Sunday, February 25, 2018

Bull God

I have always wanted to translate all the Homeric Hymns, so I finally decided why not. It is something I can work on while working on my long poem, currently titled "Standing Water."

The first hymn is to Dionysus. It is a fragment. (Most of the hymns are intact, but this one, not.) There is a word in the second line, "εἰραφιῶτα." Hugh G. Evelyn White, a translator I much respect, translates it as "insewn" and notes that Dionysus was sewn into the thigh of Zeus to hide him from Hera. This is how the Hellenistic scholars read it. They saw the letters "ραφιῶ" and related it to "rapio" "to sew." We get the word rhapsody from it--a sewing together of melodies or song--. Modern scholars, however, trace the word back to Sanskrit for "Bull God."

Translating this, one is faced with the question which to use. The later Greeks, at least, read it as referencing sewing and the god sewn into the thigh of Zeus. Did it once mean Bull God to the earlier Greeks? It is hard to know. I am tempted to go with both:

Some at Drakanos, some say on windswept Ikaros,
some in Naxos, divine born, god of bulls, 
                             sewn into Zeus’s thigh

But then, I am left with what to do with it when the word occurs again in line 17:

ἵληθ᾽, εἰραφιῶτα, γυναιμανές:

Be gracious, Lord of bulls, thigh born, who drives women to frenzy

Not sure

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