Sunday, February 10, 2013

bring the flowers ii

Old time, Old Shifting Trade -
Time there is for the luffing sheets,
for the shipmates crying out for a blast to drive them home;
and Time there is for the flash flood. Rain,
Son-at-Arms from the thunderbreast of Sky.
But once let a man catch fire,
wring some triumph out of the grit of combat:
then my underrun of music,
a founding-stone for annals building against the years,
will mount at last, an unaging pledge to the works of Greatness;
over the seas of Envy, surge and spring, my votive tablet,
shoring up from your bed of Olympic wreaths perennial!

No, go slow, my heart, slower, lips,
straining to rear this win and make it bear.
God is the gardener. All our primes,
    flowering out on the coiling
    force of skill,
yours and mine entwining, stem
from Him alone ..
Muse at the cutwater, O my Convoy!
Take this warrant, taut as our cords:
no camp of provincials armed to the teeth to warm 
us in as guests, no, nor bludgeon-artists put to rout
by a piece of fine old work;

  no; in the haven you and I
  will raise the craftsmen grasp the heights,
      the spearmen hit the grand finesse forever.
  Show me a Trade that sloughs them off -
      the eyes of the vixen glittering Guile,
      or the rival of thunder, the lion's exultation -
  all the marks of birth that vault to Triumph on our rushing be       blood.

Olympian Ode XI
  For Agesidamus of the
  Westwind Locrians: Winner
ca 460 BC
Robert Fagles, translation

The Greek Poets
  Homer to the Present
Peter Constantine, Rachel Hadas,
Edmund Keeley and Karen Van Dyck,
Norton, 2010©


  1. In an athlete dying young, what does it mean, 'a garland briefer than a girls'

    1. I think any reference to brevity is only emphasised by a comparison with childhood. In that sense, the 'meaning' is that emphasis. In the example you present, which we take to invoke both genders, not only are their distinctions on the table of meaning, but their distinctions as relate to the awarding of a garland, and indeed possibly to its existence. In any imaginable range of reasonable interpretations, then, the underlying poignancy is enhanced.

      Mortality, being permanent, the writer would not consider the girl's offering to be incidental or revocable - do you suppose?