09 January 2009

Never again would birdsong be the same

I’ve been reading a rather interesting book: Mad, Bad and Sad, which was written by Lisa Appignanesi. The book is concerned with the evolution of psychology as a science and its relationship to women and vice versa. I haven’t finished it yet, so I can make no comment on the book as a whole but I was enchanted to learn that Virginia Woolf complained of hearing “birds singing Greek choruses, King Edward using foul language in the garden.”

I’m not so sure about King Edward (VII presumably?) but I really like the thought of hearing the birds singing Greek choruses. Obviously, that would be one thing if they were singing the Orestaia, but quite another if they were singing the chorus introducing Phaedra or the one about longing for escape from Hippolytus. I think that I would find those ones quite comforting.

But then perhaps I am a little odd in that.

Would that I were hid within the hollows of a mountain,
there would a god fledge me into a bird
among the winged flocks:
that I might soar over
the sea waves
of the Adrian shore
and over the waters of Eridanos,
where in the dark-gleaming swell
wretched maidens,
lamenting Phaeton,
let tears fall
from bright amber eyes.

That I might reach journey’s end at the apple-planted shore
of the Hesperides, the singers, where the sea lord
of the red-dark shallows
gives no farther passage to sailors,
where strikes the awful boundary
of the firmament, which Atlas holds:
and divine springs flow
by the place Zeus lay,
where, bestowing gifts,
most sacred Earth
increases the blessings of the gods.

There is a rock that drips, they say, with Ocean’s water,
where water is drawn up in pitchers
from its flowing cliffs:
there was a friend of mine soaking
russet robes
in the pure waters of the river,
stretching them across the warm backs
of the rocks in the kind sun: here
came first to me news of my mistress;

keeping her distressed body upon a bed of sickness
inside the house, fine cloth
covering her golden head:
I hear that it is now three days
that her mouth is unfed
and from Demeter’s
grain she has kept her pure body,
wishing, from a secret suffering,
to run aground at the terrible shore of death.

own translation

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, I enjoyed that. It's been a long time since I read an 'own translation' - my K did classics - I think you've done a good job there, as far as I as a person who can just about read the alphabet and no more can judge from other translations he's read over the years.

    Apologies, I'm working backwards through the blog. Loads that I'm finding interesting - esp the way we madness and being outside of modern social norms are synonymous despite all of the so-called biological propaganda we've been fed over the last couple of decades.

    Am going to stop here and keep reading.