“With Noiseless Footstep Coming Down”: Another Greek Christian Epigram

It’s Monday, and we’re back with another poem from Book 1 of the Greek Anthology.

This week’s poem, Greek Anthology 1.37, is a two line epigram consisting of a single elegiac couplet on the birth of Christ. (A little out of season, perhaps; but, then again, the Incarnation is never out of season.) My “translation” is a bit…different. My version is once again longer–six lines instead of two–and is in rhymed iambic tetrameters with the rhyme-scheme AABCCB.

By expanding the poem, I’ve tried to draw out the poet’s contrast between the smash and bang of the wonders and portents of nature on the one hand, and the hushed, quiet arrival of the Savior in the Virgin’s womb. As the hymn puts it, “How silently, how silently/the wondrous gift is giv’n!”

Anyway, enough. Here is the poem.

First in Greek:

Σάλπιγγες, στεροπαί, γαῖα τρέμει· ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ μήτρην

παρθενικὴν κατέβης ἄψοφον ἴχνος ἔχων.

The Loeb translation:

Trumpets! Lightnings! The earth trembles! But into the virgin womb you descended with noiseless tread.

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

My metrical “translation”:

Loud peals of thunder! Lightning flash!

An earthquake with its grind and crash!

Earth’s storms come with a trumpet’s sound.

Not so your advent, Holy Child,

To Virgin Mother, meek and mild,

With noiseless footstep coming down.


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