The Eternal Autumn of Your Smile: A Love Note

Philostratus, Letters 51

To Kleonide*,

“Sappho adores the rose and always adorns the flower with praise, even comparing beautiful girls to it. And she also likens it to the arms of the Graces when they are bare up to the elbows.

The rose, even if it is the most beautiful of the flowers, has but a brief season—for it follows other flowers which blossom in the spring.

But your charm is always in bloom—this is how the autumn of your beauty still smiles like the spring in your eyes and on your cheeks.”


Ἡ Σαπφὼ τοῦ ῥόδου ἐρᾷ καὶ στεφανοῖ αὐτὸ ἀεί τινι ἐγκωμίῳ τὰς καλὰς τῶν παρθένων ἐκείνῳ ὁμοιοῦσα, ὁμοιοῖ δὲ αὐτὸ καὶ τοῖς τῶν Χαρίτων πήχεσιν ἐπειδὰν ἀποδύσῃ σφῶν τὰς ὠλένας. ἐκεῖνο μὲν οὖν, εἰ καὶ κάλλιστον ἀνθέων, βραχὺ τὴν ὥραν, παρέπεται γὰρ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐννεάσαν τῷ ἦρι. τὸ δὲ σὸν εἶδος ἀεὶ τέθηλεν· ὅθεν ὀφθαλμοῖς ἐμμειδιᾷ καὶ παρειαῖς οἷόν τι ἔαρ τὸ μετόπωρον τοῦ κάλλους.

*One MS glosses the addressee as πόρνῃ (a prostitute) others merely as γυναικί (a woman)

Greek Anthology, 5.26

“If I saw you shining with dark hair
Or at another time with blond locks, mistress,
The same grace would gleam from both.
Love will make its home in your hair even when it’s gray.”

Εἴτε σε κυανέῃσιν ἀποστίλβουσαν ἐθείραις,
εἴτε πάλιν ξανθαῖς εἶδον, ἄνασσα, κόμαις,
ἴση ἀπ’ ἀμφοτέρων λάμπει χάρις. ἦ ῥά γε ταύταις
θριξὶ συνοικήσει καὶ πολιῇσιν ῎Ερως.

 Bruges, 1475, Add MS 20698, f. 73r

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