Just the Facts

Here is a pairing of Hellenistic sepulchral epigrams with Felix Feneon’s 1906 “news in three lines” (nouvelles en trois lignes).

Feneon’s journalistic task was to relay a factual incident in no more than 130 characters. Perhaps we can look at the epigrams through Feneon’s “epigrammatic” style and see certain things more clearly than we otherwise might:  the uncomplicated X-happened-because-of-Y logic; the invitation to pure spectation and foreclosure of emotional involvement; and certainly, the foregrounding of the writerly discipline such productions require.

[1] The Roof’s Gone!

Antipater of Thessalonica 7.402 (Greek Anthology)

Because of winter snow melting on its roof,
The house fell down, killing the old woman, Lysidike.
Neighbors did not build a tomb with dug-up earth,
But made the house itself her grave.

Feneon 156.

Gas explosion in the home of Larrieu from Bordeaux.
He was injured. His mother-in-law’s hair caught fire.
The ceiling blew open.


[2] One Bad Step

Antipater of Thessalonica 7.398 (Greek Anthology)

I don’t know whether to fault Dionysus
Or blame Zeus’ rain, but both are tricky
For feet: once, coming down from the country
After a banquet, the grave seized Polyxenos
When he fell from a slippery hilltop.
Now he lies far from Aeolian Smyrna.
Take my advice, a drunk person in the dark
Should fear a wet path.

Feneon 688.

A misstep, at dusk, on the bridge
in Rue du Moulin, in Dontilly,
and Madame Louis Nourry drowned.

[3] Despair

Eutolmius Scholasticus 7.608 (Greek Anthology)

Mourning the death of her short-lived son,
Menippa poured out her life breath
Along with her booming dirge.
She would not have it back again
To weep when she drew breath.
No, she ended her lament and her life
At the same time.

Feneon 963.

Her daughter dead, her son far away,
Madame Boulet, from Buchet (commune of Buhy),
hanged herself in despair.

Antipater of Thessalonica 7.402 (Greek Anthology)

χειμερίου νιφετοῖο περὶ θριγκοῖσι τακέντος
δῶμα πεσὸν τὴν γραῦν ἔκτανε Λυσιδίκην
σῆμα δέ οἱ κωμῆται ὁμώλακες οὐκ ἀπ᾽ ὀρυκτῆς
γαίης, ἀλλ᾽ αὐτὸν πύργον ἔθεντο τάφον.

Feneon 156

Explosion de gaz chez le Bordelais Larrieu. Il fut blessé. Les cheveux de sa belle-mère flambèrent. Le plafond creva.

Antipater of Thessalonica 7.398 (Greek Anthology)

οὐκ οἶδ᾽ εἰ Διόνυσον ὀνόσσομαι, ἢ Διὸς ὄμβρον
μέμψομ᾽ ὀλισθηροὶ δ᾽ εἰς πόδας ἀμφότεροι.
ἀγρόθε γὰρ κατιόντα Πολύξενον ἔκ ποτε δαιτὸς
τύμβος ἔχει γλίσχρων ἐξεριπόντα λόφων
κεῖται δ᾽ Αἰολίδος Σμύρνης ἑκάς. ἀλλά τις ὄρφνης
δειμαίνοι μεθύων ἀτραπὸν ὑετίην.

Feneon 688

Un faux pas, à la brune, sur la passerelle du ru du Moulin, à Dontilly, et Mme Louis Nourry se noya.

Eutolmius Scholasticus 7.608 (Greek Anthology)

υἱέος ὠκυμόρου θάνατον πενθοῦσα Μενίππη
κωκυτῷ μεγάλῳ πνεῦμα συνεξέχεεν,
οὐδ᾽ ἔσχεν παλίνορσον ἀναπνεύσασα γοῆσαι:
ἀλλ᾽ ἅμα καὶ θρήνου παύσατο καὶ βιότου.

Feneon 963

Sa fille morte, son fils loin, Mme Boulet,du Buchet (commune de Buhy), s’est pendue de désespoir.

The suicide of Ajax. Detail from a red-figure krater at the British Museum.

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 featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

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