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And let him glory, since from death
Escaped, I keep my forfeit breath.
I soon may find, at little cost,
As good a shield as that I've lost.

Translated by JOHN HERMANN MEHIVALE.

HAND-TO-HAND BATTLE

Bows will not avail thee,
Darts and slings will fail thee,

When Mars tumultuous rages

On wide-embattled land;



THE IAMBIC AND ELEGIAC POETS

Then with falchions clashing,
Eyes with fury flashing,

Man with man engages

In combat hand to hand.
But most Eubcea's chiefs are known,

Marshalled hosts of spearmen leading

To conflict, whence is no receding,
To make this war's best art their own.

Translated by JOHN HERMANN MERIVALE.

HALF-SEAS OVER

COME then, my friend, and seize the flask,

And while the deck around us rolls,
Dash we the cover from the cask

And crown with wine our flowing bowls.
While the deep hold is tempest-tost,

We'll strain bright nectar from the lees;
For though our freedom here be lost

We drink no water on the seas.

Translated by JOHN HERMANN MERIVALE.

A STORM AT SEA

BEHOLD, my Glaucus! how the deep

Heaves, while the sweeping billows howl,
And round the promontory steep

The big black clouds portentous scowl,
With thunder fraught and lightning's glare
While Terror rules and wild Despair.

Translated by JOHN HERMANN MERIVALE.

MAN'S MIND

THE mind of man is such as Jove

Ordains by his immortal will.
Who moulds it in his courts above,

His heavenly purpose to fulfil.

Translated by JOHN HERMANN MERIVALE.



ARCHILOCHUS

VICISSITUDE

LEAVE the gods to order all things;

Often from the gulf of woe
They exalt the poor man, grovelling

In the gloomy shades below
Often turn again and prostrate

Lay in dust the loftiest head,
Dooming him through life to wander,

Reft of sense and wanting bread.

Translated by JOHN HERMANN MERIVALE.



SIMONIDES OF AMORGOS

WOMEN

SHE from the steed of wanton mane

Shall spurn all servile toil and pain;

Nor shake the sieve, nor ply the mill

Nor sweep the floor, though dusty still,

Nor near the oven take her seat,

But loathe the ashes, smoke, and heat,

And to her husband profit naught,

Unless by sheer compulsion taught.

Twice, thrice she bathes her through the day,

Washing the slightest soil away;

Perfumes with oils her every limb,

Her tresses combs in order trim;

Tress upon tress, in thickening braid,

While twisted flowers her temples shade.

A goodly sight to strangers' view,

But he that owns her sore shall rue

The cost I ween, unless he be

Satrap or king and joy in luxury.

Her from an Ape the Maker sent
Man's evil mate and punishment.
Her visage foul, she walks the streets
The laughing-stock of all she meets.
Scarce her short neck can turn ; all slim
And lank and spare; all leg and limb!
Wretched the man who in his breast
Is doomed to fold this female pest !
She, like the Ape, is versed in wiles
And tricking turns ; she never smiles,
Obliges none; but ponders still
On mischief-plots and daily ill.



100



SIMONIDES OF AMORGOS 101

Who gains the creature from the Bee
By fortune favoured most is he :
To her alone, with pointless sting,
Would Scandal impotently cling.
With her his May of life is long;
His days are flourishing and strong.
Beloved, her fond embrace she twines
Round him she loves : with him declines
In fading years ; her race is known
For goodly forms and fair renown.

Her decent charms her sex outshine:
Around her flits a grace divine.
She sits not pleased where women crowd,
In amorous tattle, light and loud:
With such the God mankind has blest ;
With such the wisest and the best.

Translated by SIR CHARLES ABRAHAM ELTON



TYRT^US

TRANSLATED BY THE REV. RICHARD POLWHELE
ELEGY I

I WOULD not value, or transmit the fame

Of him, whose brightest worth in swiftness lies;

Nor would I chant his poor unwarlike name
Who wins no chaplet but the wrestler's prize.

In vain, for me, the Cyclops' giant-might
Blends with the beauties of Tithonus' form;

In vain the racer's agile powers unite,

Fleet as the whirlwind of the Thracian storm.

In vain, for me, the riches round him glow

A Midas or a Cinyras possess'd:
Sweet as Adrastus' tongue his accents flow.

Or Pelops' sceptre seems to stamp him bless'd.

Vain all the dastard honours he may boast.
If his soul thirst not for the martial field;

Meet not the fury of the rushing host,

Nor bear o'er hills of slain the untrembling shield.

This this is virtue: this the noblest meed
That can adorn our youth with fadeless rays;

While all the perils of the adventurous deed,
The new-strung vigour of the state repays.

Amid the foremost of the' embattled train.

Lo, the young hero hails the glowing fight:
And. though fall'n troops around him press the plain,

Still fronts the foe, nor brooks inglorious flight.

His life his fervid soul oppos'd to death,
He dares the terrors of the field defy;

Kindles each spirit with his panting breath.
And bids his comrade-warriors nobly die!

102



TYRT^EUS 103

See, see, dismay'd, the phalanx of the foe
Turns round, and hurries o'er the plain afar;

While doubling, as afresh, the deadly blow,
He rules, intrepid chief! the waves of war.

Now fall'n, the noblest of the van, he dies!

His city by the beauteous death renown'd ;
His low-bent father marking, where he lies,

The shield, the breast-plate, hack'd by many a wound.

The young the old, alike commingling tears,
His country's heavy grief bedews the grave;

And all his race in verdant lustre wears

Fame's richest wreath, transmitted from the brave.

Though mixt with earth the perishable clay,
His name shall live, while glory loves to tell,

' True to his country how he won the day,
How firm the hero stood, how calm he fell ! '

But if he 'scape the doom of death (the doom
To long long dreary slumbers), he returns

While trophies flash, and victor-laurels bloom,
And all the spendour of the triumph burns.

The old the young caress him, and adore ;

And with the city's love, through life, repay'd,
He sees each comfort, that endears, in store,

Till, the last hour, he sinks to Pluto's shade.

Old as he droops, the citizens, o'eraw'd,
(Ev'n veterans) to his mellow glories yield;

Nor would in thought dishonour or defraud
The hoary soldier of the well-fought field.

Be your's to reach such eminence of fame;

To gain such heights of virtue nobly dare,
My youths! and, mid the fervour of acclaim,

Press, press to glory; nor remit the war!



104 THE IAMBIC AND ELEGIAC POETS



ELEGY II

ROUSE, rouse, my youths ! the chain of torpor break !

Spurn idle rest, and couch the glittering lance!
What! does not shame with blushes stain your cheek

Quick-mantling, as ye catch the warrior's glance?

Ignoble youths! say, when shall valour's flame

Burn in each breast? here, here, while hosts invade,

And war's wild clangors all your courage claim,
Ye sit, as if still peace embower'd the shade.

But, sure, fair honour crowns the' auspicious deed,
When patriot love impels us to the field;

When, to defend a trembling wife, we bleed,
And when our shelter'd offspring bless the shield.

What time the Fates ordain, pale death appears:
Then with firm step and sword high drawn, depart ;

And, marching through the first thick shower of spears,
Beneath thy buckler guard the' intrepid heart.

Each mortal, though he boast celestial sires,

Slave to the sovereign destiny of death,
Or mid the carnage of the plain expires,

Or yields unwept at home his coward breath.

Yet sympathy attends the brave man's bier;

Sees on each wound the balmy grief bestow'd ;
And, as in death the universal tear,

Through life inspires the homage of a god.

For like a turret his proud glories rise,
And stand, above the rival's reach, alone;

While millions hail, with fond adoring eyes,
The deeds of many a hero meet in one!



TYRTvEUS 105



ELEGY III

YET are ye Hercules' unconquer'd race

Remand, heroic tribe, your spirit lost!
Not yet all-seeing Jove averts his face;

Then meet without a fear the thronging host.

Each to the foe his steady shield oppose,
Accoutred to resign his hateful breath:

The friendly sun a mild effulgence throws

On valour's grave, though dark the frown of death.

Yes ! ye have known the ruthless work of war !

Yes! ye have known its tears its heavy woe;
When, scattering in pale flight, ye rush'd afar,

Or chas'd the routed squadrons of the foe.

Of those who dare, a strong compacted band,
Firm for the fight their warrior-spirits link,

And grapple with the foeman, hand to hand,

How few, through deadly wounds expiring, sink.

They, foremost in the ranks of battle, guard
The' inglorious multitude that march behind;

While shrinking fears the coward's step retard,
And dies each virtue in the feeble mind.

But 'tis not in the force of words to paint
What varied ills attend the' ignoble troop,

Who trembling on the scene of glory faint,

Or wound the fugitives that breathless droop.

Basely the soldier stabs, with hurried thrust,
The unresisting wretch, that shieldless flies!

At his last gasp dishonour'd in the dust

(His back transfix'd with spears) the dastard lies!



106 THE IAMBIC AND ELEGIAC POETS

Thus then, bold youth, the rules of valour learn:
Stand firm, and fix on earth thy rooted feet :

Bite with thy teeth thy eager lips ; and stern
In conscious strength, the rushing onset meet:

And shelter with thy broad and bossy shield

Thy thighs and shins, thy shoulders and thy breast ;

The long spear ponderous in thy right-hand wield,
And on thy head high nod the dreadful crest.

Mark well the lessons of the warlike art,

That teach thee, if the shield with ample round

Protect thy bosom, to approach the dart,

Nor choose with timid care the distant ground.

But, for close combat with the fronting foe,
Elate in valorous attitude draw near;

And aiming, hand to hand, the fateful blow,
Brandish thy temper'd blade or massy spear.

Yes! for the rage of stubborn grapple steel'd,

Grasp the sword's hilt, and couch the long-beat lance;

Foot to the foeman's foot, and shield to shield,
Crest ev'n to crest, and helm to helm, advance.

But ye, light arm'd who, trembling in the rear,
Bear smaller targets, at a distance, throw

The hissing stone, or hurl the polish'd spear,
(Plac'd nigh your panoply) to mar the foe.

ELEGY IV

IF, fighting for his dear paternal soil,

The soldier in the front of battle fall ;
'Tis not in fickle fortune to despoil

His store of fame, that shines the charge of all.

But, if, oppress' d by penury, he rove

Far from his native town and fertile plain;

And lead the sharer of his fondest love

In youth too tender, with her infant train;



TYRT^US 107

And if his aged mother his shrunk sire

Join the sad group; see many a bitter ill
Against the houseless family conspire,

And all the measure of the wretched fill.

Pale shivering want, companion of his way,
He meets the lustre of no pitying eye;

To hunger and dire infamy a prey-
Dark hatred scowls, and scorn quick passes by.

Alas! no traits of beauty or of birth
No blush now lingers in his sunken face!

Dies every feeling (as he roams o'er earth)
Of shame transmitted to a wandering race.

But be it ours to guard this hallow'd spot,
To shield the tender offspring and the wife;

Here steadily await our destin'd lot,

And, for their sakes, resign the gift of life.

Ye valorous youths, in squadrons close combin'd,

Rush, with a noble impulse, to the fight !
Let not a thought of life glance o'er your mind,

And not a momentary dream of flight,

Watch your hoar seniors bent by feeble age,

Whose weak knees fail, though strong their ardour glows ;
Nor leave such warriors to the battle's rage,

But round their awful spirits firmly close.

Base base the sight, if, foremost on the plain,
In dust and carnage the f all'n veteran roll ;

And, ah! while youths shrink back, unshielded, stain
His silver temples, and breathe out his soul!



MIMNERMUS

SHORTNESS OF LIFE

WE, like the leaves of many-blossomed Spring,
When the sun's rays their sudden radiance fling
In growing strength, on earth, a little while,
.Delighted, see youth's blooming flowerets smile.
Not with that wisdom of the Gods endued,
To judge aright of evil and of good.
Two Fates, dark-scowling, at our side attend;
Of youth, of life, each points the destined end,
Old age and death : the fruit of youth remains
Brief, as the sunshine scattered o'er the plains :
And when these fleeting hours have sped away,
To die were better than to breathe the day.
A load of grief the burdened spirit wears;
Domestic troubles rise ; penurious cares ;
One with an earnest love of children sighs;
The grave is opened and he childless dies :
Another drags in pain his lingering days,
While slow disease upon his vitals preys.
Nor lives there one, whom Jupiter on high
Exempts from years of mixt calamity.

Translated by SIR CHARLES ABRAHAM ELTON.



108



THE FRAGMENTS OF

SAPPHO

TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH VERSE
BY VARIOUS HANDS



WITH AN INTRODUCTION UPON

THE LYRIC POETS OF GREECE



109



INTRODUCTION

THE LYRIC POETS OF GREECE

WHILE the lyre was the common instrument and symbol of
all the Greek poets, save probably Hesiod, who, in his mythical
duel of song with Homer is said to have contended with the
bay in his hand while the epic poet held a lyre, it is supremely
characteristic of a new order of singers arising after the ele-
giac and lyric poets. This order the German scholars more
definitely style melic poets, from the Greek words ta mele,
meaning strains or songs, or, more specifically, choral songs.
The distinctive feature of this poetry was the combination
necessarily of music, and frequently of rhythmical movement,
with recitation.

Among the ^olians of the Asian coast with whom this
kind of poetry arose, it was simple in structure, being sung by
one person, and intended to express only personal feelings.
Later, among the Dorians of Greece proper it became very
complicated, requiring many performers, and expressing the
emotions not of these alone but of the listeners, and also of
the characters described in the song in other words, it be-
came the analogue of the modern opera. And, owing to un-
certainty about the aesthetics of the art, it is impossible for the
modern reader to get any idea of its nature and effects except
by this analogy. Indeed, as early a writer as Cicero has told
us that the poems of the Dorian lyrists such as Pindar ap-
peared to him like prose, since the accompaniments of music
and choric dancing were indispensable to explain the metrical
plan of the poet.

TERPANDER, of Lesbos (B.C. 700-640), who has already
been mentioned as the father of Greek music [in Greek Poetry
Before Homer, Vol. I, page 9], was, by reason of this
intimate connection between music and recitation, also the
father of Greek lyric poetry. Of him we know little, save that
he added three strings to the original four of the lyre, corn-
Ill "



112 INTRODUCTION

posed nomes or hymns to the gods, and was called to Sparta,
where he established the musical contests of the Carnea, or
festival of Apollo, about 670 B.C., and was victor at these con-
tests for four consecutive feasts, which were separated by in-
tervals of eight years. Only a few fragments of his poetry
have been preserved.

Nothing at all remains of the verse of his successors,
CLONOS, of Tegea, SACADAS, of Argos, POLYMNESTUS, of
Colophon, ECHEMBROTUS, of Arcadia, and THALETAS, of
Crete. Of these Thaletas was the most distinguished. Like
Tyrtaeus he was summoned by the oracle (which means Lycur-
gus) to Sparta, where by his songs he attached the Lacedaemo-
nians to the constitution of the great law-giver. He com-
posed not only nomes like Terpander, but pecans, or choral
songs with rhythmical movements.

It is ALCMAN (about B.C. 631) who heads the list of
lyric poets made in the Alexandrian Canon by Aristophanes of
Byzantium and his disciple Aristarchus. A Lydian, born in
Sardis, he belonged also to the group of foreign poets and mu-
sicians at Sparta, having been brought thither as a slave boy
and emancipated by his master when his genius disclosed itself.
He was thought to have been the inventor of erotic poetry, to
which class belong his Parthenia, which were songs sung by
choruses of virgins, his bridal hymns, and verses in praise of
love and wine. Only a few fragments of his poetry remain.
The most important, a badly mutilated portion of his cele-
brated hymn to Castor and Pollux, was discovered in 1855 by
M. Mariette on a papyrus in an Egyptian tomb. Another
fragment affords conclusive refutation of the widely spread
error that the early Greeks did not have the same appreci-
ation of landscape that we have. It is called Night, and has
been translated as follows by Colonel Mure:

Now o'er the drowsy earth still night prevails.
Calm sleep the mountain tops and shady vales,
The rugged cliffs and hollow glens;
The wild beasts slumber in their dens ;
The cattle on the hills. Deep in the sea
The countless finny race and monster brood



THE LYRIC POETS OF GREECE 113

Tranquil repose. Even the busy bee

Forgets her daily toil. The silent wood

No more with noisy hum of insect rings;

And all the feather'd tribes, by gentle sleep subdued,

Roost in the glade, and hang their drooping wings.

The translator adds this comment:

"A beautiful peculiarity of this description is the vivid manner
in which it shadows forth the scenery of the vale of Lacedaemon,
with which the inspirations of the poet were so intimately associated ;
from the snow-capped peaks of Taygetus down to the dark blue sea
which washes the base of the mountain. The author would find it
difficult to convey to the imagination of the reader the effect pro-
duced upon his own by the recurrence of the passage to his mind,
during a walk among the ruins of Sparta, on a calm spring night,
about an hour after a brilliant sunset."

ALC.-EUS, the second of the lyric poets in the Alexandrian
Canon, was of Mitylene in Lesbos during the latter half of the
seventh and the first half of the sixth century before Christ.
He fought against the Athenians in the contest for Sigeum
(B.C. 606), but fled, throwing away his shield, which was
hung up by the enemy as a trophy in the temple of Athene in
the captured city. As a member of the aristocracy he joined
with his brother Antimenidas and Pittacus in the overthrow
of the tyrant Melanchros, but later, when the majority of citi-
zens chose Pittacus as their dictator, he opposed him as a ty-
rant in disguise, and being unsuccessful, was sent into exile.
He roamed through various countries, going as far as Egypt.
Then, attempting to force his return home, he fell into the
power of his opponent, who, though Alcaeus had reviled him
bitterly and furiously in poetry, generously forgave him and
restored him to citizenship. Of his further life nothing is
known.

These few facts, says Mahaffy, show us in Alcaeus the
perfect picture of an unprincipled, violent lawless Greek aris-
tocrat, who sacrificed all and everything to the demands of
pleasure and power. These are the men, and this the type of
aristocrat, which gave the tyrants all their opportunities.

And yet it was Alcaeus who wrote what is probably the



114 INTRODUCTION

greatest classic of patriotic literature, What Constitutes a
State? We here reproduce it in the free paraphrase of Sir
William Jones:

What constitutes a State?
Not high-raised battlement or laboured mound,

Thick wall or moated gate;
Nor cities fair, with spires and turrets crowned:

No ! Men, high-minded men,
With powers as far dull brutes endued,

In forest, brake, or den,
As beasts excel cold rocks and brambles rude

Men who their duties know,
Know too their rights, and, knowing, dare maintain ;

Prevent the long-aimed blow,
And crush the tyrant, while they rend the chain.

Political songs such as this formed the bulk of Alcseus's
poetry. He also wrote hymns to the gods, and songs in praise
of love and wine. The Alexandrian scholars compiled his
works in ten volumes, and named a verse form which he orig-
inated, the alcaic strophe. The Romans were very fond of
his martial lyrics in which he strove to animate the exiled
nobles. Horace speaks of him as singing "the harsh evils of
the sea, of flight, and of war." The Roman poet paraphrased
in the alcaic strophe a number of Alcseus's poems, and it is
to these that the modern reader must turn, for only a few
fragments of the originals have been preserved. Of these, a
description of winter is greatly admired. It is here presented
in the translation of John Addington Symonds :

The rain of Zeus descends, and from high heaven

A storm is driven:
And on the running water-brook the cold

Lays icy hold;
Then up ! beat down the Winter ; make the fire

Blaze higher and higher;
Mix wine as sweet as honey of the bee

Abundantly ;
Then drink, with comfortable wool around

Your temples bound.




DEATH OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT
From a painting by Carl von Piloty

"WITH ALEXANDER PERISHED PELLA'S NAME;
THUS ONE GREAT MIND IS LIFE AND POWER AND FAME."

Page 357.






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THE LYRIC POETS OF GREECE 115

We must not yield our hearts to woe or wear

With wasting care;
For grief will profit us no whit, my friend,

Nor nothing mend;
But this is our best medicine, with wine fraught

To cast out thought !

SAPPHO (in her own JEolic dialect Psappha), a younger
contemporary of Alcaeus, was the other great leader of the
yEolian school of lyric poetry. She was a native of Mity-
lene in Lesbos. Her father Scamandronymus died when
she was six years old ; her mother Cleis lived to be celebrated in
the poetess's verse (Fragment 90). Sappho had three brothers,
one of whom, Charaxus, she upbraided in a poem because he
had bought at a great price the freedom of a famous Egyptian
courtesan, Rhodopis.

Sappho herself married a wealthy man and had by him a
daughter to whom was given the name of Sappho's mother,
Cleis (see Fragment 85). There were many tales of Sap-
pho's lovers, among which were included persons of her own
time, and those who really lived years afterwards (see the
translations entitled Alcaeus and Sappho, and Anacreon and
Sappho). Alcaeus addressed her by the epithets with which
she is always associated: "Violet-weaving, pure, soft-smiling
Sappho." HERMESIANAX, a poet of Colophon in the time of
Alexander the Great, in his poem Leontium (named after his
mistress), a fragment of which remains that tells the love
stories of poets from Orpheus down, celebrates these amours
in the following lines (translated by J. Bailey) :

And well thou knowest how famed Alcaeus smote
Of his high harp the love-enlivened strings,

And raised to Sappho's praise the enamoured note,
'Midst noise of mirth and jocund revellings:

Aye, he did love that nightingale of song

With all a lover's fervour, and, as he
Deftly attuned the lyre, to madness stung

The Teian bard with envious jealousy.



116 INTRODUCTION

For her Anacreon, charming lyrist, wooed,

And fain would win, with sweet mellifluous chime,

Encircled by her Lesbian sisterhood;

Would often Samos leave, and many a time

From vanquished Teos' viny orchards hie
To viny Lesbos' isle, and from the shore,

O'er the blue wave, on Lectum cast his eye,
And think on bygone days and times no more.

The most celebrated of Sappho's love affairs, however, was
with Phaon. It is said that, finding her passion for this
man unrequited, she leaped to her death in the sea from a
crag in Leucadia. The place was known in later times as
"Sappho's Leap," and criminals were cast down from it.
Their friends used to tie birds to the limbs of the condemned
and cover them with feathers to break the force of the fall,
and then send boats to pick them up. If they survived they
were pardoned. Ovid has told the story of Sappho and Phaon
in his Heroic Epistle XV. This story is purely mythical, since
various writers near her time speak of her burial in an
^Eolian grave.

Sappho was also accused of erotic passion for her young
girl friends, and her poetry was therefore condemned as im-
moral. Indeed, her chief poem, the Hymn to Aphrodite, is a
prayer to the goddess to punish a maiden who has not re-



Online LibraryMarion Mills MillerThe classics, Greek & Latin; the most celebrated works of Hellenic and Roman literatvre, embracing poetry, romance, history, oratory, science, and philosophy (Volume 3) → online text (page 9 of 28)