The Soul’s Bloody Doorposts: A Greek Epigram on the Passover

I haven’t posted a verse translation On Here in a while (since April 25th, in fact), and am trying to get back into it. So I have one for today, again from the first book of the Greek Anthology (1.57).

The poem is a nice example of figural reading, taking the historical Passover in Exodus with its detail of doorposts marked with blood and applying it to the soul of the individual Christian over whom death shall have no dominion. I’ve extended the figured image in a eucharistic direction, which seems fair given the nature of, well, the Bible, though my translation can also easily be taken in a John-6 direction, which is not (in my opinion) about the Lord’s Supper. In any case, the two are easily harmonizable, so it can also be read as both, though it was the first that was foremost in my mind (not that anyone wants to look in there).

My version is in two sets of rhymed iambic pentameters (AABB). I give the Greek text according to the Loeb edition, the Loeb translation, and my version.

The Greek text:

Εἰς τὸν ἀμνὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ

Ψυχῆς ἐν φλιῇσιν ἐμῆς σωτήριον αἷμα

   ἀμνοῦ· ὀλοθρεύων, φεῦγε, μὴ ἐγγὺς ἴθι.

The Loeb translation:

On the doorposts of my soul is the saving blood of the lamb. Away, destroyer; do not come near.

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

My version:

On the Lamb of God

The doorposts of my soul are marked with blood,

The saving blood of God, the Lamb of God.

Pass over me, Destroying Angel, flee;

With haste I’ve eaten Christ and now am free.


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