Hey hey, lovely followers!
It took some
procrastination work, but I’ve finally managed to finish a new recording for my project. The text is a fragment of the lyric poet Simonides, PMG 543; I found it in a book one of my teachers sweetly lent me, and I loved it at first glance. I was particularly struck by its similarity to the Welsh lullaby Suo Gân. I hope I have done it justice!
The poem tells of how Danae, after giving birth to Perseus, is placed in a wooden chest with the baby and thrown into the sea by her father. As the waves crash around her, she cradles little Perseus, and she sings a lament….
Λάρνακι ἐν δαιδαλέᾳ,
ἄνεμός τέ μιν πνέων
κινηθεῖσά τε λίμνα
δείματι ἤρειπεν˙ οὐδ’
ἀμφί τε Περσέϊ βάλλε φίλαν χέρα
εἶπέν τ’˙ ὦ τέκος, οἷον ἔχω πόνον˙
σὺ δ’ ἀωρεῖς, γαλαθηνῷ δ’
ἤτορι κνώσσεις ἐν ἀτερπεῖ δούρατι
χαλκεογόμφῳ, νυκτί τ’ ἀλαμπεῖ
κυανέῳ τε δνόφῳ ταθείς˙
ἅλμαν δ’ ὕπερθεν τεᾶν κομᾶν βαθεῖαν
παριόντος κύματος οὐκ ἀλέγεις
οὐδ’ ἀνέμου φθόγγον
πορφυρέᾳ κείμενος ἐν χλανίδι,
Εἰ δέ τοι δεινὸν τό γε δεινὸν ἦν
καί κεν ἐμῶν ῥημάτων
λεπτὸν ὑπεῖχες οὖας.
Κέλομ’˙ εὗδε βρέφος,
εὑδέτω δὲ πόντος, εὑδέτω δ’
μεταβουλία δέ τις φανείη,
Ζεῦ πάτερ, ἐκ σέο˙
ὅτι δὴ θαρσαλέον ἔπος
εὔχομαι καὶ νόσφι δίκας, σύγγνωθί μοι.
In an artfully made chest,
the blowing wind
and the heaving sea
cast her down into fear;
with drenched cheeks
she threw her arm around Perseus
and said: My child, how deep my sorrow is!
But you have no cares, and with a suckling’s
heart you sleep in this sad chest of wood
and brass rivets, in the unlit night
and dark gloom, lying here;
above your head, the deep seawater
of a nearby wave does not trouble you,
nor the howling of the wind,
as you rest in a purple blanket,
your face beautiful.
Were this distress also distressing to you,
to my words
you would lend your little ear.
I urge you: sleep, little one,
and may the sea sleep, and may
these endless troubles sleep!
And may some change of mind shine out,
Father Zeus, from you.
That I pray with daring words
and words far from the custom, please forgive me.
- οὐδ’ ἀδιάντοισι παρειαῖς, translated as “with drenched cheeks”, literally means “with not unwet cheeks”
- οἷον ἔχω πόνον, “how deep my sorrow is”, is literally “I have such deep sorrow”
- γαλαθηνῷ, from γάλα “milk”, refers to a child still at the breast, but can be extended to mean “young” or “tender”
- πορφυρέᾳ, from πορφύρα “purple-fish”, also has the meaning “dark-coloured, surging, gushing”, from πορφύρω “surge, swell”. In this way, Perseus’ purple blanket nicely echoes the setting.
- εὑδέτω is a third person imperative - an order given to the third person (he/she/singular they) instead of the second (you) - something English can’t render. In Greek, Danae is directly commanding the sea to sleep.
- φανείη, from φαίνω, means both “shine” and “appear”. I chose the first meaning here, because to me, it evokes the sun rising and chasing away the clouds, as Zeus will take pity on Danae and chase away her troubles. I like this idea even more given Zeus’ origins as a sky God. Φανείη is also not in the imperative, like the previous verbs, but in the optative, which expresses a hope or wish rather than a command. Danae may give orders to her child or to the sea, but not to Zeus.
- Danae’s words are “far from the custom”, νόσφι δίκας, because they are not expressed within the usual framework of Ancient Greek prayers