“The spirit which is happy for a single day
Has learned not to worry about what remains
And tempers bitter tastes with a gentle smile—
Nothing is blessed through and through.
A swift death stole famed Achilles away;
Drawn-out old age wore Tithonos down.
Perhaps some hour will hand to me
Whatever it has refused to you.”
laetus in praesens animus quod ultra est
oderit curare et amara lento
temperet risu; nihil est ab omni
abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem,
longa Tithonum minuit senectus,
et mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit,
Bacchylides, Processionals fr. 11-12
“There is one border, a single path to happiness for mortals—
When a person is able to keep a heart free of grief
Until the end of life. Whoever keeps a ten thousand
Affairs in their thoughts
Whoever tortures their heart
Night and day over what may come,
Has toil which brings no profit.”
“Nothing is unexpected, nothing can be sworn untrue,
and nothing amazes since father Zeus the Olympian
has veiled the light to make it night at midday
even as the sun was shining: now dread fear has overtaken men.
From this time on everything that men believe
will be doubted: may none of us who see this be surprised
when we see sylvan beasts taking turns in the salted field
with dolphins, when the echoing waves of the sea become
dearer to them than the sand, and should the dolphins love the wooded glen…”
“Neither Aiakos’s son Peleus
Nor godlike Kadmos had a secure life
For of all mortals they are said to have
Have received the highest blessing of mortals
Since they listened to the Muses with golden-headbands
Singing on the mountain and in seven-gated Thebes
When one married ox-eyed Harmonia
And the other married Thetis, the famous child of wise-counseled Nereus.
The gods feasted with both of them
And they say the kingly sons of Kronos
On golden seats, and accepted from theme
Bride-gifts. Thanks to Zeus,
They made their hearts straight again
From their previous suffering.
In time, however, [Kadmos’] three daughters
Stripped him of his share of joy
with piercing pains—
even though father Zeus went to the desirable bed
of white-armed Thuonê.
And Peleus’s child, the only one immortal Thetis
Bore in Phthia, raised the mourning cry
From the Danaans as he was burned
On the pyre, after he lost his life
To war’s arrows.
If any mortal keeps
The road of truth in mind
He must suffer and obtain well
From the gods. But from the high winds
Different breaths blow different ways.
Human happiness does not last long
safe, when it turns after bringing great abundance.
I will be small in small times and then great
In great ones. I will work out the fate
That comes to me always in my thoughts, ministering to it with my own devices.
But if god were to grant me great wealth,
I have hope that I would find the highest fame afterwards.
Nestor and Lycian Sarpedon, we know from the stories of men
From honeyed words which skilled artisans
Fit together. Virtue grows eternal through famous songs.
But few find this easy to do.”
This complaint is a generic and contextual one: the narrator doesn’t want a mixing of the themes of war with his own, which are love, drinking and the feast. Another fragment of Anacreon makes this clear:
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.”
Such prescriptions against certain content in sympotic entertainment can be serious too. Xenophanes makes similar points, but with a less playful tone:
Xenophanes, fr. B1 13-24
“First, it is right for merry men to praise the god
with righteous tales and cleansing words
after they have poured libations and prayed to be able to do
what is right: in fact, these things are easier to do,
instead of sacrilege. It is right as well to drink as much as you can
and still go home without help, unless you are very old.
It is right to praise a man who shares noble ideas when drinking
so that we remember and work towards excellence. It is not right to narrate the wars of Titans or Giants nor again of Centaurs, the fantasies of our forebears, Nor of destructive strife. There is nothing useful in these tales.
It is right always to keep in mind good thoughts of the gods.”
“Solon the Athenian, the son of Eksêkestides, when his nephew sang some song of Sappho at a drinking party, took pleasure in it and asked the young man to teach it to him. When someone asked why he was eager to learn it, he responded: “So, once I learn it, I may die.”