Friday, March 11, 2011

Sensible Sun of Justice - Odysseas Elytis

Της δικαιοσύνης ήλιε νοητέ
και μυρσίνη συ δοξαστική
μη παρακαλώ σας μη
λησμονάτε τη χώρα μου!

Αετόμορφα έχει τα ψηλά βουνά
στα ηφαίστεια κλήματα σειρά
και τα σπίτια πιο λευκά
στου γλαυκού το γειτόνεμα!

Τα πικρά μου χέρια με τον κεραυνό
τα γυρίζω πίσω απ' τον καιρό
τους παλιούς μου φίλους καλώ
με φοβέρες και μ' αίματα!

Sun of justice, whom we feel *
and you, myrtle branch of glory,
do not, I beg of you
do not forget my country!

It has tall mountains shaped like eagles
the vines in ranks on the volcanoes' flanks
and the houses more white
for the neighbourhood of the azure.

My bitter hands, by thunder
I am turning them back behind the times,
my old friends, I am calling them forth
with threats and with blood!
Translator's note: Ι have been asked several times to translate this song. I have refused because the Αξιον εστί can not be translated. Its essence and its language are essentially one. So I said "can't". However. I was asked again. The request - for this specific song - came from the united states of america, a few days after Bush's re-election. Under the circumstances, I felt that any tiny portion of the meaning that I could get across would be better than nothing. So, "though it's always dangerous to translate Elytis" as a friend of mine put it a long time ago... May the poet forgive me! Geske.

* the adjective νοητός is related to νους (mind, understanding) and to νοήμα (meaning, sense). It means "that which one can understand/know (with the mind), perceive/feel (with the senses)".
I have so far not found a word in English (or any other language) that covers all this. The first meaning of "sensible" (which I've used in the title) actually was "perceptible by the senses", but this has largely gone out of use.
So, this is why I put a different translation each time for νοητέ. I wouldn't do that in a translation to be read without the original, but in this case you can all see (hear) that they are the same word really.

BornNovember 2, 1911
HeraklionCretan State
DiedMarch 18, 1996 (aged 84)
Notable award(s)Nobel Prize in Literature
Odysseas Elytis (GreekΟδυσσέας Ελύτης; real name: Odysseas Alepoudellis, Οδυσσέας Αλεπουδέλλης) (November 2, 1911 – March 18, 1996) was a Greek poet regarded as a major exponent of poetic modernism in Greece. In 1979, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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