Saturday, September 5, 2015

Archilochus



In preparation for an upcoming spotlight on Greek and classical texts on the Allen Ginsberg  Project in the coming weeks, a post on a book that is sadly out of print - Guy Davenport's Archilochos, Sappho, Alkman - Three Lyric Poets of the Late Greek Bronze Age (fortunately, it's been expanded and reprinted, and is freely available from New Directions as 7 Greeks - the additional poets are Anakreon, Herakleitos, Diogenes and Herondas)




                                                             [Guy Davenport  (1927-2005)]

Is it too early to note what an extraordinary figure Davenport was? (even outside of his remarkable achievement as a translator - "writer, translator, illustrator, painter, intellectual and teacher" - (Wikipedia struggles hard, but inevitably vainly, to try to encapsulate him). As a young Rhodes Scholar in Oxford in the late 1940's he wrote a pioneering thesis on James Joyce. Soon thereafter, he took as his mentor Ezra Pound, "rejecting", as one writer has noted,  "the poet's mad politics, but cherishing his pervasive cultural intelligence" - Like Pound, Davenport has "turned translation into an art form, making dead tongues speak with a jolting vernacular urgency". 

His Archilochus, first appearing as Carmina Archiloci - The Fragments of Atchilochus  (1964) 
- Archilochus, 7th Century BCE poet brought miraculously to life! 



Ed Sanders on Archilochus - "..It's difficult to describe Archilochos in one short flow of words. He was viewed by the Ancients as one of their greatest poets. Unfortunately only fragments survive due to the destruction of the Ancient library by the Christians and the Muslims. In his own time the secret police of Sparta, known as the Krypteia, ordered his books to be removed because of their blunt erotic language. He was extremely inventive. He created several new muses and was known for his robust and confessional and genius way with words."

Davenport, from his introduction (well worth reading in its entirety)  - "Archilochus  is the second poet of the West. Before him the archpoet Homer had written the two poems of Europe; never again would one imagination find the power to move two epics to completion and perfection. The clear minds of these archaic, island-dwelling Greeks  [Archilochus, Sappho, Alkman] survive in a few details only, fragment by fragment, a temple, a statue of Apollo with a poem engraved down the thighs, generous vases with designs abstract and geometric

"These fragments have I stored against my ruin.."

To cite only a few Archilochus fragments (in their Davenport translation):

(3)
Let him go ahead
Ares is a democrat
There are no privileged people
On a battlefield

(5) 
Listen to me cuss

(9)
With ankles that fat
It must be a girl

(12)
As a dive to a sheaf of wheat,
So friends to you

(21)
Dazzling radiance

(36)
He comes, in bed
As copiously as 
A Prienian ass
And is equipped
Like a stallion

(42)
There are other shields to be had,
But not under the spear-hail
Of an artillery attack,
In the hot work of slaughtering.
Among the dry racket of the javelins
Neither seeing nor hearing

(50)
Watch, Glaukos, Watch!
Heavy and high buckles the sea.
A cloud tall and straight 
Has gathered on the Gyrean mountain-tops
Forewarning of thunder, lightning, wind.
What we don't expect comes fearfully.'
War, Glaukos, war

(54)
The arrogant
Puke pride

(57)
Hot tears cannot drive misery away.
Nor banquets and dancing make it worse

(70)
What breaks me
Young friend
Is tasteless desire
Dead iambics
Boring dinners

(71)
Greet insolence with outrage

(76)
To make you laugh
Charilaos Erasmonides
And best of my friends,
Here's a funny story

(86)
Everything
Perikles
A man has
The Fates
Gave him.

(87)
Everything
People have
Comes from
Painstaking
Work

(97)
Zeus gave them
A dry spell

(99)
Boil in the crotch

(1o4)
Our very meeting
With each other
Is an omen

(107)
Begotten by
His father's
Roaring farts

(108)
His attachment to the despicable
Is so affectionate and stubborn
Arguments can't reach him

(116)
Let us sing
Ahem
Of Glaukos who wore
The pompadour

(134)
Great virtue
In the feet

(139)
A great squire he was,
And heavy with a stick
In the sheeplands of Asia

(146)
Like the men
Of Thrace and Phrygia
She could get her wine down
At a go
Without taking a breath
While the flute
Played a certain little tune
And like those foreigners
She permitted herself
To be buggered

(162)
He's yoke-broke
But shirks work,
Part bull, part fox.
My sly ox

(171)
Ignorant and ill bred
Mock the dead

(183)
Fox knows many,
Hedgehog one
Solid trick

Alter:
Fox knows
Eleventythree
Tricks and still
Gets caught;
Hedgehog knows 
One but it
Always works

(205)
As one fig tree in a rocky place
Feeds a lot of crows
Easy-going Pasiphile
Receives a lot of strangers

(213)
Now that Leophilos is the governor
Leophilos meddles in everybody's business
And everybody falls down before Leophilos
And all you hear is Leophilos Leophilos

(222)
In copulating
One discovers
That

(232)
O that I might but touch
Neobule's hand

(235)
Paros
           figs
                 life of the sea
Fare thee well

(249)
And I know how to lead off
The sprightly dance
Of the Lord Dionysus
- the dithyramb - 
I do it thunderstruck 
With wine

(261)
You've gone back on your word
Given over the salt at table

(264)
I consider nothing that's evil

(268)
Voracious, even
To the bounds
Of cannibalism

(281)
Birdnests
In  myrtle

(283)
Give the spear-shy young
Courage
Make them learn
The battle's won
By the gods

(287)
Upbraid me for my songs
Catch a cricket instead
And shout at him for chirping


Now whet your palette with an Archilochos Rock & Roll Wail Out.

Sappho and Alkman to follow tomorrow




No comments:

Post a Comment