When We Were Girls….

Erinna, The Distaff,  fragment [Ed. pr. Vitelli-Norsa, Papiri Greci e Latini, ix. 1929, no. 1090, p. 137, Plate IV. = LCL360, 120]

“…Into the deep wave
You leapt from  white horses with maddened feet–
But I hollered, “I’ve got you, friend!” And when you
Were the tortoise you ran, bouncing, through the courtyard.

I mourn deeply, mulling over these memories, poor Baukis.
These outlines of you remain here in my heart, girl,
Still warm–those pleasures we took before are fading coals.

We held on to our dolls in our bedrooms when we were girls
Pretending to be new brides without cares. Then near dawn
Your mother, who measures out the wool for the weaving women,
Came to call you to help with salting the meat.

What fear the Mormo brought us when we were small–
It had enormous ears on its head a and walked along
On four feet as it changed its face from one woman to another.

But when you went to a man’s bed, dear Baucis, then
You forgot all the things you heard from your mother when
You were small. Aphrodite cast forgetfulness over your thoughts.
So I set aside my grief for you, even as I mourn.

My feet are not unclean enough to leave this home.
I may not yet look upon a corpse or mourn with hair unbound.
For still shame’s blush overtakes me.”

ἐς βαθ]ὺ κῦμα
λε]υκᾶν μαινομέν[οισιν ἐσάλαο π]οσσὶν ἀφ᾿ ἵ[π]πω[ν·
ἀλ]λ᾿, ἴσ[χ]ω, μέγ᾿ ἄυσα, φ[ίλα. τὺ δ᾿ ἔοισα] χελύννα
ἁλ]λομένα μεγάλας [ἔδραμες κατὰ] χορτίον αὐλᾶς.
τα]ῦτα τύ, Βαῦκι τάλαι[να, βαρὺ στονα]χεῖσα γόημ[ι·
τα]ῦτά μοι ἐν κρα[δίαι τεῦς, ὦ κό]ρα, ἴχνια κεῖται
θέρμ᾿ ἔτι· τῆν[α δ᾿ ἃ πρίν ποκ᾿ ἐπα]ύρομες ἄνθρακες ἤδη.
δαγύ[δ]ων τ᾿ ἐχ[όμεσθα νεαν]ίδες ἐν θαλάμοισι
νύμ[φαι]σιν [προσόμοιοι ἀκηδ]έες· ἅ τε πὸτ ὄρθρον
μάτηρ, ἃ ἔ[ριον νέμεν ἀμφιπόλ]οισιν ἐρίθοις,
τήνα σ᾿ ἦλθ[ε κρέας προκαλευμέ]να ἀμφ᾿ ἁλίπαστον.
αἲ μικραῖς τ[όκα νῶιν ὅσον] φόβον ἄγαγε Μο[ρμ]ώ,
τᾶ]ς ἐν μὲν κο[ρυφᾶι μεγάλ᾿ ὤ]ατα, ποσσὶ δ᾿ ἐφοίτη
τέ]τρασιν, ἐκ δ᾿ [ἑτέρας ἑτέραν] μετεβάλλετ᾿Ὀπωπάν.
ἁνίκα δ᾿ ἐς [λ]έχος [ἀνδρὸς ἔβας, τ]όκα πάντ᾿ἐλέλασο
ἅσσ᾿ ἔτι νηπιάσα[σα] τ[εᾶς παρὰ] ματρὸς ἄκουσας,
Β]αῦκι φίλα· λάθα[ν ἄρ᾿] ἐ[νὶ φρεσὶ θῆκ᾿] Ἀφροδίτα.
τῶ τυ κατακλαίοισα τὰ [κάδεα νῦν] παραλείπω·
οὐ [γ]άρ μοι πόδες [ἐντὶ λιπῆν] ἄπο δῶμα βέβαλοι,
οὐδ᾿ ἐσιδῆν φάε[σσι πρέπει νέ]κυν οὐδὲ γοᾶσαι
γυμναῖσιν χαίταισιν, [ἀτὰρ φο]ινίκεος αἰδὼς
δρύπτει μ᾿ ἀμφι . . [

This is a poem I only recently encountered. It should be on any Ancient Greek life reading list. According to the Suda, this is part of a larger poem.

Suda. s.v. Erinna (eta, 521)

“Erinna, Teian or Lesbian, or some say Telian. Telos is a little island near Knidos. Some believe that she was Rhodian too. She was an epic poet. She wrote The Distaff, a poem in Aeolic and Doric dialect of around 300 lines. She wrote epigrams too. She died a 19 year old virgin. Her verses were judged equal to Homer’s. She was a companion of Sappho and fromd around the same time.”

Ἤριννα, Τεί̈α ἢ Λεσβία, ὡς δὲ ἄλλοι Τηλία: Τῆλος δέ ἐστι νησίδιον ἐγγὺς Κνίδου: τινὲς δὲ καὶ Ῥοδίαν αὐτὴν ἐδόξασαν. ἦν δὲ ἐποποιός. ἔγραψεν Ἠλακάτην: ποίημά δ’ ἐστιν Αἰολικῇ καὶ Δωρίδι διαλέκτῳ, ἐπῶν τ#. ἐποίησε δὲ ἐπιγράμματα. τελευτᾷ παρθένος ἐννεακαιδεκέτις. οἱ δὲ στίχοι αὐτῆς ἐκρίθησαν ἶσοι Ὁμήρῳ. ἦν δὲ ἑταίρα Σαπφοῦς καὶ ὁμόχρονος.

Terracotta Ancient Greek dolls. Exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Room 56. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, November 11 2009.

Leave a Reply