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The literary of the Jews of Egypt and the Sappho of Lesbos

February 16, 2015

This is a 10-minute post to add to the blog series on the Interpretive Spins and Literary Sparks in the Ψαλμοὶ. Abram K-J (who’s in a group reading the Greek Psalmoi this year) is the inspiration for this particular post. He wrote one yesterday that reminded me of one of the fragments of Sappho. He’s struck by the syllable count of one particular word as much as anything:

One thing that continually impresses me about Greek is its preponderance of multisyllabic words. / Much of this has to do with how its verbs are conjugated. The four-syllable verb μεγαλυνω, for example, when inflected in Psalm 19:8 (Psalm 20:7 in English Bibles), becomes a majestic seven-syllable ending to an already beautiful verse:… [read the rest here]

What Abram didn’t mention is that this long-syllable-phrase appears multiply. So let me show the LXX Greek on that, the Hebraic Hellene. Then let me show the Sappho fragment of Greek lyric. And I’m going to add my quick quick English translation.

ἐν τῷ σωτηρίῳ σου,
καὶ ἐν ὀνόματι θεοῦ ἡμῶν
πληρώσαι κύριος πάντα τὰ αἰτήματά σου.

νῦν ἔγνων ὅτι ἔσωσεν κύριος τὸν χριστὸν αὐτοῦ·
ἐπακούσεται αὐτοῦ ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἁγίου αὐτοῦ,
ἐν δυναστείαις ἡ σωτηρία τῆς δεξιᾶς αὐτοῦ.

οὗτοι ἐν ἅρμασιν
καὶ οὗτοι ἐν ἵπποις,
ἡμεῖς δὲ ἐν ὀνόματι κυρίου θεοῦ ἡμῶν

We’ll cheer
In the rescue, yours sir,
And in the name of The god, ours,
We’ll Go Great Giving High Praise.
He’ll fulfill, Oh Kyrios will, all of the requests, yours sir.

Now I knew that He rescued the One, Honored-with-Oil, His.
He’ll hear Him, and out of High Heaven Holy, His,
In Power, the rescue of the right hand, His.

Those’ll praise in chariots
And those others in cavalry,
But we will in the name of The god, ours,
We’ll Go Great Giving High Praise.

ἴψοι δὴ τὸ μέλαθρον·
ἀέρρετε τέκτονες ἄνδρες·
γάμβρος εἰσέρχεται ἴσος Ἄρευι,
ἄνδρος μεγάλω πόλυ μέζων.

Go high with the Great Roof!
Oh Hymen!
Grab it, technicians, men!
Oh Hymen!
Groom of the Bride is coming, equal to Ares,
Oh Hymen
A Great man? Plenty Greater!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2015 6:54 pm

    The posts of whose blog I am not worthy to inspire!

    Could “ἴψοι δὴ τὸ μέλαθρον·” also be translated, “Raise the roof”? 🙂

    What specifically brought this fragment to mind?

    Also, something I’ve been wondering often since reading LXX Psalms, if you’ll indulge me:

    ἔγνων is aorist, so I understand its translation as English past–NETS does this quite a bit, too.

    Does the νῦν preceding ἔγνων suggest it could profitably be rendered, “I *know*” in this case?

  2. February 17, 2015 2:55 am

    Reblogged this on coastalpaths.

  3. February 17, 2015 7:27 am

    You’ve inspired quite a few posts here by your blogging, Abram!

    Yes, Willis Barnstone translates “ἴψοι δὴ τὸ μέλαθρον·” as “High! Raise the roof!”

    There is this bit from this Psalm, these few Greek lines, that seem more directly to recall another fragment of Sappho:

    οὗτοι ἐν ἅρμασιν
    καὶ οὗτοι ἐν ἵπποις,

    Aren’t those lines very similar to these?

    ο]ἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον
    οἰ δὲ πέσδων
    οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ᾽
    ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
    ἔ]μμεναι κάλλιστον

    In both cases, there is the mention of cavalry, of horsemen, and then a sharp semantic reversal.

    But the fragment of Sappho with these alliterative, building phrases (pardon the “building” pun):

    μεγάλω πόλυ μέζων

    These lines out of Lesbos were striking in comparison with the translators’ choice in Alexandria.


    As I said, this was a 10-minute post, so I’m afraid it is impressionistic, a set of impressions from the Greek on my own mind.

    Now, I took the νῦν preceding ἔγνων as more of a literary device.

    Theocritus, of course, has this in the κῶμος, the third idyll.

    νῦν ἔγνων τὸν ῎Ερωτα: βαρὺς θεός

    C. S. Calverley renders that:

    “I have learned what Love is now: Fell god…”

    We could be truer to the syntax and translate it:

    “Now, I knew Love: overwhelming god”

    iME13, Thank you for your reblogging.

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