The moon has set

Δέδυκε μὲν σελάννα

καὶ Πληΐαδες, μέσαι δέ

νύκτες, πάρα δἔρχετὤρα,

ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω.

The moon has set and the Pleiades,

It is the middle of the night

Time passes by

And I sleep alone.

This fragment of Sappho speaks for itself. It has been translated many times so I thought I would research some translations. Some of the translators take ὤρα in a slightly different way so it is variously translated as Time, hour, season or youth. Trypanis translates it as night-watch -presumably because the night would have been divided in watches rather than hours. I prefer the simple “time”.

I’ve tried to attribute the translation to the author – in some cases I only have the web page. Anyway here are some translations.

The moon has set, and the Pleiades; it is midnight, the time is going by and I recline alone.

The sinking moon has left the sky,

The Pleiades have also gone.

Midnight comes–and goes, the hours fly

And solitary still, I lie.

The Moon has left the sky,

Lost is the Pleiads’ light;

It is midnight,

And time slips by,

But on my couch alone I lie.

J. A. Symonds, 1883.

From the poems of Sappho by Edwin Marion Cox (1925)

From <http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/usappho/sph49.htm>

The moon has set and the Pleiades; it is midnight, the night-watch goes by, and I sleep alone.

Constantine A. Trypanis – the Penguin book of Greek verse (not online)

The Moon is down,

The Pleiades. Midnight,

The hours flow on,

I lie, alone

Translated by A. S. Kline © 2005 All Rights Reserved

From <http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Greek/Sappho.htm#_Toc76357055>

The moon is down;

And I’ve watched the dying

Of the Pleiades;

‘T is the middle night,

The hour glides by,

And alone I’m sighing.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Atlantic Essays

The moon is set; the Pleiades are gone;

‘T is the mid-noon of-night; the hour is by,

And yet I watch alone.

James Gate Percival

From <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A2001.05.0214%3Achapter%3D11>

The moon has set, and the Pleiades; it is midnight, the time is going by, and I sleep alone.

H. T. Wharton

 

The silver moon is set;

        The Pleiades are gone;

Half the long night is spent, and yet

        I lie alone

J. H. Merivale.

From <http://classicpersuasion.org/pw/sappho/sape06.htm>

“The moon is set

and the Pleiades; Middle of

the night, time passes by,

I lie alone.”

From <http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/656171-the-moon-is-set-and-the-pleiades-middle-of-the>

Tonight I’ve watched

the moon and then

the Pleiades

go down

The night is now

half-gone; youth

goes; I am

in bed alone

From <http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/tonight-i-ve-watched/>

Well, the moon has set

And the Pleiades. It is the middle

Of the night. And the hour passes by,

But I sleep alone …….

Terry Walsh

From <http://classicalanthology.theclassicslibrary.com/2013/03/30/sappho-and-the-moon/>

Tonight I watched 

the moon go down

and then the Pleiades,

night and youth 

are now half-gone 

and here I lie alone

From <https://soundcloud.com/little-machine/the-moon-and-pleiades>

The Moon and the Pleiades have set –

half the night is gone.

Time passes.

I sleep alone

The Moon and the Pleiades have set –

half the night is gone.

The season passes.

I sleep alone.

Diane.J.Raynor and André Lardinois

SapphoA New Translation of the Complete Works (Google eBook)

Tonight I’ve watched

the moon and then

The Pleiades go down

the night is now

half-gone: youth goes:

I am in bed alone

Tonight, I’ve watched the Pleiades and the moon

And now…I’m in bed alone;

The night is half-gone

Jean Elizabeth Ward

Homage to Sappho

The Moon and the Pleiades

have plunged, it is the middle

of the night, season, hour, youth are departing

and I lay in bed alone

Figures of the Thinkable

 By Cornelius Castoriadis

Tonight I’ve watched

the moon and then

the Pleiades

go down

The night is now

half-gone; youth

goes; I am

in bed alone

From <http://allpoetry.com/Tonight-I’ve-watched>

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3 Responses to The moon has set

  1. Susan Lavik says:

    Of the various translations here, I still prefer the one in the Penguin collection – it seems most true to the original, which is very simple, no extraneous adjectives or emotions displayed at length (very classical Greek). And simple verbs: the moon has set … I lie alone. Nothing extra. I’m happy with the ‘night watch’, but why did this translation (and several others) have to interpolate an ‘and’ (or ‘but’) in the final line? Not in the original, and for a very good reason: Sappho makes the final line more powerful by going there directly…and letting reader – as throughout the poem – fill in the details.

    Like

  2. platosparks says:

    You are right. There is a δε in the final line ἔγω δὲ μόνα κατεύδω but this is weaker than and or but in English. This is a poem where so much is left to the imagination which is why it is so powerful.

    Like

  3. Susan Lavik says:

    Thanks, yes, the little δε is best left alone, I’d say.
    As I’m sure you’ve noticed, many of the earlier translations did what the Victorians/Edwardians were so fond of doing: ‘ improving’ the original to make it fit then-accepted notions of good style. As you point out, it’s precisely because the original text is honed and pared down to the essentials that it has such impact.

    Liked by 1 person

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