“You Must Change Your Beauty”: Hating on Helen

From Ovid’s Heroides 16.283-290

“Many things surely need to be said, but, for us to say more in person
Take me to your room this quiet night.
Do you feel shame or fear breaking your wedding vow,
That you make false the chaste rites of a legitimate bed?
Oh my simple, dare I say naive, Helen
Do you imagine that your body lacks all fault?
You must change your beauty or instead be less withholding,
what is right has only the appearance of modesty.”

multa quidem subeunt; sed coram ut plura loquamur,
excipe me lecto nocte silente tuo.
an pudet et metuis Venerem temerare maritam
castaque legitimi fallere iura tori?
a, nimium simplex Helene, ne rustica dicam,
hanc faciem culpa posse carere putas?
aut faciem mutes aut sis non dura, necesse est;
lis est cum forma magna pudicitiae.

 

Of the poems written with Helen in mind, this is good, but it doesn’t touch this one (Sappho fr. 16):

Some say a force of horsemen, some say infantry
and others say a fleet of ships is the loveliest
thing on the dark earth, but I say it is
the one you love

It is altogether simple to make this understood
since she whose beauty outmatched all,
Helen, left her husband
a most noble man

And went sailing to Troy
Without a thought for her child and dear parents
[Love] made her completely insane
And led her astray

This reminds me of absent Anactoria

I would rather watch her lovely walk
and see the shining light of her face
than Lydian chariots followed by
infantrymen in arms

Οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον, οἰ δὲ πέσδων,
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ’ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔμμεναι κάλλιστον, ἐγὼ δὲ κῆν’ ὄτ-
   τω τις ἔραται

πά]γχυ δ’ εὔμαρες σύνετον πόησαι
πά]ντι τ[οῦ]τ’· ἀ γὰρ πολὺ περσκέθοισα
κά]λλος ἀνθρώπων Ἐλένα [τὸ]ν ἄνδρα
   τὸν πανάριστον
/  [κρίννεν ἄρ]ιστον

καλλίποισ’ ἔβας ‘ς Τροίαν πλέοισα
/ ὂσ τὸ πὰν] σέβασ τροΐα[σ ὄ]λεσσ[ε,
κωὐδὲ παῖδος οὐδὲ φίλων τοκήων
/ κωὐδὲ πα]ῖδοσ οὔδε [φίλ]ων το[κ]ήων
πάμπαν ἐμνάσθη, ἀλλὰ παράγαγ’ αὔταν
/ μᾶλλον] ἐμνάσθη, ἀ[λλὰ] παράγαγ᾽ αὔταν
   οὐκ ἀέκοισαν
/  πῆλε φίλει]σαν

Κύπρις· εὔκαμπτον γὰρ ἔφυ βρότων κῆρ
] κούφως τ . . . οη . . . ν
κἄμε νῦν Ἀνακτορίας ὀνέμναι-
   σ’ οὐ παρεοίσας

/ Ὠροσ. εὔκ]αμπτον γαρ [ἀεὶ τὸ θῆλυ]
αἴ κέ] τισ κούφωσ τ[ὸ πάρον ν]οήσῃ.
οὐ]δὲ νῦν, Ἀνακτορί[α, τ]ὺ μέμναι
     δὴ] παρειοῖσασ,

τᾶς κε βολλοίμαν ἔρατόν τε βᾶμα
κἀμάρυχμα λάμπρον ἴδην προσώπω
ἢ τὰ Λύδων ἄρματα κἀν ὄπλοισι
   πεσδομάχεντας.

Following Metagenes on April Fool’s Day and Mocking Homer: Protect your Beverage, Man!

In an earlier post I mentioned Metagenes’ playing with a line from the Iliad:

 

Metagenes (fr. 19 Athenaeaus 270e)

 

“One Bird Omen is best: defend your dinner!”

εἵς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ δείπνου

 

Homer, Iliad 12.243:

 

“One bird-omen is best: defend your fatherland”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πάτρης.

 

And since I have been musing on some alterations in a Metagenic spirit:

 

 

For Polyphemos, the goat-herding Cyclops:

“One bird-omen is best: protect your cheese”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ τύρης

 

 

For Telemachus:

“One bird-omen is best: defend your daddy”

 

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πάππου

 

For Odysseus

“One bird-omen is best: save your homecoming.”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ νόστου

 

 

For Paris

“One bird-omen is best: defend your ‘booty’ “

 

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πύγης

 

 

For Oedipus

“One bird-omen is best: defend your mommy”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ ματρὸς

 

 

For any old Satyr

 

“One bird-omen is best: defend your wine”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ οἴνου

 

For The Big Lebowski

 

“One bird-omen is best: protect your beverage, [man]”

εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ πὀτου

 

If that seems mysterious, watch this:

 

Another Day, another Word on Helen: Paris Plays Andrew Marvell (Ovid, Heroides XVI.283-290)

The past two days we heard from Homer and Herodotus on Helen. Today Ovid gives voice to Paris’ words of seduction before the war ever happened:

“Many things surely need to be said, but, for us to say more in person
Take me to your room this quiet night.
Do you feel shame or fear breaking your wedding vow,
That you make false the chaste rites of a legitimate bed?
Oh my simple, dare I say naive, Helen
Do you imagine that your body lacks all fault?
You must change your beauty or instead be less withholding,
what is right has only the appearance of modesty.”

multa quidem subeunt; sed coram ut plura loquamur,
excipe me lecto nocte silente tuo.
an pudet et metuis Venerem temerare maritam
castaque legitimi fallere iura tori?
a, nimium simplex Helene, ne rustica dicam,
hanc faciem culpa posse carere putas?
aut faciem mutes aut sis non dura, necesse est;
lis est cum forma magna pudicitiae.

Homer, Iliad 3.146-160: Fighting Over Helen Makes Some Sense…

Palaiophron brought out a great passage from Herodotus that shows the historian trying to make sense of the mythical accounts of the Trojan War. In the Iliad, Homer actually has Antenor suggest in an assembly in book 7 that the Trojans should give her back. But before then, the elders speak on the topic:

 

The men who were near Priam, Panthoos, Thymoites
Lampos, Klutios, and Hiketaôn, the descendent of Ares,
Were Oukalegôn and Antênôr, two intelligent men.
The council of elders sat there on the Skaian gates
Slowed by old age, but still fine public speakers
Something like cicadas who sit on the leaf
Of a tree trailing along their lily-thin voices.
When they saw Helen approaching the wall,
They addressed each other with winged words:
“There’s no reason to criticize the Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans
For suffering pain for so long for this woman.
She has the terrible appearance of the immortal goddesses.
But, even though she is like this, let her return in the ships,
To prevent more pain from being left for our children.”

 
Οἳ δ’ ἀμφὶ Πρίαμον καὶ Πάνθοον ἠδὲ Θυμοίτην
Λάμπόν τε Κλυτίον θ’ ῾Ικετάονά τ’ ὄζον ῎Αρηος
Οὐκαλέγων τε καὶ ᾿Αντήνωρ πεπνυμένω ἄμφω
ἥατο δημογέροντες ἐπὶ Σκαιῇσι πύλῃσι,
γήραϊ δὴ πολέμοιο πεπαυμένοι, ἀλλ’ ἀγορηταὶ
ἐσθλοί, τεττίγεσσιν ἐοικότες οἵ τε καθ’ ὕλην
δενδρέῳ ἐφεζόμενοι ὄπα λειριόεσσαν ἱεῖσι·
τοῖοι ἄρα Τρώων ἡγήτορες ἧντ’ ἐπὶ πύργῳ.
οἳ δ’ ὡς οὖν εἴδονθ’ ῾Ελένην ἐπὶ πύργον ἰοῦσαν,
ἦκα πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἔπεα πτερόεντ’ ἀγόρευον·
οὐ νέμεσις Τρῶας καὶ ἐϋκνήμιδας ᾿Αχαιοὺς
τοιῇδ’ ἀμφὶ γυναικὶ πολὺν χρόνον ἄλγεα πάσχειν·
αἰνῶς ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἔοικεν·
ἀλλὰ καὶ ὧς τοίη περ ἐοῦσ’ ἐν νηυσὶ νεέσθω,
μηδ’ ἡμῖν τεκέεσσί τ’ ὀπίσσω πῆμα λίποιτο.

This passage is famous for showing the marginalization of the Trojan elders and for acting as a preface to the famous (and sometimes thought illogical) “viewing from the walls” (Teikhoskopia) when Helen names the Greek warriors for Priam (even though they’ve been fighting before Troy for 9 years). The elders essentially say, yeah, we get it, she’s hot. But, in the wisdom brought by old age, they insist she isn’t worth it.

Perhaps the Trojan elders understand better the insanity of lust than Herodotus…

Ovid, Heroides 5.5-9: Oenone to Paris

“What god has put his power against my prayers?
What crime stops me from remaining yours?
We must bear lightly whatever suffering we’ve earned.
We must mourn the punishment that comes undeserved.”

Quis deus opposuit nostris sua numina votis?
ne tua permaneam, quod mihi crimen obest?
leniter, e merito quicquid patiare, ferendum est;
quae venit indignae poena dolenda venit.

Ovid, Heroides 16 (Paris to Helen): You Don’t Have to Dig for This Fire

(Most of the Heroides are from mythical women to men…go here for the full Latin texts.)

“I, Priam’s son, remit to Leda’s daughter, this prayer for health,

A happiness I could have only if you wish me the same.

Shall I describe it, or is there no need for publishing a fire well-known

Now that my love stands out even more than I wished?

Certainly, I would have preferred it stayed hidden until the time

when fear did not cohabitate with joy.

But I pretend poorly: who can hide away a fire

That always betrays itself by its own brilliance?

If you still wait for me to give a voice to these affairs:

I burn: and you possess these words as the declaration of my soul.”

Hanc tibi Priamides mitto, Ledaea, salutem,
quae tribui sola te mihi dante potest.
eloquar, an flammae non est opus indice notae,
et plus quam vellem, iam meus extat amor?
ille quidem lateat malim, dum tempora dentur
laetitiae mixtos non habitura metus.
sed male dissimulo; quis enim celaverit ignem,
lumine qui semper proditur ipse suo?
si tamen expectas, vocem quoque rebus ut addam:
uror—habes animi nuntia verba mei.

And for the title to this post?  Apologies to the Pixies:

Euripides, fr. 54 (Alexander): On the Educational Merits of Poverty?

Earlier in the week we posted a passage from Xenophon’s Memorabilia about the rich and the poor (focusing more on having or not having…)

Here’s a fragment from Euripides:

 

“Wealth and too much luxury

Are the wrong lessons for manly men.

Poverty is wretched but at least it raises up

Children better at working and getting things done.”

 

κακόν τι παίδευμ’ ἦν ἄρ’ εἰς εὐανδρίαν

ὁ πλοῦτος ἀνθρώποισιν αἵ τ’ ἄγαν τρυφαί·

πενία δὲ δύστηνον μέν, ἀλλ’ ὅμως τρέφει

μοχθεῖν τ’ ἀμείνω τέκνα καὶ δραστήρια.

 

This is from a play named Alexander, probably about how Paris (of Trojan War fame) grew up outside his household. I guess that the argument made here is that such an upbringing is better for “manliness” (εἰς εὐανδρίαν). But I am not sure Hektor would agree…