One Love, Two Bodies

Greek Anthology, 5.88 (Rufinus): The Fire of Unrequited Love

“Fire-bearing love, if you haven’t the strength to light two equally afire
Either extinguish it or share the flame burning in only one.”

Εἰ δυσὶν οὐκ ἴσχυσας ἴσην φλόγα, πυρφόρε, καῦσαι,
τὴν ἑνὶ καιομένην ἢ σβέσον ἢ μετάθες.

Diogenes Laertius, Aristotle 5.21

When [Aristotle] was asked what a friend is, he replied “one soul occupying two bodies.”

ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ἐστι φίλος, ἔφη, “μία ψυχὴ δύο σώμασιν ἐνοικοῦσα.”

Catullus, 87

“No woman can claim that she has been loved as much
Truly, as my Lesbia has been loved by me.
No promise has ever been made in as much faith
As can be found on my part in loving you.”

Nulla potest mulier tantum se dicere amatam
vere, quantum a me Lesbia amata mea est.
nulla fides ullo fuit umquam foedere tanta,
quanta in amore tuo ex parte reperta mea est.

Image result for medieval manuscript love
from here

Ibykos’ Cranes and A Lyric Version of the Trojan War

Suda, I. 80

“Ibykos: The son of Phutios, althought some claim he was the son of Poluzelos the Messenian historiographer, while others say his father was Kerdas, from Rhegion in origin. He left there for Samos when the father of Polycrates the tyrant ruled it. This was at the time of Kroisus’ rule, in the 54th Olmypiad [564-560 BCE] . He was really mad-crazy in desire for young men. He was also the one who inventor of the sambyke which was a kind of triangle-shaped cithara. There are seven books attributed to him in the Doric dialect.

After he was captured by brigands in a deserted area, he claimed that the cranes that were flying above them would be his avengers. He was killed. But later, one of the avengers saw some cranes in the city and said, “Behold, the avengers of Ibykos.” When someone heard this, and pursued what he said. He admitted what had happened and the brigands were punished. This is were the proverb comes from “Ibykos’ cranes.”

Ἴβυκος, Φυτίου, οἱ δὲ Πολυζήλου τοῦ Μεσσηνίου ἱστοριογράφου, οἱ δὲ Κέρδαντος· γένει Ῥηγῖνος. ἐνθένδε εἰς Σάμον ἦλθεν, ὅτε αὐτῆς ἦρχεν ὁ Πολυκράτους τοῦ τυράννου πατήρ. χρόνος δὲ οὗτος ὁ ἐπὶ Κροίσου, ὀλυμπιὰς νδ΄. γέγονε δὲ ἐρωτομανέστατος περὶ μειράκια, καὶ πρῶτος εὗρε τὴν καλουμένην σαμβύκην· εἶδος δέ ἐστι κιθάρας τριγώνου. ἔστι δὲ αὐτοῦ τὰ βιβλία ζ΄ τῇ Δωρίδι διαλέκτῳ. συλληφθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ λῃστῶν ἐπὶ ἐρημίας ἔφη κἂν τὰς γεράνους, ἃς ἔτυχεν ὑπερίπτασθαι, ἐκδίκους γενέσθαι. καὶ αὐτὸς μὲν ἀνῃρέθη. μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα τῶν λῃστῶν εἷς ἐν τῇ πόλει θεασάμενος γεράνους ἔφη· ἴδε, αἱ Ἰβύκου ἔκδικοι. ἀκούσαντος δέ τινος καὶ ἐπεξελθόντος τῷ εἰρημένῳ, τό τε γεγονὸς ὡμολογήθη καὶ δίκας ἔδωκαν οἱ λῃσταί· ὡς ἐκ τούτου καὶ παροιμίαν γενέσθαι, αἱ Ἰβύκου γέρανοι.

Ibykos, fr. 282 (=fr. 1a) Oxyrhynchus papyrus (c. 130 b.c.); lines 1-32

They also destroyed the famous,
blessed, large city of Priam
after leaving from Argos
thanks to the plans of Zeus,
taking on the much-sung strife
for the beauty of fair Helen
in that mournful war;
Destruction climbed the ruined city
because of golden-haired Aphrodite.

Now, I don’t long to sing
of host-deceiving Paris
or tender-ankled Kassandra,
or the rest of the children of Priam
and the nameless day
of the sacking of high-gated Troy,
Nor yet the overreaching virtue
of heroes whom the hollow,
many-banched ships brought
as the destruction of Troy.

Fine heroes and Agememnon was their leader,
a king from Pleisthenes,
a son of Atreus, a noble father.

The learned Muses of Helicon
might take up these tales well;
but no mortal man, unblessed,
could number each of the ships
Menelaos led across the Aegean sea from Aulos,
from Argos they came, the bronze-speared sons of the Achaeans…”

lyric

οἳ κ]αὶ Δαρδανίδα Πριάμοιο μέ-
γ’ ἄσ]τυ περικλεὲς ὄλβιον ἠνάρον
῎Αργ]οθεν ὀρνυμένοι
Ζη]νὸς μεγάλοιο βουλαῖς
ξα]νθᾶς ῾Ελένας περὶ εἴδει
δῆ]ριν πολύυμνον ἔχ[ο]ντες
πό]λεμον κατὰ δακρ[υό]εντα,
Πέρ]γαμον δ’ ἀνέ[β]α ταλαπείριο[ν ἄ]τα
χρυ]σοέθειραν δ[ι]ὰ Κύπριδα.
νῦ]ν δέ μοι οὔτε ξειναπάταν Π[άρι]ν
..] ἐπιθύμιον οὔτε τανί[σφ]υρ[ον
ὑμ]νῆν Κασσάνδραν
Πρι]άμοιό τε παίδας ἄλλου[ς
Τρο]ίας θ’ ὑψιπύλοιο ἁλώσι[μο]ν
ἆμ]αρ ἀνώνυμον· οὐδεπ̣[
ἡρ]ώων ἀρετὰν
ὑπ]εράφανον οὕς τε κοίλα[ι
νᾶες] πολυγόμφοι ἐλεύσα[ν
Τροί]αι κακόν, ἥρωας ἐσ̣θ̣[λούς·

τῶν] μὲν κρείων ᾿Αγαμέ[μνων
ἆ]ρχε Πλεισθ[ενί]δας βασιλ[εὺ]ς ἀγὸς ἀνδρῶν
᾿Ατρέος ἐσ[θλοῦ] πάις ἐκ π̣[ατρό]ς·
καὶ τὰ μὲ[ν ἂν] Μοίσαι σεσοφ[ισμ]έναι
εὖ ῾Ελικωνίδ[ες] ἐμβαίεν λογ̣[ ·
θνατὸς δ’ οὔ κ[ε]ν ἀνὴρ
διερὸ[ς] τὰ ἕκαστα εἴποι
ναῶν ὡ[ς Μεν]έλαος ἀπ’ Αὐλίδος
Αἰγαῖον δ[ιὰ πό]ντον ἀπ’ ῎Αργεος
ἠλύθο̣[ν …..]ν
ἱπποτρόφο[ν …]ε φώτες
χ]αλκάσπ[ιδες υἷ]ες ᾿Αχα[ι]ῶν

Dulce et Decorum Est To Live to Drink Another Day

Herodotus, Histories 5.95

“When they were waging war and many different kinds of things were happening in the battles, then indeed among them when the Athenians were winning, the poet Alcaeus went running and fled, but the Athenians captured his armor and dedicated it in the temple of Athena at Sigeion. Alcaeus wrote a poem about this and sent it to Mytilene where he explained his suffering to his best friend Melanippos. Peirander, Kypselos’ son, made peace between the Athenians and Mytileneans after they entrusted the affair to his judgment. He resolved it so that each side would keep what they previously possessed.”

Πολεμεόντων δὲ σφέων παντοῖα καὶ ἄλλα ἐγένετο ἐν τῇσι μάχῃσι, ἐν δὲ δὴ καὶ Ἀλκαῖος ὁ ποιητὴς συμβολῆς γενομένης καὶ νικώντων Ἀθηναίων αὐτὸς μὲν φεύγων ἐκφεύγει, τὰ δέ οἱ ὅπλα ἴσχουσι Ἀθηναῖοι, καί σφεα ἀνεκρέμασαν πρὸς τὸ Ἀθήναιον τὸ ἐν Σιγείῳ. ταῦτα δὲ Ἀλκαῖος ἐν μέλεϊ ποιήσας ἐπιτιθεῖ ἐς Μυτιλήνην, ἐξαγγελλόμενος τὸ ἑωυτοῦ πάθος Μελανίππῳ ἀνδρὶ ἑταίρῳ. Μυτιληναίους δὲ καὶ Ἀθηναίους κατήλλαξε Περίανδρος ὁ Κυψέλου· τούτῳ γὰρ διαιτητῇ ἐπετράποντο· κατήλλαξε δὲ ὧδε, νέμεσθαι ἑκατέρους τὴν ἔχουσι.

Plutarch, On the Malice of Herodotus 858ab

“What does Herodotus say about what happened at [the battle between the Athenians and Mytileneans]? Instead of mentioning the excellence of Pittakos, he narrates the flight of the poet Alkaios from battle, how he dropped his weapons. By not describing great deeds and by not passing over the shameful ones, he has taken the side of those who claim that envy and joy at someone else’s misfortune comes from the same weakness.”

 τί οὖν ὁ Ἡρόδοτος, κατὰ τὸν τόπον γενόμενος τοῦτον; ἀντὶ τῆς Πιττακοῦ ἀριστείας τὴν Ἀλκαίου διηγήσατο τοῦ ποιητοῦ φυγὴν ἐκ τῆς μάχης, τὰ ὅπλα ῥίψαντος, τῷ τὰ μὲν χρηστὰ μὴ γράψαι τὰ δ᾿ αἰσχρὰ μὴ παραλιπεῖν μαρτυρήσας τοῖς ἀπὸ μιᾶς κακίας καὶ τὸν φθόνον φύεσθαι καὶ τὴν ἐπιχαιρεκακίαν λέγουσαι.

Alcaeus, Fr. 38A (P. Oxy. 1233 fr. 1 ii 8–20 + 2166(b)1)

“Drink and get drunk with me, Melanippos.
Why would you say that once you cross the great eddying
River of Acheron you will see the pure light of the sun again?
Come on, don’t hope for great things.

For even the son of Aiolos, Sisyphos used to claim
He was better than death because he knew the most of men.
Even though he was so very wise, he crossed
The eddying river Acheron twice thanks to fate
And Kronos’ son granted that he would have toil
Beneath the dark earth. So don’t hope for these things.

As long as we are young, now is the time we must
Endure whatever of these things the god soon grants us to suffer.”

πῶνε [καὶ μέθυ᾿ ὦ] Μελάνιππ᾿ ἄμ᾿ ἔμοι· τί [φαῖς †
ὄταμε[. . . .]διννάεντ᾿ † Ἀχέροντα μέγ[αν πόρον
ζάβαι[ς ἀ]ελίω κόθαρον φάος [ἄψερον
ὄψεσθ᾿; ἀλλ᾿ ἄγι μὴ μεγάλων ἐπ[ιβάλλεο·
καὶ γὰρ Σίσυφος Αἰολίδαις βασίλευς [ἔφα
ἄνδρων πλεῖστα νοησάμενος [θανάτω κρέτην·
ἀλλὰ καὶ πολύιδρις ἔων ὐπὰ κᾶρι [δὶς
δ̣ιννάεντ᾿ Ἀχέροντ᾿ ἐπέραισε, μ[έμηδε δ᾿ ὦν
αὔτῳ μόχθον ἔχην Κρονίδαις βα [σίλευς κάτω
ελαίνας χθόνος· ἀλλ᾿ ἄγι μὴ τά[δ᾿ ἐπέλπεο·
θᾶς] τ᾿ ἀβάσομεν αἴ ποτα κἄλλοτα ν [ῦν χρέων
φέρ]ην ὄττινα τῶνδε πάθην τά[χα δῷ θέος.

Image result for medieval manuscript acheron
Dante Being rowed across Acheron, 5th c, Yates Thompson MS 36, f. 6r. B.L.

Some of us can’t say this any more…

Glory and Worthless Wealth

Bacchylides, Odes 1. 159-172

“I claim and I will always claim
That excellence has the greatest glory.
Wealth will flock to worthless people
And always tends to swell a person’s thoughts.
But the one who does well for the gods
Has more glorious hopes
To settle their heart.

But if someone has health
Even if mortal
And can live through their own household
They rival the best.

Truly, all pleasure
In a person’s life
Comes apart from disease
And a poverty with no cure.

Rich people desire big things
No less than the poor something smaller,
And there’s nothing sweet for mortals
In being able to get everything at all
Because they’re always straining to catch
Whatever is getting away.”

φαμὶ καὶ φάσω μέγιστον
κῦδος ἔχειν ἀρετάν· πλοῦ-
τος δὲ καὶ δειλοῖσιν ἀνθρώπων ὁμιλεῖ,
ἐθέλει δ᾿ αὔξειν φρένας ἀνδρός·
ὁ δ᾿ εὖ ἔρδων θεούς
ἐλπίδι κυδροτέραι
σαίνει κέαρ. εἰ δ᾿ ὑγιείας
θνατὸς ἐὼν ἔλαχεν
ζώειν τ᾿ ἀπ᾿ οἰκείων ἔχει,
πρώτοις ἐρίζει· παντί τοι
τέρψις ἀνθρώπων βίωι
ἕπεται νόσφιν γε νόσων
πενίας τ᾿ ἀμαχάνου.
ἶσον ὅ τ᾿ ἀφνεὸς ἱμείρει
μεγάλων ὅ τε μείων
παυροτέρων· τὸ δὲ πάντων
εὐμαρεῖν οὐδὲν γλυκύ
θνατοῖσιν, ἀλλ᾿ αἰεὶ τὰ φεύγοντα
δίζηνται κιχεῖν.

Raphaelle Peale, “Melons and Morning Glories” 1813

One Love, Two Bodies

Greek Anthology, 5.88 (Rufinus): The Fire of Unrequited Love

“Fire-bearing love, if you haven’t the strength to light two equally afire
Either extinguish it or share the flame burning in only one.”

Εἰ δυσὶν οὐκ ἴσχυσας ἴσην φλόγα, πυρφόρε, καῦσαι,
τὴν ἑνὶ καιομένην ἢ σβέσον ἢ μετάθες.

Diogenes Laertius, Aristotle 5.21

When [Aristotle] was asked what a friend is, he replied “one soul occupying two bodies.”

ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ἐστι φίλος, ἔφη, “μία ψυχὴ δύο σώμασιν ἐνοικοῦσα.”

Catullus, 87

“No woman can claim that she has been loved as much
Truly, as my Lesbia has been loved by me.
No promise has ever been made in as much faith
As can be found on my part in loving you.”

Nulla potest mulier tantum se dicere amatam
vere, quantum a me Lesbia amata mea est.
nulla fides ullo fuit umquam foedere tanta,
quanta in amore tuo ex parte reperta mea est.

Image result for medieval manuscript love
from here

The Fruitless Toil of Worry: Two Passages on Happiness

Horace, Odes 2.16 25-32

“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
parte beatum.

abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem,
longa Tithonum minuit senectus,
et mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit,
porriget hora.

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 ten thousand
Affairs in their thoughts
Whoever tortures their heart
Night and day over what may come,
Has toil which brings no profit.”

εἷς ὅρος, μία βροτοῖσίν ἐστιν εὐτυχίας ὁδός,
θυμὸν εἴ τις ἔχων ἀπενθῆ δύναται
διατελεῖν βίον· ὃς δὲ μυρία
μὲν ἀμφιπολεῖ φρενί,
τὸ δὲ παρ᾿ ἆμάρ τε <καὶ> νύκτα μελλόντων
χάριν αἰὲν ἰάπτεται
κέαρ, ἄκαρπον ἔχει πόνον.

Image result for medieval manuscript happiness
BLMedieval Sloane MS 278, 1280-1300

Tawdry Tuesday: Zeus, Ganymede, and a Cock

Greek Anthology, Antipater 5.77

“Hera twisted by the beauty of Ganymede once spoke
As she suffered the heart-rending stab of jealousy in her heart:
“Troy ignited a male fire for Zeus—and so I will send
A fire at Troy, a pain bearing Paris.
No eagle will come to Troy again, but vultures
Will go to the feast when the Greeks get the spoils for their toils.”

Πριομένα κάλλει Γανυμήδεος εἶπέ ποθ᾿ Ἥρα,
θυμοβόρον ζάλου κέντρον ἔχουσα νόῳ·
“Ἄρσεν πῦρ ἔτεκεν Τροία Διΐ· τοιγὰρ ἐγὼ πῦρ
πέμψω ἐπὶ Τροίᾳ, πῆμα φέροντα Πάριν·
ἥξει δ᾿ Ἰλιάδαις οὐκ ἀετός, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπὶ θοίναν
γῦπες, ὅταν Δαναοὶ σκῦλα φέρωσι πόνων.”

Sometimes an Eagle Does show up in stories of Zeus and Ganymede. 

Greek Anthology 12.211

“Go to bright heaven, go carrying the child,
Eagle, keep your twin wings spread wide.
Go holding gentle Ganymede and do not drop
Zeus’ wine-bearer of the sweetest cups.
But be careful not to bloody him with your clawed feet
So that Zeus, upset, won’t hurt you.”

Στεῖχε πρὸς αἰθέρα δῖον, ἀπέρχεο παῖδα κομίζων,
αἰετέ, τὰς διφυεῖς ἐκπετάσας πτέρυγας,
στεῖχε τὸν ἁβρὸν ἔχων Γανυμήδεα, μηδὲ μεθείης
τὸν Διὸς ἡδίστων οἰνοχόον κυλίκων·
φείδεο δ᾿ αἱμάξαι κοῦρον γαμψώνυχι ταρσῷ,
μὴ Ζεὺς ἀλγήσῃ, τοῦτο βαρυνόμενος.

MFA #01.8114

Image result for ganymede rooster Zeus
Terracotta of Zeus with Ganymede (LIMC 56; from Olympia)
Image result for ganymede rooster Zeus
Attic red-figured hydria
Attributed to Eupolis P. by Beazley
Approx. 450 -440 BC
This image from the MFA shows Zeus contemplating what to do with his cock.
Image result for ganymede rooster Zeus Black figure
Zeus pursuing Ganymedes, Athenian red-figure kantharos C5th B.C., Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Tawdry Tuesday: Zeus, Ganymede, and a Cock

Greek Anthology, Antipater 5.77

“Hera twisted by the beauty of Ganymede once spoke
As she suffered the heart-rending stab of jealousy in her heart:
“Troy ignited a male fire for Zeus—and so I will send
A fire at Troy, a pain bearing Paris.
No eagle will come to Troy again, but vultures
Will go to the feast when the Greeks get the spoils for their toils.”

Πριομένα κάλλει Γανυμήδεος εἶπέ ποθ᾿ Ἥρα,
θυμοβόρον ζάλου κέντρον ἔχουσα νόῳ·
“Ἄρσεν πῦρ ἔτεκεν Τροία Διΐ· τοιγὰρ ἐγὼ πῦρ
πέμψω ἐπὶ Τροίᾳ, πῆμα φέροντα Πάριν·
ἥξει δ᾿ Ἰλιάδαις οὐκ ἀετός, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπὶ θοίναν
γῦπες, ὅταν Δαναοὶ σκῦλα φέρωσι πόνων.”

Sometimes an Eagle Does show up in stories of Zeus and Ganymede. 

Greek Anthology 12.211

“Go to bright heaven, go carrying the child,
Eagle, keep your twin wings spread wide.
Go holding gentle Ganymede and do not drop
Zeus’ wine-bearer of the sweetest cups.
But be careful not to bloody him with your clawed feet
So that Zeus, upset, won’t hurt you.”

Στεῖχε πρὸς αἰθέρα δῖον, ἀπέρχεο παῖδα κομίζων,
αἰετέ, τὰς διφυεῖς ἐκπετάσας πτέρυγας,
στεῖχε τὸν ἁβρὸν ἔχων Γανυμήδεα, μηδὲ μεθείης
τὸν Διὸς ἡδίστων οἰνοχόον κυλίκων·
φείδεο δ᾿ αἱμάξαι κοῦρον γαμψώνυχι ταρσῷ,
μὴ Ζεὺς ἀλγήσῃ, τοῦτο βαρυνόμενος.

MFA #01.8114

Image result for ganymede rooster Zeus
Terracotta of Zeus with Ganymede (LIMC 56; from Olympia)
Image result for ganymede rooster Zeus
Attic red-figured hydria
Attributed to Eupolis P. by Beazley
Approx. 450 -440 BC
This image from the MFA shows Zeus contemplating what to do with his cock.
Image result for ganymede rooster Zeus Black figure
Zeus pursuing Ganymedes, Athenian red-figure kantharos C5th B.C., Museum of Fine Arts Boston

O Yuck, Archilochus

The First Cologne Epode, the longest fragment attributed to the archaic poet Archilochus, offends modern sensibilities and no doubt it had something like shock value in the poet’s own time.

The opening lines are lost. There’s no consensus on how to fill the most meaningful of the text’s many lacunae. There are also colloquialisms, euphemisms, allusions and irresolvable ambiguities which challenge, and charm. (The “glossary” following the poem should answer a few questions.)

Nonetheless, we can discern enough to say: the poem takes the form of a carefully constructed dialogue in which an unmarried young woman tries to turn a sexually eager man’s attention to someone else–unsuccessfully.

Archilochus: fr. 196a West

“…while you abstain completely, wait for requited love.
But, if you’re in a rush, your passion in charge,
There’s someone in our house brimming with yearning,
A lovely virgin, and tender. Her figure’s flawless,
I would say. Make her your beloved.”

That’s what she said. And I replied with this:
“Daughter of Amphimedo, that noble woman
Whom the moldy earth now holds:
Young men have many pleasures from the goddess,
Beside the divine thing. One of them will do.

You and I will plan this calmly, with god’s help.
I’ll do what you say, eager as I am
To be first under your cornice and inside your gate.
Don’t begrudge me this, my dear,
For I’ll keep to your grassy meadow.

And know this: as for that Neoboule,
Another man can have her! She’s too ripe.
Her virgin bloom, her former loveliness,
Have fallen away. She’s not reined in her lust.
The raving woman’s shown the scale of her madness.

Damn her! May Zeus not make me a joke to my neighbors,
With such a wife. I prefer you: one not inconstant
or two-faced. She’s biting, and as for all her men…
I fear fathering blind, untimely children with her,
My zeal and rush to blame, just like the famed bitch.”

That’s what I said, and clutched the virgin girl—
Laid her down among the blooming flowers—
Covered her with my soft cloak—
Cradled her neck in my arms—
A girl as frightened as a fawn.

My hands gently clasped her breasts
And exposed youth’s fresh flesh.
As I felt up her gorgeous body
I discharged my white might,
Lightly touching her fair hair.

A glossary of archaic smut:

“Under your cornice and inside your gate”: Euphemism for sex.

“Pleasures from the goddess/Beside the divine thing”: Aphrodite’s gifts are the amorous pleasures, with intercoutse presumably the highest of them (“the divine thing”).

“I’ll keep to your grassy meadow”: Euphemism for a sex act short of penetration but involving the pubic area.

”I fear fathering blind, untimely children . . . like the famed bitch”: Allusion to what’s regarded as the world’s oldest proverb–“the hasty bitch [female dog] brings forth blind puppies.” The expression means something done without due care produces a bad result.

“πάμπαν ἀποσχόμενος· ἶσον δὲ τόλμ[ησον ποθεῖν.]
εἰ δ ̓ ὦν ἐπείγεαι καί σε θυμὸς ἰθύει,
ἔστιν ἐν ἡμετέρου, ἣ νῦν μέγ ̓ ἱμείρε[ι ]
καλὴ τέρεινα παρθένος· δοκέω δέ μι[ν]
εἶδος ἄμωμον ἔχειν τὴν δὴ σὺ ποίη[σαι φίλην.”] [5]
Tοσαῦτ ̓ ἐφώνει· τὴν δ ̓ἐγὼ ἀνταμει[βόμην·]
“Ἀμφιμεδοῦς θύγατερ, ἐσθλῆς τε καὶ [ ]
γυναικός, ἣν̣ νῦν γῆ κατ’ εὐρώεσσ’ ἔ[χει,]
[τ]έρψιές εἰσι θεῆς πολλαὶ νέοισιν ἀνδ[ράσιν]
π̣αρὲξ τὸ θεῖον χρῆμα· τῶν τ̣ι̣ς ἀρκέσε[ι.] [10]
τ]αῦτα δ’ ἐπ’ ἡσυχίης εὖτ’ ἂν μελανθη[ ]
[ἐ]γώ τε καὶ σὺ σὺν θεῷ βουλεύσομε[ν·]
[π]είσομαι ὣς με κέλεαι· πολλόν μ’ ἐ[ποτρύνει πόθος]
[θρ]ιγκοῦ δ’ ἔνερθε καί πυλέων ὑποφ[θάνειν]
[μ]ή τι μέγαιρε, φίλη· σχήσω γὰρ ἐς ποη[φόρους] [15]
κ]ήπους. τὸ δὴ νῦν γνῶθι· Νεοβούλη[ν μὲν ὦv]
[ἄ]λλος ἀνὴρ ἐχέτω· αἰαῖ, πέπειρα δ[ὴ πέλει,]
[ἄν]θος δ’ἀπερρύηκε παρθενήϊον
[κ]αὶ χάρις ἣ πρὶν ἐπῆν· κόρον γὰρ οὐ κ[ατέσχε πω],
[ατ]ης δὲ μέτρ’ ἔφηνε μαινόλ̣ι̣ς̣ γυνή·[20]
[ἐς] κόρακας ἄπεχε· μὴ τοῦτ’ ἐφεῖτ’ ἄν[αξ θεῶν]
[ὅπ]ως ἐγὼ γυναῖκα τ[ο]ιαύτην ἔχων
[γεί]τοσι χάρμ’ ἔσομαι· πολλὸν σὲ βούλο[μαι ]·
[σὺ] μὲν γὰρ οὔτ’ ἄπιστος οὔτε διπλόη,
[ἡ δ]ὲ μάλ ̓ ὀξυτέρη, πολλοὺς δὲ ποιεῖτα[ι ] [25]
[δέ]δοιχ ̓ ὅπως μὴ τυφλὰ κἀλιτήμερα
[σπ]ουδῇ ἐπειγόμενος τὼς ὤσπερ ἡ κ[ύων τέκω.”]
[τοσ]αῦτ ̓ ἐφώνεον· παρθένον δ ̓ ἐν ἄνθε[σιν]
[τηλ]εθάεσσι λαβὼν ἔκλινα· μαλθακῇ δ[έ μιν]
[χλαί]νῃ καλύψας, αὐχέν ̓ ἀγκάλῃς ἔχω[ν] [30]
[δεί]μ̣ατι πα[ ]μέ̣ν̣ην τὼς ὥστε νέβρ̣[ον ]
[μαζ]ῶν τε χ̣ερσὶν ἠπίως ἐφηψάμη̣ν
[ ]ρ̣ ἔφην̣ε νέον ἥβης ἐπήλυ̣σις χρόα·̣
[ τ]ε̣ σῶμ̣α καλὸν ἀμφαφώμενος
[λευκ]ὸν ἀφῆκα μένος, ξανθῆς ἐπιψαύ[ων τριχός.] [35]

 

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 Purpose of Song

In 1923 Rainer Maria Rilke published Sonnets to Orpheus, a sequence of poems dedicated to the mythical father of song. The poems are as beautiful and subtle as they are challenging. 

A Platonic concept animates the third sonnet: namely, song’s audial aspect (I treat the word as interchangeable with “music”) should direct us to the art’s higher, pure form. In fact, it should move us beyond the world of appearances and reconcile us with fundamental reality. 

And so Socrates says of song: “certainly it is useful in the search for the beautiful and the good” [Republic 531c]. Like geometry and astronomy, song should “compel contemplation of being itself” [Republic 526e]. 

With these lofty claims in mind, enjoy Rilke:

Sonnets to Orpheus: III

A god is able. But tell me, how could
a man follow him through the narrow lyre?
Man’s mind is conflict. At the meeting of two
heart-paths there is no temple to Apollo.

Song, as you teach it, is not desire,
not an instrument for reaching a goal.
Song is being. For a god, a simple thing.
But when will we be? When will he turn

the earth and the stars toward our being?
Song’s not there, youth, for when you fall in love,
though your voice forces your mouth open. Learn

to forget you sang that way. It will pass.
True singing is breath of another kind:
A breath about nothing. A flutter in the god. A wind.

Plato’s Republic, 531c:

χρήσιμον μὲν οὖν, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, πρὸς τὴν τοῦ καλοῦ τε καὶ ἀγαθοῦ ζήτησιν, ἄλλως δὲ μεταδιωκόμενον ἄχρηστον.

526e:

“οὐκοῦν εἰ μὲν οὐσίαν ἀναγκάζει θεάσασθαι, προσήκει . . .”

Rilke’s Die Sonette An Orpheus: III

Ein Gott vermags. Wie aber, sag mir, soll
ein Mann ihm folgen durch die schmale Leier?
Sein Sinn ist Zwiespalt. An der Kreuzung zweier
Herzwege steht kein Tempel für Apoll.

Gesang, wie du ihn lehrst, ist nicht Begehr,
nicht Werbung um ein endlich noch Erreichtes ;
Gesang ist Dasein. Für den Gott ein Leichtes.
Wann aber sind wir? Und wann wendet er

an unser Sein die Erde und die Sterne?
Dies ists nicht, Jüngling, daß du liebst, wenn auch
die Stimme dann den Mund dir aufstößt, – lerne

vergessen, daß du aufsangst. Das verrinnt.
In Wahrheit singen, ist ein andrer Hauch.
Ein Hauch um nichts. Ein Wehn im Gott. Ein Wind.

Rilke at 25 bore some resemblance to young Stalin.

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.