Saturday, April 7, 2012

Eleou kai Fobou

Misotheoi: Agememnon by Aeschylus line 1069ff

I have compassion for her, I am not angry.
Come suffering one, off this desolate carriage retire
And to the new yoke submit yourself.

Ot ot ot otoy popoy da!
Opollon Opollon!

Why all this breaking into lament about Loxias?
For he is not pleased with lamentations.

Woe Woe Woe Woe Shame and Sorrow Earth!
Apollo Apollo!

Again these words of ill omen
To the god she calls.
The one not present in weeping

O Apollon, Apollon
Guardian of the ways.
You scour me. And utterly
You destroy me this second time.

She shall chant visions as fitting her distress.
For divine passion ever flows her enslaved soul.

O Apollon, Apollon
Guardian of the ways, you destroy me.
Ah! where have you brought me? Under what roof?

The house of Atreus, if you cannot perceive,
I tell you: and you can not say I lie.

A God-hating house
Many are aware evil beheading of kin.
A charnel house, a bowl for catching the blood
Of slaughtered children.

Fitting keen dog sensing female guest.
She seeks and so discovers murder.

Bearing witness to this I come to know:
Lament butchered new-born
Roasted flesh Father served eaten.

Rumours your prophetic learning
Reach us. A prophet we do not desire.

Oh! Sorrow! What does she intend?
Some young great pain,
Great evil she intends.
Intolerable beloved, implacable, boldness.
Far off help stands aloof.

Of these oracles, ignorant I am;
Others I come to know:
All of the city sings out.

Alas! Wretched, this she will fulfil,
Her bed-partner husband
Bath making bright - How I see the end
Speed - for this it will be:
She holds out her hand - her hand stretching out.

Not yet is brought together: no more than riddles
A film covers the eye,
Obscure decrees of God.
I am at a loss.

Woe! Sorrow! What is this appearance?
The net of the grave?
By the net of the bed-partner sharing guilt,
Stained they are with blood.
Standing and instantiate kin cry out!
Fit only for stoning.

How now cries Strife - this building up urged,
Set upright? Not for me a clean reckoning.
Upon my heart blood runs sallow
Still. In equal time fallen,
And arrived together in life
Plunging the glow sunset:
Swift and reckless
Sin becomes.

Ah! Ah! Look! See there!
Keep away the bull the mate:
In woven robes
Black-horned seizing cunning work
She strikes in the cauldron.
Slaying by treachery.
This act, you I show.

I can not boast to understand
The highest from god spoken sign.
Being evil compare this.
Pure airs of pure voiced
Pour Gods from heaven
How much I misunderstand?
Of and through the evil
Wordy arts singing prophetic
Fear they learn and carry.
Oh! Oh! Oh me! Suffering Ill-fated fortune:
I cry out, cry aloud my suffering.
Why this place wretched
Have you me carried?
Am I to with him die? For what end?

She is, her mind distracted
Possessed of a God.
With him you cry aloud.
A song - no song,
And a nimble insatiate cry, alas!
Humming tawny suffering spirits
Calling out Itun, Itun.
Moans abounding on all sides
Drear nightingale sorrow.

Sorrow! Sorrow!
My clear fate as the songstress
Thrown about her the feathered form
The Gods sweet span of life
A weeping without:
My end, a cleaving two-edged spear.

From whence this rushing
Gushing god bearing
Inspiration you have?
Vain human misery.
Whence the frightful
Unutterable cries
You chant?
High-pitched custom.
What is the boundary
Horizon of this marvellous
Road ill-omened.


If Aristotle was right and tragedy is imitative language to provoke Pity and Fear then there are few better examples of this than the prophecy scene of Kassandra in Agamemnon. If the Philosopher was wrong than all we have are whirling words, and the scene is stunning none the less.

For reasons that we need not discuss I had only a week to translate this scene. As my skills are the skills of tyro, in that week, which really turned out to be only two days, I was not able to translate the entire scene. So this excerpt starts with the Choros asking Kassandra to leave her chariot, and ends with her first vision of her own death.

There are some interesting points in this piece. There is the pun made from the name of the god Apollo and the folk etymology that the god's name is derived from the verb Apollumi, which means to kill, or to destroy utterly. Apollo is called by his epithet Loxias, which may mean obscure, from the word Loxos, literally crosswise, and extended metaphorically to mean ambiguous. Obviously from the God's role as a oracle, one that give ambiguous answers. There is also some puns around the name Klutaemnestra , which is used to mean she is renowned for her intentions, for her plans.

The house of Atreus was a cursed house, a house of slaughter and rust. The family was founded by Tantalus, who for some obscure reason decided to test the knowledge of the gods by killing and cooking up his son Pelops. All the gods rejected the offering,. Demeter, as she was distraught at the abduction of her daughter ate the shoulder of the poor child. The gods damned Tantalus to suffer in Tartarus, while the son was resurrected with his shoulder replaced with an ivory prosthesis. He later killed his father in law by sabotaging his chariot.

Pelops and Hippodamia had two sons: Atreus and Thyestes. Thyestes had an affair with Aerope, the wife of his brother. In revenge Atreus cooked up the sons of the adulterer and served them to Thyestes. Exiled in shame Thyestes consulted, and was told by an oracle to father a child with his daughter, and the resulting son would kill Atreus. Aegisthus, the son, did kill Pelops. Pelops had two sons himself, Agamemnon and Menalaus. Agamemnon later sacrificed his daughter Iphegenia to allow the Greek fleet to sail to Troy. This understandably annoyed his wife Klutaemnestra , who in revenge killed Agamemnon on his return from Troy. This being the subject of the Aeschylus play which is the source of this scene. Later Orestes kills his mother and is harried by the Furies. In the end there is a trial overseen by Athena, in which he is acquitted.

A horrible series of events, but in metaphorical terms we see the movement from darkness to the light, form blood feud to the rule of laws. The Erinyes (Furies) move from being the avengers to becoming the Eumenides, the kindly ones. So showing the movement to the rule of law. The trilogy would start in the early morning darkness, and end in the bright light of the afternoon , so making clear this movement from darkness of blood feud to the light of the law.

With all this drama and excitement how could I resist? This translation is not the best ever, but it conveys the main points, and as it was written for an afternoon of poetry and jazz at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart I thought it best to keep it relatively short. Any failings or errors are completely my own. And I used the translation of Browning as a guide, as some passages are obscure though corruptions of the text, and my own weak skills in Ancient Greek.

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