Sappho and Catullus

billberg23

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Below is Sappho’s famous “pathographic” poem (31 in the Lobel-Page edition), in which the poet describes her physical symptoms as the sight of an attractive girl fills her with desire.  She begins by expressing envy for the man across from her who gets to sit next to the girl.  His luck makes him “equal to the gods”. Six centuries later, the Roman poet Catullus made a more or less literal translation of that pathographic poem, probably to impress his girl friend, whom he called “Lesbia” ever after in an allusion to Sappho and Sapphic poetry.  The poem is numbered 51 in standard editions.

Φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν
ἔμμεν’ ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐναντιός τοι
ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φωνεί-
σας ὐπακούει

καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν, τό μ’ ἦ μὰν
καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν,
ὠς γὰρ ἔς σ’ ἴδω βρόχε’ ὤς με φώναι-
σ’ οὐδ’ ἔν ἔτ’ είκει,

ἀλλ ἄκαν μὲν γλῶσσα ἔαγε λέπτον
δ’ αὔτικα χρῶι πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμηκεν,
ὀππάτεσσι δ’ οὐδ’ ἔν ὄρημμ’, ἐπιρρόμ-
βεισι δ’ ἄκουαι,

έκαδε μ’ ἴδρως ψῦχρος κακχέεται τρόμος δὲ 
παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας
ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ’ ὀλίγω ‘πιδεύης
φαίνομ' ἐμ' αὔτᾳ.

ἀλλὰ πὰν τόλματον ἐπεὶ []
καὶ πένητα [] ...

Ille me par esse deo videtur,
ille, si fas est, superare divos
qui sedens adversus identidem te
spectat et audit

dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis
eripit sensus mihi:  nam simul te,
Lesbia, adspexi, nihil est super mi
vocis in ore,

lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
tintinnant aures, gemina teguntur
lumina nocte.

Otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:
otium exsultas nimiumque gestis.
Otium et reges prius et beatas
perdidit urbes.


You see that the translation has been beautifully faithful to the Sapphic text — up to the fourth stanza.  At that point, a complete (?) departure from the theme occurs, and the poem ends with a critical self-assessment:  you have too much time on your hands, Catullus.

Can anyone explain what Catullus is up to here, why he fails to follow Sappho all the way to the end, and what he’s saying about Sappho generally, or about his own poetic program, or about himself?  Any comments or questions (the more elementary, the better) in Greek or English (or any other language), will be welcome.  The two poems have been translated many times into many different languages.  Much may have been lost in translation!  So please feel free to offer your own translations into Greek or English or other modern languages.  Thanks for your help!
« Last Edit: 09 Feb, 2009, 18:15:51 by billberg23 »


spiros

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Φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν
ἔμμεν’ ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐναντιός τοι
ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φωνεί-
σας ὐπακούει

καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν, τό μ’ ἦ μὰν
καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν,
ὠς γὰρ ἔς σ’ ἴδω βρόχε’ ὤς με φώναι-
σ’ οὐδ’ ἔν ἔτ’ είκει,

ἀλλ ἄκαν μὲν γλῶσσα ἔαγε λέπτον
δ’ αὔτικα χρῶι πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμηκεν,
ὀππάτεσσι δ’ οὐδ’ ἔν ὄρημμ’, ἐπιρρόμ-
βεισι δ’ ἄκουαι,

έκαδε μ’ ἴδρως ψῦχρος κακχέεται τρόμος δὲ  
παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας
ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ’ ὀλίγω ‘πιδεύης
φαίνομ' ἐμ' αὔτᾳ.

ἀλλὰ πὰν τόλματον ἐπεὶ []
καὶ πένητα [] ...

Peer of the gods, the happiest man I seem
Sitting before thee, rapt at thy sight, hearing
Thy soft laughter and they voice most gentle,
Speaking so sweetly.

Then in my bosom my heart wildly flutters,
And, when on thee I gaze never so little,
Bereft am I of all power of utterance,
My tongue is useless.

There rushes at once through my flesh tingling fire,
My eyes are deprived of all power of vision,
My ears hear nothing by sounds of winds roaring,
And all is blackness.

Down courses in streams the sweat of emotion,
A dread trembling o'erwhelms me, paler than I
Than dried grass in autumn, and in my madness
Dead I seem almost.



http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/usappho/sph03.htm




French version by Pierre de Ronsard (1560):

Je suis un Demidieu quand assis vis-à-vis
De toy, mon cher souci, j’escoute les devis,
Devis entrerompus d’un gracieux soubrire,
Soubris qui me detient le coeur emprisonné;
Car en voyant tes yeux je me pasme estonné,
Et de mes pauvres flancs un seul mot je ne tire.
Ma langue s’engourdist, un petit feu me court
Honteux de sous la peau; je suis muet et sourd,
Et une obscure nuit de sur mes yeux demeure;
Mon sang devient glacé, l’esprit fuit de mon corps,
Je tremble tout de crainte, et peu s’en faut alors
Qu’à tes pieds estendu, sans ame je ne meure.
http://www.bopsecrets.org/gateway/passages/sappho.htm

See too:
http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/usappho/index.htm
http://www.middlebury.edu/~harris/Sappho.pdf
http://www.greek-language.gr/greekLang/ancient_greek/education/lyric/support/bioergografika/01.html
http://www.poetry-archive.com/s/ode_to_a_loved_one.html
« Last Edit: 23 Jul, 2010, 10:45:00 by spiros »



billberg23

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Thanks, Spiro, for the beautiful Ronsard adaptation and the good links to Sappho translations.  They will help arm us for the task.  Can we find a modern Greek translation of the pathographic poem?

Here are a number of English translations of Catullus 51:  http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&q=catullus+translation+51&aq=6&oq=Catullus+translat
How about Greek translations of the same poem?
« Last Edit: 07 Feb, 2009, 19:39:59 by billberg23 »


spiros

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How about Greek translations of the same poem?

I have seen a few around, let me check.



vbd.

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So far, in my mind, this otium can mean two things: he's either referring to otium vs negotium, or it's something more specific to his own case, namely otium vs marriage. In the first case Catullus would be reprehending himself for being "effeminate", thus creating a gap between him and his love-object; by sticking to the traditional ideas of negotium, Catullus would basically be negating his love to Lesbia: "silly me, I'm sitting here thinking about a woman, how absurd".
In the other case his point of view would of course still be informed by the traditional Roman work-ethic, but not as much. His otium would be his "inactiveness" regarding this woman's love: "silly me, I'm sitting here thinking about a woman, when in fact I should be acting and trying to win her", therefore otium vs actually working towards acomplishing what his love dictates. In this case he would not, of course, be creating a distance between him and his love-object, rather the opposite.

To put it otherwise, in the first case the poem would be didactic, educational as in "look Romans, what can happen when you have leisure. You become effeminate and your mind becomes ill with love". In the second case it would be more like "loving a woman and not doing anything about it is excruciating. I must marry her", which accords with the Roman traditional ideas (love is an illness unless verified/affirmed by marriage) but not quite as the first case does.

An thought I found to be interesting on "otium": "The point worth emphasizing in the present connection is that the ideal of virtus was developed among warriors, and never lost its military connotations. Otium, on the other hand, meant rejection of war and all the military values. This is the tension inherent in the work of the elegists, as when Ovid defiantly claims that 'every lover is a soldier'. And this is the tension expressed in Catullus 51".

The next step, I think, would be examine the use of "otium" in Catullus 50, and compare and contrast with 51.
At last, I have peace.


spiros

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....γιατί μόλις σε δω για μια στιγμή,
δεν μπορώ πια να αρθρώσω λέξη:
αλλά η γλώσσα μου γίνεται κομμάτια και,
κάτω από το δέρμα μου,
γλιστράει απότομα μια λεπτή φωτιά:
τα μάτια μου χάνουν το βλέμμα τους,
τ' αυτιά μου βουίζουν,
ο ιδρώτας αυλακώνει το κορμί μου,
ένα ρίγος με κυριεύει σύγκορμη
γίνομαι πιο χλωμή κι απ' τη χλόη και,
λίγο ακόμη,
θα 'λεγα πως πεθαίνω.

Μετάφραση: Βασίλης Παπαβασιλείου (;)


μόλις στρέψω και ιδώ σε ξεψυχάει
κι' αποσβήν' η λαλιά μου,
σαν τη γλώσσα μου κάτι να τσακίζει
σιγανή φλόγα τρέχει το κορμί μου,
θαμπωμένοι δεν βλέπουν οι οφθαλμοί μου,
κι η ακοή μου βουίζει,
ιδρώτ' από τα μέλη μου αναδίνω,
κι όλη τρέμω, πιο πράσινη στο χρώμα
κι' από χόρτο, και λέω πως λίγο ακόμα
και νεκρή θ' απομείνω.

Μετάφραση: Π.Λεκατσάς


Ο άνδρας αυτός είναι ίδιος με θεό
αυτός που και σε θωρεί γλυκά
καθώς κι εσύ γερτή του ψιθυρίζεις
και του γελάς ερωτικά.

όμως εμέ, στα στήθη μου η καρδιά
σπαράζει (ορφανή)
και, όταν σε βλέπω, απότομα
μου χάνεται η φωνή.

Ν’ αρθρώσω λέξη δε μπορώ
η γλώσσα μου κομμάτια.
Θολά τα πάντα γύρω μου θωρώ
για να σε δω δεν έχω μάτια.

Και μια λεπτή -λεπτή φωτιά διαπερνά το δέρμα,
βόμβος ηχεί στα αυτιά μου δυνατός,
(στις φλέβες μου επάγωσε το αίμα)
και σύγκορμη με περιλούει ο ιδρός,

τρεμούλα μ’ έχει πάρει
γίνομαι τότε πιο χλωμή κι απ’ το χλωρό χορτάρι
και φαίνομαι απ’ το θάνατο ελάχιστα ν’ απέχω.
ωστόσο πρέπει να τολμώ
(λύση άλλη δεν έχω)
στα ανθρώπινα μια και είμαι βυθισμένη…
http://www.stixoi.info/stixoi.php?info=Poems&act=details&poem_id=63987
« Last Edit: 09 Jan, 2014, 13:21:15 by wings »


vbd.

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Should we reconstruct Sappho's stanza by finding a common point with Catullus last stanza? Or should we assume that Catullus takes a complete turn and his last stanza is unlike anything Sappho has ever written? The answer to this question would largely decide our approach to the matter, and any eventual reconstructions. The problem for me is that I don't see how we could safely answer this question.
Is Catullus being optimistic in his last stanza or not? I'm still not clear on that. And if for example he is, is that a safe hint that Sappho was optimistic in her last stanza or not? And something else. If Longinus didn't have the whole of Sappho's last stanza (or did he have it but it's not visible on the manuscript?), why is everybody so sure that Catullus had this last stanza? What if he only had what Longinus had, and his last stanza is an attempt to translate a reconstruction of Sappho's last stanza based on speculations such as ours? We'd then be speculating on speculations based on a missing stanza. We'd be more far from "truth" than Plato's painters.
The questions are too many, and I'd be really surprised if anybody could come up with a convincing theory regarding this matter.

This reminds me of something Andrew Ford, wrote in the introduction of his "Homer: The poetry of the past". "[...]the reader of poetry then turns historian of the idea of poetry and returns to the poems to ask what it was to be a singer of songs in that world. But of course Homer is hardly to be found: beyond the notorious historical problems of his identity and even existence, there are major theoretical difficulites in looking for the poet behind the poem. New Criticism has long forbidden us to consult the putative author for the meaning of a text; structuralism has added that we can never emerge from the labyrinth of words to reach our author; and deconstruction warns us that if we got there nobody would be home."

On another note, yesterday our friend whose acute interest in Sappho got this conversation started probably made one of the most legendary presents in modern history :-)
At last, I have peace.


billberg23

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On another note, yesterday our friend whose acute interest in Sappho got this conversation started probably made one of the most legendary presents in modern history :-)
You're referring, of course, to our friend stupor (https://www.translatum.gr/forum/index.php?topic=35468.0)?  ((-:


spiros

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How does Catullus read Sappho's Poem?

And how should we read Catullus' in turn? The most obvious difference is that Catullus transforms Sappho's homoerotic poem into a heterosexual one - the object of desire is still a woman but the poetic vision is now male, not female. Where Sappho begins her poem with phainetai moi ('it seems to me'), Catullus swings round the emphasis to 'ille' - that man - making the poem far more definite, less illusory, focused not so much on the generic symptoms of desire but the poet's own jealousy and wish to supplant his rival in Lesbia's affections. For this reason, scholars often argue that this is the first poem Catullus sent Lesbia/ Clodia, a declaration of love intended to win her over. There are other more subtle differences. In Sappho, the man only listens ( upakouei ) to the woman; in Catullus the man also 'spectat' 'looks at' - the woman. Again, in Sappho, the woman laughs and speaks. In Catullus' version she is permitted only laughter. Can translators convey anything of the subtleties of these changes? In my version, for instance, I emphasised the new voyeuristic force of spectat by translating it 'peers at'. Compare Sisson's 'yet repeatedly/ looks at you' or Whigham's 'watches you'.

http://www.literarytranslation.com/workshops/sapandcat/howdoescatullusreadsapphospoem/
« Last Edit: 01 Mar, 2009, 16:26:44 by spiros »


vbd.

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Spiros, thank you for the extract from Josephine Balmer’s series on Sappho 31 and Catullus 51. Her articles begin at http://www.literarytranslation.com/workshops/sapandcat/ and are well worth reading for anyone interested in the two poems and their afterlife.

Bill thought it time to discuss a recent article by Armand D’Angour that I ran across in my research into the matter. Unfortunately redistributing the article would constitute copyright infringement. Those of you who have access to Classical Quarterly's 2006 issue will find "Conquering Love: Sappho 31 and Catullus 51" in pages 297-300.
In a very concise way he specifies the problems presented both by Catullus' turn in his last stanza and by Sappho's missing stanza — if that's what it is (only a few words of this stanza survive, making it difficult to even decide if it indeed is another stanza of this same poem, or maybe the beginning of a poem, or a stanza of another poem). What D'Angour does is attempt to reconstruct Sappho's last stanza, so that it conveniently accords with Catullus' last stanza, the poem's theme and Sappho's "general focus of concern: Love. To Greek archaic poets, the Love Goddess and her representative Helen were notoriously the agents of precisely such destruction". Translating Catullus' last two lines (… et reges prius et beatas perdidit urbes) back into Aeolic Greek, he comes up with "καὶ γὰρ ὤλεσέν ποτ' ἄνακτας ὀλβίας τε πόληας." Naturally then he proceeds to complete his reconstruction by attributing this destructive power to Aphrodite; the result is a fairly optimistic ending to the pathographic poem: "But all can be borne, since you, Kypris, would subdue nobleman and beggar in equal measure; for indeed, you once destroyed both kings and flourishing cities".
At last, I have peace.


billberg23

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Whether or not we’re convinced that Sappho had added such a “fifth stanza,” we have to admit that D'Angour’s reconstruction is ingenious.  What makes it all the more persuasive is the ease with which he recreates Sappho’s Greek.  A native Lesbian couldn’t have done better!  (-: 

And Sappho isn’t the only ancient Greek poet he can “channel.”  Armand D’Angour was selected to compose a “Pindaric ode” to celebrate Athens on the occasion of the Olympic Games there in 2004 (since the same had been done for the first Olympics at Athens in 1896).  He composed the Ode not just in English, but in Greek;  and not just in ancient Greek, but in the 5th-century BC Doric dialect of Pindar!  You can see it here:  http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/po/040803.shtml.
« Last Edit: 01 Mar, 2009, 17:44:13 by billberg23 »



Armand2000

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Thank you Bill.
You might like to see my translation of the whole poem including my reconstruction. What I think it makes clear is that Sappho had to do something with that last stanza to avoid it being a total anticlimax. A change of addressee keeps the poem alive in a way that a commonplace self-consoling sentiment would not have. I should also point out that the first line is a translation of a variant reading preserved in antiquity (phainetai woi, rather than phainetai moi). I can't see why it would have been quoted if it were not the genuine reading - even if Catullus changed it for his own purposes to 'ille mi...'

He thinks he’s like the gods in heaven,
that man who sits across from you
and bends his head to listen to
   the sweetness of your voice
and lovely laugh, which makes my heart
race in my breast – for when I catch
the merest glimpse of you, my voice
   falls silent in my throat,
my tongue congeals, a subtle flame
goes flickering beneath my skin,
my eyes see nothing, all I hear
   is buzzing in my ears,
I’m cold with sweat, my body shakes
all over, I’m as damp as grass,
It feels to me as if I’m just
   an inch away from death…
But all can be endured since, Love,
you’ll conquer lord and serf alike;
You, Goddess, once laid kings and wealthy
    cities in the dust.




billberg23

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Welcome to Translatum, Armand, and many thanks for sharing this with us.  Your translation is exquisite!  I find the reading φαίνεταί Foι particularly exciting, since there's not a breath of it in the Lobel & Page apparatus.  Where can we read more about your reconstruction?


Armand2000

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phainetai woi is a Sapphic phrase according to Apollonius Dyscolus (On Pronouns, 106a), where he quotes it to show the Aeolian use of the digamma. It is in Campbell's Loeb of Greek Lyric vol 1, Sappho no.165 (p.168). Maybe Apollonius had a text of Sappho 31 with that reading? (though of course it may come from another poem). The reason I like it is partly that it seems to be answered better than the usual reading by 'phainom' em' autai'  - I seem to myself, vs he seems to himself.

My ifull nterpretation is in the CQ article you cited earlier. I thought I had no more to say on the subject, but I think I have found yet another angle. I shall tell you more about it when it's accepted for publication!


 

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