Sunday, June 21, 2009


A World Apart From Man

E.R. Dodds, commentary on Euripides, Bacchae, 2nd edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960), p. 186 (on lines 873-876):
'With tenseness of effort, with gusts of swift racing, she gallops the water-meadow, rejoicing in the places empty of men and in the green life that springs under the shadowy hair of the forest.' The Hymn to Demeter had compared girls running eagerly on an errand to 'deer or calves galloping a meadow in the spring season' (174 f.); Anacreon had likened a maid's shyness to the timidity of a baby fawn astray in the forest (fr. 51; cf. Hor. Odes I.23); Bacchylides had likened a young girl making for the country on a holiday to a νεβρὸς ἀπενθής (12 [13]. 87); and the chorus of Euripides' Electra had described themselves in a moment of joy as 'leaping sky-high in gaiety, like a fawn' (860). But though he is elaborating a traditional image, the poet has here enriched it with new tones: there is a hint of something very rare in Greek poetry, the romantic vision of nature not sub specie humanitatis but as a world apart from man. This new feeling emerges elsewhere in the Bacchae (cf. esp. 726-7, 1084-5), and it is reasonable to associate it with the old poet's escape from the dusty thought-laden air of Athens to the untouched solitudes of northern Greece.
Here is the Greek:
μόχθοις τ᾽ ὠκυδρόμοις τ᾽ ἀέλ-
λαις θρῴσκει πεδίον
παραποτάμιον, ἡδομένα
βροτῶν ἐρημίαις σκιαρο-
κόμοιό τ᾽ ἔρνεσιν ὕλας.
Albert Bierstadt, Forest Sunrise

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