Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A possible theme for the Cipher Poem

The Greek text on the opposite side of the page from the cipher poem (as I mentioned) is largely the first part of an ode written by Thomas Moore as a preface to his translations from Anacreon. This part of the poem sets the stage for Wisdom to ask the poet why he spends his life the way he does.

Debosnys has altered the wording of the original, so the goddess asks the following question:

"τι, γερων, τεον βιον μεν / ω δε βια του γαληνην"

Classical Greek isn't a language I know well, so I have to kind of wing it here. The German translation on Klaus Schmeh's blog is problematic because they misread the word "τεον" as "νεον". But I believe the question the goddess asks in Debosnys' version is:

"Why, old one, do you employ your life in the violence of tranquility?"

The word βια apparently has a range of meanings including: force; act of violence; rape. The word γαληνη means stillness.

In Thomas Moore's original, the subsequent lines are the poet's response to the goddess. I have a feeling the cipher poem is Debosnys' answer to this question.

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