The Generosity of the Translator

Taking a break from editing poems, I pulled out a book from my bag and opened it to find this: a short fragment of a possibly longer elegy [where] Archilochus and his companions have lost a party of their friends at sea [including his brother-in-law], and the poet asserts the privileges of mourning against the obligations of a civic festival, which appears to have coincided with the news of the ships’ loss:

“Not a man will grudge our mourning, Perikles, nor will the
town take pleasure in rich festivities,
when men such as these have been swallowed up by the waves of
the sounding sea, and our lungs are swollen
with pain. All the same, my friend, the gods gave us fortitude
as the best antidote to this grievous
ill, which they will upon different men whenever they choose;
and so today it has come our way and
we wail for our wound, but soon it will pass to other
men; so come then, forget these women’s tears…”

This fragment from Archilochus, introduced and translated from the Ancient Greek by William Heath in the Poetry and the State issue of Modern Poetry in Translation, feels like it could have been written yesterday.
I am filled with gratitude for the poem and the translator, and the people like him hard at work in their rooms, producing such offerings to share with the world.

It was this gratitude to translators that impelled me to sign up for the translation summer school at The British Centre for Literary Translation at UEA.

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