Publishing, classics, mood swings

Opis (Verg. Aen. 11.857)

In the 11th book of the Aeneid, the Volscian shield maiden Camilla, Diana’s favourite, is slain in battle by the Etruscan Arruns. Opis, a divine servant of Diana, is sent out by the goddess to exact divine retribution. When she sees Arruns, she utters:[1]

‘cur’ inquit ‘diversus abis? huc derige gressum,
huc periture veni, capias ut digna Camillae
praemia. tune etiam telis moriere Dianae?’

Why do you stray? Step this way, come here, you who are to perish, that you may receive the reward worthy of Camilla. Shall also you die by the shafts of Diana?

Servius was struck by a deep personal note, an “immense bitterness” (ingenti amaritudine), in the last sentence, and claims that Opis “grudges” (invidet) Arruns the honourable manner of his death. Servius supposes that the reference of etiam, “also”, is to the many children of Niobe, who famously perished by the hands of Apollo and Artemis. However, Opis may have had personal causes to reflect in this manner.

Who is Opis? As Herodotus recounts, in very ancient times, a group of young women arrived from the land of the Hyperboreans to the island of Delos.[2] According to esoteric mythological accounts, which Herodotus may have known but if so chooses not to express plainly, they came to assist at the birth of Apollo and Artemis, and to nurse the gods in their infancy.[3] Callimachus, however, probably considering such stories to be not only tasteless but sacrilegous (the gods being eternal), instead claims that they were the instigators of the Hyperborean tradition of bringing offerings to the temple of Apollo on Delos.[4] Herodotus claims that there were two of them, Opis and Arge, but Callimachus holds that they were three, giving their names as Opis, Hecaërge, and Loxo.[5]

Opis, Arge (Hecaërge), Apollo and Artemis?

Later, these women appear as part of the divine retinue of the goddess Artemis. It is not told in extant sources how this transformation from mortal maidens into immortal servants of the goddess came about, but Claudian touches briefly upon the matter:[6]

Iungunt se geminae metuenda feris Hecaërge
et soror, optatum numen venantibus, Opis
progenitae Scythia: divas nemorumque potentes
fecit Hyperboreis Delos praelata pruinis

There join them [i.e., the retinue of Diana] the twin sisters Hecaërge, terror of beasts, and Opis, deity beloved of hunters, Scythian maids; their preference for Delos over the Hyperborean frosts made them goddesses and queens of the woods. (Platnauer, Loeb, slightly revised.)

Fernand Le Quesne, Diana and Her Hunting Maidens

Opis is allowed moments of indivdual glory in this function. In Claudian, she is the charioteer of Artemis on a particular mission,[7] but only in the Aeneid is she allowed to speak. The line that made such an impression on Servius may not be a disinterested reflection on the unworthiness of the victim Arruns,  but owe to a personal reminiscence. Fragments of a tale of Opis’s individual fate before meeting Artemis are preserved in a damaged papyrus of Callimachus’ Aitia; in pseudo-Apollodorus; and in the Homeric scholia, which attribute the tale to the poet Euphorion.[8] Apollodorus writes:

ὁ δ’ Ὠρίων, ὡς μὲν ἔνιοι λέγουσιν, ἀνῃρέθη δισκεύειν Ἄρτεμιν προκαλούμενος, ὡς δέ τινες, βιαζόμενος Ὦπιν μίαν τῶν ἐξ Ὑπερβορέων παραγενομένων παρθένων ὑπ’ Ἀρτέμιδος ἐτοξεύθη.

But Orion was killed, as some say, for challenging Artemis to a match at quoits, but some say he was shot by Artemis for trying to force himself upon Opis, one of the maidens who had come from the Hyperboreans. (Frazer, Loeb, slightly revised.)

Alluding to the legend in the version of Callimachus and Euphorion, Opis’s address to Arruns would include an implicit comparison to Orion, the Great Hunter, in her experience the first victim of the arrow of Diana, and intimately connected with her own personal fate – which was not to be ravaged and bear the child of Orion, but to preserve maidenhood eternally in the service of the goddess.

“Famous Hyperboreans”. Nordlit, 33 (= P. P. Aspaas et al., eds., Rara avis in Ultima Thule: Libellus festivus Sunnivae des Bouvrie dedicatus), 2014, pp. 211–23.

[1] Verg. Aen. 11.855–57.
[2] Hdt. 4.35.
[3] Serv.Dan. Aen. 11.532, 11.858; cf. Phanodic. FGrH 397 fr. 5.
[4] Call. Del. 291–98.
[5] Call. Del. 292.
[6] Claud. Cons.Stil. 3.253–56.
[7] Claud. Cons.Stil. 3.277, 292.
[8] Call. Aet. fr. 186.26–30 Pfeiffer (POxy. 19.2214); [Apollod.] 1.27; Euph. fr. 103 Powell ap. Σ Od. 5.121.

Two wedding song fragments of Sappho (heavily emended); Vesper and Lucifer; the eroticism of morning

104a Voigt

Vesper, bringing all that shining dawn has scattered
you bring the sheep and goat, you bring the mother’s child;
far away you bring the child from mother, baneful star.

Ἔϲπερε πάντα φέρων ὄϲα φαίνολιϲ ἐϲκέδαϲ’ Αὔωϲ,
οἶν ϲὺ φέρηιϲ τε καὶ αἶγα, φέρηιϲ ἄπυ μάτερι παῖδα,
<τῆλέ γε παῖδα φέρηις ἀπὺ μάτερος, ὤλιος ἄστηρ.>


114 Voigt

– Maidenhood, maidenhood, where have you gone and left me?
– Not again, by any means, to you, at any time, shall I return from anywhere,
not again shall I return.

παρθενία, παρθενία, ποῖ με λίποιϲ’ ἀποίχηι;
οὐκέτι <πωϲ> πρὸϲ ϲέ <ποτ’> ἤξω <ποθέν,> οὐκέτ’ ἤξω.


Hermes 142 (2014), pp. 225–39.


The relation of Vesper or Hesperos, the Evening Star, to the goddess Aphrodite (Venus), a tacit presence in most of Sappho’s preserved poetry, is an interesting topic. The association of the goddess with the planet Venus is not attested in Greek sources before the fourth century B.C., but in Symbolae Osloenses 86 (2012) we speculated on possible relics in Greek art and literature of the mythological notion of Hesperos and Phosphoros (Lucifer), the Evening and Morning Star, serving as the goddess’s twin charioteers. This might relate them genetically to the winged Aśvin twins of Vedic mythology, who are the charioteers of Sūryasa, Daughter (or wife?) of the Sun. Textual parallels between Sappho 1, the “Hymn” to Aphrodite, describing a chariot voyage of the goddess, and RigVeda 1.118, could support such a relation. As has been suggested, Castor and Pollux, the twin riders of light, brothers of the divine Helen, might constitute another mythological hypostasis derived from the same cosmological foundation: the two opposite aspects of the planet Venus, custodians of the erotically charged light of evening and dawn.


Not only evening but also morning is a time of heightened eroticism, as in RigVeda 1.134.3:

Wake up abundance
Like a lover a sleeping girl,
Make both worlds visible, make the dawns light up

(transl. Karen Thomson)

– and in an hommage to Sappho by Posidippus of Pella addressed to Doricha the courtesan, lover of Sappho’s brother Charaxus (Gow-Page, Hellenistic Epigrams vv. 3143–45; Ath. 13.596c):

…the fragrant gown, which you wrapped around your beloved Charaxus as you, your skin adjacent to his, took hold of the ivy cups of daybreak.

What exactly is here meant by “the ivy cups of daybreak” (ὀρθρινὰ κιϲϲύβια) is uncertain. Gow-Page’s assertion that it refers to “a symposium prolonged past midnight” seems doubtful; for instance one might have expected the imperfect tense of the verb ἄπτομαι (“grasp”, “take hold”), denoting continued or repeated action. The wrapping of a gown around two naked bodies is also awkward in combination with holding cups and drinking, and the procedure is a literary topic associated with coitus in Archil. fr. 196a West (Archilochus molesting a girl) and Hieronymus of Rhodes fr. 35 Wehrli (Sophocles debauching a boy = test. 75 Radt, Ath. 13.604e).


Aphrodite with charioteers



The Black Stone

The Lord of the Rings, Book V, Chapter two

To that Stone the Company came and halted in the dead of night. Then Elrohir gave to Aragorn a silver horn, and he blew upon it and it seemed to those that stood near that they heard a sound of answering horns, as if it was an echo in deep caves far away. No other sound they heard, and yet they were aware of a great host gathered all about the hill on which they stood; and a chill wind like the breath of ghosts came down from the mountains. But Aragorn dismounted, and standing by the Stone he cried in a great voice:
‘Oathbreakers, why have ye come?’
And a voice was heard out of the night that answered him, as if from far away:
‘To fulfil our oath and have peace.’
Then Aragorn said: ‘The hour is come at last. Now I go to Pelargir upon Anduin, and ye shall come after me. And when all this land is clean of the servants of Sauron, I will hold the oath fulfilled, and ye shall have peace and depart for ever. For I am Elessar, Isildur’s heir of Gondor.’ And with that he bade Halbarad unfurl the great standard which he had brought; and behold! it was black, and if there was any device upon it, it was hidden in the darkness. Then there was silence, and not a whisper nor a sigh was heard again all the long night. The Company camped beside the Stone, but they slept little, because of the dread of the Shadows that hedged them round.
But when the dawn came, cold and pale, Aragorn rose at once, and he led the Company forth upon the journey of greatest haste and weariness that any among them had known, save he alone, and only his will held them to go on.
No other mortal Men could have endured it, none but the Dúnedain of the North, and with them Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas of the Elves.
They passed Tarlang’s Neck and came into Lamedon; and the Shadow Host pressed behind and fear went on before them, until they came to Calembel upon Ciril, and the sun went down like blood behind Pinnath Gelin away in the West behind them. The township and the fords of Ciril they found deserted, for many men had gone away to war, and all that were left fled to the hills at the rumour of the coming of the King of the Dead. But the next day there came no dawn, and the Grey Company passed on into the darkness of the Storm of Mordor and were lost to mortal sight; but the Dead followed them.

Vilhelm Ekelund

Two books have been published in English containing writings by Swedish author Vilhelm Ekelund, both in excellent redaction and translation by Lennart Bruce:

Agenda (Berkeley, CA: Cloud Marauder, 1976), a selection that “starts with the diary entries in the ‘AGENDA’ [Ekelund’s posthumously published diary for the years 1913–14 (Agenda, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1966)], and continues with a selection of his work throughout the years, including some writings published posthumously” (editor’s preface, p. 6);

The Second Light (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1986), a selection of essays, aphorisms, and fragments from Ekelund’s entire production (republishing all of Agenda 1976, with corrections and many additions). Still in print.

I intend to publish additional annotated translations here; in all likelihood rarely, and little; with a preference for the author’s readings of ancient Greek and Latin literature. The above-mentioned books are warmly recommended for anyone who desires more, and does not read Swedish.

Ekelund’s highly personalised idiom turns his Swedish into a language that is even for Swedes not perhaps foreign, but new and difficult. If the English translations will sound odd, I hope it will not be entirely due to the incompetence of the translator.


From Elpidi (1939)

I 51 (p. 33)

The most  u n t r a n s l a t a b l e  line, perhaps the most delightful, in the entire Latin poetry, I thought to be this one, by Horace:

virtus repulsae nescia sordidae.

But see here — how the living meet!

“A noble man has no plans at all; not even a wish. He can, accordingly, never come to shame.”  (E. A. Hermelin)

— Friherre Axel Eric Hermelin (1860–1944) was a brilliant and highly original translator of and occasional commentator on classical Persian poetry and Christian esotericism. The line by Horace (Odes 3.2.17) has been translated into English.

VIII 6 (p. 133)

Those who have seen and felt with  V i r g i l  have all seen him with the eye of folk tradition. The heritage of ancient time’s Asclepian singer’s tradition, in a beautiful, sure hand —: that is Virgil. Such he has won the heart of Dante. And of Hamann, and Swedenborg. And such is the light — the transparency force of a deep-light-imprinted face — that may still set the innermost cords of a Viktor Rydberg in vibration, as if he stood before his most tender secret-laden childhood memory. The new sign of the times with him, which with peculiar energy and concord was taken hold of by tradition and also struck the early Christians, is light of the Orphic light. (But the “Homeric” is of little value; has nothing whatsoever to do with his innermost fate.) He was truly a searcher and a scout, a  v i e w – k e e p e r:  and you might say, that  P a l i n u r u s  represented his greatest skaldic measure. The sea was his world —: as such Horace knew him — and the sea took him.

Johann Georg Hamann
Viktor Rydberg


From Atticism–Humanism (2nd ed. 1946)

IV 33 (p. 157)

K á t h a r s i s —: the simple, unresplendent way. Motus in loco natali placidus. Such lay, after all, beneath the Aristotelian explanation of the tragic. It was perhaps with an instinct towards Germanicism and mysticism, that Goethe in his most advanced age turned with such peculiar anticipation towards Aristotle. Only from muse-led experience and a unified view, this word by him may perhaps be understood —: that were he given his life to live again from the beginning, then for the bearing of his inquiry in artistic matters Aristotle would be the guiding star!

A philosopher, somebody said — when I was young — should not only be able to read Greek, he should be able to speak Greek! His intention was correct; that is — to  t h i n k  Greek.

Motus in loco natali placidus: “Movement is tranquil in the place of origin”. The phrase is found in a commentary by Catholic philospher Franz von Baader on Jacob Böhme (Baader, Sämtliche Werke II 397); I am not sure if it is a quotation or Baader’s own formulation. Ekelund may perhaps have seen it in a book by Eric Hermelin, translator of Böhme (see above). This word: Ekelund may be thinking of a letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter, 29 March 1828: “Stünden mir jetzt, in ruhiger Zeit, jugendlichere Kräfte zu Gebot, so würde ich mich dem Griechischen völlig ergeben, trotz allen Schwierigkeiten die ich kenne; die Natur und Aristoteles würden mein Augenmerk seyn. Es ist über alle Begriffe was dieser Mann erblickte, sah, schaute, bemerkte, beobachtete, dabey aber freylich im Erklären sich übereilte.”


Apart from one easel by William Morris, the only decent quattrocento pastiche that any Pre-Raphaelite-affiliated painter seems to have been able to produce  not to mention turn into a style of his own  is by Sir Edward Burne-Jones:
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Porsoniana by William Maltby, edited by Alexander Dyce


These anecdotes were appended to Recollections of the Table Talk of Samuel Rogers (1856), the editor of which, Alexander Dyce, attributes them to his conversations with William Maltby (1763–1854). A good many of them are quite pointless and unfunny; and there is in fact little that is flattering to Porson with regard to intelligence and taste. There is much that is suggestive of an autistic tendency (Asperger).

Appended here are also Porson’s appearances in Samuel Rogers’ Table-talks taken from the same book. The pagination, added within brackets, refers to the following text.

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Matthew Arnold, “Spinoza and the Bible”

Copy text is the third edition of Essays in Criticism (1875), available at the Internet Archive; I have corrected it at one or two places collating the edition of R. H. Super (1962). The numbers within brackets refer to the pages of the 1875 edition, denoting the following text.

A shorter version of the essay was originally published anonymously in MacMillan’s Magazine IX, 136-42 (December, 1863), as a review of Robert Willis’s 1862 translation of Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. A better English translation by R. H. M. Elwes (1883) is available on the internet.

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Pindar, The Second Isthmian Ode, vv. 1-12

On the occasion of Richard Seaford’s article in TLS June 17, 2009, the beginning of the Second Isthmian was read and translated.

Men of old, Thrasyboulos,
who mounted the chariot of the golden-crowned Muses,
gathering there with the glorious lyre,
lightly shot their honey-voicèd hymns of youth,
of the beautiful youth that had attained
the lovely summer-ripeness wooing Aphrodite
on her perfect throne.
For the Muse did not desire profit
then, nor worked a trade:
Nor were the softly sounding songs
from honey-spoken Terpsichore
sold with silver faces.
But now she allows
the Argive’s word to attain the place
most near to truth.
Money, money makes the man.
Who said it having lost his goods and friends.

Οἱ μὲν πάλαι, ὦ Θρασύβουλε,
φῶτες, οἳ χρυσαμπύκων
ἐς δίφρον Μοισᾶν ἔβαι-
νον κλυτᾷ φόρμιγγι συναντόμενοι,
ῥίμφα παιδείους ἐτόξευον μελιγάρυας ὕμνους,
ὅστις ἐὼν καλὸς εἶχεν Ἀφροδίτας
εὐθρόνου μνάστειραν ἁδίσταν ὀπώραν.
ἁ Μοῖσα γὰρ οὐ φιλοκερδής
πω τότ’ ἦν οὐδ’ ἐργάτις·
οὐδ’ ἐπέρναντο γλυκεῖ-
αι μελιφθόγγου ποτὶ Τερψιχόρας
ἀργυρωθεῖσαι πρόσωπα μαλθακόφωνοι ἀοιδαί.
νῦν δ’ ἐφίητι <τὸ> τὠργείου φυλάξαι
ῥῆμ’ ἀλαθείας < ⏑ – > ἄγχιστα βαῖνον,
χρήματα χρήματ’ ἀνήρ
ὃς φᾶ κτεάνων θ’ ἅμα λειφθεὶς καὶ φίλων.


It is untypical of Pindar thus to idealize a poetry for not being “profit-hungry” (φιλοκερδής) or “working a trade” (ἐργάτις). He was definitely not ashamed of getting paid, even writing about it, for instance at the end of the Third Pythian,

If the god should hold out exuberant wealth to me,
I have the hope to find great glory forthwith.

εἰ δέ μοι πλοῦτον θεὸς ἁβρὸν ὀρέξαι,
ἐλπίδ’ ἔχω κλέος εὑρέσθαι κεν ὑψηλὸν πρόσω.

A close reading of the beginning of the Second Isthmian might, with a pinch of imagination, elicit a more significant message than the hypocritical reverence for amateur disinterestedness that it professes. The piece may be read as a statement of literary criticism as well as, beneath the surface, ironically detached professional pride. The key-word is “lightly” (ῥίμφα). Poets of old wrote lightly, says Pindar, lovesongs of (about or to) beautiful youths. He has in mind the Archaic melic poets, for instance Alcman, Alcaeus and Ibycus, perhaps also Archilochus and Sappho although they preferred girls — but παιδείους … ὕμνους in v. 5 may in fact with some good intention be read as “songs of young boys and girls” (cf. Crat. fr. 258, Eup. fr. 327, LSJ παιδικός III 2 a).

Now if we compare this description of the Archaic Lyre with Pindar’s own production, we find that he is depicting the very antithesis of Pindaric poetry. Pindar wrote grave hymns, about deadly serious mythological subjects. If he should occasionally write about boys (fr. 123), the result is not light, but morally challenging, boldly metaphorical, and possessing the gravity of good and expensive knives. Hence, the lightly composing amateur poets of old — would they not be, from Pindar’s perspective, also a tad light-weight? Is it not also possible to elicit from the epithet παιδείους another meaning: I mean educational? Instead of the ordinary παιδικός, Pindar chooses an adjective which is cognate with παιδεία, education, and which is elsewhere normally used in the context of child-rearing.

This cannot be without significance: indeed from Pindar’s perspective, the Archaic poets belonged to the Lehrjahre of Greek poetry. Now, with Pindar, poetry had reached maturity. And might accordingly, as an adult, allow itself professional remuneration.

Clothed in words of pious reverence, the beginning of the Second Isthmian could in fact contain an ironical and carefully concealed snub at the patron: possibly he could not afford to pay that much. The entire poem contains only 48 verses, to be compared with about a hundred in most Pythian and Olympian odes, and three hundred in the Fourth Pythian.

Then again a silver coin is a silver coin, and we could perhaps compare the story about Pindar’s older contemporary Simonides, as related by Aristotle (Rhet. 1405b):

As the winner in the mules’ race tried to offer Simonides too little money, he said that he did not want to compose a poem, professing to be insulted for having to write about half-asses. But when he gave enough, Simonides wrote:

Hail, sisters of storm-heeled horses (fr. 10 Page, PMG)


Not a very original idea of mine, I see now after studying Verdenius’ commentary. Although it is usually surmised that Pindar asks for money, rather than mocks the unsufficiency of his client’s funds.

Sappho 81b

Put lovely garlands, Dika, in your hair
with soft hands binding strands of dill:

then you will flower, and the blessed Graces
shall come near; they turn away from the ungarlanded.

σὺ δὲ στεφάνοις, ὦ Δίκα, πέρθεσθ’ ἐράτοις φόβαισιν
ὄρπακας ἀνήτω συναέρραισ’ ἀπάλαισι χέρσιν·

εὐάνθεμος ὢς γὰρ πέλεαι καὶ Χάριτες μάκαιραι
μᾶλλον προσέσοντ’, ἀστεφανώτοισι δ’ ἀπυστρέφονται.

Some spacious and perhaps philologically indefensible conjectures have made sense of the poetry:

εὐάνθεμος ὢς γὰρ πέλεαι (’then you will flower’): εὐάνθεα γὰρ πέλεται (’for they are flowery’, unmetrical).
προσέσοντ’ (’shall come near’): προτέρην (’former’, senseless).

Walter Headlam’s translation of Aeschylus, The Suppliants

— And what of the sense in its importance for the relationship between translation and original? A simile may help here. Just as a tangent touches a circle lightly and at but one point, with this touch rather than with the point setting the law according to which it is to continue on its straight path to infinity, a translation touches the original lightly and only at the infinitely small point of the sense, thereupon pursuing its own course according to the laws of fidelity in the freedom of linguistic flux. Without explicitly naming or substantiating it, Rudolf Pannwitz has characterized the true significance of this freedom. His observations are contained in Die Krisis der europäischen Kultur and rank with Goethe’s Notes to the Westöstlicher Divan as the best comment on the theory of translation that has been published in Germany. Pannwitz writes: “Our translations, even the best ones, proceed from a wrong premise. They want to turn Hindi, Greek, English into German instead of turning German into Hindi, Greek, English. Our translators have a far greater reverence for the usage of their own language than for the spirit of the foreign works. . . . The basic error of the translator is that he preserves the state in which his own language happens to be instead of allowing his language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue. Particularly when translating from a language very remote from his own he must go back to the primal elements of language itself and penetrate to the point where work, image, and tone converge. He must expand and deepen his language by means of the foreign language. It is not generally realized to what extent this is possible, to what extent any language can be transformed, how language differs from language almost the way dialect differs from dialect; however, this last is true only if one takes language seriously enough, not if one takes it lightly.”

These notes towards a poetics of translation by Walter Benjamin and Rudolf Pannwitz (translated by Harry Zohn) may possibly serve as a justification of Walter Headlam’s prose translations of Aeschylus. At least I find them curiously attractive, although I am aware that native speakers of English may take offence.*) Anyway, as a semantical commentary on the Greek text the translation more than serves its purpose. Headlam’s philological notes are also very useful, and rightly made an impression on Martin West as he was editing Aeschylus for Teubner, as evidenced by the apparatus to at least the Supplices as well as the eulogy of Headlam in West’s Studies in Aeschylus.

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