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Friday, February 07, 2014


The remarkable thing is that both new texts – damaged as they are – read almost as though they were complete poems today, partly due to the unique qualities of a poet who cannot have foreseen her poetry’s survival in fragmentary form. “The Brothers Poem” may have been intended to be seen or heard by Charaxos and Larichos themselves. But private as it is, it can still welcome and engage the modern reader, and it adds an important piece to the jigsaw that is Sappho and her work.
The Brothers Poem; translated by Christopher Pelling
[. . .]
ἀλλ’ ἄϊ θρύλησθα Χάραξον ἔλθην 
νᾶϊ σὺν πλήαι. τὰ μέν οἴομαι Ζεῦς 
οἶδε σύμπαντές τε θέοι· σὲ δ᾽οὐ χρῆ 
ταῦτα νόησθαι,
ἀλλὰ καὶ πέμπην ἔμε καὶ κέλεσθαι 
πόλλα λίσσεσθαι βασίληαν Ἤραν 
ἐξίκεσθαι τυίδε σάαν ἄγοντα 
νᾶα Χάραξον
κἄμμ’ ἐπεύρην ἀρτέμεας. τὰ δ’ ἄλλα 
πάντα δαιμόνεσσιν ἐπιτρόπωμεν· 
εὐδίαι γὰρ ἐκ μεγάλαν ἀήταν 
αἶψα πέλονται.
τῶν κε βόλληται βασίλευς Ὀλύμπω 
δαίμον’ ἐκ πόνων ἐπάρωγον ἤδη 
περτρόπην, κῆνοι μάκαρες πέλονται 
καὶ πολύολβοι·
κἄμμες, αἴ κε τὰν κεφάλαν ἀέρρη 
Λάριχος καὶ δή ποτ᾽ ἄνηρ γένηται, 
καὶ μάλ’ ἐκ πόλλαν βαρυθυμίαν κεν 
αἶψα λύθειμεν.


[. . .]

Oh, not again – ‘Charaxus has arrived! 
His ship was full!’ Well, that’s for Zeus 
And all the other gods to know. 
Don’t think of that,
But tell me, ‘go and pour out many prayers 
To Hera, and beseech the queen 
That he should bring his ship back home 
Safely to port,
And find us sound and healthy.’ For the rest, 
Let’s simply leave it to the gods: 
Great stormy blasts go by and soon 
Give way to calm.
Sometimes a helper comes, if that’s 
The way Zeus wills, and guides a person round 
To safety: and then blessedness and wealth 
Become one’s lot.
And us? If Larichus would raise his head, 
If only he might one day be a man, 
The deep and dreary draggings of our soul 
We’d lift to joy.

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