“Unwound My Wounded Soul”: An Epigram on the Crucifixion

It’s Monday, and I have a new epigram to share.

Last time, we had a version of Greek Anthology 1.53 on the Passover. This time, I present to you Greek Anthology 1.54 on the Crucifixion. It would have been nice to have this up on Good Friday, of course; but, on the other hand, the topic is never out of season.

1.54 is a powerful little poem, consisting of one elegiac couplet, in which Christ’s suffering, cross, and blood are directly addressed and asked to wash the speaker’s soul of ἀτασθαλίην [atasthaliēn], a Homeric word that means “presumptuous sin” or “recklessness.”

I’ve expanded the poem slightly to make two couplets of alternating iambic pentameters and tetrameters in an ABCB pattern.

As usual, I give the Greek text according to the Loeb edition; the Loeb translation; and my version.

The Greek text:

Εἰς τὴν σταύρωσιν

Ὦ πάθος, ὦ σταυρός, παθέων ἐλατήριον αἷμα,

   πλῦνον ἐμῆς ψυχῆς πᾶσαν ἀτασθαλίην.

The Loeb translation:

O suffering, O cross, O blood that drives out suffering, cleanse my soul from all wickedness.

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

My version:

On the Crucifixion

O suffering, O cross, O blood, O Christ,

   Who put all suffering to flight:

All my rash evil wash away; unwound

   My wounded soul through thy wounds’ plight. 


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