As Pure As Ever

Euripides, Hippolytus. 73-87.

Hippolytus’s prayer to Artemis:

I bring you, mistress, this plaited garland
I have fashioned from an untouched meadow.
No shepherd leads his animals there to graze,
And iron has never been there. Instead–
The spring bee crosses the untouched meadow,
And Reverence nurtures it with flowing waters.

Not those who’ve been taught, but those who by nature
Possess equal modesty in all things
May pick flowers there. Bad men may not.
So, dear mistress, from my pious hand
Accept this wreath for your golden hair.

I am the sole mortal with this honor:
I am in your presence and speak with you,
Hearing your voice, though not seeing your face.
May I finish my life as I began it.

σοὶ τόνδε πλεκτὸν στέφανον ἐξ ἀκηράτου
λειμῶνος, ὦ δέσποινα, κοσμήσας φέρω,
ἔνθ’ οὔτε ποιμὴν ἀξιοῖ φέρβειν βοτὰ
οὔτ’ ἦλθέ πω σίδαρος, ἀλλ’ ἀκήρατον
μέλισσα λειμῶν’ ἠρινὴ διέρχεται,
Αἰδὼς δὲ ποταμίαισι κηπεύει δρόσοις·
ὅσοις διδακτὸν μηδέν, ἀλλ’ ἐν τῇ φύσει
τὸ σωφρονεῖν εἴληχεν ἐς τὰ πάνθ’ ὁμῶς,
τούτοις δρέπεσθαι, τοῖς κακοῖσι δ’ οὐ θέμις.
ἀλλ’, ὦ φίλη δέσποινα, χρυσέας κόμης
ἀνάδημα δέξαι χειρὸς εὐσεβοῦς ἄπο.
μόνῳ γάρ ἐστι τοῦτ’ ἐμοὶ γέρας βροτῶν·
σοὶ καὶ ξύνειμι καὶ λόγοις ἀμείβομαι,
κλύων μὲν αὐδήν, ὄμμα δ’ οὐχ ὁρῶν τὸ σόν.
τέλος δὲ κάμψαιμ’ ὥσπερ ἠρξάμην βίου.

Color picture of an oil painting self portrait of the artist Max Beckman, mostly in yellow tones with his arms crossed.
Max Beckmann.
Self-Portrait Yellow-Pink.
1943. Private Collection.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

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