December 7th, 2010

Those Wings of Yours

By David Hayes.

A new translation of Theognis 236-54.




Those wings of yours have been my gift to you:
Take them and fly from party to party. Land

Upon the lips of all the beauties and listen.
The song they sing will be the song of you,

Kurnus. I’m sad to say that death is just
Around the corner. Human beings end

As groaning ghosts in Hades — so will you.
But “Kurnus” will be famous on the surface.

Your evening escorts will be Muses, Muses
Dressed like Aphrodite, Goddess of Desire:

All of Greece will be your oyster,
Not just now, but years and years to come —

For as long as life is on this planet,
As long as poems speak to life.

But I get almost no respect from you.
You trick me with words

Like I was a little boy.

Little is known of the ancient Greek poet Theognis. He was probably born between 590 and 570 BC, although the very existence of an individual poet called “Theognis” has been questioned by some scholars. He appears to have been a citizen of Megara on the isthmus of Corinth, or Megara in Sicily. He stars briefly in Friedrich Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals as the “mouthpiece” of Greek nobility.

David Hayes is an assistant professor at the European College of Liberal Arts in Berlin. He is currently at work on an article entitled “Piety as Gratitude in Plato’s Euthyphro.”

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