Wednesday, December 02, 2015


Without Golden Aphrodite

Mimnermus, fragment 1 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
What life is there, what pleasure without golden Aphrodite? May I die when I no longer care about secret intrigues, persuasive gifts, and the bed, those blossoms of youth that men and women find alluring. But when painful old age comes on, which makes even a handsome man ugly, grievous cares wear away his heart and he derives no joy from looking upon the sunlight; he is hateful to boys and women hold him in no honour. So harsh has the god made old age.
The same (tr. M.L. West):
What's life, what's joy, without love's heavenly gold?
    I hope I die when I no longer care
for secret closeness, tender favours, bed,
    which are the rapturous flowers that grace youth's prime
for men and women. But when painful age
    comes on, that makes a man loathsome and vile,
malignant troubles ever vex his heart;
    seeing the sunlight gives him joy no more.
He is abhorred by boys, by women scorned;
    so hard a thing God made old age to be.
The Greek:
τίς δὲ βίος, τί δὲ τερπνὸν ἄτερ χρυσέης Ἀφροδίτης;
    τεθναίην, ὅτε μοι μηκέτι ταῦτα μέλοι,
κρυπταδίη φιλότης καὶ μείλιχα δῶρα καὶ εὐνή,
    οἷ᾿ ἥβης ἄνθεα γίνεται ἁρπαλέα
ἀνδράσιν ἠδὲ γυναιξίν· ἐπεὶ δ᾿ ὀδυνηρὸν ἐπέλθῃ        5
    γῆρας, ὅ τ᾿ αἰσχρὸν ὅμως καὶ καλὸν ἄνδρα τιθεῖ,
αἰεί μιν φρένας ἀμφὶ κακαὶ τείρουσι μέριμναι,
    οὐδ᾿ αὐγὰς προσορέων τέρπεται ἠελίου,
ἀλλ᾿ ἐχθρὸς μὲν παισίν, ἀτίμαστος δὲ γυναιξίν·
    οὕτως ἀργαλέον γῆρας ἔθηκε θεός.        10

4 οἷ᾿ Ahrens: οἱ vel εἰ codd.
6 ὅμως Verdenius: ὁμῶς codd., καλὸν codd.: κακὸν Hermann
7 αἰεί μιν Bergk: ἀεὶ μὲν codd.
West adopts and translates Hermann's conjecture κακὸν for καλὸν in line 6; Gerber keeps καλὸν while adopting Verdenius' conjecture ὅμως (all the same, nevertheless) for ὁμῶς (equally, likewise, alike). David A. Campbell ad loc.:
[T]ranslations such as 'which puts the ugly and the handsome man in the same condition' and 'which makes even a handsome man ugly like the plain man' do violence to the meaning of the common expression ὅμως καί.
I don't have access to Archibald Allen's commentary.

Eric Thomson writes to me:
What I find odd about Campbell's comment is that he presupposes that Hudson Williams too (1926) had adopted Verdenius's (1953) emendation. Admittedly, Doederlein had made the same conjecture in 1812, but the fact remains that Hudson Williams' translation 'which puts the ugly and the handsome man in the same condition' cannot do violence to ὅμως καί as that was not in his text....One thing that αἰσχρὸν ὁμῶς καὶ κακὸν has in its favour is that there's almost a mirror image of near synonyms in Mimnermus, fragment 5, line 3: τερπνὸν ὁμῶς καὶ καλόν.


After searching high and low in the midden, I finally found Fränkel (in irksomely Greekless translation, Early Greek Poetry and Philosophy), who for the handsome-into-ugly reading adduces a couplet of Theognis (497-498):
ἄφρονος ἀνδρὸς ὁμῶς καὶ σώφρονος οἶνος, ὅταν δὴ
    πίνῃ ὑπὲρ μέτρον, κοῦφον ἔθηκε νόον.
κοῦφον reminds me of Scots 'coof', so why not:
The gash an' glaikit alike, fou wi ower muckle wine, are nocht but coofs.

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