Hunting, Leaping, and Drunk on Love

Anacreon, fr. 357

“Lord with whom Lust the subduer
And the dark-eyed nymphs
And royal Aphrodite play
As you roam the high mountain peaks.

I beg you:
come to me kindly
Hear my prayer made pleasing to you:

Be a good advisor to Kleoboulos,
Dionysus, that he accept
My desire.

ὦναξ, ὧι δαμάλης ῎Ερως
καὶ Νύμφαι κυανώπιδες
πορφυρῆ τ’ ᾿Αφροδίτη
συμπαίζουσιν, ἐπιστρέφεαι
δ’ ὑψηλὰς ὀρέων κορυφάς·

γουνοῦμαί σε, σὺ δ’ εὐμενὴς
ἔλθ’ ἡμίν, κεχαρισμένης
δ’ εὐχωλῆς ἐπακούειν·
Κλεοβούλωι δ’ ἀγαθὸς γένεο
σύμβουλος, τὸν ἐμόν γ’ ἔρω-
τ’, ὦ Δεόνυσε, δέχεσθαι.

fr. 358

“Again! Golden-haired Desire
Strikes me with a purple ball
Calling me out to play
With a fine-sandaled youth

But she is from well-settled
Lesbos and she carps at my hair,
Because it is white. So she stares at
Some other [hair] instead.”*

σφαίρηι δηὖτέ με πορφυρῆι
βάλλων χρυσοκόμης ῎Ερως
νήνι ποικιλοσαμβάλωι
συμπαίζειν προκαλεῖται·

ἡ δ’, ἐστὶν γὰρ ἀπ’ εὐκτίτου
Λέσβου, τὴν μὲν ἐμὴν κόμην,
λευκὴ γάρ, καταμέμφεται,
πρὸς δ’ ἄλλην τινὰ χάσκει.

*The Greek ἄλλην τινὰ may mean “some other girl” as the Loeb translation has it. But the structure of the sentence makes me think the girl is staring at different hair (not the narrator’s white hair).

fr. 359

“I long for Kleoboulos.
I am crazy for Kleoboulos.
I am staring at Kleoboulos.”

Κλεοβούλου μὲν ἔγωγ’ ἐρέω,
Κλεοβούλωι δ’ ἐπιμαίνομαι,
Κλεόβουλον δὲ διοσκέω.

 

fr. 360

“Boy with a maiden’s looks—
I am hunting you, but you don’t hear me
Because you do not know
That you are the charioteer of my soul”

ὦ παῖ παρθένιον βλέπων
δίζημαί σε, σὺ δ’ οὐ κλύεις,
οὐκ εἰδὼς ὅτι τῆς ἐμῆς
ψυχῆς ἡνιοχεύεις.

 

fr. 377

“Ah, I climbed up again and leapt
From the Leucadian Cliff into the grey wave,
Drunk with longing.”

ἀρθεὶς δηὖτ’ ἀπὸ Λευκάδος
πέτρης ἐς πολιὸν κῦμα κολυμβῶ μεθύων ἔρωτι.

 

fr. 378

“I am springing up to Olympos on light wings
Because of Desire—for [no one] wants to enjoy youth with me”

ἀναπέτομαι δὴ πρὸς ῎Ολυμπον πτερύγεσσι κούφηις
διὰ τὸν ῎Ερωτ’· οὐ γὰρ ἐμοὶ <> θέλει συνηβᾶν.

 

fr. 389

“Since you’re a friendly girl to strangers, allow me to drink because I’m thirsty”

φίλη γάρ εἰς ξείνοισιν· ἔασον δέ με διψέοντα πιεῖν.

 

Image result for ancient greek anacreon
Anacreon, Verso.

 

Life After Insurrection

“This president is guilty of inciting insurrection. He has to pay a price for that.” – Nancy Pelosi

Is there life after political excommunication in the wake of a failed insurrection (particularly for a man who likes beauty pageants)?

Alcaeus 130B

. . . I’m a wretched man.
I’m living the lot of a rustic
But yearning to hear the assembly
Called, O Agesilaidas, and the council—

Privileges my father and my father’s father
Grew old having, even among countrymen
Who were wicked to one another,
And of which I’m now dispossessed.

I’ve fled to the hinterlands, like Onymakles.
And although I’m alone, a wolf-man,
I’ve made a home here after quitting the fight.
After all, isn’t it better to put an end to insurrection?

In the precinct of the blessed gods
I’ve made a home and tread the black earth.
In these gatherings I’ve found a place.
And here I’m keeping my feet out of trouble—

Here where the women of Lesbos judged on beauty
Parade, their robes trailing,
And the divine sound of the women’s holy ululations
rings out from every quarter—
a yearly affair.

Ἀγνοις . . σβιότοις . . ις ὀ τάλαις ἔγω
ζώω μοι̑ραν ἔχων ἀγροϊωτίκαν
ἰμέρρων ἀγόρας ἄκουσαι
καρυ[ζο]μένας ὠ̑ (᾿Α)γεσιλαΐδα

καὶ β[ό]λλας· τὰ πάτηρ καὶ πάτερος πάτηρ
κα<γ>γ[ε]γήρασ’ ἔχοντες πεδὰ τωνδέων
τὼν [ἀ]λλαλοκάκων πολίταν
ἔγ[ω ἀ]πὺ τούτων ἀπελήλαμαι

φεύγων ἐσχατίαισ’, ὠς δ᾿ Ὀνυμακλέης
ἔνθα[δ’] οἰ̑ος ἐοίκησα λυκαιχμίαις
[φεύγων t]ον [π]όλεμον· στάσιν γὰρ
πρὸς κρ . [. . . . ] . οὐκ †ἄμεινον† ὀννέλην·

. ] . [ . . . ] . [. . ] . μακάρων ἐς τέμ[ε]νος θέων
ἐοι[κησα] με[λ]αίνας ἐπίβαις χθόνος
χλι . [. ] . [ . ] . [.]ν συνόδοισί μ’ αὔταις
οἴκημι κ[ά]κων ἔκτος ἔχων πόδας,

ὄππαι Λ[εσβί]αδες κριννόμεναι φύαν
πώλεντ’ ἐλκεσίπεπλοι, περὶ δὲ βρέμει
ἄχω θεσπεσία γυναίκων
ἴρα[ς ὀ]λολύγας ἐνιαυσίας

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.

Somebody to Drink With: Anacreon’s Epitaph and Some Poems

Greek Anthology 7.26, Antipater of Sidon

“Stranger passing by the humble grave of Anakreon,
If my books were of any use to you,
Pour some wine on my ashes, pour it out in drops
So that my bones can smile, refreshed a bit by wine,
so I, who loved the shouting raves of Dionysus,
so I, who was a partner of music matched to drink,
may not lie dead apart from Bacchus in this place below,
the land which all the race of mortals one day must know.”

Ξεῖνε, τάφον παρὰ λιτὸν ᾿Ανακρείοντος ἀμείβων,
εἴ τί τοι ἐκ βίβλων ἦλθεν ἐμῶν ὄφελος,
σπεῖσον ἐμῇ σποδιῇ, σπεῖσον γάνος, ὄφρα κεν οἴνῳ
ὀστέα γηθήσῃ τἀμὰ νοτιζόμενα,
ὡς ὁ Διωνύσου μεμελημένος εὐάσι κώμοις,
ὡς ὁ φιλακρήτου σύντροφος ἁρμονίης
μηδὲ καταφθίμενος Βάκχου δίχα τοῦτον ὑποίσω
τὸν γενεῇ μερόπων χῶρον ὀφειλόμενον.

Fr. 395

“Hades’ hall is horrifying
And the passage there is hard.
Worse: it is decided that
who ventures there does not return.”

Ἀίδεω γάρ ἐστι δεινὸς
μυχός, ἀργαλῆ δ᾿ ες αὐτὸν
κάτοδος. και γὰρ ἐτοῖμον
καταβάντι μὴ ἀναβῆναι

Anacreon. Marble. Roman copy of the 2nd century A.D. after a Greek original of the 5th century B.C. Inv. No. 491. Copenhagen, New Carlsberg Glyptotek.

Anacreon fr. 2

“I don’t love the man who while drinking next to a full cup
Talks about conflicts and lamentable war.
But whoever mixes the shining gifts of Aphrodite and the Muses
Let him keep in mind loving, good cheer.”

οὐ φιλέω, ὃς κρητῆρι παρὰ πλέωι οἰνοποτάζων
νείκεα καὶ πόλεμον δακρυόεντα λέγει,
ἀλλ’ ὅστις Μουσέων τε καὶ ἀγλαὰ δῶρ’ ᾿Αφροδίτης
συμμίσγων ἐρατῆς μνήσκεται εὐφροσύνης.

Fr. 428

“I love and again do not love
I am insane and yet sane too”

ἐρέω τε δηὖτε κοὐκ ἐρέω
καὶ μαίνομαι κοὐ μαίνομαι

This last fragment recalls (the much later) Carmen 85 of Catullus:

“I hate and I love: you might ask why I do this–
I don’t know, but I see it happen and it’s killing me.

Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

Hunting, Leaping, and Drunk on Love: Some Anacreon for Your Weekend

Anacreon, fr. 357

“Lord with whom Lust the subduer
And the dark-eyed nymphs
And royal Aphrodite play
As you roam the high mountain peaks.

I beg you:
come to me kindly
Hear my prayer made pleasing to you:

Be a good advisor to Kleoboulos,
Dionysus, that he accept
My desire.

ὦναξ, ὧι δαμάλης ῎Ερως
καὶ Νύμφαι κυανώπιδες
πορφυρῆ τ’ ᾿Αφροδίτη
συμπαίζουσιν, ἐπιστρέφεαι
δ’ ὑψηλὰς ὀρέων κορυφάς·

γουνοῦμαί σε, σὺ δ’ εὐμενὴς
ἔλθ’ ἡμίν, κεχαρισμένης
δ’ εὐχωλῆς ἐπακούειν·
Κλεοβούλωι δ’ ἀγαθὸς γένεο
σύμβουλος, τὸν ἐμόν γ’ ἔρω-
τ’, ὦ Δεόνυσε, δέχεσθαι.

fr. 358

“Again! Golden-haired Desire
Strikes me with a purple ball
Calling me out to play
With a fine-sandaled youth

But she is from well-settled
Lesbos and she carps at my hair,
Because it is white. So she stares at
Some other [hair] instead.”*

σφαίρηι δηὖτέ με πορφυρῆι
βάλλων χρυσοκόμης ῎Ερως
νήνι ποικιλοσαμβάλωι
συμπαίζειν προκαλεῖται·

ἡ δ’, ἐστὶν γὰρ ἀπ’ εὐκτίτου
Λέσβου, τὴν μὲν ἐμὴν κόμην,
λευκὴ γάρ, καταμέμφεται,
πρὸς δ’ ἄλλην τινὰ χάσκει.

*The Greek ἄλλην τινὰ may mean “some other girl” as the Loeb translation has it. But the structure of the sentence makes me think the girl is staring at different hair (not the narrator’s white hair).

fr. 359

“I long for Kleoboulos.
I am crazy for Kleoboulos.
I am staring at Kleoboulos.”

Κλεοβούλου μὲν ἔγωγ’ ἐρέω,
Κλεοβούλωι δ’ ἐπιμαίνομαι,
Κλεόβουλον δὲ διοσκέω.

 

fr. 360

“Boy with a maiden’s looks—
I am hunting you, but you don’t hear me
Because you do not know
That you are the charioteer of my soul”

ὦ παῖ παρθένιον βλέπων
δίζημαί σε, σὺ δ’ οὐ κλύεις,
οὐκ εἰδὼς ὅτι τῆς ἐμῆς
ψυχῆς ἡνιοχεύεις.

 

fr. 377

“Ah, I climbed up again and leapt
From the Leucadian Cliff into the grey wave,
Drunk with longing.”

ἀρθεὶς δηὖτ’ ἀπὸ Λευκάδος
πέτρης ἐς πολιὸν κῦμα κολυμβῶ μεθύων ἔρωτι.

 

fr. 378

“I am springing up to Olympos on light wings
Because of Desire—for [no one] wants to enjoy youth with me”

ἀναπέτομαι δὴ πρὸς ῎Ολυμπον πτερύγεσσι κούφηις
διὰ τὸν ῎Ερωτ’· οὐ γὰρ ἐμοὶ <> θέλει συνηβᾶν.

 

fr. 389

“Since you’re a friendly girl to strangers, allow me to drink because I’m thirsty”

φίλη γάρ εἰς ξείνοισιν· ἔασον δέ με διψέοντα πιεῖν.

 

Don’t. Betray. Sappho.

Sappho, fr. 55

“When you die you will lie there and no one will remember you.
And there will no longing for you later on. You will not receive
Any roses from Pieria. But you will wander unseen through Hades’ home
Flitting away from the dirty corpses.”

κατθάνοισα δὲ κείσηι οὐδέ ποτα μναμοσύνα σέθεν
ἔσσετ’ οὐδὲ πόθα εἰς ὔστερον· οὐ γὰρ πεδέχηις βρόδων
τὼν ἐκ Πιερίας· ἀλλ’ ἀφάνης κἀν ᾿Αίδα δόμωι
φοιτάσηις πεδ’ ἀμαύρων νεκύων ἐκπεποταμένα.

Image result for ancient greek underworld scene sarcophagus
Roman Sarcophagus, Abduction of Persephone

A Brother or a Counterfeit: Theognis on Friendship

Theognis, 93-100

“If someone praises you for as long as you see him
But lashes you with an evil tongue when you are apart,
That kind of man is not a very good friend at all.
He’s the kind who speaks smoothly with his tongue, but harbors different thoughts.

Let me have that kind of friend who knows his companion
And puts up with him when he’s mean or in a rage,
Like a brother. But you, friend, keep these things your heart
And you will remember me in future days.”

ἄν τις ἐπαινήσῃ σε τόσον χρόνον ὅσσον ὁρῴης,
νοσφισθεὶς δ᾿ ἄλλῃ γλῶσσαν ἱῇσι κακήν,
τοιοῦτός τοι ἑταῖρος ἀνὴρ φίλος οὔ τι μάλ᾿ἐσθλός.
ὅς κ᾿ εἴπῃ γλώσσῃ λεῖα, φρονῇ δ᾿ ἕτερα.
ἀλλ᾿ εἴη τοιοῦτος ἐμοὶ φίλος, ὃς τὸν ἑταῖρον
γινώσκων ὀργὴν καὶ βαρὺν ὄντα φέρει
ἀντὶ κασιγνήτου. σὺ δέ μοι, φίλε, ταῦτ᾿ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
φράζεο, καί ποτέ μου μνήσεαι ἐξοπίσω.

117-118

“Nothing is harder than recognizing a counterfeit.
But, Kurnos, there is nothing more urgent than guarding against one.”

κιβδήλου δ᾿ ἀνδρὸς γνῶναι χαλεπώτερον οὐδέν,
Κύρν᾿, οὐδ᾿ εὐλαβίης ἐστὶ περὶ πλέονος.

119-128

“One can survive the ruin from counterfeit silver and gold
Kurnos—and a wise person can easily discover it.
But if a dear friend’s mind is hidden in his chest
When he is false and he has a deceptive heart,
Well this the most counterfeit thing god has made for mortals
And it is the most painful thing of all to recognize.
For you cannot know the mind of a man or a woman
Before you investigate them, like an animal under a yoke—
And you cannot imagine what they are like at the right time
Since the outer image often misleads your judgment.”

Χρυσοῦ κιβδήλοιο καὶ ἀργύρου ἀνσχετὸς ἄτη,
Κύρνε, καὶ ἐξευρεῖν ῥάιδιον ἀνδρὶ σοφῶι.
εἰ δὲ φίλου νόος ἀνδρὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσι λελήθηι
ψυδρὸς ἐών, δόλιον δ’ ἐν φρεσὶν ἦτορ ἔχηι,
τοῦτο θεὸς κιβδηλότατον ποίησε βροτοῖσιν,
καὶ γνῶναι πάντων τοῦτ’ ἀνιηρότατον.
οὐδὲ γὰρ εἰδείης ἀνδρὸς νόον οὐδὲ γυναικός,
πρὶν πειρηθείης ὥσπερ ὑποζυγίου,
οὐδέ κεν εἰκάσσαις ὥσπερ ποτ’ ἐς ὥριον ἐλθών·
πολλάκι γὰρ γνώμην ἐξαπατῶσ’ ἰδέαι.

1318a-b

“Alas, I am a wretch: because of the terrors I have suffered
I bring pleasure to my enemies and toil to my friends”

῎Ωιμοι ἐγὼ δειλός· καὶ δὴ κατάχαρμα μὲν ἐχθροῖς,
τοῖσι φίλοις δὲ πόνος δεινὰ παθὼν γενόμην.

1079-80

“I’ll fault no enemy when he is noble,
nor will I praise a friend when he is wrong”

Οὐδένα τῶν ἐχθρῶν μωμήσομαι ἐσθλὸν ἐόντα,
οὐδὲ μὲν αἰνήσω δειλὸν ἐόντα φίλον.

1151–52

“Never dismiss a present friend and seek another
Because you are persuaded by the words of cowardly people.”

μήποτε τὸν παρεόντα μεθεὶς φίλον ἄλλον ἐρεύνα
δειλῶν ἀνθρώπων ῥήμασι πειθόμενος.

 595-598

“Dude, let’s be friends with each other at a distance.
With the exception of wealth, there’s too much of any good thing.
But we can be friends for a long time, just spend time with different men
Who have a better grasp of your mind.”

ἄνθρωπ᾿, ἀλλήλοισιν ἀπόπροθεν ὦμεν ἑταῖροι·
πλὴν πλούτου παντὸς χρήματός ἐστι κόρος.
δὴν δὴ καὶ φίλοι ὦμεν· ἀτάρ τ᾿ ἄλλοισιν ὁμίλει
ἀνδράσιν, οἳ τὸν σὸν μᾶλλον ἴσασι νόον.

1219-1220

“It is difficult for an enemy to deceive
But it is easy for a friend to fool a friend.”

᾿Εχθρὸν μὲν χαλεπὸν καὶ δυσμενεῖ ἐξαπατῆσαι,
Κύρνε· φίλον δὲ φίλωι ῥάιδιον ἐξαπατᾶν.

Friendship
Royal 19 C II  f. 59v

The Nature of a Kind

Pindar, Olympian 11: For Hagêsidamos, Winner of Boy’s Boxing, 476BCE

“There is a season when people have the greatest need
For winds and there is a season for water from the sky,
The pouring offspring of clouds.
But if someone should ever find success through toil,
Then honey-sweet hymns form the foundation
For future tales and offer certain promise for great accomplishments.

The praise for Olympic victors is not limited
By envy. My tongue is ready to shepherd
These words. A man similarly prospers through wise thoughts
thanks to divine assistance.
Know this now, son of Arkhestratos,
Hagêsidamos: thanks to your boxing
I will sing a sweet-songed adornment
For your crown of golden olive,
Without neglecting the race of Western Lokrians.

Join us in the revel there—Muses, I pledge
That you will visit no country who rejects a guest
a people who are ignorant of noble things,
But you will find wise spearmen there.
For not even the fire-red fox nor the roaring lions
Could change the nature of their kind.”

Ἔστιν ἀνθρώποις ἀνέμων ὅτε πλείστα
χρῆσις· ἔστιν δ᾿ οὐρανίων ὑδάτων,
ὀμβρίων παίδων νεφέλας·
εἰ δὲ σὺν πόνῳ τις εὖ πράσσοι,
μελιγάρυες ὕμνοι
ὑστέρων ἀρχὰ λόγων
τέλλεται καὶ πιστὸν ὅρκιον μεγάλαις ἀρεταῖς.

ἀφθόνητος δ᾿ αἶνος Ὀλυμπιονίκαις
οὗτος ἄγκειται. τὰ μὲν ἁμετέρα
γλῶσσα ποιμαίνειν ἐθέλει,
ἐκ θεοῦ δ᾿ ἀνὴρ σοφαῖς ἀνθεῖ
πραπίδεσσιν ὁμοίως.
ἵσθι νῦν, Ἀρχεστράτου
παῖ, τεᾶς, Ἁγησίδαμε, πυγμαχίας ἕνεκεν
κόσμον ἐπὶ στεφάνῳ χρυσέας ἐλαίας
ἁδυμελῆ κελαδήσω,
Ζεφυρίων Λοκρῶν γενεὰν ἀλέγων.
ἔνθα συγκωμάξατ᾿· ἐγγυάσομαι
μή μιν, ὦ Μοῖσαι, φυγόξεινον στρατόν
μηδ᾿ ἀπείρατον καλῶν
ἀκρόσοφόν τε καὶ αἰχματὰν ἀφίξε-
σθαι. τὸ γὰρ ἐμφυὲς οὔτ᾿ αἴθων ἀλώπηξ
οὔτ᾿ ἐρίβρομοι λέοντες διαλλάξαιντο ἦθος.

Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1462, Folio 50v

Some Victories Persist Through Defeat

Solon Fr. 34

If I spared my fatherland,
And I wasn’t criticized for tyranny and unending violence,
And my reputation wasn’t tarnished and dishonored,
I have no cause for shame, then.
In this regard, I think I’ll rank above everyone.

εἰ δὲ γῆς ἐφεισάμην
πατρίδος, τυραννίδος δὲ καὶ βίης ἀμειλίχου
οὐ καθηψάμην, μιάνας καὶ καταισχύνας κλέος,
οὐδὲν αἰδεῦμαι: πλέον γὰρ ὧδε νικήσειν δοκέω
πάντας ἀνθρώπους.

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.

Life After Insurrection

“This president is guilty of inciting insurrection. He has to pay a price for that.” – Nancy Pelosi

Is there life after political excommunication in the wake of a failed insurrection (particularly for a man who likes beauty pageants)?

Alcaeus 130B

. . . I’m a wretched man.
I’m living the lot of a rustic
But yearning to hear the assembly
Called, O Agesilaidas, and the council—

Privileges my father and my father’s father
Grew old having, even among countrymen
Who were wicked to one another,
And of which I’m now dispossessed.

I’ve fled to the hinterlands, like Onymakles.
And although I’m alone, a wolf-man,
I’ve made a home here after quitting the fight.
After all, isn’t it better to put an end to insurrection?

In the precinct of the blessed gods
I’ve made a home and tread the black earth.
In these gatherings I’ve found a place.
And here I’m keeping my feet out of trouble—

Here where the women of Lesbos judged on beauty
Parade, their robes trailing,
And the divine sound of the women’s holy ululations
rings out from every quarter—
a yearly affair.

Ἀγνοις . . σβιότοις . . ις ὀ τάλαις ἔγω
ζώω μοι̑ραν ἔχων ἀγροϊωτίκαν
ἰμέρρων ἀγόρας ἄκουσαι
καρυ[ζο]μένας ὠ̑ (᾿Α)γεσιλαΐδα

καὶ β[ό]λλας· τὰ πάτηρ καὶ πάτερος πάτηρ
κα<γ>γ[ε]γήρασ’ ἔχοντες πεδὰ τωνδέων
τὼν [ἀ]λλαλοκάκων πολίταν
ἔγ[ω ἀ]πὺ τούτων ἀπελήλαμαι

φεύγων ἐσχατίαισ’, ὠς δ᾿ Ὀνυμακλέης
ἔνθα[δ’] οἰ̑ος ἐοίκησα λυκαιχμίαις
[φεύγων t]ον [π]όλεμον· στάσιν γὰρ
πρὸς κρ . [. . . . ] . οὐκ †ἄμεινον† ὀννέλην·

. ] . [ . . . ] . [. . ] . μακάρων ἐς τέμ[ε]νος θέων
ἐοι[κησα] με[λ]αίνας ἐπίβαις χθόνος
χλι . [. ] . [ . ] . [.]ν συνόδοισί μ’ αὔταις
οἴκημι κ[ά]κων ἔκτος ἔχων πόδας,

ὄππαι Λ[εσβί]αδες κριννόμεναι φύαν
πώλεντ’ ἐλκεσίπεπλοι, περὶ δὲ βρέμει
ἄχω θεσπεσία γυναίκων
ἴρα[ς ὀ]λολύγας ἐνιαυσίας

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.

The Will to Dance: The Knees of Old Poets

Sappho 58

The heart in me is now a burden
The knees can’t carry.
They were once quite quick to dance,
The equal of fauns.
These are the things I grieve,
Time and again.
Yet, can I achieve anything,
Doing this?

An unaging mortal being—
This is not possible.
In the old times people said
Dawn with the roseate arms, for love,
Went to the ends of earth leading Tithonus,
A beautiful being,
And young!
But even him,
A man with an immortal wife,
Grey old age got hold of at last!

Alcman 26

O sweet-voiced girls with miraculous song,
these legs can carry me no longer.
How I wish I were a kingfisher,
One who flits across the flowering sea swell
In the company of halcyons,
Fearless in heart,
Sea-colored,
A divine bird.

Sappho 58

βάρυϲ δέ μ’ ὀ [θ]ῦμο̣ϲ̣ πεπόηται, γόνα δ’ [ο]ὐ φέροιϲι,
τὰ δή ποτα λαίψηρ’ ἔον ὄρχηϲθ’ ἴϲα νεβρίοιϲι.
τὰ ⟨μὲν⟩ ϲτεναχίϲδω θαμέωϲ· ἀλλὰ τί κεν ποείην;
ἀγήραον ἄνθρωπον ἔοντ’ οὐ δύνατον γένεϲθαι.
καὶ γάρ π̣[ο]τ̣α̣ Τίθωνον ἔφαντο βροδόπαχυν Αὔων
ἔρωι φ̣ ̣ ̣α̣θ̣ε̣ιϲαν βάμεν’ εἰϲ ἔϲχατα γᾶϲ φέροιϲα[ν,
ἔοντα̣ [κ]ά̣λ̣ο̣ν καὶ νέον, ἀλλ’ αὖτον ὔμωϲ ἔμαρψε
χρόνωι π̣ό̣λ̣ι̣ο̣ν̣ γῆραϲ, ἔχ̣[ο]ν̣τ̣’ ἀθανάταν ἄκοιτιν.

Alcman 26

οὔ μ᾿ ἔτι, παρσενικαὶ μελιγάρυες ἱαρόφωνοι,
γυῖα φέρην δύναται· βάλε δὴ βάλε κηρύλος εἴην,
ὅς τ᾿ ἐπὶ κύματος ἄνθος ἅμ᾿ ἀλκυόνεσσι ποτήται
νηδεὲς ἦτορ ἔχων, ἁλιπόρφυρος ἱαρὸς ὄρνις.

FILE — Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou dance on the 89th birthday of the poet Langston Hughes at the The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where Hughes’ ashes were buried beneath the floor, in New York, Feb. 22, 1991. Baraka, a poet and playwright of pulsating rage, whose long illumination of the black experience in America was called incandescent in some quarters and incendiary in others, died Jan. 9, 2014. He was 79. (Chester Higgins, Jr./The New York Times)

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.