Monday, February 14, 2011

Hymn to Demeter

Hymn 13 - To Demeter

Flaxen haired goddess
Demeter majestic.
You I celebrate in song.
You and your daughter,
Persephoneia, beyond beauty.

Hail and Rejoice Goddess.
Preserve our city.
Attend my song.

Only three lines, this is basically a small section taken from a much longer hymn of Demeter, which hopefully I will be able to translate as I gain more experience and confidence. Only three lines, but it gave me lots of pause for thought. As people used to say about the Australian cricket, it was the best because of the short and sharp nature of the Sheffield Shield Competition. Each games was important, each innings, each over was important. So with this little three line poem, there is in fact no place to hide.

This translation is as much, if not more so, for me than it is for the general reader. So I go only beg your indulgence in my exercises.

hukomon - fair haired. This seemed a fair enough translation, but after looking deeper into the descriptions of Demeter it seemed best to go with flaxen-haired, as Demeter is a corn goddess.

koure - this means Demeter's daughter, more generally it means daughter. But it has overtones of the young daughter on the cusp of sexual life. A maiden is how we often see it defined in dictionaries from the early 1900's. I will leave it at daughter, but as I understand things, this word; like most words has deeper meanings.

perikallea - peri-kallea simply means very beautiful. Peri means about, around. This is what it means when used in the word peripatetic, where is describes Aristotle teaching his students, as they walk around the grounds of the Lyceum. This word is also defined as simply very, which is a fine word, but is one without much punch, so I decided to use another meaning of peri; beyond. And Koure (Demeter's young bride virgin daughter) is then described as beyond beauty. It seemed to be the correct intensifier.

The final word which I enjoyed was arkhe - this means simply to begin, to lead off. Further investigation gives meanings such as to govern, to lead, to command. After much thinking I went with attend, as this gives a dual meaning of leading, but also of paying attention. Maybe not the most correct translation, but for the poem it seemed the best word.

The image comes from here:

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