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  #1  
Old 09-17-2017, 04:54 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Default Bacchae--Swift Dogs of Madness

Chorus

Strophe
Swift dogs of Madness, seek the mountain slope
where Cadmusí daughters worship. Stir them up
against the madman dressed in womenís attire,
the Maenad spy. Perched on a sharp outcrop,
his mother will be first to notice where
he waits in ambush, and she will harangue
the Bacchant throng:

ďWhat seeker after Cadmusí mountain clan
do we have here? Yes, Bacchae, who is this?
What mother could have whelped out such a son?
Surely no product of a woman,
he only can be the inhuman
spawn of a Gorgon or a lioness.Ē

Refrain
Let Justice now be known.
Let her appear with sword in hand
and slit the throat
of the impious, unrestrained
and reprobate
offspring of Echion,
the Sown Manís son.

Antistrophe
Bacchus, when someone comes with wicked thoughts
to wrong your and your motherís holy rites,
when someone in contempt and frenzy tries
to wreck what canít be wrecked, that madman gets
death as his punishment. Thereís no excuse
in matters that concern the sacredness
of deities.

Live like a mortalóthatís the pain-free way.
No foe to wisdom, I love hunting it,
but other things are greater: night and day
we all must live for goodness, be
observant, praise divinity,
and banish customs that oppose whatís right.

Refrain
Let Justice now be known.
Let her appear with sword in hand
and slit the throat
of the impious, unrestrained
and reprobate
offspring of Echion,
the Sown Manís son.

Epode
Reveal yourself, now, Bacchus, as a bull,
a many-headed dragon or a wild
fire-breathing lion, frightening to behold.
Go, Bacchus, as an animal
and with a laughing face
hurl destructionís noose
around the Bacchae-hunter. Let him fall
into the Maenadsí crush and press.

Prose Translation by Gregor Nagey and Alexander Sens

strophe
Go to the mountain, go, fleet hounds of Madness, where the daughters of Cadmus hold their company, and goad them 980 against the mad spy on the Maenads, the one dressed in womenís garb. His mother first will see him from a smooth rock or crag, as he lies in ambush, and she will cry out to the Maenads: 985 "Who is this seeker of the mountain-going Cadmeans who has come to the mountain, to the mountain, Bacchae? Who bore him? For he was not born from a womanís blood, but is the offspring of some lioness 990 or of Libyan Gorgons." Let manifest dikÍ go forth, let it go with sword in hand, slay with a blow through the throat this 995 godless, lawless, unjust, earth-born offspring of Ekhion.

antistrophe
He with wicked plan and unjust disposition regarding your rites, Bacchus, and those of your mother, comes with raving heart 1000 and mad disposition to overcome by force what is invincible. The balance [sŰphrosunÍ] for his purposes is death, that accepts no excuses when the affairs of the gods are concerned. To act like a mortal - this is a life that is free from pain. 1005 I do not envy the sophon, but rejoice in seeking it. But other things are great and manifest. Oh, that life might flow towards the good, cultivating pure and pious things day and night, giving tÓmÍ to the gods, 1010 banishing customs outside of dikÍ. Let manifest dikÍ go forth, let it go with sword in hand, slay with a blow through the throat this 1015 godless, lawless, unjust, earth-born offspring of Ekhion.

epode
Reveal yourself as a bull or many-headed serpent or raging lion in appearance. 1020 Go, Bacchus, with smiling face throw a deadly noose around the neck of this hunter of the Bacchae as he falls beneath the flock of Maenads.

Greek Text
Χορός

ἴτε θοαὶ Λύσσας κύνες ἴτ᾽ εἰς ὄρος,
θίασον ἔνθ᾽ ἔχουσι Κάδμου κόραι,
ἀνοιστρήσατέ νιν
980ἐπὶ τὸν ἐν γυναικομίμῳ στολᾷ
λυσσώδη κατάσκοπον μαινάδων.
μάτηρ πρῶτά νιν λευρᾶς ἀπὸ πέτρας
ἢ σκόλοπος ὄψεται
δοκεύοντα, μαινάσιν δ᾽ ἀπύσει:
985Τίς ὅδ᾽ ὀρειδρόμων
μαστὴρ Καδμείων ἐς ὄρος ἐς ὄρος ἔμολ᾽
ἔμολεν, ὦ βάκχαι; τίς ἄρα νιν ἔτεκεν;
οὐ γὰρ ἐξ αἵματος
γυναικῶν ἔφυ, λεαίνας δέ τινος
990ὅδ᾽ ἢ Γοργόνων Λιβυσσᾶν γένος.
ἴτω δίκα φανερός, ἴτω ξιφηφόρος
φονεύουσα λαιμῶν διαμπὰξ
995τὸν ἄθεον ἄνομον ἄδικον Ἐχίονος
γόνον γηγενῆ.

ὃς ἀδίκῳ γνώμᾳ παρανόμῳ τ᾽ ὀργᾷ
περὶ σὰ Βάκχι᾽, ὄργια ματρός τε σᾶς
μανείσᾳ πραπίδι
1000παρακόπῳ τε λήματι στέλλεται,
τἀνίκατον ὡς κρατήσων βίᾳ,
γνωμᾶν σωφρόνα θάνατος ἀπροφάσι-
στος ἐς τὰ θεῶν ἔφυ:
βροτείως τ᾽ ἔχειν ἄλυπος βίος.
1005τὸ σοφὸν οὐ φθονῶ:
χαίρω θηρεύουσα: τὰ δ᾽ ἕτερα μεγάλα
φανερά τ᾽: ὤ, νάειν ἐπὶ τὰ καλὰ βίον,
ἦμαρ ἐς νύκτα τ᾽ εὐ-
αγοῦντ᾽ εὐσεβεῖν, τὰ δ᾽ ἔξω νόμιμα
1010δίκας ἐκβαλόντα τιμᾶν θεούς.
ἴτω δίκα φανερός, ἴτω ξιφηφόρος
φονεύουσα λαιμῶν διαμπὰξ
1015τὸν ἄθεον ἄνομον ἄδικον Ἐχίονος
τόκον γηγενῆ.

φάνηθι ταῦρος ἢ πολύκρανος ἰδεῖν
δράκων ἢ πυριφλέγων ὁρᾶσθαι λέων.
1020ἴθ᾽, ὦ Βάκχε, θηραγρευτᾷ βακχᾶν
γελῶντι προσώπῳ περίβαλε βρόχον
θανάσιμον ὑπ᾽ ἀγέλαν πεσόν-
τι τὰν μαινάδων.
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  #2  
Old 09-17-2017, 05:34 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

Crisp, lively, and powerful. I don't catch the reference in the Sown Man's son; I am thinking of Cadmus. I like the crush and press at the end, which suggests Bacchic wine to me.

Cheers,
John
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Old 09-17-2017, 11:42 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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I don't read Greek (my ex does, but hates me) but have read various translations and this one reads smoothly and grabs attention consistently so far.

I'll watch for the book!
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Old 09-18-2017, 10:11 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Thank you, gentles.

John, yes, the choral odes tell their own mythic narrative that runs concurrently with the plot. The conception and "lightning" birth of Dionysus is central to it. I am glad you picked up on that. I also love your reading of "crush and press."

Ralph, thank you. I am glad you found this ode pleasant reading. I do hope to publish this after the production at the Getty Villa Malibu in Sept. 2018. You should check it out--you denizen of the city of Angels.
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Old 09-19-2017, 02:04 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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What mother could have whelped out such a son?

What a great line. I always find the Greek Chorus's a great challenge, but you've really hit a rhythm that varies well enough to intimate the variety of the original meters, while keeping it true to English ears. I don't have the time--nor the skill, frankly, when it comes to choral odes--to comment as directly on the translation as I'd like, but none of your moves here strike me as straying unnecessarily from the original.

I do hope you find a publisher for it.
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Old 09-19-2017, 03:41 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Thank you, Andrew. The choral odes are indeed notoriously difficult to translate, so I am glad that mine seem to be working. I would be interested in trying to do an ode "in the original meters" but only as a bit of play. Men have gone mad trying to reconcile our qualitative system with the quantitative one of the Greeks, and I am rarely impressed with the results. Furthermore, even if someone were successful, the Ancient Greek rhythms wouldn't "mean" the same thing to 21st-century American readers. Better to replicate both the line-variation and the tone and, if the translation works, be grateful.

Best, best,

Aaron
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Old 10-13-2017, 03:45 PM
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AZ Foreman AZ Foreman is offline
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This works on the page, but I think the consonance wouldn't come through very well in an oral performance if that's what you're envisioning. This is a point I have for a while thought to raise re: your renderings of choral interludes in general. Assonance, common in contemporary English popular verse (which we usually call "song" or sometimes "rap" but snootily refuse to call "poetry"), goes over much better with Anglophone ears when the eyes aren't reading. I can't help wondering if assonance might not be a better vehicle (in at least some places) for what you're trying to do with choral passages. Also, I note that the second occurrence of the refrain in the Greek as you have it has τόκος "childbirth" whereas the first has γόνος "offspring." Though that might just be a copyist's error.
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Old 10-13-2017, 04:31 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Thank you, AZ. Yes, my odes are for the most part consonant. I see that as a virtue. I have also made them clear and accessible. I will have to rely on the theater company to do the rest of the work of bringing them over to the audience.

Best,

Aaron
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