I had the pleasure of having lunch last week-end with Keyne Cheshire, Carleton alum (from my very first Greek 101 class!) and professor at Davidson College. He told me he is working on a translation/adaptation of Sophocles’ Women of Trachis drawing on the idiom of the American West. He’s setting the choral ode to ballad-like tunes, with ukulele (and perhaps ultimately fiddle) accompaniment.
I was intrigued at this notion. The American West shares many of the mythic qualities of the heroic world (I mentioned in comments on the tragedy post below that I’ve frequently taught Unforgiven with the Iliad). Plus nifty dialect! So I asked him to send me some of what he had, and he gave me permission to post it here. I’ll embed his recording of one of the choral odes after the break, along with the lyrics. See what you think!
Lyrics (translated from the Greek by Keyne Cheshire)
You know there’s none so mighty as Aphrodite.
It’s she’s always takin’ the prize.
I won’t enumerate each one of the gods she’s undone.
I won’t mention the lord of our skies,
or how the god of the seas who makes our earth quake
was shaken to his knees with desire,
or how she laid low him who rules down below
where the darkness quenches life’s fire.
But I would like to know, who were they come to blows
in the hope that Deanna’d be their bride?
Amid all the fightin’ and the dust and excitement,
who were they that sought them that prize?
A river’s great might with horns o’ such height,
four-hoofed in the form of a bull,
down from Whiskeyville it came, and Sorrows was its name,
that shape-shiftin’ river of pain.
But straight outta Winetown, a gun in his hand,
and brandishin’ a club and a blade, was a man.
That son of God came there to do what he must,
beset by the behest of lust.
And in the midst of that pair who’d come to battle there,
all at the call of desire,
standin’ right there between ’em – oh, but hardly intervenin’ –
Aphrodite, she played the umpire!
Then came grapplin’, then came gunfire,
a blur of horns that gore.
Wrestlin’ holds and twistin’ throws,
snortin’ chargin’ poundin’ blows,
and from the frantic fray arose
a pair of anguished groans.
So meek, so fair, on a hilltop far from there,
sat Deanna, who waited for what husband she was fated,
so that I pause now to ponder the cause of all the strife:
the beauty that sat there and shuddered.
That piteous bride made a frightened young sight, like
a lonesome calf what’s been bereft of her mother.