Friday, September 07, 2007
When I die choose a starThe image of the star in Ignatow's poem brought to my mind two short poems attributed to Plato. The first (Greek Anthology 7.670, tr. Ronald Knox) is an epitaph on Aster, whose name in Greek means star:
and name it after me
that you may know
I have not abandoned
or forgotten you.
You were such a star to me,
following you through birth
and childhood, my hand
in your hand.
When I die
choose a star and name it
after me so that I may shine
down on you, until you join
me in darkness and silence
Once you used to shine, a morning star, among the living; now you shine, an evening star, among the dead.Shelley translated this as follows:
ἀστὴρ πρὶν μὲν ἔλαμπες ἐνὶ ζωοῖσιν Ἑῷος·
νῦν δὲ θανὼν λάμπεις Ἕσπερος ἐν φθιμένοις.
Thou wert the morning star among the living,One can be a star when alive (Aster, Ignatow's daughter) and when dead (Aster, Ignatow later to be joined by his daughter).
Ere thy fair light had fled;
Now, having died, thou art as Hesperus, giving
New splendour to the dead.
Plato's second poem is also addressed to Aster (Greek Anthology 7.669, tr. Edward Sanford Burgess):
Stars do you gaze on, star of mine? Would that I might become Heaven, and so with many eyes look down on you in turn.The lover (Plato, Ignatow) imagines himself as a star looking down from heaven upon the beloved (Aster, Ignatow's daughter).
ἀστέρας εἰσαθρεῖς Ἀστὴρ ἐμός· εἴθε γενοίμην
οὐρανός, ὡς πολλοῖς ὄμμασιν εἰς σὲ βλέπω.