Monday, November 04, 2013

Painful understanding: The Chorus speaks with difficulty

At the end of Hippolytus Scene 5, Hippolytus exits, having been banished by Theseus for the alleged rape of Phaedra. The chorus now sings an ode that offers some interpretive difficulties. Kovacs' version is considerably different from that of Grene, and the French translation offers yet a different rendering.

The difficulties are mainly in the first two stanzas. I've appended the third anyway, but it's less controversial, and left off the two remaining stanzas. The differences between Grene and Kovacs will be clear when compared.

It's been noted that the first and third stanzas have masculine participles; those of the second and fourth are feminine. One suggestion is that although Hippolytus has left to go into exile, some from his band of friends remain to sing this together with the women of Troezen, alternating, but this is conjecture.

In any event, the ode is suggestive and elusive, but the emotional tone becomes clearer as it moves towards its conclusion - the fifth stanza ends:

 τάλαινα μᾶ-
1145τερἔτεκες ἀνόναταφεῦ:
μανίω θεοῖσιν.
ἰὼ ἰώ:
συζύγιαι Χάριτεςτί τὸν τάλαν᾽ ἐκ πατρίας γᾶς
οὐδὲν ἄτας αἴτιον
1150πέμπετε τῶνδ᾽ ἀπ᾽ οἴκων;
O unhappy mother, [1145] it was to no purpose that you bore him. Oh, I am angry with the gods! Ye Graces that dance your round, why do you not accompany this man from this house? He has been ruined by his father's wrath [1150] but is guiltless of no mad deed.

Canova: Charites

Here are the first three stanzas by Kovacs, followed by the French:

 μέγα μοι τὰ θεῶν μελεδήμαθ᾽ὅταν φρένας ἔλθῃ,
1105λύπα παραιρεῖ ξύνεσίς τετίς ἐλπὶς  κεύθει
λείπεται ἔν τε τύχαις θνατῶν καὶ ἐν ἔργμασι λεύσσειν;
ἄλλα γὰρ ἄλλοθεν ἀμείβεταιμετὰ δ᾽ ἵσταται ἀνδράσιν αἰὼν
1110πολυπλάνητος αἰεί.
Thoughts about the gods, when they come into my mind, are banished by painful understanding: [1105] what hope is there left to see their hidden workings in the fortunes and doings of mortals? For from one quarter comes one thing and from another another, and men's life is a shifting thing, [1110] ever unstable.
εἴθε μοι εὐξαμένᾳ θεόθεν τάδε μοῖρα παράσχοι,
τύχαν μετ᾽ ὄλβου καὶ ἀκήρατον ἄλγεσι θυμόν.
1115δόξα δὲ μήτ᾽ ἀτρεκὴς μήτ᾽ αὖ παράσημος ἐνείη,
ῥᾴδια δ᾽ ἤθεα τὸν αὔριον μεταβαλλομένα χρόνον αἰεὶ
βίον συνευτυχοίην
O that in answer to my prayer fate might give me this gift from the gods, a lot of blessedness and a heart untouched by sorrow! [1115] No mind unswerving and obdurate would I have nor yet again one false-struck, but changing my pliant character ever for the morrow I would share the morrow's happiness my whole life through.
οὐκέτι γὰρ καθαρὰν φρέν᾽ ἔχωπαρὰ δ᾽ ἐλπίδ᾽  λεύσσω,
ἐπεὶ τὸν Ἑλλανίας φανερώτατον ἀστέρ᾽ Ἀθήνας
εἴδομεν εἴδομεν ἐκ πατρὸς ὀργᾶς
1125ἄλλαν ἐπ᾽ αἶαν ἱέμενον.
 ψάμαθοι πολιήτιδος ἀκτᾶς,
 δρυμὸς ὄρεοςὅθι κυνῶν
ὠκυπόδων μέτα θῆρας ἔναιρεν
1130Δίκτυνναν ἀμφὶ σεμνάν.
[1120] For my mind is no longer untroubled but beyond all expectation are the things I look upon. We have seen Greece's fairest star, have seen him go forth sped by his father's wrath [1125] to another land. O sands of our city's shore, o mountain thickets where with his swift hounds he slew the wild beasts [1130] in company with holy Dictynna!


[1104] La sollicitude des dieux, lorsqu'elle revient à mon esprit, me délivre de bien des inquiétudes : mais quand je crois comprendre leur providence, cet espoir m'abandonne, aussitôt que j'envisage le sort et les actions des mortels ; car ils sont le jouet de continuelles vicissitudes, et la vie humaine est en proie à une éternelle instabilité.

Que la divine destinée accorde à mes prières une fortune qui suffise au bonheur, un cœur exempt de soucis, une renommée qui ne soit ni trop éclatante, ni trop obscure ; changeant chaque jour mes mœurs faciles, puissé-je passer une vie heureuse avec ceux qui m'entourent !

[1120] Mais cette sérénité ne règne plus dans mon cœur, et mes espérances sont déçues, depuis que nous avons vu l'astre brillant d'Athènes exilé par l'ordre d'un père irrité. Ô rivages de Trézène, ô forêts, ô montagnes, où, avec ses chiens agiles, il poursuivait les animaux sauvages, à la suite de la chaste Diane !

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