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Friday, 8 July 2011

Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (The Goddess Loves Anchises, and Leaves Him in a Wreck)


Aphrodite on a swan: tondo from an Attic white-ground kylix, by Pistoxenos Painter, c. 460 BC, found in Tomb F43 in Kameiros (Rhodes): image by Marie-Lan Nguyen, 2007 (British Museum)

And so he took her hand,

and she, Aphrodite, Laughterlover,

turned aside her face

and cast her eyes on the ground,

and she walked, slowly, to the bed,

and the bed was set with smooth cloths

and with the skins of bears and lions

.................he had killed, in the mountains, on the high slopes,

and they went up into the bed,

and he loosed her flashing jewelry,

her pins, and her twisted brooches,

....................................and her earrings, and her necklaces,

and he loosed her sash and her shimmering robe

and folded them and set them on a silver-studded chair,

and he lay with her,


a man with a goddess,

for it was the will of gods and fate, and he knew not clearly,

he knew not clearly.

And at the time when the herdsmen

round up the cattle and sheep and urge them home from the pastures

she poured sweet sleep on Anchises

and she dressed,

and she stood in the doorway,

and her head was high as the roof-beam,

and from her cheeks

........................shone beauty,

unearthly beauty, the beauty of Kytheria.

And she woke him, and said:

........Trojan, you sleep so soundly!

........Tell me,

........Do I still look the same when you first saw me?

And he woke, and he heard,

and he saw the throat and dark eyes of the goddess.

Homeric Hymn V: excerpt (lines 155-184), translated by John P. Niles, in Arion volume 8 number 3, Autumn 1969

ὣς εἰπὼν λάβε χεῖρα: φιλομμειδὴς δ' Ἀφροδίτη
ἕρπε μεταστρεφθεῖσα κατ' ὄμματα καλὰ βαλοῦσα
ἐς λέχος εὔστρωτον, ὅθι περ πάρος ἔσκεν ἄνακτι
χλαίνῃσιν μαλακῇς ἐστρωμένον: αὐτὰρ ὕπερθεν
ἄρκτων δέρματ' ἔκειτο βαρυφθόγγων τε λεόντων,
τοὺς αὐτὸς κατέπεφνεν ἐν οὔρεσιν ὑψηλοῖσιν.
οἳ δ' ἐπεὶ οὖν λεχέων εὐποιήτων ἐπέβησαν,
κόσμον μέν οἱ πρῶτον ἀπὸ χροὸς εἷλε φαεινόν,
πόρπας τε γναμπτάς θ' ἕλικας κάλυκάς τε καὶ ὅρμους.
λῦσε δέ οἱ ζώνην ἰδὲ εἵματα σιγαλόεντα
ἔκδυε καὶ κατέθηκεν ἐπὶ θρόνου ἀργυροήλου
Ἀγχίσης: ὃ δ' ἔπειτα θεῶν ἰότητι καὶ αἴσῃ
ἀθανάτῃ παρέλεκτο θεᾷ βροτός, οὐ σάφα εἰδώς.

ἦμος δ' ἂψ εἰς αὖλιν ἀποκλίνουσι νομῆες
βοῦς τε καὶ ἴφια μῆλα νομῶν ἐξ ἀνθεμοέντων:
τῆμος ἄρ' Ἀγχίσῃ μὲν ἐπὶ γλυκὺν ὕπνον ἔχευε
νήδυμον, αὐτὴ δὲ χροὶ̈ ἕννυτο εἵματα καλά.
ἑσσαμένη δ' εὖ πάντα περὶ χροὶ̈ δῖα θεάων
ἔστη πὰρ κλισίῃ, κεὐποιήτοιο μελάθρου
κῦρε κάρη: κάλλος δὲ παρειάων ἀπέλαμπεν
ἄμβροτον, οἷόν τ' ἐστὶν ἐυστεφάνου Κυθερείης,
ἐξ ὕπνου τ' ἀνέγειρεν ἔπος τ' ἔφατ' ἔκ τ' ὀνόμαζεν:

ὄρσεο, Δαρδανίδη: τί νυ νήγρετον ὕπνον ἰαύεις;
καὶ φράσαι, εἴ τοι ὁμοίη ἐγὼν ἰνδάλλομαι εἶναι,
οἵην δή με τὸ πρῶτον ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖσι νόησας;

ὣς φάθ': ὃ δ' ἐξ ὕπνοιο μάλ' ἐμμαπέως ὑπάκουσεν.
ὡς δὲ ἴδεν δειρήν τε καὶ ὄμματα κάλ' Ἀφροδίτης,
τάρβησέν τε καὶ ὄσσε παρακλιδὸν ἔτραπεν ἄλλῃ:
ἂψ δ' αὖτις χλαίνῃ τε καλύψατο καλὰ πρόσωπα
καί μιν λισσόμενος ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα:

Homeric Hymn V: excerpt (lines 155-184), Greek text (c. 6th-7th c. BC) edited by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, in Hesiod, Homeric Hymns, Epic Cycle, Homerica, Loeb Classical Library Volume 57, 1914

So speaking, he caught her by the hand. And laughter-loving Aphrodite, with face turned away and lovely eyes downcast, crept to the well-spread couch which was already laid with soft coverings for the hero; and upon it lay skins of bears and deep-roaring lions which he himself had slain in the high mountains. And when they had gone up upon the well-fitted bed, first Anchises took off her bright jewelry of pins and twisted brooches and earrings and necklaces, and loosed her girdle and stripped off her bright garments and laid them down upon a silver-studded seat. Then by the will of the gods and destiny he lay with her, a mortal man with an immortal goddess, not clearly knowing what he did.

But at the time when the herdsmen drive their oxen and hardy sheep back to the fold from the flowery pastures, even then Aphrodite poured soft sleep upon Anchises, but herself put on her rich raiment. And when the bright goddess had fully clothed herself, she stood by the couch, and her head reached to the well-hewn roof-tree; from her cheeks shone unearthly beauty such as belongs to rich-crowned Cytherea. Then she aroused him from sleep and opened her mouth and said:

'Up, son of Dardanus! -- why sleep you so heavily? -- and consider whether I look as I did when first you saw me with your eyes.'

So she spake. And he awoke in a moment and obeyed her. But when he saw the neck and lovely eyes of Aphrodite, he was afraid and turned his eyes aside another way, hiding his comely face with his cloak.

Homeric Hymn V: excerpt (lines 155-184), translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, in Hesiod, Homeric Hymns, Epic Cycle, Homerica, Loeb Classical Library Volume 57, 1914

Rusting wreck east of the port of Diakofti, Cythera, Greece [in ancient mythology the isle of Kythera, sacred to Aphrodite, "the Kytherian"]: photo by Khayman, 1 June 2008


Anonymous said...

Thank you, more than I can say, for placing this hymn and these images here. They restored me (for now at least) to a condition of coolness, happiness and health after a long night lying mostly awake in my own super-humid, super-heated bed chamber, which left me a different kind of wreck. When I came downstairs for coffee, I saw a television commercial for the "Sobakawa memory foam cloud pillow", which placed great emphasis on the fact that my head weighs ten pounds and is capable of crushing ordinary pillows (the point being that this is harmful to sleep and health). I think I'm going to read this again. I really love the Niles translation.

Ed Baker said...

once you "see" The Goddess
your life changes
your art changes
your poetry changes

call her (up) by Her real name
when she asks (YOU):

"do you think I'm cute?"

you have only one chance at the correct reply.... don't blow it!



Ah, how nice to find all this here, still sitting in bed looking out now into the fog, birds awake and calling -- Aphrodite on the swan, John ("Jack" when I knew him back there in the Berkeley days) Nile's beautiful rendering of Homer's Hymn, then Homer's Hymn in original Greek (!), then the Loeb translation and, at last (and not least!), that blue blue blue of the Aegean at Cythera . . . .


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, song sparrow calling tchep tchep
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

even present possibly, that
which is it not ‘now’

external, little or nothing
as it were, so-called

silhouette of bird standing in channel
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

It's funny you should say that, Curtis.

The attack of the two hundred pound head upon the worried innocent pillow I currently perceive to be chief among the several banes of anciency.

(Watch out for heavier heads ahead.)

"Sobakawa memory foam cloud pillow" however sounds to me as though it might even make matters worse, if such a thing were possible.


Por supuesto.


Amazing, small world. This translation is so good, and such a beautiful example of how the spirit of Ezra Pound's Poetics wedded with the spirit of the later 1960s to produce...what can we call it? a momentary mini-Aeneas?



Yes, you're right -- in this "amazing small world . . . the spirit of Ezra Pound's is [WAS] wedded with the spirit of the later 1960s". . . . I first met Jack Niles in a translation class taught by Peter Whigham, an English man who'd been Pound's secretary in Italy at some (recent?) point -- and had translated the then new Penguin edition of Catullus -- very beautiful indeed (and itself infused w/ such poetics). . . .

Ed Baker said...


another EP link here and very close to me
was Rudd Fleming

when Pound was living at St. Elizabeth's

Rudd and Polly became VERY close to Pound.... they wrote a couple of plays together and did lots of translations...

Rudd Fleming was my "first teacher" I came to him
in about 1965 ... I should have paid attention (to the details.

will see if i can find your friend Niles and
this guy in England


just maybe widen the gyre

Ed Baker said...

just recalled my friend from those days Carlo Parcelli was

check out this:


you wouldn't believe the poets who dropped in just to say hi to Rudd and to schmooze with us "piss ants"

and the those over at Hokins who just "popped in" on Eliott Coleman...


in one of my seminar classes a970

sitting next to me reading what I was that day working on (a piece hand-written on a yellow legal pad...

Anais Nin (sorry about not including the two little dots over the "i") !



Thanks very much for account of Rudd Fleming (and link to Carlo Parcelli's great piece, w/ line about then going out to get tear-gassed -- takes me back to those good old days in Berkeley, walking across the campus (maybe after Peter Whigham's translation class?), the helicopter swooping down above the Campanile with its trail of tear-gas). . . .

Ed Baker said...

yeah them protests seemed that the first ones were on the Eastern Shore and morphed into those Civil Rights/VN War marches on the Pentagon..

also up at Columbia protests before what went on in Berkeley..

after all, 99 % of those in Berkeley were transplanted New Yorkers/East of the Mississippi-ers..

actually Carlo lives 10 mins from me ...

we've gotten together 1nce since 1967

now, off to read (again) some Cavafy