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Saturday, 5 February 2011

Έν τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ πατρός μου...

Saint Athanasios in Ano Korakiana
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
A good priest reads those words at funerals, pausing before the sweet reassurance "I would have told you." Too sensibly the word 'mansions' from John 14:2 in the King James has been altered in recent times to 'rooms.' The Greek is written:
Ἰωάννην 14·2: Έν τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ πατρός μου μοναὶ πολλαί εἰσιν· εἰ δὲ μὴ, εἶπον ἂν ὑμῖν ὅτι πορεύομαι ἑτοιμάσαι τόπον ὑμῖν; 

It seemed a little odd to some twentieth century translators to have 'mansions' inside a 'house' and old Greek did lend itself to treating ti eekia tou patros mou [τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ πατρός μου = my father's house] as being the same as monee polla [μοναὶ πολλα = many lodgings, dwelling-places, rooms, abodes, mansions]. So it made sense to translate this 'in my father's house are many rooms', so John's words lost their playful resonance. And yet at least one modern version seems more accurate than King James in that it notes the Greek question mark at the end of the verse - ;
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
That gentle interrogative rings through time, like a clasp; a small and gentle touch in the midst of grief.
Saint Isadoros above Ano Korakiana, Corfu
*** ***
Around 2.30 on Sunday morning Linda drove Richard and Emma to the coach stop in town where they could catch the bus to the Highlands. They should be at my mother's house by noon to stay in the Highlands where it still snows, while here we hear for a third day wind gusting across the city houses. I've made lists for packing though we plan to take only hand baggage, to fly to Venice then take a ship - Sofoklis Venizelos - south down the Adriatic to Igoumenitsa, then Corfu and from Democracy Street we'll gaze - που με τι ευχαρίστησι, με τι χαρά - across the narrow sea to mother Greece, the olived hill of the Prophet Elias marking the closer boundary of our village.
Far off like floating seeds the ships...

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Simon Baddeley