RV reading

thillaud at unice.fr thillaud at unice.fr
Mon Feb 24 13:41:29 UTC 1997

George Thompson wrote:

>To translate go' as "sun-ray" in a passage like 4.1.13-17, where the
>goddess USas is compared to a milk-cow [dhenu'] and is said to be the
>mother of the "cows", is to completely overlook the poet's use of metaphor.
>While an *interpretation* of the word go' in this passage as a reference
>to sun-rays may be reasonable, a *translation* of go' as "sun-ray" not only
>would be wrong; it would also result in the distortion, in fact the total
>loss, of the richly allusive, metaphorical language of the hymn.
>By the way, I'm not *on principle* against symbolic interpretations; I just
>am suspicious when they abandon their ties to the literal.
        I agree with his whole mail, except a small reserve about the use
of the word 'metaphor'. We are not here in a profan text, but in a
religious, mythological one. The correspondance 'Agni / fire' is not the
same as 'snow / white curtain'. The last is logos, the first is muthos:
Agni IS fire, not like fire. We are all in a deep fascination when seeing a
fire, this alogic fascination has here a name: Agni.
        I believe we can't explain completely muthos with logos, and
'symbolic interpretations' are just an other try to describe muthos with
logos. That's just a reduction, like psychoanalysis. And, as George says it
very well, the poetic form is essential to understand the mythos.
        When Sophokles in Oidipous turannos is the first to say Iocaste is
the mother of Oedipus, I think he use muthos to talk about muthos.
        Our analysis of RV are descriptive, establishing correspondances,
but not explanations. So it is important to translate it exactly, searching
hardly a new mythopoetic (muthopoiein) in our languages.
        To understand someone, don't try to make him like you, but you like him!

Dominique Thillaud - Universite de Nice - Sophia Antipolis
email : thillaud at unice.fr

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