Marjorie Boulton: Memnon (From Esperanto)

Memnon1
By Marjorie Boulton
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Esperanto

A statue, stone in desert heat,
On bright white sand, with thirstburnt head,
I stand here, meaningless and dead;
Only a lizard at my feet

Is my companion consolation.
On space no thing of green will gloss,
I stand a monument to loss:
Granite and grieved in isolation.

No human heart or strength of hands,

Here petrified with ache and sorry
I stand beneath a wicked glory
Of sun combusting on the sands

But stone that feels its wounds, the gush
Of my own blood still red and pent,
As sandstorms bellow and torment
I stand here blindly, stand and hush.

But come the wind with storming whips
All through this body in despair,
By dawnlit air or evening air,
I sing a song through stonecut lips.

Not I, not I but the cruel whack
Of strange wind moves these lips. Not I,
But blows of sharp wind through the sky
Out of a land unknown and black.


Note:

1- Memnon: An Ethiopian warrior killed by Achilles during the Trojan War as payback for offing Antilochus. In late Greek literature, some writers attempted to satisfy their Homer-fetish by defining the area Memnon hailed from. The account that likely inspired this particular poem is found in Chapter 42, Book 1 of Pausanias' Description of Greece:

ἐμοὶ δὲ παρέσχε μὲν καὶ τοῦτο θαυμάσαι, παρέσχε δὲ πολλῷ μάλιστα Αἰγυπτίων ὁ κολοσσός. ἐν Θήβαις ταῖς Αἰγυπτίαις, διαβᾶσι τὸν Νεῖλον πρὸς τὰς Σύριγγας καλουμένας, εἶδον ἔτι καθήμενον ἄγαλμα ἠχοῦν—Μέμνονα ὀνομάζουσιν οἱ πολλοί, τοῦτον γάρ φασιν ἐξ Αἰθιοπίας ὁρμηθῆναι ἐς Αἴγυπτον καὶ τὴν ἄχρι Σούσων:... ὃ Καμβύσης διέκοψε: καὶ νῦν ὁπόσον ἐκ κεφαλῆς ἐς μέσον σῶμά ἐστιν ἀπερριμμένον, τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν κάθηταί τε καὶ ἀνὰ πᾶσαν ἡμέραν ἀνίσχοντος ἡλίου βοᾷ, καὶ τὸν ἦχον μάλιστα εἰκάσει τις κιθάρας ἢ λύρας ῥαγείσης χορδῆς.


In Egyptian Thebes, on crossing the Nile to what they call The Tunnels, you come upon a statue, still in place, which makes a resounding noise. Most people have dubbed it Memnon, for they say Memnon marched from Aethiopia to Egypt and then onward as far as Susa.....This statue was cleft by Cambyses, and nowadays the part from the head to the torso lies toppled; but the rest remains intact, and every day at sunrise it reverberates in the wind. The sound might best be described as that of a string-broken lute or lyre.
(Translation mine)


The Original:

Memnon
Marjorie Boulton

Statuo, ŝtono en dezerto,
Sur brila sablo, brulsoifa,
Mi staras morta, sensignifa;
Ĉe la piedoj nur lacerto

Estas kunulo kaj konsolo.
En spaco sen videbla verdo
Mi staras, monument' de perdo
Granita, trista en izolo,

Sen homa koro aŭ kapablo,
Kaj ŝtoniĝinta per doloro!
Mi staras sub kruela gloro
De brula suno sur la sablo.

Sed, ŝtono kiu vundojn sentas,
Per mia propra sango ruĝa,
En sabloŝtorm' turmenta, muĝa,
Mi staras blinda. Mi silentas.

Sed kiam ŝtormas ventaj vipoj
Tra tiu korpo sen espero
Dum sunleviĝo aŭ vespero
Mi kantas tra la ŝtonaj lipoj.

Ne mi, ne mi, sed senkompata
Kaj stranga vento lipojn movas,
La akra vento kiu blovas'
El lando nigra, nekonata

3 comments:

  1. I probably haven't read this one for 40 years. I am more impressed with it now. Good job. I always found Boulton an overly emotional writer, which is probably why she adored Baghy so. But I am willing to keep an open mind.

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  2. Thank you. She reminds me of Edna St. Vincent Millay sometimes- especially in her sonnet sequences like Trista Tenereco which, by the way, I tried to translate before I just gave up. (Lines like Amato la unua! Mia fato just refuse to behave in English)

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  3. Thank you. She reminds me of Edna St. Vincent Millay sometimes- especially in her sonnet sequences like Trista Tenereco which, by the way, I tried to translate before I just gave up. (Lines like Amato la unua! Mia fato just refuse to behave in English)

    ReplyDelete

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