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

Roses, Wine, and Pretty Curls

Anacreonta 44

“Let’s mix the Loves’ rose
In with Dionysus.
Once we fit that fine-leaved
Rose to our temples,
Let’s drink and giggle.

Rose, the best blossom,
Rose, the spring’s crush,
Rose, a pleasure even to gods,
Rose, the flower Aphrodite’s child
Uses to tie up his pretty curls,
When he dances along with the Graces.

Crown me! And while I play
The lyre in your sacred places, Dionysus,
I will dance, my head covered
With garlands of rose
Alongside a deep-chested girl.”

τὸ ῥόδον τὸ τῶν Ἐρώτων
μίξωμεν Διονύσῳ·
τὸ ῥόδον τὸ καλλίφυλλον
κροτάφοισιν ἁρμόσαντες
πίνωμεν ἁβρὰ γελῶντες.

ῥόδον, ὦ φέριστον ἄνθος,
ῥόδον εἴαρος μέλημα,
ῥόδα καὶ θεοῖσι τερπνά,
ῥόδον, ᾧ παῖς ὁ Κυθήρης
στέφεται καλοὺς ἰούλους
Χαρίτεσσι συγχορεύων·

στεφάνου με, καὶ λυρίζων
παρὰ σοῖς, Διόνυσε, σηκοῖς
μετὰ κούρης βαθυκόλπου
ῥοδίνοισι στεφανίσκοις
πεπυκασμένος χορεύσω.

abstract  Oil painting with soldiers drinking, palying games, playing the accordion
Mikhail Larionov, “Dancing Soldiers” 1910

Warm Heart, Calm Thoughts: Yay Wine!

Anacreonta 50

“Whenever I drink wine
My heart gets warm

And begins to sing the Muses.

Whenever I drink wine,
My worries and anxious plans
Are tossed to the winds
That assault the sea.

Whenever I drink wine,
That playful Bacchus
Makes me happier with drink,
Surrounding me with flowery breezes.

Whenever I drink wine,
I weave blossoms into crowns,
Drop them on my head
And sing aloud of life’s peace.

Whenever I drink wine,
I douse my body with perfume
And sing all about Kypris
Holding a girl in my arms.

Whenever I drink wine,
I unfold my mind in the cups
And delight in the partying boys.”

ὅτ᾿ ἐγὼ πίω τὸν οἶνον,
τότε μὴν ἦτορ ἰανθὲν
. . . . . . . . .
λιγαίνειν ἄρχεται Μούσας.

ὅτ᾿ ἐγὼ πίω τὸν οἶνον,
ἀπορίπτονται μέριμναι
πολυφρόντιδές τε βουλαὶ
ἐς ἁλικτύπους ἀήτας.

ὅτ᾿ ἐγὼ πίω τὸν οἶνον,
λυσιπαίγμων τότε Βάκχος
πολυανθέσιν μ᾿ ἐν αὔραις
δονέει μέθῃ γανώσας.

ὅτ᾿ ἐγὼ πίω τὸν οἶνον,
στεφάνους ἄνθεσι πλέξας,
ἐπιθείς τε τῷ καρήνῳ
βιότου μέλπω γαλήνην.

ὅτ᾿ ἐγὼ πίω τὸν οἶνον,
μύρῳ εὐώδεϊ τέγξας
δέμας, ἀγκάλαις δὲ κούρην
κατέχων Κύπριν ἀείδω.

ὅτ᾿ ἐγὼ πίω τὸν οἶνον,
ὑπὸ κυρτοῖς δὴ κυπέλλοις
τὸν ἐμὸν νόον ἁπλώσας
θιάσῳ τέρπομαι κούρων.

Picture of lemur next to wine jug.
Painting be Pisha Larysa French wine 2000

The Things I would Be For You To Walk All Over Me

Anacreonta 22

“Once upon a time
Tantalos’ daughter stood,
A stone on Phrygian river banks;
And Pandion’s daughter flew,
A bird, a swallow.

I wish I could become a mirror
So you would always look at me–
I wish I could become a robe
So you would always carry me–
I wish I could become water,
So I could wash over your skin;
I wish I could be perfume
So I could decorate you, my love.

To be support for your breasts
Or pearls for your neck or
Even a sandal I would be,
just for you to touch me with your feet.”

ἡ Ταντάλου ποτ᾿ ἔστη
λίθος Φρυγῶν ἐν ὄχθαις,
καὶ παῖς ποτ᾿ ὄρνις ἔπτη
Πανδίονος χελιδών.

ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἔσοπτρον εἴην,
ὅπως ἀεὶ βλέπῃς με·
ἐγὼ χιτὼν γενοίμην,
ὅπως ἀεὶ φορῇς με.
ὕδωρ θέλω γενέσθαι,
ὅπως σε χρῶτα λούσω·
μύρον, γύναι, γενοίμην,
ὅπως ἐγώ σ᾿ ἀλείψω.

καὶ ταινίη δὲ μασθῷ
καὶ μάργαρον τραχήλῳ
καὶ σανδαλον γενοίμην·
μόνον ποσὶν πάτει με.

Aphrodite and Eros. Inner decoration of a Greek folding mirror.
Gilt bronze, from Tarquinia, c. 350 BCE. The Louvre, Paris.

Come, Play that Country Song

Moschus, Lament for Bion 116-126

“If I could have…
I would have gone down quickly to Plouto’s home
Descending into Tartaros like Orpheus or
Odysseus or Alkeides so I might see you and hear
What song you sing if you sing for Death.

But come, sing for Kore some Sicilian melody
And play some sweet country song.
She’s a country girl too and she also used to play
On the beaches near Aetna. She knows the Doric tune.

You won’t go without a prize for your melody
Just as once upon a time she gave Orpheus Eurydice
Because he played the lyre so sweetly, so too
To the hills, Bion, she will perhaps restore you.
And If I had any power in in my song
I would have sung for Plouto on my own.”

….εἰ δυνάμαν δέ,
ὡς Ὀρφεὺς καταβὰς ποτὶ Τάρταρον, ὥς ποκ’ Ὀδυσσεύς,
ὡς πάρος Ἀλκεΐδας, κἠγὼ τάχ’ ἂν ἐς δόμον ἦλθον
Πλουτέος ὥς κέ σ’ ἴδοιμι καί, εἰ Πλουτῆι μελίσδῃ,
ὡς ἂν ἀκουσαίμαν τί μελίσδεαι. ἀλλ’ ἄγε Κώρᾳ
Σικελικόν τι λίγαινε καὶ ἁδύ τι βουκολιάζευ·
καὶ κείνα Σικελά, καὶ ἐν Αἰτναίαισιν ἔπαιζεν
ᾀόσι, καὶ μέλος οἶδε τὸ Δώριον· οὐκ ἀγέραστος
ἐσσεῖθ’ ἁ μολπά, χὠς Ὀρφέι πρόσθεν ἔδωκεν
ἁδέα φορμίζοντι παλίσσυτον Εὐρυδίκειαν,
καὶ σέ, Βίων, πέμψει τοῖς ὤρεσιν. εἰ δέ τι κἠγών
συρίσδων δυνάμαν, παρὰ Πλουτέι κ’ αὐτὸς ἄειδον.

Some things are just better than the “original”. RIP ,Toots.

Writing Advice from Odysseus and David Byrne

Homer, Odyssey 12.447-453

“From there I was carried for nine days and on the tenth
The gods drove me at night to the island where Kalypso,
That nymph with the good hair, the dread goddess lives.
She was loving me and taking care of me. But why should I tell that story again?
I already told the tale of these things yesterday in this house
To you and your wife. It is super annoying for me
To say something again once it was already said clearly.”

ἔνθεν δ’ ἐννῆμαρ φερόμην, δεκάτῃ δέ με νυκτὶ
νῆσον ἐς ᾿Ωγυγίην πέλασαν θεοί, ἔνθα Καλυψὼ
ναίει ἐϋπλόκαμος, δεινὴ θεὸς αὐδήεσσα,
ἥ μ’ ἐφίλει τ’ ἐκόμει τε. τί τοι τάδε μυθολογεύω;
ἤδη γάρ τοι χθιζὸς ἐμυθεόμην ἐνὶ οἴκῳ
σοί τε καὶ ἰφθίμῃ ἀλόχῳ· ἐχθρὸν δέ μοί ἐστιν
αὖτις ἀριζήλως εἰρημένα μυθολογεύειν.”

Odysseus Yearns for Ithaca by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein

The Talking Heads, Psycho Killer 14-17

You start a conversation you can’t even finish it
You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed
Say something once, why say it again?

David Byrne

Athlete and Singer

Pindar. Olympian 11: For Hagesidamus of Western Locri.

There’s a time when people most need wind.
And a time when they most need heavenly waters,
The rainy offspring of clouds.
But if with hard work someone succeeds,
Then sweet-voiced hymns, the ground of future fame
And a true pledge of great achievement, rise up.

This hymn is full-throated praise for Olympic victors.
My tongue wants to preserve their achievements,
But only through a god does a man brim with the skill.
This is true for Olympic victors too.

Know this, Hagesidamus, son of Archestratus,
Your boxing is the reason I will descant sweet song,
Ornament for your golden-olive crown,
And tribute to the Western-Locrian tribe.

Join the celebrations there, O Muses.
I promise you will find a people not hostile to guests
And not unfamiliar with beauty, but wise and warlike.
Believe what I say, for neither fire-colored fox
Nor loud-roaring lions change character.

Comment:

It’s only when Pindar addresses Hagesidamus by name is the hymn unambiguously concerned with the athlete and not the singer himself.

After all, the composition of a hymn is as much the product of a singer’s hard work as it is a reward for the athlete’s. The hymn supports both a singer’s and an athlete’s future renown. And, Pindar tells us, athletes and singers have an identical reliance on the god.

The blending of singer and athlete goes on. I render Pindar’s line as “my tongue wants to preserve their achievements,” but the Greek ambiguously says, “preserve it” (τὰ . . . ποιμαίνειν). “It” could be (as I’ve interpreted the word) the athletic feat, but equally it could be Pindar’s own hymn.

The word I render as “to preserve,” ποιμαίνειν, literally means “to shepherd.” I follow the scholiast in assuming that Pindar uses “shepherd” to mean something like “protect.” But “to shepherd” also means “to guide,” or “to be responsible for.” If we interpret “to shepherd” in one of these other senses, we can read Pindar as saying he wishes he were responsible for (and not just singing about) Olympic victories.

And so when Pindar says his praise of athletes is ἀφθόνητος, “without envy” (I render it “full-throated”), he might be signaling just the opposite.

ἔστιν ἀνθρώποις ἀνέμων ὅτε πλείστα
χρῆσις, ἔστιν δ᾽ οὐρανίων ὑδάτων,
ὀμβρίων παίδων νεφέλας.
εἰ δὲ σὺν πόνῳ τις εὖ πράσσοι, μελιγάρυες ὕμνοι
ὑστέρων ἀρχὰ λόγων
τέλλεται καὶ πιστὸν ὅρκιον μεγάλαις ἀρεταῖς.
ἀφθόνητος δ᾽ αἶνος Ὀλυμπιονίκαις
οὗτος ἄγκειται. τὰ μὲν ἁμετέρα
γλῶσσα ποιμαίνειν ἐθέλει:
ἐκ θεοῦ δ᾽ ἀνὴρ σοφαῖς ἀνθεῖ πραπίδεσσιν ὁμοίως.
ἴσθι νῦν, Ἀρχεστράτου
παῖ, τεᾶς, Ἁγησίδαμε, πυγμαχίας ἕνεκεν
κόσμον ἐπὶ στεφάνῳ χρυσέας ἐλαίας
ἁδυμελῆ κελαδήσω,
Ζεφυρίων Λοκρῶν γενεὰν ἀλέγων.
ἔνθα συγκωμάξατ᾽: ἐγγυάσομαι
ὔμμιν, ὦ Μοῖσαι, φυγόξενον στρατὸν
μηδ᾽ ἀπείρατον καλῶν,
ἀκρόσοφον δὲ καὶ αἰχματὰν ἀφίξεσθαι. τὸ γὰρ
ἐμφυὲς οὔτ᾽ αἴθων ἀλώπηξ
οὔτ᾽ ἐρίβρομοι λέοντες διαλλάξαντο ἦθος.

Pierre Bonnard. The Boxer (Self Portrait). 1931.

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.

A Little Bit of Nanno in My Life

Suda, s.v. Alcman

“Alcman, a Laconian from Messoa, contrary to Krates who mistakenly claims he was a Lydian from Sardos. The son of Damas or Titaros. He lived around the time of the 27th Olympaid [=672-668 BCE] when Alyattes’ father Ardys was the Lydian king. Alcman, who was especially lusty, was the inventor of love songs. He descended from enslaved peoples. He wrote six books, Lyric Poems and The Woman Who Dived. He was the first to try singing poems apart from hexameters. Like other Spartans, he used the Doric Dialect. There was also another Alcman. One of the lyric poets too, whom Messene produced. The plural of Alcman is Alcmanes.”

Ἀλκμάν· Λάκων ἀπὸ Μεσσόας· κατὰ δὲ τὸν Κράτητα πταίοντα Λυδὸς ἐκ Σαρδέων· λυρικός, υἱὸς Δάμαντος ἢ Τιτάρου. ἦν δὲ ἐπὶ τῆς κζ΄ Ὀλυμπιάδος, βασιλεύοντος Λυδῶν Ἄρδυος, τοῦ Ἀλυάττου πατρός· καὶ ὢν ἐρωτικὸς πάνυ εὑρετὴς γέγονε τῶν ἐρωτικῶν μελῶν. ἀπὸ οἰκετῶν δέ· ἔγραψε βιβλία ἕξ, μέλη καὶ Κολυμβώσας. πρῶτος δὲ εἰσήγαγε τὸ μὴ1 ἑξαμέτροις μελῳδεῖν. κέχρηται δὲ Δωρίδι διαλέκτῳ, καθάπερ Λακεδαιμόνιοι. ἔστι δὲ καὶ ἕτερος Ἀλκμάν, εἷς τῶν λυρικῶν, ὃν ἤνεγκεν ἡ Μεσσήνη. καὶ τὸ πληθυντικὸν Ἀλκμᾶνες.

Alcman, P. Louvr. E 3320 65-77

“So great a pile of purple
Isn’t enough to ward off danger,
Nor is that well-wrought snake
Of gold, nor the Lydian
Crown, that sweet joy of
The young women nor even
Nanno’s hair nor
Divine Areta or nor even
Sulakis and Kleêsisêra–

No! You won’t go to Ainêsimbrota to say
“If Astaphis were mine
And Philulla would look at me
Along with gorgeous Damareta and Wianthemis.
Oh, but Hagêsikhora watches me…”

οὔτε γάρ τι πορφύρας
τόσσος κόρος ὥστ᾿ ἀμύναι,
οὔτε ποικίλος δράκων
παγχρύσιος, οὐδὲ μίτρα
Λυδία, νεανίδων
ἰανογ [λ] εφάρων ἄγαλμα,
οὐδὲ ταὶ Ναννῶς κόμαι,

ἀλλ᾿ οὐ[δ᾿] Ἀρέτα σιειδής,
οὐδὲ Σύλακίς τε καὶ Κλεησισήρα,
οὐδ᾿ ἐς Αἰνησιμβρ[ό]τας ἐνθοῖσα φασεῖς·
Ἀσταφίς [τ]έ μοι γένοιτο
καὶ ποτιγλέποι Φίλυλλα
Δαμαρ[έ]τα τ᾿ ἐρατά τε ϝιανθεμίς·
ἀλλ᾿ Ἁγησιχόρα με τηρεῖ.

Lou Bega, Mambo no. 5

I like Angela, Pamela, Sandra and Rita
And as I continue you know they getting sweeter
So what can I do? I really beg you, my Lord
To me is flirting it’s just like sport, anything fly
It’s all good, let me dump it, please set in the trumpet

A little bit of Monica in my life
A little bit of Erica by my side
A little bit of Rita is all I need
A little bit of Tina is what I see
A little bit of Sandra in the sun
A little bit of Mary all night long
A little bit of Jessica, here I am
A little bit of you makes me your man

Roman mosaic of Egypt representing the Greek poet Alkman drinking wine. Jerash, Jordan. (late 2nd-3rd century AD)