Commitments in the Absence of a Notary

Meleager 5.8 (Greek Anthology)

Holy Night and Lamp,
We took no other witnesses,
Except you two, for our oaths:
He to be content with me,
I never to desert him.
We swore, and you bore joint witness.
But those oaths, he now says, are written in water.
Lamp, that’s why you see him in the arms of others.

νὺξ ἱερὴ καὶ λύχνε, συνίστορας οὔτινας ἄλλους
ὅρκοις, ἀλλ᾽ ὑμέας, εἱλόμεθ᾽ ἀμφότεροι
χὠ μὲν ἐμὲ στέρξειν, κεῖνον δ᾽ ἐγὼ οὔ ποτε λείψειν
ὠμόσαμεν κοινὴν δ᾽ εἴχετε μαρτυρίην.
νῦν δ᾽ ὁ μὲν μὲν ὅρκια φησιν ἐν ὕδατι κεῖνα φέρεσθαι,
λύχνε, σὺ δ᾽ ἐν κόλποις αὐτὸν ὁρᾷς ἑτέρων.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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