06 October 2013

Cavafy's little gods: three versions

by C. P. Cavafy, 1909

All the little household gods

Have started crying . . .W. H. Auden


Eagles of coral
adorn the ebony bed
where Nero lies fast asleep --
callous, happy, peaceful,
in the prime of his body's strength,
in the fine vigor of youth.

But in the alabaster hall that holds
the ancient shrine of the Aenobarbi
how restless the household deities!
The little gods tremble
and try to hide their insignificant bodies.
They've heard a terrible sound,
a deadly sound coming up the stairs,
iron footsteps that shake the staircase;
and, faint with fear, the miserable Lares
scramble to the back of the shrine,
shoving each other and stumbling,
one little god falling over another.
because they know what kind of sound that is,
know by now the footsteps of the Furies.

            Trans. E. Keeley & P. Sherrard


On an ebony bed, ornamented
with coral eagles, sound asleep, lies
Nero -- unconscious, quiet and blissful,
flourishing in the vigor of the flesh
and in the splendid strength of youth.

But in the alabaster hall enclosing
the ancient shrine of the Aenobarbi
how restive are his Lares.
The small household gods tremble
and they try to hide their insignificant bodies.
For they heard a sinister clamor,
a deathly clamor ascending the stairs;
iron footsteps rattling the stairs.
And now in a faint the miserable Lares
bury themselves in the rear of the shrine;
one tumbles and stumbles over the toher,
one little god falls over the other
for they understand what sort of clamor this is,
by now they already know the Furies' footsteps.

           Trans. Rae Dalven


On an ebony bed that is adorned
with eagles made of coral, Nero sleeps
deeply -- heedless, calm, and happy;
flush in the prime of the flesh,
and in the beautiful vigor of youth.

But in the alabaster hall that holds
the ancient shrine of the Ahenobarbi
how uneasy are his Lares!
The little household gods are trembling,
trying to hide their slight bodies.
For they've heard a ghastly sound,
a fatal sound mounting the stairs,
footsteps of iron that rattle the steps.
And, faint with fear now, the pathetic Lares,
wriggle their way to the back of the shrine;
each jostles the other and stumbles
each little god falls over the other
because they've understood what kind of sound it is,
have come to know by now the Erinyes' footsteps.

           Trans. D. Mendelsohn


Σ´ἐβένινο κρεββάτι στολισμένο
με1 κοραλλένιους ἐετούς, βαθυὰ κοιμᾶται
ὁ Νέρων ‒ ἀσυνείδητος, ἧσυχος, κ´ευ"τυχής·
ἀκμαῖος μὲς στὴν εὐρωστία τῆς σαρκός,
καὶ στῆσς νεότητος τ´ὡραῖο σφρῖγος.

Άλλὰ στὴν αἴθουσα τὴν ἀλαβάτρινη ποὺ κλείνει
τῶν Άηνοβάρβων τὸ ἀρχαῖο λαράριο
τί ἀνήσυχοι ποὺ εῖν´ οἱ Λάρητές του.
Τρέμουν οἱ σπιτικοὶ μικροὶ θεοί,
καὶ προσπαθοῦν τ´ ἀσήμαντά των σώματα νὰ κρύψουν.
Γιατὶ ἄκουσαν μια1 ἀπαίσια βοή,
θανάσιμη βοὴ τὴν σκάλα ν´ἀνεβαίνει,
βέματα σιδερένια ποὺ τραντάζουν τὰ σκαλιά.
Καὶ λιγοθυμισμένοι τώπα οἱ ἄ1λιοι Λάρετες,
μέσα στὸ Βάθος τοῦ λαράριους χώνονται,
ὁ ἕνας τὸν ἄλλονα σκουντᾶ καὶ σκουντουφλᾶ,
ὁ ἕνας μικρὸς θεὸς πάνω στὸν ἄλλον πέφτει
γιατὶ κατάλαβαν τί εἵδομ βοὴ εἶναι τούτη,

τἄνοιωααν πιὰ τὰ βήματα των Ἐριννύων.

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