The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

It is you who must pursue the violet-scented Muse
By Sappho
Translation by Mary Maxwell

It is you who must pursue the violet-scented Muse with her gifts of beauty,
my young students, as well as continue to play a clear and melodious lyre.

I was lithesome once, but time and age have taken my body in their grasp,
and from glossy blackness my hair has been turned by them to brittle white.

Heavy my heart has become; my knees no longer can carry me; nor do I
dance as I did, in my once upon a time, as quick and supple as a fawn.

These things I bewail with every groaning breath, but what is there to do?
Agelessness is not a fate that comes to humans. Even, they say, the rosy arms

of goddess Dawn stretched to embrace handsome Tithonus. Madly
in love, she carried the virile young man all the way back to her home

at the edge of the world. Yet old age managed to get hold of him even there;
zealous, hoary-bearded Time finds even the bed partners of the immortals.


From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World, a new translation of the Sappho fragment published in the Times Literary Supplement last year (there are other translations here and here). "Sappho, who lived in the 7th century B.C., made poems that continue to influence Western love poetry," writes Pinsky. "Even the goddess of the dawn, that symbol of renewal, could not protect beautiful young Tithonus from the devastating effects of time. That this poem has survived so many dawns and outlived not only individuals but also languages and civilizations adds to its emotional force...every reader of this poem becomes one of Sappho's students. Those opening lines suggest how the lyre and the dance, all the arts of making beauty, are passed from generation to generation. In that process, the phrase 'it is you' is addressed to each new reader.

None of us managed to eat breakfast Saturday morning -- the kids were playing, apaulled was burning music, I was doing some computer stuff -- and at lunchtime we all decided we were in the mood for California Tortilla, which was fine since we had a pile of coupons for free food anyway. So we went out to lunch, then went to the Virginia side of Great Falls, where we hiked to Matildaville and out on the new overlooks, which are wheelchair-accessible and sturdier than the old wire fences that used to attempt unsuccessfully to keep people from climbing over onto the rocks -- which presents safety issues but more importantly puts at risk the ecosystem there, for the bedrock terrace hosts three plants that grow nowhere else in the world than the Potomac River gorge. (See, ribby, you really should see this when you are in town!)

Great Falls of the Potomac seen from the Virginia side of the national park.

Some of the ruins of Matildaville -- named for the first wife of Revolutionary War hero "Light Horse" Harry Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee -- once a thriving town, now rubble in the woods around the remains of the Patowmack Canal.

This is a view of the Maryland side -- the platform from which I usually take photos of Great Falls, and the rapids below.

On the way home we picked up our minivan which had been getting serviced and grabbed some food and Irish Creme, which was still discounted for St. Patrick's Day. *g* There was a "sidewalk sale" going on in the local mini-mall where the liquor store is, with games for little kids and someone dressed up as a flamingo, where they were giving away promotional sunglasses, cup holders, highlighter pens and things like that. When we came home I was instructed to put a photo of penguins onto my MDA in case younger son got an overwhelming urge to look at penguins again while we were out of the house. I also wrote two quick articles on Scott Bakula (I really should see him in Shenandoah when it's at Ford's Theatre but its so expensive) and Trek fan films

I had to fold laundry -- lots, more than I could hope to get done during the half-hour Loreena McKennitt special that public access TV was rerunning -- so afterward I insisted that there had been enough basketball on in this house for a season and put on Patriot Games, which I had only seen once, in my early days of Sean Bean infatuation (I've been up and down enough on Harrison Ford over the years that I did not see several of his movies in the theater, including this one). I knew it would be fun seeing Sean, James Earl Jones and Patrick Bergin in this again, but I had forgotten that Samuel L. Jackson, David Threlfall and Alun Armstrong were in it and I had totally forgotten that Polly Walker played the kick-ass terrorist! I wasn't even aware of who she was until Dark Harbor though I'd seen her in Lorna Doone (again because of Sean) and A Dangerous Man, and I have been totally hot for her since Rome. The plot still has all kinds of silliness but Annapolis looked great, it was really fun to see Buckingham Palace and the plebes and the boat fight, and there was plenty of Clannad...I am so glad I got Patriot Games on DVD and now I need to watch the special features and see if Sean and Polly are on there!

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