Monday, April 2, 2018

The Orphic Hymns

I've been working extensively with the Orphic hymns lately, and retranslating/arranging some of them.  In English, there are really only two trnaslations of any value that I've found.  The first are Thomas Taylor's 1792 translations, which are in lovely verse, and time-tested in ritual, and the second are by Apostolos N. Athanassakis and Benjamin M. Wolkow, which are literal, but not very lyrical.  I've been trying to bridge that divide.  I take some liberties from the original, but try to hew closer than Taylor, but I'm still keeping them in verse.  I've put several below; these are still rough, so they will likely change some.

#7: To Eros Protogonos
O Eros Protogonos , we ask you heed our prayer! 
Twofold, Egg-born, and Wandering through the air;
The roarer who glories is fine golden wings,
from whom the race of mortals springs.
Erikapaios, you celebrated power,
ineffable, occult, all-shining flower.
From your darksome swirling mists to the purest sight
All-spreading splendour, pure and holy light,
Hence, Phanes, called the glory of the Sky,
On wavering pinions through the world you fly.
Priapus, dark-eyed splendour, to you we sing,
Genial, all-prudent, ever blessed king:
Look with joyful aspect upon these rites divine,
And give your holy consecration and your all-propitious shine.

#10: For Selene
Hear us, holy Goddess, Night-shining Queen,
Light-bringer, Radiant One, splendid Selene:
Cow-horned moon, racing through the night,
Nocturnal, torch-bearing, maiden of light,
Waxing, waning, male and female combined,
Luminous silver-rayed Mother of Time,
Whose warm glowing orb illumines the Night,
All-seeing, vigilant, beautiful, bright,
Mother of ages, fruit-bearing Moon,
Whose warm glowing orb reflects the light of high noon
The rich quiet black is your eternal delight,
You grant favor and and luck, shining jewel of the night,
Marshal of stars, purple cloaked, silver veiled,
Queen of the Night, Aktiophis, we hail!
Shine on our rites with your all-blessing rays,
O maiden, accept your initiates’ praise.

#56: For Aphrodite
Ourania, beloved, laughter-loving Aphrodite,
Sea-born, birth giver, night festival queen,
Crafty mother of needs, you make mortals to mate,
Fruitful mother of the world, you cause the Kosmos to procreate.
You are the sovereign of the three worlds and the origin of everything,
The Heavens, the Earth, the Ocean: from you they spring.
Holy companion of beloved Bacchus,
You delight in festivity, mother of Erontes,
Seductive Beauty, who loves to make love
Joy-giver, Secret Aristocrat and Hidden Dove,
Romantic companion at the table of the gods,
You are love’s true sire, bearing reel and rods,
You give us our children, our loves, and all loving actions,
Desirable one, life-giver, you couple up mortals in unbridled passion.
Every wild beast is frenzied in your arms,
Heavenly daughter of Cypress, lend us your charms,
We behold you, royal Goddess, splendid of countenance,
On your Syrian throne, redolent of frankincense,
Or riding the plains in your iridescent chariot,
Flanked by your priests in the bathtubs of Egypt
Riding swan-driven carriage upon the waves of the Sea,
Delighting sea-creatures as they dance in your breeze.
You bring joy to the Nymphs of the Earth and the Forest,
And those who leap lightly to the song of your sea-foamy chorus.
When seated in Cyprus, oh Queen Most Divine,
where your blessings are spoken by maidens most fine.
They sing for you, blessed one, and immortal Adonis,
He the grain god, and you the Green Goddess.
We summon you now with fine words and pure souls,
Hear our words, drink our wine, and smoke of our bowls!

#63: For Justice
Oh, Holy Justice, blessed and beloved one,
You take pleasure in all that is rightly done,
You are honored by all, blissful and bold,
Lofty, right-thinking, you cannot be sold,
Nor bought, for you are inviolate and incorruptible,
You break even those who think themselves untouchable,
Who in their greed attempt to cheat your great scales,
Unbalancing what is right, attempting to grease the rails.
But you are dauntless and all-charming, beloved of all,
For you rejoice in peace, and a life that is stable.
You loath the unfair and delight in what’s right,
You are the crown of the virtues and wisdom’s true light.
Shatter the wicked, mighty Goddess, we pray,
So that all who nurse from the breast of the Earth,
who from the depths of sea were first given birth,
May follow your path of justice and nobility,
Living in harmony and peaceful tranquility.

#80, To Themis:
I call lovely Themis, daughter of Earth and the Sky, Who first spoke as oracle in the recesseses of Delphi, On Pythian ground, above the bubbling spring, You taught the young Phoibos to be a just king, You are honored by all, bringing justice’s light, For you first taught to humans worship’s delight, You howled first to Dionysus with infinite glories, You teach us the mysteries and you tell us the stories, Come, blessed maiden, attend our mystic rites, And rain down your favor upon us, your acolytes.

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