“My Soul Tried to Cross Our Lips”: Platonic Love

Two love poems attributed to Plato

Diogenes Laertius Vita Phil 1.3 [Plato 31] and Athenaeus 589e

“I have a lover from Kolophôn named Arkheanassa—
Potent lust rests even on her wrinkles
Poor wretches who met her during the first sailing
Of her youth—what a conflagration you passed through!”

Ἀρχεάνασσαν ἔχω τὴν ἐκ Κολοφῶνος ἑταίραν,
ἧς καὶ ἐπὶ ῥυτίδων ἕζετο δριμὺς ἔρως.
ἆ δειλοὶ νεότητος ἀπαντήσαντες ἐκείνης
πρωτοπλόου, δι᾿ ὅσης ἤλθετε πυρκαϊῆς.

The Greek Anth. 7.217 attributes a slightly different version to Asclepiades

“I have Arkheanassa, a lover from Kolophôn—
Sweet lust rests even on her wrinkles
Oh lovers who harvested the fruit of her youth
At first bloom—what a conflagration you passed through!”

Ἀρχεάνασσαν ἔχω, τὰν ἐκ Κολοφῶνος ἑταίραν,
ἇς καὶ ἐπὶ ῥυτίδων ὁ γλυκὺς ἕζετ᾿ Ἔρως.
ἆ νέον ἥβης ἄνθος ἀποδρέψαντες ἐρασταὶ
πρωτοβόλου, δι᾿ ὅσης ἤλθετε πυρκαϊῆς.

D. L = Gr. Anth. 7.78

“When kissing Agathon I felt my soul at my lips.
The wretch—for she was trying to cross between us.”

τὴν ψυχὴν Ἀγάθωνα φιλῶν ἐπὶ χείλεσιν εἶχον·
ἦλθε γὰρ ἡ τλήμων ὡς διαβησομένη.

According to Aelian, Plato’s career as a poet was cut short (Varia Historia 2.30); but note, though there is mention of epic and tragedy, the anecdote makes no claims for lyric and elegy:

“Plato, the son of Ariston, at first pursued poetry and used to write heroic verse. But he soon burned it all because he despised it, since he reckoned that his poetry was far inferior when compared to Homer’s. He then tried tragedy and even completed a tetralogy, and he was about to enter the competition, even to the point of giving the verses to actors. But right before the Dionysia, he went and heard Socrates; and once he was seized by that Siren, he not only withdrew from the competition, but he also gave up the writing of tragedy for good to immerse himself in philosophy.”

Πλάτων ὁ ᾿Αρίστωνος τὰ πρῶτα ἐπὶ ποιητικὴν ὥρμησε, καὶ ἡρωϊκὰ ἔγραφε μέτρα• εἶτα αὐτὰ κατέπρησεν ὑπεριδὼν αὐτῶν, ἐπεὶ τοῖς ῾Ομήρου αὐτὰ ἀντικρίνων ἑώρα κατὰ πολὺ ἡττώμενα. ἐπέθετο οὖν τραγῳδίᾳ, καὶ δὴ καὶ τετραλογίαν εἰργάσατο, καὶ ἔμελλεν ἀγωνιεῖσθαι, δοὺς ἤδη τοῖς ὑποκριταῖς τὰ ποιήματα. πρὸ τῶν Διονυσίων δὲ παρελθὼν ἤκουσε Σωκράτους, καὶ ἅπαξ αἱρεθεὶς ὑπὸ τῆς ἐκείνου σειρῆνος, τοῦ ἀγωνίσματος οὐ μόνον ἀπέστη τότε, ἀλλὰ καὶ τελέως τὸ γράφειν τραγῳδίαν ἀπέρριψε, καὶ ἀπεδύσατο ἐπὶ φιλοσοφίαν.

Image result for ancient greek kissing vase
Louvre G 278 Attributed to Briseis Painter

On Falling in Love in Old Age

87 Plato Parmen. 137a and Ibykos fr. 287

“And I certainly seem to be experiencing the fate of Ibykos’ horse, a prize-winner who, even though old, was about to compete in the chariot race and was trembling because of experience at what was about to happen. Ibykos compared himself to him when he said that he too was old and was being compelled to move towards lust”

καίτοι δοκῶ μοι τὸ τοῦ Ἰβυκείου ἵππου πεπονθέναι ᾧ ἐκεῖνος ἀθλητῇ ὄντι καὶ πρεσβυτέρῳ ὑφ᾿ ἅρματι μέλλοντι ἀγωνιεῖσθαι καὶ δι᾿ ἐμπειρίαν τρέμοντι τὸ μέλλον ἑαυτὸν ἀπεικάζων ἄκων ἔφη καὶ αὐτὸς οὕτω πρεσβευτὴς ὢν εἰς τὸν ἔρωτα ἀναγκάζεσθαι ἰέναι.

schol. ad loc. 

[Scholiast] Here is the saying of Ibykos the lyric poet:

τὸ τοῦ μελοποιοῦ Ἰβύκου ῥητόν·

“Love again, gazing up from under dark lashes,
Throws me down with every kind of spell
Into the Cyprian’s endless nets.
In truth, I tremble at this arrival,
Just as a prize-winning horse on the yoke in old age
Goes into the contest with his swift wheels, but not willingly.”

Ἔρος αὖτέ με κυανέοισιν ὑπὸ
βλεφάροις τακέρ᾿ ὄμμασι δερκόμενος
κηλήμασι παντοδαποῖς ἐς ἀπειρα
δίκτυα Κύπριδος ἐσβάλλει·
ἦ μὰν τρομέω νιν ἐπερχόμενον,
ὥστε φερέζυγος ἵππος ἀεθλοφόρος ποτὶ γήρᾳ
ἀέκων σὺν ὄχεσφι θοοῖς ἐς ἅμιλλαν ἔβα

Greek Anthology, 5.26

“If I saw you shining with dark hair
Or at another time with blond locks, mistress,
The same grace would gleam from both.
Love will make its home in your hair even when it’s gray.”

Εἴτε σε κυανέῃσιν ἀποστίλβουσαν ἐθείραις,
εἴτε πάλιν ξανθαῖς εἶδον, ἄνασσα, κόμαις,
ἴση ἀπ’ ἀμφοτέρων λάμπει χάρις. ἦ ῥά γε ταύταις
θριξὶ συνοικήσει καὶ πολιῇσιν ῎Ερως.

Image result for ancient greek chariot horse
A force of nature

On Falling in Love in Old Age

87 Plato Parmen. 137a and Ibykos fr. 287

“And I certainly seem to be experiencing the fate of Ibykos’ horse, a prize-winner who, even though old, was about to compete in the chariot race and was trembling because of experience at what was about to happen. Ibykos compared himself to him when he said that he too was old and was being compelled to move towards lust”

καίτοι δοκῶ μοι τὸ τοῦ Ἰβυκείου ἵππου πεπονθέναι ᾧ ἐκεῖνος ἀθλητῇ ὄντι καὶ πρεσβυτέρῳ ὑφ᾿ ἅρματι μέλλοντι ἀγωνιεῖσθαι καὶ δι᾿ ἐμπειρίαν τρέμοντι τὸ μέλλον ἑαυτὸν ἀπεικάζων ἄκων ἔφη καὶ αὐτὸς οὕτω πρεσβευτὴς ὢν εἰς τὸν ἔρωτα ἀναγκάζεσθαι ἰέναι.

schol. ad loc. 

[Scholiast] Here is the saying of Ibykos the lyric poet:

τὸ τοῦ μελοποιοῦ Ἰβύκου ῥητόν·

“Love again, gazing up from under dark lashes,
Throws me down with every kind of spell
Into the Cyprian’s endless nets.
In truth, I tremble at this arrival,
Just as a prize-winning horse on the yoke in old age
Goes into the contest with his swift wheels, but not willingly.”

Ἔρος αὖτέ με κυανέοισιν ὑπὸ
βλεφάροις τακέρ᾿ ὄμμασι δερκόμενος
κηλήμασι παντοδαποῖς ἐς ἀπειρα
δίκτυα Κύπριδος ἐσβάλλει·
ἦ μὰν τρομέω νιν ἐπερχόμενον,
ὥστε φερέζυγος ἵππος ἀεθλοφόρος ποτὶ γήρᾳ
ἀέκων σὺν ὄχεσφι θοοῖς ἐς ἅμιλλαν ἔβα

Greek Anthology, 5.26

“If I saw you shining with dark hair
Or at another time with blond locks, mistress,
The same grace would gleam from both.
Love will make its home in your hair even when it’s gray.”

Εἴτε σε κυανέῃσιν ἀποστίλβουσαν ἐθείραις,
εἴτε πάλιν ξανθαῖς εἶδον, ἄνασσα, κόμαις,
ἴση ἀπ’ ἀμφοτέρων λάμπει χάρις. ἦ ῥά γε ταύταις
θριξὶ συνοικήσει καὶ πολιῇσιν ῎Ερως.

Image result for ancient greek chariot horse
A force of nature

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.

 

Charming Words in a Fight: Some Fragments for A Saturday Night

Demetrios on Anacreon fr. 396

“The rhythm is that of a drunk old man”
μεθύοντος γὰρ ὁ ῥυθμὸς ἀτεχνῶς γέροντος

Anacreon fr. 402c

“For the children might adore me for my words
Since I sing with charm I know how to say charming things.”

ἐμὲ γὰρ † λόγων † εἵνεκα παῖδες ἂν φιλέοιεν·
χαρίεντα μὲν γὰρ ᾄδω, χαρίεντα δ᾿ οἶδα λέξαι.

Anacreon fr. 412

“Won’t you let me return home again since I am drunk?”

οὐ δηὖτέ μ᾿ ἐάσεις μεθύοντ᾿ οἴκαδ᾿ ἀπελθεῖν;

Anacreon, 429

“Whoever wants to fight,
Since it’s possible, let him fight…”

ὁ μὲν θέλων μάχεσθαι,
πάρεστι γάρ, μαχέσθω.

“This Filly Needs to Be Broken”: An Allegory from a Man for a Lady

The following poem is as thoroughly unsurprising as it is abominable

Anacreon, fr. 417

“Thracian filly, why do you
Flee me without pity
When you give me a side glance with your eyes?
Do you think I know no trick at all?

Know this, I could easily
Put a bridle in your mouth
And with its reins in my hand
Turn you around the race’s bends.

But now you graze through the meadows
and you leap, playing lightly
Because you do not have a skillful rider
To mount you.”

πῶλε Θρηικίη, τί δή με
λοξὸν ὄμμασι βλέπουσα
νηλέως φεύγεις, δοκεῖς δέ
μ’ οὐδὲν εἰδέναι σοφόν;

ἴσθι τοι, καλῶς μὲν ἄν τοι
τὸν χαλινὸν ἐμβάλοιμι,
ἡνίας δ’ ἔχων στρέφοιμί
σ’ ἀμφὶ τέρματα δρόμου·

νῦν δὲ λειμῶνάς τε βόσκεαι
κοῦφά τε σκιρτῶσα παίζεις,
δεξιὸν γὰρ ἱπποπείρην
οὐκ ἔχεις ἐπεμβάτην.

This charming horror is preserved in Heraclitus, who prefaces it with the following:

417 Heraclit. Alleg. Hom. 5 (p. 5s. Buffière)

“And Anakreon the Teian, in abusing the whorish thought and arrogance of an uppity woman applied as an allegory for her cavorting mind a horse, when he says the following”

καὶ μὴν ὁ Τήιος Ἀνακρέων ἑταιρικὸν φρόνημα καὶ σοβαρᾶς γυναικὸς ὑπερηφανίαν ὀνειδίζων τὸν ἐν αὐτῇ σκιρτῶντα νοῦν ὡς ἵππον ἠλληγόρησεν οὕτω λέγων·

Image result for ancient greek horse picture

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.

 

Image result for ancient greek anacreon
Anacreon, Verso.