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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

From Sappho

    φάινεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν ἔμμεν ὤνερ
    ὄστις ἐναντίος τοι ἰζάνει
    καὶ πλασίον ἀδυ φωνεί σας ὐπακούει

    He seems to me, that man, equal to the gods,
    Who opposite you sits,
    And close, to your sweet voice, listens.
I have tried to choose a romantic poem with vocabulary that is found in the Greek scriptures, albeit in a different context.

1. κῆνος is εκεινος "that" and .... ὤνερ is ἀνηρ "man". This demonstrates the very thing which Lingamish was protesting against so vociferously in his post here possibly about GGBB.

2. ἴσος θέοισιν means "equal to the gods" and uses the same vocabulary as Phil. 2:6 εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ - to be equal to God

3. πλασίον is actually πλησίον which means "close" "next to" or "neighbour" as in "love your neighbour" Gal. 5:14 - although I do not think this poem is about neighbourly love.

4. αδυ is really ηδυς which means "sweet, dear, pleasant, welcome"

5. φωνή is voice

6. ὐπακούει means listen, but also "submit" or "obey". Compare this with Rev. 3:20 άν τις ἀκούσῃ τῆς φωνῆς μου - if anyone hears my voice

In this poem a man, equal to the gods, listens (submits) to the sweet voice of his beloved. I hope this gives you the goosebumps. The vocabulary is Greek but the sentiment seems closer to S. of S.

Note: The line segmentation and translation are my own, to make it more literal and word for word. :-)

Poems of Sappho

PS: If Hebrew scholars are "cooler" than Greek scholars, then it stands to reason that Greek scholars are warmer than Hebrew scholars. This post was prompted by Learning Dead Languages is a Drag.


At Wed Jul 18, 07:14:00 PM, Blogger John said...


your translation and comments are delightful.

A good exercise, for one who wants to improve their NT Greek, is take a poem like this and recast the whole into the Koine dialect. It's great practice.

But the poem's contents are marvelous by themselves.

John Hobbins


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