Sunday, 14 October 2007

Sappho Assignment - Fragment 31


Please feel free to tell me to cut the homework - but, as you can see, I am becoming increasingly hooked on skelf. I love having a poem to play with, ticking round in my brain through a busy week.

So here is another assignment - to interpret a fragment by Sappho. There is a direct translation of her poem from the Greek below- followed by various beautiful interpretations by other poets (my favourite is the one by John Hollander). Then, if you feel inspired, write your own.

Fragment 31

That man seems to me to be like a god, to
Sit so close to you and to hear your sweet voice
And your charming laughter - and all this, truly,
Makes my heart tremble;

For I only, briefly, need to glance at you to
Find my voice has gone and my tongue is broken,
And a flame has stolen beneath my skin, my
Eyes can no longer

See, my ears are ringing, while drops of sweat run
Down my trembling body, and I've turned paler
Than a wisp of straw and it seems to be I'm
Not far off dying.

(Translation by Robert Chandler)


Peer of the Gods

Peer of the gods is that man, who
face to face, sits listening
to your sweet speech and lovely

It is this that rouses a tumult
in my breast. At mere sight of you
my voice falters, my tongue
is broken.

Straightway, a delicate fire runs in
my limbs; my eyes
are blinded and my ears

Sweat pours out: a trembling hunts
me down. I grow paler
than dry grass and lack little
of dying.


After an Old Text

His head is in the heavens, who across the
Narrow canyon of pillow from yours harkens
With gazing hand and hearing knees through darkness,
Looking and listening

To the sweet quietude of terminating
Conversation, the gentle brief wake for the
Long-dead day, the keening of his shortened
Breath on your shoulder:

This revision of you sucks out the sound of
Words from my mouth, my tongue collapses, my legs
Flag, my ears roar, my eyes are blind with flame; my
Head is in hell then.



Maik O the Gods He Seems to Me

Maik o the gods he seems to me,
thon man that sits in front o ye,
and hears your talkan couthilie near,
sae saftlie and clear,

your luvelie lauchan. My hert stounds
rowsan i ma breist when your lauch sounds
and gif I glent at ye sittan there
I canna speak mair.

Ma tung freezes i ma mou, a nesh
lowe rins chitteran throu ma flesh;
nae sicht i ma een; wi thier nain thunner
ma lugs dunner.

Swyte reems doun me; frae heid to fuit
a trummlan grups me, sae's I sit
greener nor gress, in sic a dwalm
I kenna wha I am.

maik= peer
couthilie=cosily, comfortably
stounds=is stunned
glent=if I glance
lowe=glow, fire
dunnner=my ears resound
swyte reems=sweat pours


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