Poems and Drugs: From Hesiod to R. M. Van Winkle

Hesiod, Theogony 93-104

Thanks to the Muses and far-shooting Apollo
People are singers and musicians across the land,
Though kings are from Zeus. The one the muses love
Is blessed. For a sweet voice flows from his mouth,
And if anyone has pain in a newly-aggrieved heart
and he chews over his thoughts in sorrow, then a singer,
the Muses’ assistant, will praise the famous deeds generations
before and then the gods who live on Olympos
and quickly that man will forget his troubles, he won’t remember
a bit of grief. The gifts of the gods change us quickly.”

ἐκ γάρ τοι Μουσέων καὶ ἑκηβόλου ᾿Απόλλωνος
ἄνδρες ἀοιδοὶ ἔασιν ἐπὶ χθόνα καὶ κιθαρισταί,
ἐκ δὲ Διὸς βασιλῆες· ὁ δ’ ὄλβιος, ὅντινα Μοῦσαι
φίλωνται· γλυκερή οἱ ἀπὸ στόματος ῥέει αὐδή.
εἰ γάρ τις καὶ πένθος ἔχων νεοκηδέι θυμῷ
ἄζηται κραδίην ἀκαχήμενος, αὐτὰρ ἀοιδὸς
Μουσάων θεράπων κλεῖα προτέρων ἀνθρώπων
ὑμνήσει μάκαράς τε θεοὺς οἳ ῎Ολυμπον ἔχουσιν,
αἶψ’ ὅ γε δυσφροσυνέων ἐπιλήθεται οὐδέ τι κηδέων
μέμνηται· ταχέως δὲ παρέτραπε δῶρα θεάων.

Schol. ad Hes. Th. 95

“men [are] singers: Here the poet teaches us learnedly since he means that men are singers and musicians thanks to the shared voice of the stars and the good course of the sun through the sky…”

ἄνδρες ἀοιδοί: ἐνταῦθα μαθηματικῶς διδάσκει καὶ λέγει ὅτι ἐκ τῆς συμφωνίας τῶν ἀστέρων καὶ τῆς ἀγαθῆς συνδρομῆς τοῦ ἡλίου γίνονται οἱ ἄνδρες σοφοὶ καὶ μουσικοί…

Vanilla Ice, “Ice Ice Baby”
“If my rhyme was a drug, I’d sell it by the gram”

giphy

Homer, Odyssey 4.219–232

“But then Zeus’ daughter Helen had different plans.
She immediately cast into the wine they were drinking a drug,
A pain neutrilizer and anger reducer, an eraser of all evils.
Whoever consumes this drug once it is mixed in the wine,
Could not let a single tear loose upon their cheeks for a whole day.
Not even if their mother or father died,
Nor again if they lost their brother and dear son,
Cut down by bronze right their in front of their own eyes.
These are the kinds of complex drugs, good ones, Zeus’s daughter
Possesses. Polydamna, the wife of Thôn, gave them to her
In Egypt where the fertile land grows the most drugs—
Many there are mixed fine; but many cause pain too.
Each man there is a doctor whose knowledge surpasses most men,
For they are the offspring of Paieon.”

ἔνθ’ αὖτ’ ἄλλ’ ἐνόησ’ ῾Ελένη Διὸς ἐκγεγαυῖα·
αὐτίκ’ ἄρ’ εἰς οἶνον βάλε φάρμακον, ἔνθεν ἔπινον,
νηπενθές τ’ ἄχολόν τε, κακῶν ἐπίληθον ἁπάντων.
ὃς τὸ καταβρόξειεν, ἐπὴν κρητῆρι μιγείη,
οὔ κεν ἐφημέριός γε βάλοι κατὰ δάκρυ παρειῶν,
οὐδ’ εἴ οἱ κατατεθναίη μήτηρ τε πατήρ τε,
οὐδ’ εἴ οἱ προπάροιθεν ἀδελφεὸν ἢ φίλον υἱὸν
χαλκῷ δηϊόῳεν, ὁ δ’ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῷτο.
τοῖα Διὸς θυγάτηρ ἔχε φάρμακα μητιόεντα,
ἐσθλά, τά οἱ Πολύδαμνα πόρεν, Θῶνος παράκοιτις,
Αἰγυπτίη, τῇ πλεῖστα φέρει ζείδωρος ἄρουρα
φάρμακα, πολλὰ μὲν ἐσθλὰ μεμιγμένα, πολλὰ δὲ λυγρά,
ἰητρὸς δὲ ἕκαστος ἐπιστάμενος περὶ πάντων
ἀνθρώπων· ἦ γὰρ Παιήονός εἰσι γενέθλης.

Image result for Apollo and Asclepius

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