Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Republic 329b1-3

Some also bewail the abuse of old people from relatives, and in this wise they repeat over and over all the evils for which they blame old age.

[This is Cephalus still speaking.

The semantics of this sentence is unclear, and there are difficulties in both halves, though those of the second half are greater.

In the first half, the trouble is that what I've translated "relatives" admits of at least four different conjugations or declensions. One can narrow it down to a participle in this context, and then it has to function substantivally. Literally it would be "the dwelling ones," i.e., the ones who dwell in the same house, i.e., their relatives.

The difficulties with the second half have mostly to do with translating epi toutoi de [toutoi ends in an omega with an iota subscript; de has a long a sound, as in day, as opposed to the other Gr. particle de]. I've translated this phrase as "in this wise." Epi would usually be translated as "on," "upon," "supported by," or something similar, but that doesn't make much sense here; so one has to go for a secondary meaning, and they are numerous. I chose my translation of epi (cf. LSJ, sv, B.I.1.i) by considering the effect of de, which is used to give greater exactness to the word it influences. Except for the archaic use of "wise," I think the translation is passable.

Bloom has a very clever way of translating the second half. His translation reads, "and in this key they sing a refrain about all the evils old age has caused them." It's clever because it plays on the semantic range of humneo, which means either to repeat over and over or to sing (this is the word from which we get the English hymn). He is able to use the English phrase "in this key" to capture the force of de with epi and tie it into the meaning of humneo. My only problem with this is that I don't think Cephalus is being that clever.]

No comments: