Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Nurse's saucy reply: Hippolytus scene II continued

The regal speech of Phaedra in scene II of Hippolytus captures the queen in her moment of resolve. Earlier, with the Nurse, she was raving of wild hunts and kills. Once the secret burden is uttered, Phaedra collects herself, ponders her options, and delivers her speech with poise to the women of Troezen.

The Nurse then returns and the entire tone of the scene changes. If we had any doubts that the Nurse is a "low" character (apart from her servant status, "crone" qualities, lack of a proper name, etc.), her erratic behavior is another clue. Earlier, upon learning Phaedra's secret, the Nurse declared her intention to jump off a cliff. Moments before that she had been confidently speaking of the mixing bowl of Sophrosyne, diluted enough to handle any crisis, including love.

She now returns, speaking in a jumpy, colloquial style, with yet another perspective. She's had time to reflect on her earlier intention to end it all, she says, and now has a better idea:
You are in love: why is that so strange? It is a condition you share with many. [440] Will you, because of love, destroy your own life? Those who are in love today or shall be tomorrow get little profit, then, if they must die for it.
Where Phaedra had spoken of "a life's shipwreck," the Nurse says, in Grene's translation,
                              The tide of love,
at its full surge, is not withstandable.
Is the Nurse's language really reaching so high? Her blunt literalness makes complete sense without having to resort to figuration:
Κύπρις γὰρ οὐ φορητὸν ἢν πολλὴ ῥυῇ, τὸν μὲν εἴκονθ᾽
Cypris, if she streams upon us in great force, cannot be endured. (Kovacs)
When the Nurse then speaks of sex and procreation, she cites "old writings" and those who bother with the Muses. Her examples of wisely dealing with overpowering eros -- Semele and Cephalus -- seem like the learned citations in the mouths of Shakespeare's rude mechanicals while undermining her point. Euripides' audience, like the bard's, would relish the ironies.

The contrasting styles of the two women say much about how they think, where they "are coming from." The queen has offered a philosophic deliberation; she began with elaborate address and proceeded from generalities to the particulars of her situation, before reaching a firm resolve on the side of honorable motherhood and a free, strong Athens.

The Nurse is of the commons, and her arguments appeal to pragmatic problem solving. She laces her words with sarcasm:
ἐρᾷς: τί τοῦτο θαῦμασὺν πολλοῖς βροτῶν You are in love - is that a wonder? It is a condition you share with many.
Or, more colloquially: "What's the big deal? Join the crowd."

So there is the interplay, here, of a royal tragic figure with a commoner. Their lexical "attire" reflects their station and their orientation -- their values, assumptions about the world, and readiness to "go with the flow." But other oppositions are bundled in -- the one and the many, the philosophic claims of knowledge of the Good:
Phaedra: Only one thing, they say, competes in value with life, the possession of a heart [γνώμην - judgment, purpose, resolve] blameless and good. 426-7
versus the seeming logic -- the slippery rhetorical enthymemes of the sophist, whose strictly pragmatic techniques promise to serve anyone to attain any end. ("This is one of the wise principles mortals follow --" the Nurse says -- "dishonorable deeds should keep to the dark.")

The dialogue is operating from much the same dichotomy found in Plato's dialogues between his philosopher and any number of sophists. On the one hand, a quest for real knowledge mirroring the Good; on the other, any argument, well deployed, that persuades the crowd that the speaker is right.

Phaedra's reply with its political forewarning could almost be taken from the critique of poets in the Republic:
This is the thing that destroys the well-governed cities and houses of mortal men: words that are too skilfully spoken! Words to delight the ear—that is not at all what you must speak, but rather such advice as brings a good name [εὐκλεὴς]!
The Nurse's saucy comeback smacks of the Aristophanic world of ribald comedy:
[490] Why this high and haughty tone? Noble-sounding words are not what you need but the man!
τί σεμνομυθεῖς; οὐ λόγων εὐσχημόνων
δεῖ σ᾽, ἀλλὰ τἀνδρός.
With each accusing the other's manner of speech, the argument has moved from substance (logos) to metalanguage, to critiques of style (lexis). The oppositions at work -- knowledge vs technique, nature vs art, elegant words vs. carnal realities -- are now fleshed out. (It is interesting that Phaedra offers a dichotomy between pretty words and εὐκλεὴς -- good name (or fame) -- some would find a distinction without a difference.) The chorus will mutter about how each has something worth saying.

Underlying all these oppositions is a contested question: What, when all is said and done, do we know of ourselves?

The Nurse says to the Queen:
οὐ γὰρ ἄλλο πλὴν ὕβρις 475
τάδ᾽ ἐστί, κρείσσω δαιμόνων εἶναι θέλειν,
It is hubris, nothing else, to try to best the gods.
Nothing in our binary schemes quite helps here. We are left in mid-air, juggling the comicality of the Nurse's character against the common sense of her insight. At root is the essentially contested question of human nature. Are we to struggle with the Gods or are we their slaves? Our lives and human world are forged in how we answer.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The looking glass of royal conscience

Hippolytus, Scene II.

After the first dialogue between the Nurse and the Queen, Phaedra launches into a lengthy meditation, resonant with royal grandeur. She begins by addressing the women who inhabit Troezen, which she calls the "anteroom to Argos."

Here's David Grene's translation:
Hear me, you women of Troezen who live in this extremity of land, this anteroom to Argos. Many a time in night's long empty spaces I have pondered on the causes of a life's shipwreck. I think that our lives are worse than the mind's quality would warrant.
The word for "inhabit" is οἰκεῖτε, from oikos, house. Argos is imagined as a house, of which Troezen is the anteroom. Key associations with oikos run through the speech.

She goes on to offer almost a philosophic essay, pondering the conundrum of human nature:
We know the good, we apprehend it clearly.
But we can't bring it to achievement.
Not only is her language stately, but Phaedra orders her discourse with the dispositive assurance of an accomplished writer. Like one who has deeply reflected upon her predicament, she sets forth the steps of the "track my mind followed" in an orderly way. Cogent logic, general axioms and her own experience lead her to a sole clear conclusion:
My starting point was this, to conceal my malady with silence. [395] For the tongue is not to be trusted: it knows well how to admonish the thoughts of others but gets from itself a great deal of trouble. My second intention was to bear this madness nobly, overcoming it by means of self-control. [400] But third, when with these means I was unable to master Aphrodite, I resolved on death, the best of plans, as no one shall deny.
But her speech doesn't end with this resolution to die. She goes on to castigate unworthy women, to rail at those high-born wives who dare to speak of virtue
μισῶ δὲ καὶ τὰς σώφρονας μὲν ἐν λόγοις,
λάθρᾳ δὲ τόλμας οὐ καλὰς κεκτημένας:
αἳ πῶς ποτ᾽, δέσποινα ποντία Κύπρι, (415)
βλέπουσιν ἐς πρόσωπα τῶν ξυνευνετῶν
οὐδὲ σκότον φρίσσουσι τὸν ξυνεργάτην
τέραμνά τ᾽ οἴκων μή ποτε φθογγὴν ἀφῇ;
But I also hate women who are chaste in word but in secret possess an ignoble daring. [415] How, O Aphrodite, Lady of the Sea, how can these women look into the faces of their husbands? How do they not fear that the darkness, their accomplice, and the timbers of the house will break into speech? (Kovacs)
If the timbers of the house itself cry foul at private misdeeds, then the possibility of witnesses (μάρτυρι) pivots from the secret chamber of the individual to the political realm, the house of the people:
My friends, it is this very purpose that is bringing about my death, [420] that I may not be detected bringing shame to my husband or to the children I gave birth to but rather that they may live in glorious Athens [οἰκοῖεν πόλινas free men, free of speech and flourishing, enjoying good repute where their mother is concerned.
ἡμᾶς γὰρ αὐτὸ τοῦτ᾽ ἀποκτείνει, φίλαι, 420
ὡς μήποτ᾽ ἄνδρα τὸν ἐμὸν αἰσχύνασ᾽ ἁλῶ,
μὴ παῖδας οὓς ἔτικτον: ἀλλ᾽ ἐλεύθεροι
παρρησίᾳ θάλλοντες οἰκοῖεν πόλιν
κλεινῶν Ἀθηνῶν μητρὸς οὕνεκ᾽ εὐκλεεῖς.
Line 423 has just four big words:
 παρρησίᾳ θάλλοντες οἰκοῖεν πόλιν  
 free thriving Citizen householders.
They resonantly knit the fate of the Polis to the inward state of the people, and especially, of its royal citizens. In line with the orderly universe of Phaedra's speech, her conclusion marks a clear distinction between high and low, master and slave, those of honor and those debased by its loss:
Only one thing, they say, competes in value with life, the possession of a heart blameless and good.
She concludes with the perfect metaphor:
as for the base among mortals, they are exposed, late or soon, by Time, who holds up to them, as to a young girl  [παρθένῳ νέᾳ], [430] a mirror.
In the mirror we find the culmination of Phaedra's entire speech; her reflection on the causes of a life's shipwreck; the choices facing her; the dishonor of private acts in the looking glass of the public eye; the fate of the city hinging on the seamless transparency of inside and outside, mind and eye, heart and city, all poignantly summed in the memory of looking in a mirror and seeing a young virgin, untouched by gods and time.

It might be helpful to contrast this measured, philosophical language with what we next hear from the Nurse.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Visualizing texts: The Agamemnon

Folks from U-Missouri-Kansas City are developing interesting modes of visualizing the linguistic components of Greek tragedies, as well as analyzing the social networks of the characters. Here's the Agamemnon -- mouse lightly over the characters and see data appear. 

A portion of the textual properties of the character, Agamemnon:
Speaks 5.66% of dialogue
Average Sentence Length: 10.29 
Characteristic Vocabulary:
  • bai/nw to walk, step
  • no/sos sickness, disease, malady
  • pou/s a foot
  • fqo/nos ill-will, envy, jealousy
  • me/nw to stay at home, stay where one is, not stir
  • se/bw to worship, honour
  • *)/argos shining, bright, glistening not working the ground, living without labour
  • a(bru/nw to make delicate, treat delicately

Monday, August 19, 2013

Moderation is less easy than it sounds

Nurse: My long life has taught me many lessons: mortals should not mix the cup of their affection to one another too strong, [255] and it should not sink to the very marrow of the soul, but the affection that binds their hearts should be easy to loosen, easy either to thrust from them or to bind tightly.

In the simple imagery of the mixing bowl and the knot, the nurse offers a vivid emblem of Sophrosyne, in the received sense of nothing in excess. Our loves must not sink to the marrow of the soul -- μυελὸν ψυχῆς -- but should rather be relaxed, like the reins on a horse, able to be pushed away, or tightly drawn in. Images invoking the polarity of looseness / tightness -- of rope, reins, love -- are woven through the play.

To love wisely, for the nurse, is to be in balance: able to love yet to leave. The sense of an affection and an affability that reserves to itself the freedom to be more, or less, as the lover wishes. Love, here, is a mixed wine, neither too potent nor too weak. Interestingly the word she uses for "love" in line 257, στέργηθρα, carries both the sense of "fondness" as of the love of parents for children, and "love charm," suggesting an efficacious influence or power to which one might succumb. 

Thus, instead of easily mixing these elements, the nurse's language holds in suspense two kinds of eros: a love that obeys one's desire, and a desire that one must obey.

The nurse continues in the same vein:

Men say that a way of life too unswerving leads more to a fall than to satisfaction and is more hurtful to health. That is why I have much less praise for excess [265] than for moderation. The wise will bear me out.
"Too unswerving" is a fine translation of ἀτρεκεῖς, which can also be translated as "strict, precise, exact." Someone who is too exacting, too stiffly precise, is setting themselves up for a fall. The word for "fall" is σφάλλειν, a word Aphrodite also uses in her opening speech:

I honor those who reverence my power, but I lay low (literally: I trip up) those who think proud thoughts against me.
Those whose wills can't bend will break, as it seems Aphrodite is unswerving in her demand for reverence. We might be advised to treat love lightly, but Love is too exacting to let us walk away. The ideal of self-control breaks upon the quandary of how to find a "moderate course" between Aphrodite and her antithesis, Artemis.

At the beginning and at the end of the Hippolytus, Euripides presents the two poles of love in the form of symmetrical deae ex machinae. Each is absolute, each is the negation of the other. Mortals negotiate the electrically charged space between them. It is in this atmosphere that the various models of Sophrosyne must be taken up, weighed, and examined for viability. The virtue that seemed blandly easy for us to practice in Aristotle's prosaic Ethics is ratcheted up very high in the tragic poetry enacted on Euripides' stage.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hamartia and reversal in the Hippolytus

The stagecraft of Euripides is charged with tremendous compression. From the first moment Phaedra appears to the audience, she mirrors the dying Hippolytus who will be carried on at the end of the play:
Raise up my body, hold my head erect! My limbs are unstrung. [200] Take my fair arms, servants!

αἴρετέ μου δέμας, ὀρθοῦτε κάρα:
λέλυμαι μελέων σύνδεσμα φίλων.
λάβετ᾽ εὐπήχεις χεῖρας, πρόπολοι. 200
Oh! Oh! I beg you by the gods, servants, handle my wounded flesh gently! [1360] Who is standing on my right at my side? Lift me carefully, draw me with muscles ever tensed, me the wretch, cursed by his father's misdeed.
φεῦ φεῦ: πρὸς θεῶν, ἀτρέμα, δμῶες,
χροὸς ἑλκώδους ἅπτεσθε χεροῖν. 1360
τίς ἐφέστηκεν δεξιὰ πλευροῖς;
πρόσφορά μ᾽ αἴρετε, σύντονα δ᾽ ἕλκετε
τὸν κακοδαίμονα καὶ κατάρατον
πατρὸς ἀμπλακίαις.
In response to Phaedra's condition, the nurse suggests that we are all unhappy lovers of the light we have, without experience of a life we yet seem to intimate:
Anything we might love more than life is hid in a surrounding cloud of darkness, and we are clearly unhappy lovers of whatever light there is that shines on earth [195] because we are ignorant of another life, since the life below is not revealed to us. We are borne along foolishly by mere tales (μύθοις).
ἀλλ᾽ ὅ τι τοῦ ζῆν φίλτερον ἄλλο
σκότος ἀμπίσχων κρύπτει νεφέλαις.
δυσέρωτες (sick in love with) δὴ φαινόμεθ᾽ ὄντες
τοῦδ᾽ ὅ τι τοῦτο στίλβει (glitter, gleam) κατὰ γῆν
195 δι᾽ ἀπειροσύνην (inexperience) ἄλλου βιότου
κοὐκ ἀπόδειξιν τῶν ὑπὸ γαίας,
μύθοις δ᾽ ἄλλως φερόμεσθα.
We cannot know, though we conceive, something greater than life to love. We are adrift in stories. The nurse then turns into a midwife/analyst, interrogating Phaedra's story, probing and prodding until she, the analyst, speaks the name "Hippolytus." That "touches" the queen. The nurse's clinical attitude is clear -- better to loosen up, confess your love, even act upon it, than to die from repressing desire. She takes her direction from this view.

Euripides prepares us for the physical and emotional rawness of this revelation scene in the epode of the first choral ode (the parodos), with the strong emphasis the chorus places on the twisted (δυστρόπῳ ) "harmony" of women in the "unhappy helplessness of birth-pangs":
Women's nature is an uneasy harmony, and with it is wont to dwell the slack unhappy helplessness of birth-pangs and their folly (ἀφροσύνας). [165] Through my womb also has this breath darted.
φιλεῖ δὲ τᾷ δυστρόπῳ γυναικῶν
ἁρμονίᾳ κακὰ δύστανος ἀμηχανία συνοικεῖν
ὠδίνων τε καὶ ἀφροσύνας. 165
δι᾽ ἐμᾶς ᾖξέν ποτε νηδύος ἅδ᾽αὔρα:
The scene between the queen and her nurse, the delivery of the utterance of Phaedra's hidden love is played both as scene of analysis and an act of parturition. Before bringing her secret into the world, Phaedra raves like a woman rendered helpless -- ἀμηχανία -- by the throes of childbirth. Her hysteria centering on Artemis is that of a woman on the edge of madness:
[215] Take me to the mountain: I mean to go to the wood, to the pine-wood, where hounds that kill wild beasts tread, running close after the dappled deer! By the gods, how I want to shout to the hounds [220] and to let fly past my golden hair a javelin of Thessaly, to hold in my hand the sharp-pointed weapon!
Her fixation on the goddess is overdetermined. Artemis is of course the special devotion of Hippolytus, bound up with Phaedra's uncontrollable passion for her stepson. But the virgin goddess also alleviates the pangs of childbirth, as the continuation of the choral epode remembers:
But I called on the heavenly easer of travail, Artemis, mistress of arrows, and she is always—the gods be praised—my much-envied visitor. 165 ff
τὰν δ᾽ εὔλοχον οὐρανίαν
τόξων μεδέουσαν ἀύτευν
Ἄρτεμιν, καί μοι πολυζήλωτος αἰεὶ
σὺν θεοῖσι φοιτᾷ.
For the Greek women of the chorus, the course of love begins in Aphrodite's caresses and ends in the easing interventions of Artemis -- the two goddesses turn out to be as inexorably necessary to a child-bearing woman as they are mutually, radically antithetical.

For Phaedra this symmetry has gotten twisted, tied in a knot. She loves a man who adores the antithesis of love. The chaste goddess who could relieve her pain is linked to her erotic desire. Already wounded by Eros, the queen dreams of being a huntress. She turns to the Mistress of Arrows:
By the gods, how I want to shout to the hounds [220] and to let fly past my golden hair a javelin of Thessaly, to hold in my hand the sharp-pointed weapon!
When the nurse joins the name "Hippolytus" to the birthright of her children, Phaedra's birth pangs become insupportable:
But know well—and in the face of this be more stubborn [305] than the sea if you like—know that if you die you have betrayed your sons, who shall have no share in their father's house, none:
I tell you in the name of that horse-riding queen of the Amazons who bore a master to rule over your sons, a bastard with thoughts of legitimacy, you know him well, [310] Hippolytus. . .
 ἀλλ᾽ ἴσθι μέντοι — πρὸς τάδ᾽ αὐθαδεστέρα
305 γίγνου θαλάσσης — εἰ θανῇ, προδοῦσα σοὺς
παῖδας, πατρῴων μὴ μεθέξοντας δόμων,
μὰ τὴν ἄνασσαν ἱππίαν Ἀμαζόνα,
ἣ σοῖς τέκνοισι δεσπότην ἐγείνατο
νόθον φρονοῦντα γνήσι᾽, οἶσθά νιν καλῶς,
310 Ἱππόλυτον . . .
Hearing the spoken name, Phaedra emits an involuntary gasp:
With the preternatural sensitivity of one used to the labored signs of repression (the poet H.D. called Freud "midwife to the soul"),  the Nurse pounces:
θιγγάνει σέθεν τόδε; - does this touch you?

What has been growing in her must come out. As it does, her dream of holding the pointed weapon - ἐπίλογχον βέλος - turns around. Like Aktaeon, she's no longer doing the hunting, and the barbed arrows will give her no rest.

After this turn, the only pointed weapon Phaedra's hand will hold is a stylus. It will unerringly find its mark in Hippolytus, who will be carried onstage, helpless, like a woman in labor; broken, like a hunted animal brought to ground.

The closely wrought text of the Hippolytus accomplishes an unthinkable reversal: compressing opposed extremes into one tragic act, a queen nobly denying Aphrodite brings down the devotee of Artemis with an arrow forged by Eros. Does the arrow miss the mark (hamartia), or hit it?

Roman theater: Orange, France

The theater of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides in Athens was relatively small, compared to the later theaters of the Hellenic and Roman worlds. Here's a Roman theater built in Orange, France, in the 1st century AD:

Those who imagine Facebook is only for contemporary faces are missing some superb images of ancient Rome here, and of ancient Greece here. Some favorites have been shared here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lucretius' image of Venus

Simply for comparison:

Given that the Hippolytus begins with the speech of Aphrodite and devotes choral odes as well as dialogue to the goddess, it might be worthwhile to look at a different poet's rendering of the goddess -- in this case the Proem to De Rerum Natura of Lucretius:

The image of Venus here suggests some of the major ways in which Rome's vision of Amor, and of the entire fabric of the world, differs significantly from the sense of Eros and Aphrodite that comes through the Hippolytus. Some of these differences between the Greek and Roman world views came up in some of our discussions of Ovid's Metamorphoses.

Here's the opening of Book 1 of De Rerum Natura:*

Capitoline Venus
Mother of Rome, delight of Gods and men,
Dear Venus that beneath the gliding stars
Makest to teem the many-voyaged main
And fruitful lands- for all of living things
Through thee alone are evermore conceived,
Through thee are risen to visit the great sun-
Before thee, Goddess, and thy coming on,
Flee stormy wind and massy cloud away,
For thee the daedal Earth bears scented flowers,
For thee waters of the unvexed deep
Smile, and the hollows of the serene sky
Glow with diffused radiance for thee!
For soon as comes the springtime face of day,
And procreant gales blow from the West unbarred,
First fowls of air, smit to the heart by thee,
Foretoken thy approach, O thou Divine,
And leap the wild herds round the happy fields
Or swim the bounding torrents. Thus amain,
Seized with the spell, all creatures follow thee
Whithersoever thou walkest forth to lead,
And thence through seas and mountains and swift streams,
Through leafy homes of birds and greening plains,
Kindling the lure of love in every breast,
Thou bringest the eternal generations forth,
Kind after kind. And since 'tis thou alone
Guidest the Cosmos, and without thee naught
Is risen to reach the shining shores of light,
Nor aught of joyful or of lovely born,
Thee do I crave co-partner in that verse
Which I presume on Nature to compose . . .

*The 1916 translation is by William Ellery Leonard, used on the Perseus site. The hyperlinked Latin text is here.

The Hippolytus' choral ode that begins with "Eros, Eros" ends with a different vision of the goddess of love (563-4)
Terrible, she breathes on all; a bee
that flits and hovers
Aphrodite Cnidus

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Choral resonances in Hippolytus

A point on translation.

Euripides takes care to interweave his words in ways that link strands in disparate parts of the Hippolytus. Take for example these two choruses:

The first is the majestic opening chorus that begins with the world-encircling Ocean, and the robes of the queen, drying on the sun-drenched rock after being washed:
"κεανοῦ τις ὕδωρ στάζουσα πέτρα λέγεται,
βαπτὰν κάλπισι πα-
γὰν ῥυτὰν προιεῖσα κρημνῶν: 125
τόθι μοί τις ἦν φίλα
πορφύρεα φάρεα
ποταμίᾳ δρόσῳ τέγγουσα,
θερμᾶς δ᾽ ἐπὶ νῶτα πέτραςεὐαλίου κατέβαλλ᾽: ὅθεν μοι 130
πρώτα φάτις ἦλθε δεσποίνας,
There is a cliff dripping water whose source, men say, is the river Oceanus: it pours forth from its overhanging edge a flowing stream in which pitchers are dipped. [125] It was there that I found a friend soaking her clothes in the river-water and laying them out on the warm rock's broad back in the sun. From there it was that I [130] first had news of my queen.
This next comes at the center of the play, right after Phaedra has decided that she will end her life in a way that will teach Hippolytus a lesson in Sophrosyne. By sharing her suffering, he will, she says, σωφρονεῖν μαθήσεται - learn wisdom.

ἠλιβάτοις ὑπὸ κευθμῶσι γενοίμαν,
ἵνα με πτεροῦσσαν ὄρνιν
θεὸς ἐν ποταναῖς
ἀγέλαις θείη:                    735
κῦμα τᾶς Ἀδριηνᾶςἀκτᾶς Ἠριδανοῦ θ᾽ ὕδωρ,
ἔνθα πορφύρεον σταλάσ-
σουσ᾽ ἐς οἶδμα τάλαιναι    740
κόραι Φαέθοντος οἴκτῳ δακρύων
τὰς ἠλεκτροφαεῖς αὐγάς.
ἀρθείην δ᾽ ἐπὶ πόντιον
Would that I could flee to secret clefts in the high mountains, and that there a god might make of me a feathered bird amid the wingèd throngs! [735] Would that I might soar aloft over the surf of the Adriatic shore and the waters of the Eridanus where into the deep-blue swell the luckless [740] girls, in grief for Phaethon, drop the amber radiance of their tears.

One word that links both choral passages is πορφύρεα -- purple, deep blue, or wine-dark. One would not know this from the translations we're using. David Kovacs' prose translation (on Perseus) omits the adjective, offering simply "soaking her clothes." This elides both the color and the establishing sense that these are not the robes of some anonymous friend of the chorus, but the royal robes of the queen. (More on the robes here.)

David Grene's translation does make that much clear:
My friend was there and in the river water
She dipped and washed the royal purple robes.
πορφύρεα appears again in the second, central ode -- here it's the waters of the Eridanus (usually associated with the Po) draining into the Adriatic. Kovacs offers "deep-blue swell;" Grene has "deep-blue tide."

It's perhaps understandable that a translator would prefer a more literal rendering of the tide as "deep-blue," reflecting the sunny Mediterranean sky. But by choosing to use two completely different English words to represent the same Greek word, the translators have dropped a stitch that otherwise links the two passages, which in fact do have other poetic, figurative and thematic threads that connect them. Both, for example, contain rivers. I'll just mention one more.

In the first ode, the chorus depicts the river water "dripping" from Ocean: the word is στάζουσα. In the later ode, the chorus speaks of the mourning sisters of Phaethon, who at his death turned to poplars on the banks of the Po, and "drop the amber radiance of their tears." The lovely phrase, ἠλεκτροφαεῖς αὐγάς, combines the sense of amber (elektron), gleaming and sunlight. One way of putting it together could be to say "amber sheen of sunlight." This weeping sheen is in fact the tears of the Heliades, whose brother Phaethon fell into the river after his failed attempt to control the chariot of the sun. (Some ancient verbal depictions of the fallen boy and his chariot, destroyed by Zeus's bolt, are here.)

The image of the sisters' falling tears resonates with the first ode via the same word -- στάζω -- that means drip, or drop, fall, trickle down, shed drop by drop. Kovacs gets close by using "drop" to echo "drip" in the first ode. Grene uses "weep" in the second ode, and "streaming" in the first, dissipating any linguistic echoes between the waters of the river descending from Oceanus and the amber gleaming tears of the sisters of Phaethon. 

What is lost? At the very least, the reflective purple tint of the waters and robes. The waters of the Adriatic are purple as the sun sets, and perhaps were purple on that day when Phaethon, losing control of the sun, fell into the Eridanus. Purple waters, purple robes: From above, the robes of the queen could seem like a bloodstain upon the sun-drenched rocks. 

Bound together by image, Hippolytus and Phaethon are linked by theme as well. From the perspective of the play's concern with Sophrosyne, Hippolytus can be seen as overreaching. He is certainly seen that way by Phaedra, who, in the lines immediately preceding the ode above, calls him ὑψηλός -- high, lofty, stately, proud -- and she's not praising him. Rather, she's preparing to bring him down, unwittingly accomplishing the aim of Aphrodite. The messenger describing Hippolytus's disaster paints a vivid scene: a careering chariot smashing into rough rocks, mangling the boy, staining the rocks with his blood. The primal myth of Phaethon turns out to be a key subtext of the tale of Hippolytus, intimated from the first choral ode.

The delicate web of Euripides' work challenges any translator. Careful attention to his words brings us closer to the enigmatic power of his tight-knit text.

Fall of Phaethon - Sebastiano Ricci