Saturday, February 15, 2014

In Memory Of Crethis

The angled light of early spring and early autumn is, I think, the loveliest light of the year.  It calls things to your attention, things that detain you, delightfully.

After a rain-filled night, today was bright and blustery.  It was a wide-open-sky day, a day that encouraged expansiveness.  But, as I walked, my attention was drawn to the various mosses lining the edges of the paths or filling the cracks in the sidewalks.  In the slanting yellow afternoon light they glowed in a range from bright lime green to deep forest green.

Some lines from Louis Simpson's poem "The Foggy Lane" come to mind: "Walking in the foggy lane/I try to keep my attention fixed/on the uneven, muddy surface."  The loud, importunate parts of the World -- the media, politics, economics, et cetera -- do their best to lure us into abstractions and categories and classifications.  But in our heart of hearts we know it is the particulars that matter.

John Aldridge, "Artichokes and Cathay Quinces" (1967)

Their Crethis, with her prattle and her play,
The girls of Samos often miss to-day:
Their loved workmate, with flow of merry speech,
Here sleeps the sleep that comes to all and each.

Callimachus (c. 310 B.C. - c. 240 B. C.) (translated by A. H. Bullen), in A. H. Bullen, Weeping-Cross and Other Rimes (1921).

Henry Lamb, "Tea Things" (1932)

Crethis, young prattler, full of graceful play,
Vainly the maids of Samos seek all day;
Cheerfullest workmate; ever talking; -- she
Sleeps here, -- that sleep, from which none born can flee.

Callimachus (translated by "F. H."), in The Classical Journal, Volume XXXIII (March and June, 1826), page 9.

Charles Mahoney, "Auriculas in Pots" (1956)

The Samian virgins us'd often to play
With Crethis the witty, the pleasant and gay,
But now, when they seek her, she cannot be found,
Their sportive companion sleeps here under ground,
Discharging the debt which to nature we owe;
For all must descend to the regions below.

Callimachus (translated by H. W. Tytler), in H. W. Tytler, The Works of Callimachus, Translated into English Verse (1793).

Thomas Henslow Barnard, "Still Life"

The Samian maidens oft regret their friend,
     Sweet Crethis, full of play and cheer,
     Whose gossip lightened toil.  But here
She sleeps the sleep they all will sleep at end.

Callimachus (translated by Edward Cook), in Edward Cook, "The Charm of The Greek Anthology," More Literary Recreations (1919).

Charles Ginner, "Yellow Chrysanthemums" (1929)


archy carroll said...

Poem new to me. Many thanks. Crethis reminds me of Horace's Lalage, so I expect he was familiar with her. here's my version if that's not imnpertinent:
To Crethis
Samos enriched by you will now be poor
Crethis, our sweetly chattering friend,
your golden laughter will be heard no more;
day's brightness turns to night at end.

Stephen Pentz said...

archy carroll: I appreciate your providing the connection to Horace, which prompted me to search out the Ode in which Lalage features. Reading Conington's translation, I see what you mean about Crethis bringing her to mind, especially the final lines: "That smile so sweet, that voice so sweet,/Shall still enchant me."

And thank you as well for the translation of Callimachus. Very lovely.

Thank you very much for visiting again.