“Two Beautiful Girls”: The Song of Achilles and Deidamia

I really wish antiquity had bequeathed to us this entire poem…

Bion, The Wedding song of Achilles and Deidamia

Mursôn
Lukidas, will you sing me some sweet Sicilian song,
A love song full of sweetness and longing—the very kind
The Kyklôps Polyphemos once sang on the shore for Galatea?

Lucidas
I’d love to play too, Myrsôn, but what should I sing?

Mursôn
The love story of Skyros, which you used to be praised for singing,
Peleus’ son’s secret kisses, his secret love affair,
how the boy dressed in a robe to disguise his form
And how among those daughters of Lucomêdes who had no worries
Dêidameia knew Achilles in her bedroom.

Lucidas
When the cowboy Paris kidnapped Helen and took her to Ida
It was terrible for Oinônê. And Sparta was filled with rage,
Enough to gather the whole Achaean host—no Greek
From Mycenaea or Elis or Sparta was staying
At his own home to flee miserable Ares.

But Achilles all alone escaped notice among the daughters of Lykomêdes
Where he learned about weaving instead of weapons
And held a maiden’s tools in his white hand—he looked just like a girl.
For he acted as feminine as the daughters did—the bloom
Which reddened on his white cheeks was as great, he walked
With a maiden’s step, and he covered his hair with a veil.

But he possessed a man’s heart and he had a man’s lust too.
From dawn until dusk he used to sit next to Deidameia—
Then he used to kiss her hands and often he would
Lift the fine warp and compliment her intricate weaving,
He never ate with another friend and did everything he could
To get her to sleep with him. He actually used to say this to her,

“Other sisters sleep in bed with one another,
But I sleep alone and you, princess, you sleep alone.
We are two girls of the same age, two beautiful girls,
But we sleep along in separate beds—that wicked
Space keeps me carefully distant from you…”

ΜΥΡΣΩΝ
Λῇς νύ τί μοι, Λυκίδα, Σικελὸν μέλος ἁδὺ λιγαίνειν,
ἱμερόεν γλυκύθυμον ἐρωτικόν, οἷον ὁ Κύκλωψ
ἄεισεν Πολύφαμος ἐπ’ ᾐόνι <τᾷ> Γαλατείᾳ;

ΛΥΚΙΔΑΣ
κἠμοὶ συρίσδεν, Μύρσων, φίλον, ἀλλὰ τί μέλψω;

ΜΥΡΣΩΝ
Σκύριον <ὅν>, Λυκίδα, ζαλώμενος ᾆδες ἔρωτα,
λάθρια Πηλεΐδαο φιλάματα, λάθριον εὐνάν,
πῶς παῖς ἕσσατο φᾶρος, ὅπως δ’ ἐψεύσατο μορφάν,
χὤπως ἐν κώραις Λυκομηδίσιν οὐκ ἀλεγοίσαις
ἠείδη κατὰ παστὸν Ἀχιλλέα Δηιδάμεια.

ΛΥΚΙΔΑΣ
ἅρπασε τὰν Ἑλέναν πόθ’ ὁ βωκόλος, ἆγε δ’ ἐς Ἴδαν,
Οἰνώνῃ κακὸν ἄλγος. ἐχώσατο <δ’> ἁ Λακεδαίμων
πάντα δὲ λαὸν ἄγειρεν Ἀχαϊκόν, οὐδέ τις Ἕλλην,
οὔτε Μυκηναίων οὔτ’ Ἤλιδος οὔτε Λακώνων,
μεῖνεν ἑὸν κατὰ δῶμα φυγὼν δύστανον Ἄρηα.
λάνθανε δ’ ἐν κώραις Λυκομηδίσι μοῦνος Ἀχιλλεύς,
εἴρια δ’ ἀνθ’ ὅπλων ἐδιδάσκετο, καὶ χερὶ λευκᾷ
παρθενικὸν κόρον εἶχεν, ἐφαίνετο δ’ ἠύτε κώρα·
καὶ γὰρ ἴσον τήναις θηλύνετο, καὶ τόσον ἄνθος
χιονέαις πόρφυρε παρηίσι, καὶ τὸ βάδισμα
παρθενικῆς ἐβάδιζε, κόμας δ’ ἐπύκαζε καλύπτρῃ.
θυμὸν δ’ ἀνέρος εἶχε καὶ ἀνέρος εἶχεν ἔρωτα·
ἐξ ἀοῦς δ’ ἐπὶ νύκτα παρίζετο Δηιδαμείᾳ,
καὶ ποτὲ μὲν τήνας ἐφίλει χέρα, πολλάκι δ’ αὐτᾶς
στάμονα καλὸν ἄειρε τὰ δαίδαλα δ’ ἄτρι’ ἐπῄνει·
ἤσθιε δ’ οὐκ ἄλλᾳ σὺν ὁμάλικι, πάντα δ’ ἐποίει
σπεύδων κοινὸν ἐς ὕπνον. ἔλεξέ νυ καὶ λόγον αὐτᾷ·
“ἄλλαι μὲν κνώσσουσι σὺν ἀλλήλαισιν ἀδελφαί,
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ μούνα, μούνα δὲ σύ, νύμφα, καθεύδεις.
αἱ δύο παρθενικαὶ συνομάλικες, αἱ δύο καλαί,
ἀλλὰ μόναι κατὰ λέκτρα καθεύδομες, ἁ δὲ πονηρά
†νύσσα† δολία με κακῶς ἀπὸ σεῖο μερίσδει.
οὐ γὰρ ἐγὼ σέο. . . . .”

What was Achilles’ name when he was living as a girl?

Achilles on Skyros, 1656 painting by Nicolas Poussin

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