Tale of a Fateful Trip

“Once more the storm is howling . . .”
-W.B. Yeats, ‘A Prayer for My Daughter’

Ovid. Tristia.Book I.II.13-36.

I, a wretched man, squander unavailing words.
Hostile waters lash my very mouth as I speak,
And the awful South Wind scatters my words
And stops my prayers reaching any of the gods.
I’m not wounded in just one way: the same winds
Carry our prayers, and sails, I don’t know where.

Wretched me! What mountains of water are whipped up!
Now, now you’d think they went all the way to the highest stars.
What hollows there are when the waters part!
Now, now you’d think they went all the way to black Tartarus.

Wherever I look there’s nothing but sea and sky
–This sea swell, that cloud menace–
And between them the savage winds roar and growl.

The wave doesn’t know which god to obey,
For now, from the scarlet east, Eurus gathers strength;
Now Zephyr, sent out from late evening, appears;
Now, from the dry Arctic, the cold North Wind rages;
And now the South Wind joins the battle head on.

The pilot vacillates. What to seek, what to flee
He’s unsure. His art wavers and stuns itself with frets.
Surely we’ll perish. There’s no hope of safety.
A wave blots out my face as I’m speaking.
The swells will crush my soul, and as we pray in vain
Our mouth will take in the killing waters.

verba miser frustra non proficientia perdo.
ipsa graves spargunt ora loquentis aquae,
terribilisque Notus iactat mea dicta, precesque
ad quos mittuntur, non sinit ire deos.
ergo idem venti, ne causa laedar in una,
velaque nescio quo votaque nostra ferunt,
me miserum, quanti montes volvuntur aquarum!
iam iam tacturos sidera summa putes.
quantae diducto subsidunt aequore valles!
iam iam tacturas Tartara nigra putes.
quocumque aspicio, nihil est, nisi pontus et aer,
fluctibus hic tumidus, nubibus ille minax.
inter utrumque fremunt inmani murmure venti.
nescit, cui domino pareat, unda maris.
nam modo purpureo vires capit Eurus ab ortu.
nunc Zephyrus sero vespere missus adest,
nunc sicca gelidus Boreas bacchatur ab Arcto,
nunc Notus adversa proelia fronte gerit.
rector in incerto est nec quid fugiatve petatve
invenit: ambiguis ars stupet ipsa malis.
scilicet occidimus, nec spes est ulla salutis,
dumque loquor, vultus obruit unda meos.
opprimet hanc animam fluctus, frustraque precanti
ore necaturas accipiemus aquas.

Were they bound for Tomis?

“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

Tawdry Tuesday: Two Scenes of Post-Coital Remorse

Ovid, Remedia Amoris, 413–424

“But as soon as pleasure, spent, comes to its goal
And bodies lie thoroughly exhausted with the mind
When it gets annoying and you prefer to have touched no girl
And you seem unlikely to touch one again for a while,
Then gather in your mind whatever faults are in her flesh
And hold each of her imperfections in your eyes.
Perhaps someone else will consider them small—as they are,
But what is no advantage alone aids in numbers.
A viper slays a giant bull will a small bite;
A boar is often held by a hound of no great size.
Make sure you fight with such a number: collect your judgments,
A mountain will grow from so much sand.”

At simul ad metas venit finita voluptas,
Lassaque cum tota corpora mente iacent,
Dum piget, et malis nullam tetigisse puellam,
Tacturusque tibi non videare diu,
Tunc animo signa, quaecumque in corpore menda est,
Luminaque in vitiis illius usque tene.
Forsitan haec aliquis (nam sunt quoque) parva vocabit,
Sed, quae non prosunt singula, multa iuvant.
Parva necat morsu spatiosum vipera taurum:
A cane non magno saepe tenetur aper.
Tu tantum numero pugna, praeceptaque in unum
Contrahe: de multis grandis acervus erit.

Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, 168–176

“But when the shepherds gather back to the fold
Their cattle and strong sheep from the blooming meadows,
Then over Anchises she was pouring sweet sleep
Gently and she wrapped her shining cloths around her.
Once clothed well over her entire body, the shining goddess
Stood near the bed, and her head touched the well-made roof,
And the immortal beauty shone from her cheeks
As it does from well-crowned Kytherea.
And she woke him from sleep and spoke his name:
“Get up, Dardanian. Why do you still stretch out in deep sleep?…”

῏Ημος δ’ ἂψ εἰς αὖλιν ἀποκλίνουσι νομῆες
βοῦς τε καὶ ἴφια μῆλα νομῶν ἐξ ἀνθεμοέντων,
τῆμος ἄρ’ ᾿Αγχίσῃ μὲν ἐπὶ γλυκὺν ὕπνον ἔχευε
νήδυμον, αὐτὴ δὲ χροῒ ἕννυτο εἵματα καλά.
ἑσσαμένη δ’ εὖ πάντα περὶ χροῒ δῖα θεάων
ἔστη ἄρα κλισίῃ, εὐποιήτοιο μελάθρου
κῦρε κάρη, κάλλος δὲ παρειάων ἀπέλαμπεν
ἄμβροτον, οἷόν τ’ ἐστὶν ἐϋστεφάνου Κυθερείης.
ἐξ ὕπνου τ’ ἀνέγειρεν, ἔπος τ’ ἔφατ’ ἔκ τ’ ὀνόμαζεν·
῎Ορσεο Δαρδανίδη· τί νυ νήγρετον ὕπνον ἰαύεις;

Aeneas Bearing Anchises from Troy, by Carle van Loo, 1729 (Louvre).

“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

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

Two more 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

Weary Wednesday: Two Scenes of Post-Coital Remorse

Ovid, Remedia Amoris, 413–424

“But as soon as pleasure, spent, comes to its goal
And bodies lie thoroughly exhausted with the mind
When it gets annoying and you prefer to have touched no girl
And you seem unlikely to touch one again for a while,
Then gather in your mind whatever faults are in her flesh
And hold each of her imperfections in your eyes.
Perhaps someone else will consider them small—as they are,
But what is no advantage alone aids in numbers.
A viper slays a giant bull will a small bite;
A boar is often held by a hound of no great size.
Make sure you fight with such a number: collect your judgments,
A mountain will grow from so much sand.”

At simul ad metas venit finita voluptas,
Lassaque cum tota corpora mente iacent,
Dum piget, et malis nullam tetigisse puellam,
Tacturusque tibi non videare diu,
Tunc animo signa, quaecumque in corpore menda est,
Luminaque in vitiis illius usque tene.
Forsitan haec aliquis (nam sunt quoque) parva vocabit,
Sed, quae non prosunt singula, multa iuvant.
Parva necat morsu spatiosum vipera taurum:
A cane non magno saepe tenetur aper.
Tu tantum numero pugna, praeceptaque in unum
Contrahe: de multis grandis acervus erit.

Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, 168–176

“But when the shepherds gather back to the fold
Their cattle and strong sheep from the blooming meadows,
Then over Anchises she was pouring sweet sleep
Gently and she wrapped her shining cloths around her.
Once clothed well over her entire body, the shining goddess
Stood near the bed, and her head touched the well-made roof,
And the immortal beauty shone from her cheeks
As it does from well-crowned Kytherea.
And she woke him from sleep and spoke his name:
“Get up, Dardanian. Why do you still stretch out in deep sleep?…”

῏Ημος δ’ ἂψ εἰς αὖλιν ἀποκλίνουσι νομῆες
βοῦς τε καὶ ἴφια μῆλα νομῶν ἐξ ἀνθεμοέντων,
τῆμος ἄρ’ ᾿Αγχίσῃ μὲν ἐπὶ γλυκὺν ὕπνον ἔχευε
νήδυμον, αὐτὴ δὲ χροῒ ἕννυτο εἵματα καλά.
ἑσσαμένη δ’ εὖ πάντα περὶ χροῒ δῖα θεάων
ἔστη ἄρα κλισίῃ, εὐποιήτοιο μελάθρου
κῦρε κάρη, κάλλος δὲ παρειάων ἀπέλαμπεν
ἄμβροτον, οἷόν τ’ ἐστὶν ἐϋστεφάνου Κυθερείης.
ἐξ ὕπνου τ’ ἀνέγειρεν, ἔπος τ’ ἔφατ’ ἔκ τ’ ὀνόμαζεν·
῎Ορσεο Δαρδανίδη· τί νυ νήγρετον ὕπνον ἰαύεις;

Aeneas Bearing Anchises from Troy, by Carle van Loo, 1729 (Louvre).

How Many Kisses?

Catullus Carmen 7

You ask me, how many kisses of yours,
Lesbia, are enough for me and more.
As great the number as Libyan sands
Lie among Cyrene, the Silphian producing lands
Between the oracle of stormy Jove
And ancient Battus’ sacred grave.
Or as many stars when the night is still
gaze upon humanity’s secret loves.
That is how many kisses are enough to kiss
And more for you and your insane Catullus.
Which the curious could not count.
Nor use their wicked talk to curse.”

Quaeris, quot mihi basiationes
tuae, Lesbia, sint satis superque.
quam magnus numerus Libyssae harenae
lasarpiciferis iacet Cyrenis
oraclum Iovis inter aestuosi
et Batti veteris sacrum sepulcrum;
aut quam sidera multa, cum tacet nox,
furtivos hominum vident amores:
tam te basia multa basiare
vesano satis et super Catullo est,
quae nec pernumerare curiosi
possint nec mala fascinare lingua.

Image result for medieval manuscript kiss
Bodleian, MS. Douce 195, detail of f. 151r (“Pygmalion embraces the statue, as it lies half-undressed on the bed”).

Happy Birthday, Ovid: It’s All About Love

Tristia II: 361-376

 

“I am not the only one who has written tender love tales.
But I am the only one punished for love’s composition.
What, except for the liberal mixing of Venus with wine,
Did the lyric muse of the Tean* bard teach?
What other than loving did Lesbian Sappho teach the girls?
But Sappho was safe and Anacreon was safe.
It didn’t hurt you, Battiades*, that you often confessed
To your reader your dirty desires in your poems.
No story of playful Menander lacks love;
And he is usually read by boys and maidens!
What is the Iliad itself about other than an adultress
On whose behalf husband and lover quarrel?
What happens in the poem before the fire over Briseis
Makes the leaders enraged over a stolen girl?
Or what is the Odyssey about other than a woman sought for love
By many men when her husband is away?”

Denique composui teneros non solus amores:
composito poenas solus amore dedi.
Quid, nisi cum multo Venerem confundere uino,
praecepit lyrici Teia Musa senis?
Lesbia quid docuit Sappho, nisi amare, puellas?
Tuta tamen Sappho, tutus et ille fuit.
Nec tibi, Battiade, nocuit, quod saepe legenti
delicias uersu fassus es ipse tuas.
Fabula iucundi nulla est sine amore Menandri,
et solet hic pueris uirginibusque legi.
Ilias ipsa quid est aliud, nisi adultera, de qua
inter amatorem pugna uirunique fuit?
Quid prius est illi flamma Briseidos, utque
fecerit iratos rapta puella duces?
Aut quid Odyssea est, nisi femina propter amorem,
dum uir abest, multis una petita procis?

*Tean: Anacreaon
*Battiades: Callimachus

Ovid, Amores 3.12: 13-20: Hating Verse, Loving Corinna

“Whether my songs help me or hurt me I am not sure:
But they have been an obstacle to my good fortune.
Though there was Thebes, Troy or Caesar’s deed,
It was Corinna alone who moved me.
I wish the Muses has turned away when I began my songs,
Or that Apollo had refused the work begun.
It is still not the custom to admit a poet as a witness;
I wish that my words had lacked all weight.”

An prosint, dubium, nocuerunt carmina semper;
invidiae nostris illa fuere bonis.
cum Thebae, cum Troia foret, cum Caesaris acta,
ingenium movit sola Corinna meum.
aversis utinam tetigissem carmina Musis,
Phoebus et inceptum destituisset opus!
Nec tamen ut testes mos est audire poetas;
malueram verbis pondus abesse meis.

Don’t Hurt A Lady Like Diomedes Did (Ovid, Amores 1.7, 31-34)

“The son of Tydeus left the worst example of crimes—
He struck a goddess first—but I did it second!
And he was less to blame: The one I profess to love
I hurt; Tydeus’ son was a beast with an enemy.”

pessima Tydides scelerum monimenta reliquit.
ille deam primus perculit—alter ego!
et minus ille nocens. mihi, quam profitebar amare
laesa est; Tydides saevus in hoste fuit.

In this poem, Ovid starts out by asking to be handcuffed because he struck his girlfriend. He compares himself to insane Ajax or Orestes, before spending some time speaking of Diomedes. Of course, a lot of this ‘play’ is just part of the self-mockery and generic-gaming of the Amores where our poet starts out by mentioned the “arms and violent wars” he was preparing (arma gravi numero violentaque bella parabam, 1.1.); but from a modern perspective, the conceit of writing a poem about the temporary “madness” that made one strike a lover, seems a bit less than funny. Indeed, it seems, well, primitive and, as Ovid puts it, saevus.

And, though Ovid at first appears to make light of Diomedes’ wounding of Aphrodite in the Iliad (book 5), he certainly knew (as evidenced by the Metamorphoses 14.460-510) that Diomedes’ act had some grave consequences. According to some authors, Diomedes came home to find his wife Aigialea shacked up with his own relative Kometes. He must shelter in the temple of Athena and then flee his own land. According to some accounts, he makes it to Italy where he marries the daughter of Daunos and gets a kingdom. According to others, he is killed on a hunting expedition, either on purpose, or by accident.

So, perhaps wounding Aphrodite was a mistake to begin with…but I do wonder how much Ovid wants us to think about this when singing of Diomedes.