Give Us Something Big, A Folk Song

Folk Songs, LCL fr. 848 (=Athen. 8. 360b–d)

“The swallow has come, has come,
Bringing us the best weather
The most wonderful time of the year,
White on its stomach and
White on its back–
Why don’t you toss out
From your well-stocked house
A cup of wine,
And a basket of cheese and wheat?
That bird won’t decline
A bit of flatbread either.

Should we leave or take something?
If you’re going to give us something, great!
If not, we won’t leave you alone.
We will steal your door
Or maybe your threshold or
Your wife who is sitting indoors.
She’s small. We’ll carry her easily.

Would you give us something? Could you give us something big?
Open up, open the door to the swallow.
We aren’t old men, but little kids.”

ἦλθ᾿ ἦλθε χελιδὼν
καλὰς ὥρας ἄγουσα
καὶ καλοὺς ἐνιαυτούς,
ἐπὶ γαστέρα λευκά
κἀπὶ νῶτα μέλαινα.
παλάθαν οὐ προκυκλεῖς
ἐκ πίονος οἴκου
οἴνου τε δέπαστρον
τυροῦ τε κάνυστρον
καὶ πυρῶν; ἁ χελιδών
καὶ λεκιθίταν οὐκ ἀπωθεῖται.
πότερ᾿ ἀπίωμες ἢ λαβώμεθα;
εἰ μέν τι δώσεις· εἰ δὲ μή, οὐκ ἐάσομες·
ἢ τὰν θύραν φέρωμες;ἢ τὸ ὑπέρθυρον
ἢ τὰν γυναῖκα τὰν ἔσω καθημέναν·
μικρὰ μέν ἐστι, ῥᾳδίως νιν οἴσομες.
ἂν δή τι φέρῃς, μέγα δή τι φέροις·
ἄνοιγ᾿ ἄνοιγε τὰν θύραν χελιδόνι·
οὐ γὰρ γέροντές ἐσμεν, ἀλλὰ παιδία.

A close up of a swallow sitting on a twig

An Archaic Love Song

Sophocles, Antigone, 781-800.

Love, unbeatable in war,
Love, who ravishes wealth,
Who in the soft cheeks
Of girls keeps vigil,
And who roams the seas
And rustic hideaways:
Gods can’t elude you,
Nor can mortal men.
Who admits you goes mad.

You wrench just men’s minds
Into shameful wrongs.
(This family strife between men,
It’s you who stirred it.)
Desire, clear in the eyes
Of a fetching bride, prevails.
Desire reigns
Beside the great laws.
Irresistible god
Aphrodite frolics.

Ἔρως ἀνίκατε μάχαν,
Ἔρως, ὃς ἐν κτήμασι πίπτεις,
ὃς ἐν μαλακαῖς παρειαῖς
νεάνιδος ἐννυχεύεις,
φοιτᾷς δʼ ὑπερπόντιος ἔν τʼ
ἀγρονόμοις αὐλαῖς·
καί σʼ οὔτʼ ἀθανάτων φύξιμος οὐδεὶς
οὔθʼ ἁμερίων σέ γʼ ἀν-
θρώπων. ὁ δʼ ἔχων μέμηνεν.

σὺ καὶ δικαίων ἀδίκους
φρένας παρασπᾷς ἐπὶ λώβᾳ·
σὺ καὶ τόδε νεῖκος ἀνδρῶν
ξύναιμον ἔχεις ταράξας·
νικᾷ δʼ ἐναργὴς βλεφάρων
ἵμερος εὐλέκτρου
νύμφας, τῶν μεγάλων πάρεδρος ἐν ἀρχαῖς
θεσμῶν. ἄμαχος γὰρ ἐμ-
παίζει θεὸς Ἀφροδίτα.

Tarnished bronze statuette: Nude venus holding hand of winged cupid
Aphrodite Spanking Eros.
c.1st Century BC. Bronze.
J. Paul Getty Museum.

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.

Come, Be A Wise Guy Like Me

Epicharmea, fr. 2

“There are many kinds of useful notions in this book,
Against a friend or an enemy, when speaking in court or assembly
Addressing a scoundrel or someone good and noble, for a stranger
Or someone in a rage, for someone drunk, or violent
Or anything bad that happens–this book has a sharp point for them.

It also has wise sayings– whoever heeds them becomes
Better and readier for every situation.
You don’t need to say a lot, just one of these words.
Steer any subject to whichever one of them fits.

Even though I was ready for many things, I used to be blamed
Because I was long winded, and could not give my opinion concisely.
So I listened to this complaint and I composed this craft
So that anyone may say “Epicharmus was a smart dude.
He spoke many clever ideas in short verses and now
He is letting us try to speak briefly as he does too!”

Everyone who learns these things will appear to be wise,
He won’t talk nonsense ever, if he remembers every word.

If someone is annoyed by something in these words,
Not because he has acted wrongly or is in disagreement with them,
Let him know that it is a good misfortune to nurture a broadly-informed mind.”

τεῖδ᾿ ἔνεστι πολλὰ καὶ παν[τ]οῖα, τοῖς χρήσαιό κα,
ποτὶ φίλον, ποτ᾿ ἐχθρόν, ἐν δίκαι λέγων, ἐν ἁλίαι,
ποτὶ πονηρόν, ποτὶ καλόν τε κἀγαθόν, ποτὶ ξένον,
ποτὶ δύσηριν, ποτὶ πάροινον, ποτὶ βάναυσον,αἴτε τις
ἄλλ᾿ ἔχει κακόν τι, καὶ τούτοισι κέντρα τεῖδ᾿ ἔνο.

ἐν δὲ καὶ γνῶμαι σοφαὶ τεῖδ᾿, αἷσιν αἰπίθοιτό τις,
δεξιώτερός τέ κ᾿ εἴη βελτίων τ᾿ ἐς πά[ν]τ᾿ ἀνήρ.
κο]ὔτι πολλὰ δεῖ λέγειν, ἀλλ᾿ ἓν μόνον [τ]ούτων ἔπος,
ποττὸ πρᾶγμα περιφέροντα τῶνδ᾿ ἀεὶ τὸ συμφέρον.
αἰτίαν γὰρ ἦχον ὡς ἄλλως μὲν εἴην δεξιός,
μακρολόγος δ᾿ οὔ κα δυναίμαν ἐν β[ρ]αχεῖ γνώμα[ς λέγ]ειν.
ταῦτα δὴ ᾿γὼν εἰσακούσας συντίθημι τὰν τέχναν
τάνδ᾿, ὅπως εἴπηι τις, Ἐπίχαρμος σοφός τις ἐγένετο,
πόλλ᾿ ὃς εἶ]π᾿ ἀστεῖα καὶ παντοῖα καθ᾿ ἓν ἔπος [λέγων,
πεῖραν] αὐταυτοῦ διδοὺς ὡς καὶ β[ραχέα καλῶς λέγοι.
εὖ δὲ τάδ]ε μαθὼν ἅπας ἀνὴρ φαν[ήσεται σοφός,
οὐδὲ ληρ]ήσει ποτ᾿ οὐδέν, ἔπος ἅπ[αν μεμναμένος.
εἰ δὲ τὸν λαβ]όντα λυπήσει τι τῶνδ[ε τῶν λόγων,
οὔτι μὰν ἄσκεπτ]α δρῶντα τοῖσδ[έ θ᾿ ἧσσον ὁμότροπα,
ἀγαθὸν ἴστω σύμφ]ορόν τε πολυμαθῆ [νόον τρέφειν

poster of barnum and bailey circus
This is the greatest show

Exceptional in Wisdom and Deed: the Homeric Hymns to Artemis

Homeric Hymn to Artemis [9]

“Sing of Artemis, Muse, the far-shooter’s sister,
The archer maiden, Apollo’s playmate.
She has her horses drink from the reed-growing Meles,
Then drives her chariot quickly through Smyrna
To vine-growing Klaros, where Silverbow Apollo
Is seated, waiting for the far-shooting Archer.
Greetings to you and all goddesses with my song.
I begin to sing you and with your strength.
Now that I have begun, I turn to a different hymn.”

Ἄρτεμιν ὕμνει, Μοῦσα, κασιγνήτην Ἑκάτοιο,
παρθένον ἰοχέαιραν, ὁμότροφον Ἀπόλλωνος,
ἥ θ᾿ ἵππους ἄρσασα βαθυσχοίνοιο Μέλητος
ῥίμφα διὰ Σμύρνης παγχρύσεον ἅρμα διώκει
ἐς Κλάρον ἀμπελόεσσαν, ὅθ᾿ ἀργυρότοξος Ἀπόλλων
ἧσται μιμνάζων ἑκατηβόλον Ἰοχέαιραν.
καὶ σὺ μὲν οὕτω χαῖρε θεαί θ᾿ ἅμα πᾶσαι ἀοιδῆι·
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ σέ τε πρῶτα καὶ ἐκ σέθεν ἄρχομ᾿ἀείδειν.
{σέο δ᾿ ἐγὼ ἀρξάμενος μεταβήσομαι ἄλλον ἐς
Ὕμνον.}

Homeric Hymn to Artemis [27]

“I am singing of glorious Artemis with her golden missile,
That reverent maiden, the deer-shooting archer,
The twin sister of Apollo, the god of the golden sword.

She delights in hunting through the shaded mountains
And the peaks shaped by winds, aiming her golden bow
And releasing deadly, sorrowful shots. The mountains
Tremble at her passing; the forests echo terribly
From the cries of the beasts. The earth itself bristles
Along with the fish-filled sea. But with her courageous heart
She takes every turn, bringing murder to the wild creatures.

But when the animal watcher, the archer, is pleased
And has lightened her mind, she packs up her bent bow
And returns to her dear brother’s great home,
Joining Phoebus Apollo in the rich realm of the Delphians,
To help guide the Muses and Graces in their beautiful dance.

That’s where she hangs up her back-curved bow and leaves
Her arrows, putting a gorgeous gown over her skin
And leading the chorus out to sing in immortal voices
A hymn for fine-ankled Leto, how she bore two children
By far the best of the immortals in wisdom and deeds.
Greetings, children of Zeus and fine-haired Leto.
I will keep you in my memory with another song too.”

Ἄρτεμιν ἀείδω χρυσηλάκατον κελαδεινήν,
παρθένον αἰδοίην ἐλαφηβόλον ἰοχέαιραν,
αὐτοκασιγνήτην χρυσαόρου Ἀπόλλωνος,
ἣ κατ᾿ ὄρη σκιόεντα καὶ ἄκριας ἠνεμοέσσας
ἄγρηι τερπομένη παγχρύσεα τόξα τιταίνει,
πέμπουσα στονόεντα βέλη· τρομέει δὲ κάρηνα
ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων, ἰαχεῖ δ᾿ ἔπι δάσκιος ὕλη
δεινὸν ὑπὸ κλαγγῆς θηρῶν, φρίσσει δέ τε γαῖα
πόντός τ᾿ ἰχθυόεις· ἣ δ᾿ ἄλκιμον ἦτορ ἔχουσα
πάντηι ἐπιστρέφεται θηρῶν ὀλέκουσα γενέθλην.
αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν τερφθῆι θηροσκόπος Ἰοχέαιρα,
εὐφρήνηι δὲ νόον, χαλάσασ᾿ εὐκαμπέα τόξα
ἔρχεται ἐς μέγα δῶμα κασιγνήτοιο φίλοιο
Φοίβου Ἀπόλλωνος, Δελφῶν ἐς πίονα δῆμον,
Μουσῶν καὶ Χαρίτων καλὸν χορὸν ἀρτυνέουσα.
ἔνθα κατακρεμάσασα παλίντονα τόξα καὶ ἰούς
ἡγεῖται, χαρίεντα περὶ χροῒ κόσμον ἔχουσα,
ἐξάρχουσα χορούς· αἳ δ᾿ ἀμβροσίην ὄπ᾿ ἰεῖσαι
ὑμνέουσιν Λητὼ καλλίσφυρον, ὡς τέκε παῖδας
ἀθανάτων βουλῆι τε καὶ ἔργμασιν ἔξοχ᾿ ἀρίστους.
χαίρετε, τέκνα Διὸς καὶ Λητοῦς ἠϋκόμοιο·
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν ὑμέων <τε> καὶ ἄλλης μνήσομ᾿ ἀοιδῆς.

Red Fi=figure of Artemis holding a bow looking to the right
Red Figure vase with Artemis, München, Staatliche Antikensammlungen NI 7514

Artemis, A Magnificent Name

Sappho fr. 44a [=P. Fouad 239]

“(Phoebus with his golden locks, whom Coeus’ daughter
Bore after having sex with the great-named, high-cloud son of Kronos.

But Artemis swore the great oath of the gods:
“By your head, father, I will remain a maiden
unbroken, hunting over deserted mountain peaks.
Come, agree to this favor for me.”

So she spoke. And the father of the blessed gods assented.
Now gods and men call her the maiden huntress,
The shooter of deer, a magnificent name.
And that limb-loosener love never nears her.”

]σανορε . . [
Φοίβωι χρυσοκό]αι, τὸν ἔτικτε Κόω [όρα
μίγεισ᾿ ὐψινέφει Κρ]ονίδαι μεγαλωνύμι·
Ἄρτεμις δὲ θέων] μέγαν ὄρκον ἀπώμοσε·
νὴ τὰν σὰν κεφά]λαν, ἄϊ πάρθενος ἔσσομαι
ἄδμης οἰοπό]ων ὀρέων κορύφσ᾿ ἔπι
θηρεύοισ᾿· ἄγι καὶ τά]ε νεῦσον ἔμαν χάριν.
ὢς εἶπ᾿· αὐτὰρ ἔνευ]ε θέων μακάρων πάτηρ.
πάρθενον δ᾿ ἐλαφάβ]ολον ἀγροτέραν θέι
ἄνθρωποί τε κάλε]σιν ἐπωνύμιον μέγα.
κήναι λυσιμέλης] Ἔρος οὐδάμα πίλναται…

Carving with a figure facing forward. Somewhat rough with birds on either side. The head is large with large eyes. Represents Artemis as queen of the animals.
Artemis Orthia in the usual stance of Potnia Theron on an archaic ivory votive offering, (National Archaeological Museum of Athens)

Weeping for Youth

Anacreon, fr. 365

“My hair is gray already–
And at my temples it is white.
That charm of youth is no longer present
And my teeth are just old.

The great span of sweet life
isn’t left for me any more.

Now I often weep aloud,
Because I am afraid of Tartaros.
The inner hall of Hades is terrible
And the path to get there is hard.
One thing is certain:
The one who goes down, may not return.”

πολιοὶ μὲν ἡμὶν ἤδη
κρόταφοι κάρη τε λευκόν,
χαρίεσσα δ᾿ οὐκέτ᾿ ἥβη
πάρα, γηραλέοι δ᾿ ὀδόντες,
γλυκεροῦ δ᾿ οὐκέτι πολλὸς
βιότου χρόνος λέλειπται·

διὰ ταῦτ᾿ ἀνασταλύζω
θαμὰ Τάρταρον δεδοικώς·
Ἀίδεω γάρ ἐστι δεινὸς
μυχός, ἀργαλῆ δ᾿ ἐς αὐτὸν
κάτοδος· καὶ γὰρ ἑτοῖμον
καταβάντι μὴ ἀναβῆναι.

An oil painting: Orpheus is at the center next to an outline of eurydice, performing in front of Hades and Persephone in a cavern of sorts. There are other people listening on the margins.
Henryk Siemiradzki, “Orpheus in the underworld”

Practice Makes Perfect?

Anacreonta 60a

“I will let my lyre sing.
There’s no contest now,
But practice is important for
Everyone who has seen
a flowering of their art.

I will play with my ivory pick,
Shouting along in a Phrygian measure,
Crooning a clear melody
Like some swan from the Kaustros,
Sounding a complex beat
along with the rushing wind.

Muse, dance with me:
For the kithara is Apollo’s sacred thing,
Like the bay and the tripod too.

My gossip is Apollo’s love,
That unrequited compulsion:
The girl remains safe.
She fled his weapons
And changed the nature of her form,
Rooting herself in the ground to grow.

Phoebus? Well, Phoebus arrived,
Imagining that he ruled the girl,
But he merely picked young leaves,
acting out the mysteries of Aphrodite.”

ἀνὰ βάρβιτον δονήσω·
ἄεθλος μὲν οὐ πρόκειται,
μελέτη δ᾿ ἔπεστι παντὶ
σοφίης λαχόντ᾿ ἄωτον.

ἐλεφαντίνῳ δὲ πλήκτρῳ
λιγυρὸν μέλος κροαίνων
Φρυγίῳ ῥυθμῷ βοήσω,
ἅτε τις κύκνος Καΰστρου
ποικίλον πτεροῖσι μέλπων
ἀνέμου σύναυλος ἠχῇ.

σὺ δέ, Μοῦσα, συγχόρευε·
ἱερὸν γάρ ἐστι Φοίβου
κιθάρη, δάφνη τρίπους τε.
λαλέω δ᾿ ἔρωτα Φοίβου,
ἀνεμώλιον τὸν οἶστρον·

σαόφρων γάρ ἐστι κούρα·
τὰ μὲν ἐκπέφευγε κέντρα,
φύσεως δ᾿ ἄμειψε μορφήν,
φυτὸν εὐθαλὲς δ᾿ ἐπήχθη·

ὁ δὲ Φοῖβος ᾖε, Φοῖβος,
κρατέειν κόρην νομίζων,
χλοερὸν δρέπων δὲ φύλλον
ἐδόκει τελεῖν Κυθήρην.

Fragment of mosaic. Daphne is running towards a laurel tree, parly close. Apollo is pursuing, but only his head is visible
Antakya Archaeological Museum Apollo and Daphne mosaic

A Dream to Remember, Repeat

Anacreonta 37

“As I slept through the night
Under sea-purple blankets,
Stretched out, drunk,
I was dreaming I stretched out
Mid-run on a fast course,
On the very tips of my toes.
I was enjoying myself with the girls
But some boys younger
Than Luaios were mocking me,
Teasing me harshly,
Because of those pretty girls.

Then, they all ran away from my dream
When I reached out to kiss them.
They left me alone and poor me,
I only wanted to sleep again.”

διὰ νυκτὸς ἐγκαθεύδων
ἁλιπορφύροις τάπησι
γεγανυμένος Λυαίῳ,
ἐδόκουν ἄκροισι ταρσῶν
δρόμον ὠκὺν ἐκτανύειν
μετὰ παρθένων ἀθύρων,
ἐπεκερτόμουν δὲ παῖδες
ἁπαλώτεροι Λυαίου
δακέθυμά μοι λέγοντες
διὰ τὰς καλὰς ἐκείνας.

ἐθέλοντα δ᾿ ἐκφιλῆσαι
φύγον ἐξ ὕπνου με πάντες·
μεμονωμένος δ᾿ ὁ τλήμων
πάλιν ἤθελον καθεύδειν.

a knight dozes at a table on the left. An angel looks at him. in the center and the right lies a table cluttered with objects, including coins, books, and a skull
Antonio de Pereda “The Knight’s Dream” 1650

No Bull, Just Zeus

Anacreonta 54

“Child, this bull
Looks a bit like Zeus to me.
Since he is carrying on his back
A Sidonian lady.

He is crossing the broad sea!
He carves the waves with his feet!

No other bull could
Separate himself from the herd and
Sail across the sea except
this bull alone.”

ὁ ταῦρος οὗτος, ὦ παῖ,
δοκεῖ τις εἶναί μοι Ζεύς·
φέρει γὰρ ἀμφὶ νώτοις
Σιδωνίαν γυναῖκα·
περᾷ δὲ πόντον εὐρύν,
τέμνει δὲ κῦμα χηλαῖς.
οὐκ ἂν δὲ ταῦρος ἄλλος
ἐξ ἀγέλης λιασθεὶς
ἔπλευσε τὴν θάλασσαν,
εἰ μὴ μόνος ἐκεῖνος.

Segment of a fresco (wall painting). Woman, half-clothed, sits on bull while friends calm him. The bull looks suspicious.
Wall painting from pompeii, Europa already sitting on the back of the bull (Zeus)

The Glory and Story of the Rose

Anacreonta 55

“Along with garland bearing spring
I plan to sing clearly
Of her gentle companion, the rose.

This is the immortals’ breath,
This is delight for mortals,
And the Graces’ pride in all seasons,
The lovely plaything
Of blossoming Loves.

This is a theme for myths,
This charming shoot of the Muses,
Sweet to find when one is making
Their way along prickly paths;
Sweet to take in turn, to warm
In gentle hands, pressing
This light flower of Love.

Could we ever be without
The rose at the tables
And feasts of Dionysus?

Dawn is called rosy-toed,
The Nymphs are rosy-armed,
Aphrodite is tinted-rose
When named by people who know.

This pleasure is the same for the ignorant;
This is helpful to the sick too;
This helps protect the dead and
This even fights against time:
For the old age of roses
Retains the charming scent of something new

Come, let’s talk of its creation:
When from the murky sea
The water was giving birth to
Aphrodite dampened with foam,
And Zeus was displaying on his brow
War-loving Athena
A terror for Olympus to see,
The earth let flower
A new surprising growth of roses,
An intricate creation.

She made the rose to be
Like the blessed gods themselves–
Then Luaios watered it with nektar,
Joining it to the haughty thorn,
a life to last forever.

στεφανηφόρου μετ᾿ ἦρος
μέλομαι ῥόδον τέρεινον
συνέταιρον ὀξὺ μέλπειν.
τόδε γὰρ θεῶν ἄημα,
τόδε καὶ βροτοῖσι χάρμα,
Χάρισίν τ᾿ ἄγαλμ᾿ ἐν ὥραις,
πολυανθέων Ἐρώτων
ἀφροδίσιόν τ᾿ ἄθυρμα·

τόδε καὶ μέλημα μύθοις
χαρίεν φυτόν τε Μουσῶν·
γλυκὺ καὶ ποιοῦντι πεῖραν
ἐν ἀκανθίναις ἀταρποῖς,
γλυκὺ δ᾿ αὖ λαβόντι, θάλπειν
μαλακαῖσι χερσί, κοῦφον
προσάγοντ᾿ Ἔρωτος ἄνθος.

θαλίαις τί κἀν τραπέζαις
Διονυσίαις τ᾿ ἑορταῖς
δίχα τοῦ ῥόδου γένοιτ᾿ ἄν;

ῥοδοδάκτυλος μὲν Ἠώς,
ῥοδοπήχεες δὲ Νύμφαι,
ῥοδόχρους δὲ κἀφροδίτα
παρὰ τῶν σοφῶν καλεῖται.

ἀσόφῳ τόδ᾿ αὐτὸ τερπνόν·
τόδε καὶ νοσοῦσιν ἀρκεῖ,
τόδε καὶ νεκροῖς ἀμύνει,
τόδε καὶ χρόνον βιᾶται·
χαρίεν ῥόδων δὲ γῆρας
νεότητος ἔσχεν ὀδμήν.

φέρε δὴ φύσιν λέγωμεν·
χαροπῆς ὅτ᾿ ἐκ θαλάττης
δεδροσωμένην Κυθήρην
ἐλόχευε πόντος ἀφρῷ
πολεμόκλονόν τ᾿ Ἀθήνην
κορυφῆς ἔδειξεν ὁ Ζεύς,
φοβερὰν θέαν Ὀλύμπῳ,
τότε καὶ ῥόδων ἀγητὸν
νέον ἔρνος ἤνθισε χθών,
πολυδαίδαλον λόχευμα·

μακάρων θεῶν δ᾿ ὅμοιον
ῥόδον ὡς γένοιτο, νέκταρ
ἐπιτέγξας ἀνέθηλεν
ἀγέρωχον ἐξ ἀκάνθης
φυτὸν ἄμβροτον Λυαῖος.

Impressionistic oil painting of pink roses
Pierre August Renoir, “Roses” 1910