Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Red Lip.

Athens News, an English language weekly, used to have a column on Greek language and literature, written by a man called I think Richard Church, who had written a good book called 'Learn Greek in 25 Years'. For all I know the column is still running and still written by the same chap, but it was good, and so experience suggests it's probably been abolished by now.

Anyway, a long time ago he put in his column an English translation of a little Greek folk poem. It was a bad translation, so I made a good one (What's the point of having a blog if you can't use it to say things like that?) and sent it to him. Gratifyingly he agreed my version was better, and  put it in the paper a week or two later. The original, unusually for Greek popular poetry, doesn't rhyme; I used rhyme to compensate for my inability to reproduce the beautiful cadences of the Greek:


The Red Lip

I kissed a red lip, and my own was dyed,
I wiped my lip, the handkerchief was red,
I washed it, and the river’s waters bled,
and dyed the shore, and stained the deep-sea tide;
the eagle came to drink; his wings took fire,
and red the half-sun, and the moon entire.

Anonymous, C18th or earlier
English version © Simon Darragh


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