Perseus

This week’s poem is by Simonides (number 543 in Campbell); it’s about Perseus and his mother, Danae.  Briefly, the context (since it’s a fragment) — Danae’s father heard a prophecy that Danae’s son would kill him, so he locked her in a tower.  This didn’t stop Zeus.  Once the child was born, he locked them in a chest and tossed it into the sea.  My translation:

. . . when, in the well-wrought chest,
both the blowings of the wind
and the disturbed sea threw her down
into terror, not without unwetted eyes
did she throw her dear arm around Perseus
and say, “O child, what a struggle I have;

“But you sleep, in your young
character you sleep, stretched
in this joyless, brass-rivetted plank
shining in the night
in the dark gloom:
you do not care about the deep sea-water
above your head with the present swell,
nor the voice of the wind,
lying in a purple mantle,
beautiful face.
If the terrible is, indeed, terrible to you,
and you attend your delicate ear
to my words.

“I beseech your, sleep baby,
let the sea sleep, let unmeasured evil sleep:
may some change of mind appear,
Father Zeus, from you:
thus I pray a daring word
if apart from justice,
forgive me.”

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