Friday, May 6, 2011

revealed truths versus involved terms

from The Aeneid, Book 6, lines (approx) 100-106:

Robert Fitzgerald's trans:

............. These were the sentences
In which the Sibyl of Cumae from her shrine
Sang out her riddles, echoing in the cave,
Dark sayings muffling truths, the way Apollo
Pulled her up raging, or else whipped her on,
Digging the spurs beneath her breast. . . .

John Dryden's version:

Thus, from the dark recess, the Sibyl spoke,
And the resisting air the thunder broke;
The cave rebellow'd, and the temple shook.
Th'ambiguous god, who rul'd her lab'ring breast,
In these mysterious words his mind express'd;
Some truths reveal'd, in terms involv'd the rest.


Apollo presumedly expresses his mind as he wishes,
being a god. When he wants to speak truths, he does,
and when he wants to speak what,—mysteries? dark sayings?
ambiguities?—when he wants to speak the latter, he
does that too: presumably he knows the difference between
"truths" and "terms" and when he speaks he is consciously
choosing to use one or the either, given his olympian
powers. . .

Ein Gott vermaggs. Wie aber, sag mir, soll
ein Mann ihm folgen durch die schmale Leier? (Rilke)

A god can do it. But how, tell me, shall
a man follow him through the stringent lyre?

Involved in terms, wrung in the contorted serpent
ingenuities of his own terms, how can the poet speak
truths when truths and terms seem so irreconcilable,
and how would he even know when and where and with
what power his lab'ring breast was ruled, if his terms
could express truths, assuming he even wanted them to. . . .