Callimachus, Epigram 28: I Hate Cyclic Poetry, and Everything Else too…

“I hate the cyclic poem and I don’t enjoy
The road that goes too far this way and that.
I despise as well the loved one who wanders—I
Don’t drink from just any stream: I loathe all common things.
Yes, Lysanius, you are fine—but before I say that clearly
Some Echo says “he belongs to another”.

᾿Εχθαίρω τὸ ποίημα τὸ κυκλικόν, οὐδὲ κελεύθῳ
χαίρω, τίς πολλοὺς ὧδε καὶ ὧδε φέρει•
μισέω καὶ περίφοιτον ἐρώμενον, οὐδ’ ἀπὸ κρήνης
πίνω• σικχαίνω πάντα τὰ δημόσια.
Λυσανίη, σὺ δὲ ναίχι καλὸς καλός—ἀλλὰ πρὶν εἰπεῖν
τοῦτο σαφῶς, ᾿Ηχώ φησί τις• ‘ἄλλος ἔχει.’

This poem, with its original reference to what many scholars consider the poems of the epic cycle has furnished much ammunition to the same scholars who wish to argue that Callimachus (and others) looked down on these poems. To be fair, in this poem Callimachus seems to hate everything–he uses four different ways to express his disdain (and that variation is Hellenistic as anything else). But he seems to be so angry (if we can believe this isn’t just a conceit of a poem) because a pretty boy is already taken…

In the light of unrequited love, doesn’t everything look a bit dimmer and sordid?