Ibycus 286

…..In spring, the Cretan quinces grow
…..flowering by the streams that flow
…..irriguous where the virginal
…..gardens of the Maidens are, and all
the vines increase and twine their shade above
the blossoms on the grapes. But for me love
…..never at any season sleeps–
…..like Thracian Boreas, when he sweeps
…..crackling with lightning and wild fire
from the Cyprian in fits of mad desire,
…..and scorching, murky, shameless, shoots
…..and shudders my heart at the very roots.

…..ἦρι μὲν αἵ τε Κυδώνιαι
…..μηλίδες ἀρδόμεναι ῥοᾶν
…..ἐκ ποταμῶν, ἵνα Παρθένων
…..κῆπος ἀκήρατος, αἵ τ᾿ οἰνανθίδες

αὐξόμεναι σκιεροῖσιν ὑφ᾿ ἕρνεσιν
…..οἰναρέοις θαλέθοισιν· ἐμοὶ δ᾿ ἔρος
…..…..οὐδεμίαν κατάκοιτος ὥραν·
…..ἀλλ᾿ ἅθ᾿ ὑπὸ στεροπᾶς φλέγων
…..Θρηίκιος Βορέας ἀίσσων

παρὰ Κύπριδος ἀζαλέαις μανίαισιν
…..ἐρεμνὸς ἀθαμβὴς
…..…..ἐγκρατέως πεδόθεν †φυλάσσει†
…..ἡμετέρας φρένας.

 

Translator’s Note:

When Athenaeus quotes this poem (which may or may not be complete)
in his Deipnosophistai (Scholars at Dinner), he characterizes it as “shouting and screaming.” On the contrary, it seems to me a skillful balance of intensity and control. The piece breaks into three parts, the first and last five or six lines each, while the short middle sentence (“But for me love”) acts as a fulcrum on which the poem turns.  The obvious contrast between the idyllic gardens of the opening and the violent winds of the close belies deeper similarities between the two scenes. Despite the “virgin” quality of the landscape in ll.1-6, all of the language hints at reproduction, fertility, increase: the irriguous waters, the twining vines.  In addition, the syntax, perhaps suggesting the movement of the rivers (or the pulse of the “procreant urge”), flows through the lines with a headlong dactylic impetus. That same headlong rush is felt even more strongly as Eros/Cupid sweeps in on the North Wind “crackling with lightning and wild fire.” The beauty and violence of both nature and love are thus revealed to be two sides of the same coin, with the potential for violence always underlying the calm face of beauty. It’s a dichotomy Sappho, too, knew well, with her famous coining of γλυκύπικρον, “sweetbitter” (as Anne Carson has it). Two poems of Sappho seem to lie behind the two sections of this one, or at least to spring from the same tradition: fr. 2, which limns another idyllic spot, sacred to Aphrodite:

…..Here, through the apple boughs, the lapse of water
…..sounds icy-clear, and here, rose-shadow fills
…..the grass, as through the leaf-light and leaf-flutter
…..…..…..…..a trance distills.

and fr. 47, which evokes the violence of Ibycus’ North Wind:

…..…..…..…..…..…..Love hit my heart
like a gust that shakes………. oaks high on the rocks.

Since the relationship between rhythm, line, and sentence seems to me of the essence of Ibycus’ poem, that is what my translation strives hardest to capture, or at least to recreate.

Chris Childers

Chris Childers

Christopher Childers has poems, essays, and translations published or forthcoming at Kenyon Review, Yale Review, Parnassus, and elsewhere. He is at work on a translation of Latin and Greek Lyric Poetry from Archilochus to Martial for Penguin Classics.
Chris Childers

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Author: Chris Childers

Christopher Childers has poems, essays, and translations published or forthcoming at Kenyon Review, Yale Review, Parnassus, and elsewhere. He is at work on a translation of Latin and Greek Lyric Poetry from Archilochus to Martial for Penguin Classics.