Thursday, June 30, 2011

52 poems (week 16)

Some time ago, I was given a book of translated Greek verse. I'm not sure why: perhaps I seemed much smarter that I was; perhaps I'd spoken once too often about Helene Hanff and her love of old books. Whatever, the book was lovely in royal blue cloth and rimmed in gold. But it sat unread for years. I pulled it out and dipped in not long ago, looking for something passing that would spark an interest in the language. I found Euripides, one of those great tragedians.

The Old Men

Alas, how right the ancient saying is:
We, who are old, are nothing else but noise
And shape. Like mimicries of dreams we go,
And have no wits, although we think us wise.

Much too morose for me. Perhaps much of what I found was dulled by translation and that in the speaking, in the original Greek, in the ampitheatres or public spaces where the words were spoken, there was something more lively to it, something moving.

Then I found Aristophanes, who mocked poor Euripides for his tragic turn, and suddenly found Euripides much more agreeable for his beleaguered state.
A Parody on Euripides's Lyric Verse

Halcyons ye by the flowing sea
Waves that warble twitteringly,
Circling over the tumbling blue,
Dipping your down in its briny dew,
Spi-i-iders in corners dim
Spi-spi-spinning your fairy film,
Shuttles echoing round the room
Silver notes of the whistling loom,
Where the light-footed dolphin skips
Down the wake of the dark-prowed ships,
Over the course of the racing steed
Where the clustering tendrils breed
Grapes to drown dull care in delight,
Oh! mother make me a child again just for to-night!
I don't exactly see how that last line is to scan,
But that's a consideration I leave to our musical man


Photo source: Euripides

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