“Can’t Hold [This] Back Anymore”: “Let it Go” in Ancient Greek, Part 1

The last few weeks–indeed, the last 18 months or so–have been generally stressful. So why not distract ourselves with a spirited debate about how to put “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen into Ancient Greek? This has been done before, but I find the translation generally uninspiring even if the performance is superb.

The following is the result of discussions at the end of a prose composition course. I considered trying t put it in meter, but unlike our friends in the UK, we don’t get much practice in this in the US. In fact, we don’t do much composition at all. (My sole experience was in a graduate composition course with the wonderful Hardy Hansen). The following is a work in progress. Please, post your responses, suggestions, complaints. But, please, consult the translation commentary first. Then, ἐρρέτω.

 ἡ μὲν χιὼν τῇδε νυκτ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ὄρει λευκῶς λαμπρύνεται·
ἐστ᾽ ἔτ᾽οὐδὲν ἴχνος τὸ φανερόν.
ἐν τῇ δὲ τῆς ἐρημίας ἀρχῇ
ἐμ᾿ ἄρα ποτνί᾽ εἶναι δοκεῖ.

ὁ δ᾿ ἄνεμος ὥσπερ ὅδε χείμων ἔνδον ἀναστρέφων ὀλολύζει 5
[τὸνδε] οὐχ οἵη τ᾽ εἰμι κατέχειν,
νὴ τοὺς Θεοὺς, ἱέμενή περ·

μὴ εἰσελθόντων·
μὴ ἰδόντων
ἴσθι ἐκείνη καλὴ κόρη ἣ ἀεὶ δεῖ σοι εἶναι.     10
κρύψασα τι μὴ ἔχε,
καὶ μὴ μαθόντων–
εἴεν νῦν μανθάνουσιν.

ἐρρέτω, ἐρρέτω
οὐκέτι οἵη τ᾽ εἰμι κατέχειν                                 15
ἐρρέτω, ἐρρέτω
ἀποτρεψαμένη μὲν πάκτου τὴν θύρα,
οὐ δὲ φροντίς μοι
τὰ [ύπὸ ἐκείνων] λεχθησόμενα
μαινέσθω ὁ χείμων,
ὁ ῥὰ ψύχος οὐδέπω μοι μέλει.                           20

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen,
A kingdom of isolation,
and it looks like I’m the Queen.
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside 5
Couldn’t keep it in;
Heaven knows I’ve tried
Don’t let them in,
don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be 10
Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore 15
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway 20

[There is another verse and a bridge. So, some day, maybe I will post it…]

Some Notes

1. We considered ἡ νῦν/μὲν/ῥᾶ for the opening and καίει/λάμπει for the verb. There was division about the comparatively rare adverbial λευκῶς vs a predicative λευκή. Adverbial neuters were also on the table.

2. I suggested a genitive absolute here and am not completely convinced by the combination ἐστ᾽ ἔτ᾽ οὐδὲν ἴχνος τὸ φανερόν.

3. Originally students went with what I guess is a nominative absolute (ἡ δὲ τῆς ἐρημίας ἀρχὴ), but I was uncomfortable with the lack of syntactic connection, so I modified it. The adjective should probably be dative, but I guess we went for a genitive of description like the English.

4. We debated using φαίνομαι for the verb and βασιλὶς for the noun, but ποτνία carries a much stronger resonance with semi-divine power in the wilderness. Originally I had ἐγ᾿ ἄρα ποτνί᾽ εἶναι δοκῶ, but the elision is pretty severe. I took the current line from a friend on Twitter.

5. I was thinking about using κυλίνδων instead of ἀναστρέφων to recall Alcaeus fr. 326 (ἀσυννέτημμι τὼν ἀνέμων στάσιν/ τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἔνθεν κῦμα κυλίνδεται). But I like the use of the latter at Euripides Helen 1557 for a rolling eye (ἀλλ’ ἐξεβρυχᾶτ’ ὄμμ’ ἀναστρέφων κύκλωι).

6. There are many ways to do this. One clever suggestion altered the meaning a bit with ἄν μὴ κρύπτοιμι (but maintained the sense of Elsa as a dangerous goddess, cf. Calypso). Various impersonal constructions were considered.

7. This phrase was a little difficult. The student consensus was something likeοἱ θεοὶ εἴδονται μ᾽ ἐπιχειρεῖν, which might be better. But I wanted a concessive participle clause with an oath. “Heaven knows” is an English idiom which we just leveled out to “by the gods”. This might not be the best choice. We considered ἐπιχειρησαμένη/πειρασαμένη for the participle and both are probably better, but on a whim I went with ἱέμενή περ to echo Odyssey 1.6 (ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὧς ἑτάρους ἐρρύσατο, ἱέμενός περ·)

8-9. After considering other options, I went for the third person imperatives because they echo the Lord’s Prayer. I am conflicted about putting a subject in for the “they”. I chose not to.

10. We considered the imperative and infinitive: ἴσθι/εἶναι. I am not convinced that ἣ ἀεὶ χρῆ σοι εἶναι is the best way to do it. We considered ἀεὶ ἐσομένη and δεῖ.

14. I have thought this was the best way to translate “Let it go” for a while for a few reasons. For one, I think Elsa is really saying “fuck it” and that Archilochus’ shield poem best echoes this (5.4: ἐρρέτω· ἐξαῦτις κτήσομαι οὐ κακίω). Cf. Il. 20.349; Od. 5.139.

15-16. There are probably many better options for this.

17. οὐ δὲ φροντίς μοι: This is all about Hippocleides not caring. The δέ is not absolutely necessarily, but I didn’t want that previous μέν to be all solitary.

18. I went back and forth about this line, but if we are going to use οὐ δὲ φροντίς μοι in the previous, then, strictly speak, “what they are going to say” is a subject. I considered keeping it singular, ὅ τι ἐκείνοι λέγωσιν with the subjunctive for the indefinite clause.

19. I was distracted by what “let the storm rage on” means here. A student suggested θυμούτω, but I wanted something that was more externally destructive and out of control. So, I chose Μαινέσθω based on Il. 14.605-606 (μαίνετο δ’ ὡς ὅτ’ ῎Αρης ἐγχέσπαλος ἢ ὀλοὸν πῦρ / οὔρεσι μαίνηται βαθέης ἐν τάρφεσιν ὕλης·) For this form, see John Chrystostom: α′. Πολλὰ τὰ κύματα καὶ χαλεπὸν τὸ κλυδώνιον· ἀλλ’ οὐ δεδοίκαμεν, μὴ καταποντισθῶμεν· ἐπὶ γὰρ τῆς πέτρας ἑστήκαμεν. Μαινέσθω ἡ θάλασσα, πέτραν διαλῦσαι οὐ δύναται· ἐγειρέσθω τὰ κύματα, τοῦ ᾿Ιη-

20 For this, students suggested οὔ ἀμελῶς μοι φροντις περὶ τοῦ ψύχους. I don’t hate it. But I wanted something punchier.

There is a scholar in the UK who translates Disney songs into Latin and Greek much more competently:

Image result for Disney's frozen in Greek movie poster

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