Thursday, July 12, 2018
Prayer for the Dead
If it is right for me to reverence with prayers the goddess in darkness and yourself, lord of those who dwell in night, Aidoneus, Aidoneus,a I pray that the stranger may arrive at the plain of the dead that holds all below and at the house of Styx without pain and with no grievous fate! For after many futile troubles have beset him, once more a just god would be exalting him.William Butler Yeats' very free version:
O goddesses of earth,b and you, form of the invincible beast which, fame ever tells us, have your bed and growl from your cave in the gates passed through by many strangers, a guardian not to be subdued in Hades!c I pray, child of Earth and Tartarus,d that he may walk clear when the stranger comes to the plains of the dead below. On you I call, who are eternal sleep!
a A name for Hades; the names of Hades and Persephone, and other chthonic powers, were not often spoken.
b Demeter and Persephone were the chief goddesses of earth, but other powers, such as the Erinyes, might also be in mind. [But cf. Jebb ad loc.: "schol.Ἐρινύες. Hardly Demeter and Persephone (683), who would not be thus associated with the fell Cerberus."]
εἰ θέμις ἐστί μοι τὰν ἀφανῆ θεὸν
καὶ σὲ λιταῖς σεβίζειν,
ἐννυχίων ἄναξ, Αἰδωνεῦ
Αἰδωνεῦ, λίσσομαι 1560
ἐπιπόνως μήτ᾿ ἐπὶ βαρυαχεῖ
μόρῳ τὰν παγκευθῆ κάτω νεκρῶν πλάκα
καὶ Στύγιον δόμον.
πολλῶν γὰρ ἂν καὶ μάταν 1565
πάλιν σφε δαίμων δίκαιος αὔξοι.
ὦ χθόνιαι θεαί, σῶμά τ᾿ ἀνικάτου
θηρός, ὃν ἐν πύλαισι
ταῖσι πολυξένοις εὐνᾶσθαι 1570
κνυζεῖσθαί τ᾿ ἐξ ἄντρων
ἀδάματον φύλακα παρ᾿ Ἀίδᾳ
λόγος αἰὲν ἔχει.
τόν, ὦ Γᾶς παῖ καὶ Ταρτάρου, κατεύχομαι
ἐν καθαρῷ βῆναι 1575
τῷ ξένῳ νεκρῶν πλάκας·
σέ τοι κικλήσκω τὸν αἰὲν ὕπνον.
I call upon Persephone, queen of the dead,It's almost like a propemptikon. Cf. the antiphon In Paradisum.
And upon Hades, king of night, I call;
Chain all the Furies up that he may tread
The perilous pathway to the Stygian hall
And rest among his mighty peers at last,
For the entanglements of God are past.
Nor may the hundred-headed dog give tongue
Until the daughter of Earth and Tartarus
That even bloodless shades call Death has sung
The travel-broken shade of Oedipus
Through triumph of completed destiny
Into eternal sleep, if such there be.
Some textual criticism:
- R.D Dawe, "Conjectures on Oedipus at Colonus," Illinois Classical Studies 19 (1994) 65-72 (at 68-69)
- C.W. Willink, "Critical Studies in the Cantica of Sophocles: III. Electra, Philoctetes, Oedipus at Colonus," Classical Quarterly 53.1 (May, 2003) 75-110 (at 107-109)