Aesthetic Realism Online Library Poetry


 
 
 

At Thermopylae, By Simonides of Ceos
           
                  Translation by Eli Siegel 

O stranger, tell the Lacedaemonians
That we lie here, true to their laws.



From THE POEMS LOOKED AT: or, NOTES

At Thermopylae, By Simonides of Ceos. 1967. The two lines of Simonides of Ceos, translated here, have been translated often. I felt that free verse, casual and falling carefully, might do something useful with the Greek. There is a high, sharp sadness in "O stranger," followed by an inevitable request in the Greek; and this I aim for, in the first line. In the second line there is the lasting submission of "That we lie here," followed by the large pride of "true to their laws." Government and pathos merge delicately and mightily in the second line. And as the Lacedaemonians are told, the telling goes on to and for everyone—for the everyone of now, the person of now. Simonides shows us this is how he saw it; this is how, as poet, he desired it.


From Hail, American Development (Definition Press)
© 1968 by Eli Siegel


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