Simon Raven – poet and Greek scholar

Found - in a 1949 Cambridge University magazine Imprint, very early work of the British novelist Simon Raven. This is the first issue of the magazine, edited by J.M. Grundy of Caius College (Raven was at King's College in his second year after completing National Service.) Raven contributes 2 translations from The Greek Anthology by anonymous authors. There is much mention of Greek literature and mythology in his subsequent novels, especially in his magnum opus The Roses of Picardie. His first novel The Feathers of Death was published nine years after these translations:

TWO POEMS  (translated from the Greek of unknown authors)
Who garlands for my tomb,
Who scented oils will bring,
Who feeds high the fire,
Makes vain offering.

While yet I live, be kind;
No wine on ashes pour -
Thus only mire is made of him
That's dead and drinks no more.

Nymphs and cold pastures, this
Tale the bees must hear
This tell them as they wander
The spring ways of the year:

That old Leucippus perished
Under a winter's sky,
Laying his nets at midnight
Where the light-foot hare goes by.

His care of hive and garden
Has with him an end:
The peak has now no neighbour,
The meadows mourn a friend.

The themes of death and mourning are addressed by him in a later piece 'Memento Mori' at The Spectator where he quotes his own translation. It is interesting to compare his translation of the second piece with an earlier prose translation by the classical scholar J W Mackail:

Naiads and chill cattle-pastures, tell to the bees when they come on their spring-tide way, that old Leucippus perished on a winter's night, setting snares for scampering hares, and no longer is the tending of the hives dear to him; and the pastoral dells mourn sore for him who dwelt with the mountain peak for neighbour.

One thought on “Simon Raven – poet and Greek scholar

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks for putting this up. A fine translation by dear Simon but have a feeling some of the sense is very slightly lost in the Leucippus one with the mention of nets – as it brings to mind fishing, despite the light-foot hare (beautiful words). Old Mackail's 'setting snares for scampering hares' is pretty good too.


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