Illustraton of cupid


Ode to love

From Sophocles’s Antigone, translated by Gabriela Garcia, Class of 2023.

Ἔρως ἀνίκατε μάχαν,
Ἔρως, ὃς ἐν κτήμασι πίπτεις,
ὃς ἐν μαλακαῖς παρειαῖς
νεάνιδος ἐννυχεύεις,
φοιτᾷς δʼ ὑπερπόντιος ἔν τʼ
ἀγρονόμοις αὐλαῖς·
καί σʼ οὔτʼ ἀθανάτων φύξιμος οὐδεὶς
οὔθʼ ἁμερίων σέ γʼ ἀν-
θρώπων. ὁ δʼ ἔχων μέμηνεν.
σὺ καὶ δικαίων ἀδίκους
φρένας παρασπᾷς ἐπὶ λώβᾳ,
σὺ καὶ τόδε νεῖκος ἀνδρῶν
ξύναιμον ἔχεις ταράξας·
νικᾷ δʼ ἐναργὴς βλεφάρων
ἵμερος εὐλέκτρου
νύμφας, τῶν μεγάλων πάρεδρος ἐν ἀρχαῖς
θεσμῶν. ἄμαχος γὰρ ἐμ-
παίζει θεὸς Ἀφροδίτα.

Eros, unbeatable in battle,
Eros, you who destroy possessions,
you who stand sentry by
young girls’ gentle cheeks
and roam overseas to
pastoral courts:
nobody, neither immortals
nor mortals that live for but a day
can escape you:
he that has you is driven mad.
And you lead just minds
astray to injustice on top of ruin;
and you have stirred up
this strife between kinsmen;
and palpable longing in the eyes
of a happily-bedded bride
prevails: it is an accomplice of great laws,
for the unconquerable god
Aphrodite toys with her living pawns.

Translator’s Note

Even though Sophocles’s Antigone has long been one of my favorite Greek plays, I have always found myself frustrated with some aspect or another of the translations I have read. In this translation of the “Ode to Love,” I try to bring the vivid life (really, animus, if you will pardon the expression) of the Greek across into English using relatively sparse diction that allows it to shine through. I occasionally employ literal translation (e.g. “happily-bedded” for εὐλέτρου) to highlight cultural aspects of the text (in this case, ancient Athenian marital customs) that tend to fall through the cracks in other translations.

I did not try to emulate the original iambic trimeter of the Greek, but I do try to keep a natural-feeling rhythm throughout. Though this choice departs from the original musical nature of this ode, I feel that, in this brief passage, a shift from choral lyric to a more textual poetic form is appropriate. 

Sophocles, Antigone (London, New York: W. Heinemann, The Macmillan Co., 1912), Perseus Digital Library (accessed December 6, 2022). English translation originally appeared in Animus Classics Journal, Spring 2022. Used with permission.