“A More Than Heaven”: Another Greek Christian Epigram

We’re back with another Christian epigram from Book 1 of the Greek Anthology. This poem (Greek Anthology 1.38), like last week’s, is on the birth of Christ. Also, like last week’s, it consists of a single elegiac couplet.

This time, I decided to experiment a bit more and have translated the poem twice. In the first, I kept strictly to the two lines of the original, and for this I used a trochaic pentameter followed by a trochaic pentameter catalectic (i.e., a trochaic pentameter missing it’s final syllable).

The second is an expansion of the original that takes its inspiration from the Greek original, but introduces the opposition of hell and heaven, or fall and redemption, which is not present in the Greek poem. For this, I’ve used unrhymed iambic pentameters or blank verse.

So, in sum, below you will find: (1) the Greek text; (2) the Loeb translation; (3) my “strict” translation; (4) my expanded paraphrastic version.

The Greek text:

Οὐρανὸς ἡ φάτνη, καὶ οὐρανοῦ ἔπλετο μείζων·

    οὐρανὸς ἐργασίη τοῦδε πέλει βρέφεος.

The Loeb translation:

The manger was heaven—and greater than heaven. For heaven is the work of this baby.

Trans. W.R. Paton, rev. by Michael A. Tueller

My “strict” translation:

Heaven was the manger–more than heaven:

    Heaven is the work of this dear Child.

My expanded paraphrase:

Earth was a hell, but he who heaven made

Descended to the manger and made there

A more than heaven on this hellish earth–

A more than heaven, as he who creates

Is greater than whatever he creates.

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