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Anaktoria

Sappho

οι μεν ιππηων στροτον οι δε πεσδων

οι δε νᾱων φαισ' επι γᾱν μελαινᾱν

εμμεναι καλλιστον εγω δε κην' οτ-

τω τις ερᾱται      

                                              

παγχυ δ' ευμᾱρες συνετον ποησαι

παντι τουτ΄ ᾱ γαρ πολυ περσκεθοισᾱ

καλλος ανθρωπων Ελενᾱ Ϝον ανδρα

τον μεγ' αριστον                                             

 

... 

τᾱς κε βολλοιμᾱν ερατον τε βᾶμα

κᾱμαρυχμα λαμπρον ιδην προσωπω

ὴ τα Λῡδων αρματα κᾱν οπλοισι

πεσδομαχεντα

Anaktoria

translated from Ancient Greek by Naomi Bernstein

Some call a thousand men on horseback
some call a thousand on foot
some a fleet of white sails growing
the loveliest sight on this black earth.
I disagree.

Quite clear it seems
when we think of her
(Helen).
her beauty
wandering away, over water
forgetting fine husband, forgetting
child
in the instant love

touched her lightly.
which reminds me
of Anaktoria
who is gone.

Translator's Note

This is the third draft of the translation that I did for Taije Silverman's class "The Translation of Poetry and the Poetry of Translation." As with all translations, I was trying to strike a balance between evoking the tone I wanted (more modern, but still somber) while staying true to the poem, which was originally written in Ancient Greek.

NAOMI BERNSTEIN is a senior studying creative writing at Penn.