I’m going to put short fragments of Alcaeus, Sappho, and Anacreon to twisted use: linking them into a single narrative which rehearses a common theme of Archaic lyric: the poet driven mad by unrequited love for a youth.
Alcaeus forthrightly states the case:
Alcaeus Fr. 33
A whirlwind totally ripped away their senses.
πάμπαν δὲ τύφως ἔκ ϝ᾿ ἔλετο φρένας
That “whirlwind,” love, disturbs the equanimity of Sappho and Anacreon alike, turning the mind of each against itself:
I don’t know what to make of this;
I’m of two minds.
οὐκ οἶδ’ ὄττι θέω· δίχα μοι τὰ νοήμματα
Anacreon Fr. 428 (Campbell)
I’m in love again and not in love.
I’m raving mad and not raving mad. .
ἐρέω τε δηὖτε κοὐκ ἐρέω
καὶ μαίνομαι κοὐ μαίνομαι.
The cause of their confusion? Love for young people whose attractiveness is rooted in manifest immaturity:
There was a time, Athis, long ago,
I was in love with you.
You looked like a child, small and clumsy.
ἠράμαν μὲν ἔγω σέθεν, Ἄτθι, πάλαι ποτά [ ]
σμίκρα μοι πάις ἔμμεν’ ἐφαίνεο κἄχαρις.
Anacreon Fr. 360 (Campbell)
Boy with looks of a virgin girl,
I’m after you and you don’t see it.
You don’t know you hold the reins of my soul.
ὦ παῖ παρθένιον βλέπων
δίζημαί σε, σὺ δ᾿ οὐ κοεῖς,
οὐκ εἰδὼς ὅτι τῆς ἐμῆς
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.