While We Live, Sing a Song for Me

These are fragments which may or may not be a whole. They made me think of Bettina Joy de Guzman. There’s nothing like death obsession in the Fall….

P. Oxy. xv. 1921, no. 1795, p. 113 [Anonymous = LCL Anonymous Hexamers 125]

“Don’t try to do injustice nor to return injustice done
Avoid murders and avoid battles, don’t deign to argue—
Then you will hurt only a short time and you won’t think about it later.

Play a song for me.

You saw the spring, winter, the summer. These are eternal.
Even the sun has set and night is taking what’s owed her.
Don’t try to find where the sun comes from or where the water’s home,
But where you can buy some fragrance and and wreaths.

Play a song for me.

I used to want to have three free-flowing honey springs,
five milk rivers, ten of wine, twelve of perfume
two from clear fountains and three from snow.
I used to want a boy and a girl near a fountain.

Play a song for me.

The Lydian pipe and the Lydian games of the lyre work for me.
The Phrygian reed and the leather-topped drum work for me too.
As long as I live I love to sing these things and when I die
Put a flute above my head and a lyre near my feet.

Play a song for me.

Who has ever discovered how to measure wealth and poverty?
Or who again has ever found how much gold human beings need?
Today, still, whoever has money always wants more of it
And the wretch is tortured like the poor even though he’s rich.

Play a song for me.

If you ever see a corpse or walk by quiet graves,
That’s when you look into the mirror we all share: the dead expected this.
Time is on loan and life’s lender is a prick.
Whenever he demands repayment, you must pay the bill by grieving.

Play a song for me.

It was the king Xerxes who said he shared everything with god,
But he crossed the Lemnian water in defeat with a single rudder.
Midas was rich; Kinyras was triply blest,
But who has ever gone to Hades with more than a single coin?

Play a song for me.,.”

μηδ᾿ ἀδικεῖν ζήτει, μηδ᾿ ἂν ἀδι[κῆι πρ]οσερίσηις·
φεῦγε φόνους καὶ φεῦγε μάχας, φ[εῖ]σαι διαφρονε[ῖ]ν,
εἰς δ᾿ ὀλίγον πονέσεις, καὶ δεύτερον οὐ μεταμέληι.

αὔ[λει μοι

Ἶδες ἔαρ, χειμῶνα, θέρος· ταῦτ᾿ ἐστι διόλου·
ἥλιος αὐτὸς [ἔδυ], καὶ νὺξ τὰ τεταγμέν᾿ ἀπέχει·
μὴ κοπία ζητεῖν πόθεν ἥλιος ἢ πόθε[ν] ὕδωρ,
ἀλλὰ π[ό]θεν τ[ὸ] μύρον καὶ τοὺς στεφάνου[ς] ἀγοράσηις.

αὔλει μο[ι.

Κρήνας αὐτορύ[το]υς μέλ[ιτ]ος τρεῖς ἤθελον ἔχειν,
πέντε γαλακτορύτους, οἴνου δέκα, δ[ώδε]κα μύρου,
καὶ δύο πηγαίων ὑδάτων, καὶ τρεῖς χιονέων·
παῖδα κατὰ κρήνην καὶ παρθένον ἤθελον ἔχειν.
αὔλει μο[ι.

Λύδιος αὐλὸς ἐμοὶ τὰ δὲ Λύδια παίγματα λύρας
κα[ὶ] Φρύγ[ιο]ς κάλαμος τὰ δὲ ταύρεα τύμπανα πονεῖ·
ταῦτα ζῶν ἆισαί τ᾿ ἔραμαι καὶ ὅταν ἀποθάνω
αὐλὸν ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς θέτε μοι παρὰ ποσ(σ)ὶ δὲ λύρη[ν.

αὔλει μοι.

Μέτρα τί[ς] ἀν πλούτου, τίς ἀνεύρατο μέτρα πενίας
ἢ τίς ἐν ἀνθρώποις χρυσοῦ πάλιν εὕρατο μέτρον;
νῦν γὰρ ὁ χρήματ᾿ ἔχων ἔτι πλε[ί]ονα χρήματα θέλει,
πλούσιος ὢν δ᾿ ὁ τάλας βασανίζεται ὥσπερ ὁ πένης.

αὔλ[ει μοι.

Νεκρὸν ἐάν ποτ᾿ ἴδηις καὶ μνήματα κωφὰ παράγηις
κοινὸν ἔσοπτρον ὁρᾶι(ς)· ὁ θανὼν οὕτως προσεδόκα.
ὁ χρό[ν]ος ἐστὶ δάνος, τὸ ζῆν πικρός ἐσθ᾿ ὁ δανίσας,
κἂν τότ᾿ ἀπαιτῆσαί σε θέληι, κλαίων [ἀ]ποδιδοῖς.

αὔλει μοι.

Ξέρξης ἦν βασιλε[ὺ]ς ὁ λέγων Διὶ πάντα μερίσαι,
ὃς δυσ(ὶ) πηδαλ[ί]ο[ι]ς μόνος ἔσχισε Λήμνιον ὕδωρ.
ὄλβι(ο)ς ἦν ὁ Μίδας, τρὶς δ᾿ ὄλβιος ἦν ὁ [Κ]ινύρ[α]ς,
ἀλλὰ τίς εἰς Ἀίδα ὀβολοῦ πλέον ἤλυθεν ἔχων;

αὔλει μοι.

Memento mori
Mosaic from Pompeii

Then, there’s always this:

Who Is the Most Beautiful Under the Earth?

Nireus is famed as the second most beautiful of the Greeks at Troy; Thersites is claimed as the ugliest. Lucian puts them together in the underworld.

Lucian, Dialogue of the Dead 30

Nireus: Look here, Menippos, this one will teach which one is better looking. Tell me, Menippos, don’t I look prettier to you?

Menippus: Who are you two? I think I need to know that first.

Nireus: Nireus and Thersites

Menippos: Which of you is Nireus and which is Thersites? This is not at all clear to me.

Thersites: I have this one thing already, that I am similar to you and you are not at all different now than when Homer that blind guy praised you as the most beautiful of all when he addressed you, but he said that I am a cone-headed hunchback no worse for a beating. But, Menippos, examine which ever one you think is better looking.

Nireus: Be he said that I am “the son of Aglaia and Kharops, the most beautiful man who came to Troy.”

Menippos: Eh, you did not come as the most beautiful under the earth, I think: but the bones are the same and your head can only be distinguished from Thersites’ head by that little bit, that yours is a bit better shaped. For you do not have the same peak and you are not as manly.

Nireus: Ask Homer what sort I was when I joined the expedition to Troy!

Thersites: That’s good enough for me.

᾿Ιδοὺ δή, Μένιππος οὑτοσὶ δικάσει, πότερος εὐμορφότερός ἐστιν. εἰπέ, ὦ Μένιππε, οὐ καλλίων σοι δοκῶ;

Τίνες δὲ καὶ ἔστε; πρότερον, οἶμαι, χρὴ γὰρ τοῦτο εἰδέναι.

Νιρεὺς καὶ Θερσίτης.

Πότερος οὖν ὁ Νιρεὺς καὶ πότερος ὁ Θερσίτης; οὐδέπω γὰρ τοῦτο δῆλον.

῝Εν μὲν ἤδη τοῦτο ἔχω, ὅτι ὅμοιός εἰμί σοι καὶ οὐδὲν τηλικοῦτον διαφέρεις ἡλίκον σε ῞Ομηρος ἐκεῖνος ὁ τυφλὸς ἐπῄνεσεν ἁπάντων εὐμορφότερον προσειπών, ἀλλ’ ὁ φοξὸς ἐγὼ καὶ ψεδνὸς οὐδὲν χείρων ἐφάνην τῷ δικαστῇ. ὅρα δὲ σύ, ὦ Μένιππε, ὅντινα καὶ εὐμορφότερον ἡγῇ.

᾿Εμέ γε τὸν ᾿Αγλαΐας καὶ Χάροπος, “ὃς κάλλιστος ἀνὴρ ὑπὸ ῎Ιλιον ἦλθον.”

᾿Αλλ’ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑπὸ γῆν, ὡς οἶμαι, κάλλιστος ἦλθες, ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν ὀστᾶ ὅμοια, τὸ δὲ κρανίον ταύτῃ μόνον ἄρα διακρίνοιτο ἀπὸ τοῦ Θερσίτου κρανίου, ὅτι εὔθρυπτον τὸ σόν· ἀλαπαδνὸν γὰρ αὐτὸ καὶ οὐκ ἀνδρῶδες ἔχεις.
Καὶ μὴν ἐροῦ ῞Ομηρον, ὁποῖος ἦν, ὁπότε συνεστράτευον τοῖς ᾿Αχαιοῖς.

᾿Ονείρατά μοι λέγεις· ἐγὼ δὲ ἃ βλέπω καὶ νῦν ἔχεις, ἐκεῖνα δέ οἱ τότε ἴσασιν.

Οὔκουν ἐγὼ ἐνταῦθα εὐμορφότερός εἰμι, ὦ Μένιππε;

Οὔτε σὺ οὔτε ἄλλος εὔμορφος· ἰσοτιμία γὰρ ἐν ᾅδου καὶ ὅμοιοι ἅπαντες.

᾿Εμοὶ μὲν καὶ τοῦτο ἱκανόν.

Santo Spirito, Florence. c.1475-1485. Cambrai – BM – ms. 0422, f. 095v. Apocalypsis figurata. Louvain (?), c. 1260. Bibliothque nationale de France,…