Saturday, June 24, 2006

Versions of Sappho

Mark, God bless him, welcomes me back to cyberspace, but mourns Anne Carson's "tin ear." Tin andra, tin earoa, tina turner, say I--but for comparison's sake, here are two other versions of the piece. The first is from Jim Powell's Sappho: a Garland:

Artfully adorned Aphrodite, deathless
child of Zeus and weaver of wiles I beg you
please don’t hurt me, don’t overcome my spirit,
goddess, with longing,

but come here, if ever at other moments
hearing these words from afar you listened
and responded: leaving your father’s house, all
golden, you came then,

hitching up your chariot: lovely sparrows
drew you quickly over the dark earth, whirling
on fine beating wings from the heights of heaven
down through the sky and

instantly arrived—and then O my blessed
goddess with a smile on your deathless face you
asked me what the matter was this time, what I
called you for this time,

what I now most wanted to happen in my
raving heart: “Whom this time should I persuade to
lead you back again to her love? Who now, oh
Sappho, who wrongs you?

If she flees you now, she will soon pursue you;
If she won’t accept what you give, she’ll give it;
If she doesn’t love you, she’ll love you soon now,
Even unwilling.”

Come to me again, and release me from this
want past bearing. All that my heart desires to
happen—make it happen. And stand beside me,
goddess, my ally.

And here's the Guy Davenport,

from Seven Greeks:

Aphrodita dressed in an embroidery of flowers,
Never to die, the daughter of God,
Untangle from longing and perplexities,
O Lady, my heart.

But come down to me, as you came before,
For if ever I cried, and you heard and came,
Come now, of all times, leaving
Your father’s golden house

In that chariot pulled by sparrows reined and bitted,
Swift in their flying, a quick blur aquiver,
Beautiful, high. They drew you across steep air
Down to the black earth;

Fast they came, and you behind them. O
Hilarious heart, your face all laughter,
Asking, What troubles you this time, why again
Do you call me down?

Asking, In your wild heart, who now
Must you have? Who is she that persuasion
Fetch her, enlist her, and put her into bounden love?
Sappho, who does you wrong?

If she balks, I promise, soon she’ll chase,
If she’s turned from gifts, now she’ll give them,
And if she does not love you, she will love,
Helpless, she will love.

Come, then, loose me from cruelties.
Give my tethered heart its full desire.
Fulfill, and come, lock your shield with mine
Throughout the siege.

Each has its felicities, I think, even the Carson--although, to be fair, hers are mostly pedagogical, rather than matters of pleasure.

More on Sappho tomorrow, mebbe. --E


Mark Scroggins said...

I cannae resist throwing this one in: in his earlier version of the Sappho (Archilochos, Sappho, Alkman, U Cal 1980 in my copy), Davenport relies on Lobel & Page's "poikilothron'" in the first line, rather than the more recent reading "pokilophron" ("thron-" = chair, "phron-" = mind), which Carson uses. Which gets him a first stanza which to my ear outdoes either his later second thoughts or Carson:

God's stunning daughter deathless Aphródita,
A whittled perplexity your bright abstruse chair,
Don't blunt my stubbord eye with breathlessness, lady,
To tame my heart.

Mark Scroggins said...

"stubborn," not "stubbornd"

Mark Scroggins said...

"stubborn," not "stubbord" (or "starboard")