guide to bring us back to safety, and a blessed life and happiness.
[stanza 5] And for us too, should Larichus be an idle man, we will be quickly released from a great deal of severe distress

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