From The Windflowers of Asklepiades and The Poems of Poseidippos, translated by Edward Storer; from The Poet’s Translation Series, Second Set, No. 5; London: The Egoist Press, 1920; pp. 3-17.
ASKLEPIADES wrote his epigrams about the end of the fourth century B.C. and the beginning of the third. He was a contemporary and master of Theokritos, and, like the Sicilian, an islander by birth; Samos his native place. In the Crown of Meleager Asklepiades’ emblem is the windflower, the wild anemone which, according to the myth, sprang to life in the island of Cyprus from the tears shed by Aphrodite over the death of Adonis. Both Asklepiades and Poseidippos belong to the Alexandrine school, and probably lived most of their lives in the city of the Ptolemies.
For the Greek text I have taken the edition of Dubner published by Firmin-Didiot and compared it with the rescension of Stadtmüller, sometimes accepting the emendations of the latter. I have consulted among other works Poeti dell’ Antologia Palatina of Alessandro Veniero, Ascoli, 1905; the English versions of Professor Mackail and Mr. Paton (Loeb Library) and the French version of M. Nisard.
I have striven for accuracy and as simple a manner as possible, nor have I hesitated to translate directly certain lines which our modern culture generally veils in clumsy dog-Latin. To do otherwise seemed to me to destroy all the value and meaning of the translation which should surely not seek to impose our traditions on bygone happy Greeks.
This is the first time that either Asklepiades or Poseidippos has been collected in English.
Σικελιδεώ τ᾿ ὰυέμοις ἄνθεα φυόμενα.
THE WINDFLOWERS OF
[Translated by EDWARD A. STORER]
THE CROWN OF SPRING
SWEET for the thirsty in summer is snow to drink; sweet for sailors after winter’s storms to see the crown of spring, but sweeter still when beneath one cloak two lovers lie, giving their thanks to Kypris.
The famous Niko promised to visit me to-night, and swore it by holy Demeter. She has not come, and the watch has gone by.
Did she mean to be faithless?
Slaves, put out the lamp!
The sweet face of Nikaris dear to the Desires appears at the high-latticed windows, and the starry eyes of Kleophon flash from her porch, O beloved Kypris of the gracious glance.6
WAITING IN THE PORCH
Only to you, Night, will I confess how Pythias the daughter of Niko deceives me, the treacherous girl.
I did not come unasked. She invited me.
Night, may you hear these same complaints from her, standing by my door.
THE ROSE GARLAND
Stay here, my flowers hanging by this porch, not shedding too soon those petals I have wetted with my tears — for the eyes of lovers are drenched with tears.
But when the door opens, and you see him, drip down your rain over his head, so that at least that golden hair may drink my tears.
TO A MAIDEN NOT TO BE WON
You grudge your maidenhood, and why? You will not find the lover of your choice in Hades, girl.
For the living only are the Kyprian’s joys; in Akheron, maiden, we shall sleep bones and dust.7
THE BEAUTIFUL AFRICAN
Didyme had conquered me with her loveliness. Alas! I melt like wax before the fire, seeing how fair she is.
She is black; what of that? So are coals, but when one sets them alight they burn like rosy calices.
The Samians Bitto and Nanion refuse to worship according to the rites of Aphrodite, and seek other joys which are not seemly.
Queen Kypris, show your displeasure against those who forsake your bed.
A MEMORY OF LOVE
Lysidike lays at your feet, Kypris, this racer’s goad, the golden spur of a beautiful-limbed rider with which she has often urged her slim steed, though never have its sides been reddened by its nimble movements, so lightly does it prick.
Wherefore she hangs the golden trophy in the middle porch of your temple.8
AT THE PORCH
It is winter and the night is long. The Pleiades have travelled half their span, and I am passing by this door all wet with the rain.
Suffering from her treachery, I long for her.
O Kypris, it is not love you have sent me; it is some cruel shaft tipped with flame.
Run across to the Agora, Demetrios, and ask Amyntos for three blue-fish, two crabs and two dozen prawns which he will count himself, and come back here with them.
Bring also six chaplets of roses from Thauborios, and on the way, tell Tryphera to come soon.
Bring us twelve prawns — do you hear? — and five coronals of roses. What! You’ve no money, you say? This is just robbery. Won’t someone torture this Lapith on the wheel for me? It’s a pirate we’ve got, not a slave.
You’ve done nothing wrong, you say. Nothing? Bring the account, and Phryne come here with the reckoning stones. Sly fox. Wine, five drakhmas, sausage, two ... eggs, hares, tunnies, sesame, honeycombs. To-morrow we will go into that.
Run now to Aiskhra the perfume-seller, and tell her we know she gave herself to Bakkho five times running, for we have the proofs of it.9
THE POEMS OF ERINNA
How lovely is the work of Erinna, not great in volume, indeed, coming from a maiden of nineteen, but more enduring than the writing of many.
If death had not come to her so soon, what a name would have been hers.
TO THE HETAIRA HERMIONE
When I was caressing Hermione the hetaira, she wore a many-coloured girdle on which was written, O Paphia, in letters of gold: “Love me for ever, but do not be unhappy if another possess me.”
TO THE HETAIRA PHILANION
The wanton Philanion has hurt me, and though my grief is not to be seen, it flows through me to my finger-tips.
It is over with me, Loves, I am ruined, I perish.
Light-heartedly enough I went to see the girl, and now I am in Hades.10
THE CARELESS LOVES
I am not yet two-and-twenty, and I am weary of life. O, Loves, why do you treat me so, why set me on fire?
For when I die what will you do then?
Play with your dice as before, thoughtless Loves!
Drink, Asklepiades, rather than weep. From what do you suffer? You are not the first the Kyprian has entrapped, and cruel Eros has not prepared his bow and arrows for you alone.
Why, when still alive, do you seek the dust?
Let us drink a cup of unmixed wine. Dawn is but a finger away. Do we wait to see the sleep-bringing lamp again?
Let us drink gladly. In a little while, unhappy man, we shall sleep in the long night.
ON THE TOMB OF AN HETAIRA
I hold Arkheanassa, the hetaira of Kolophon in whose very wrinkles love lived.
O, you, her lovers who plucked the early flowers of her first youth, through what flames have you not passed!11
THE DREAD OF THE SEA
Keep eight cubits away from me, stormy sea, and swell and roar with all your might.
If you wash away the mound of Eumares, what will that profit you? You will find only bones and dust.
O, traveller, passing by my empty memorial, if ever you come to Khios, tell my father Melesagores that the evil Euros destroyed me with the ship and all its cargo.
Of Euippos there remains only a name.
THE DUTIFUL SCHOLAR
Konnaros having vanquished all the scholars in composition, received a prize of eighty knuckle-bones, and in thanks to the Muses, dedicated in return myself the comic mask of old Kharetes, amid the applause of the little boys.
TO A YOUTH
If you grew wings and in your hand were bow and arrows, we should not call Eros son of the Kyprian, but you, my boy.12
Here I, patient virtue, sit by Ajax’ tomb with shorn hair and my soul suffering a great regret, that among the Greeks wily-minded deceit should be more powerful than I.
TO THE HETAIRA HERAKLEA
Thrice, O lamp, in your presence Heraklea swore to come, and she is not here.
Lamp, if, indeed, you are a divinity, show no favour to the deceitful girl, but when, bringing someone to her house, she is bent on love, give her no light, refuse your aid!
THE HETAIRA’S OFFERING
(also attributed to Poseidippos)
Plangon has laid in the vestibule of Kypris’ temple a purple riding-whip and shining reins which helped to conquer Philainis in the course — the young fillies neighing eagerly at evening for the race.
Bring her, beloved Kypris, glory and fame without end.*
* An epigram presumably of the same character as No. IX.13
Lydia am I by birth and by name. Thanks to Antimakhos, I enjoy more honour than all the children of Kodros. Who has not chanted me? Who has not read “Lydia,” the handiwork of Antimakhos and the Muses.
(Also attributed to Arkhios)
The Muses themselves saw you, Hesiod, guarding your sheep upon the difficult mountainside and gave you a bough of sacred laurel to protect you from the heat with its fair leaves.
They gave you, too, the sacred water from the spring of Helikon, which gushed forth from the earth at the touch of the hoof of the winged horse.
Nourished on this sacred fount, you have left works and songs praising the immortals, the race of old heroes and the demi-gods.
This is a statue of Kypris, and yet surely, it is Berenike? I am puzzled to say whom it resembles more.14
ON A BRONZE ALEXANDER
(Also attribued to Arkellos)
Lysippos has brought back to us the very body of Alexander, and all his daring. The bronze seems to look up to Zeus and to say: “I rule over the earth; while Olympos is yours.”
(Also attributed to Antipater of Thessalonika)
Drunkenness am I — a gem worked by a subtle hand. I am graven in amethyst, and the subject and the stone are ill-assorted.
But I am the precious property of Kleopatra, and on the finger of a Queen even “drunkenness” should be sober.*
* A play on the words methe, drunkenness, and a-methe, not drunkenness, and amethyst.
THE SIGNS OF LOVE
Wine is a test of love. Although Nikagoras denied his passion to us, his many cups of wine accused him.
Moreover, he wept and hung his head, and seemed sad and his coronal was all awry.15
Listen, passer-by, for a moment, even if you are in haste, to the great grief of Botrys, the old man of eighty years who buried his young son, already wise in art and learning.
Pity the father, pity, too, the son, the dear child of Botrys, who died ignorant of many joys.
THE CRUEL LOVES
Let what remains of my soul lie in peace, Loves. This I pray of you by the gods, but if you must pursue me, strike me with fire rather than with arrows, so that I may be brought wholly to ashes and dust.
Consume, consume me, Loves. This is the last thing I ask of you.
SNOW AND HAIL
Snow, hail, grow dark, flash lightnings, thunder, shake out over the earth all your clouds, for, if you kill me, I shall cease to be, but if you let me live, though I pass through worse than this I shall rejoice in my love.
For the god drives me on who is your master, too, he at whose persuasion you entered as gold the brazen bridal chamber.16
Formerly Arkheades was warmed in my embrace, but now not even in mockery does he turn to me in my wretchedness.
Honeyed love is not always sweet: but the god is often kindlier to those whom once he has tortured.
EBONY AND IVORY
To mate beauty with beauty, Love did not try to unite the emerald with gold, for they can never be alike nor ever flower, nor ebony with ivory, black with white, but he joined Eubotos to Kleander, flowers of friendship and grace.
I, Love, little and thoughtless, who flew away from my mother, do not leave the roof of Damis, but there with no rival, I talk and take pleasure with him alone.
How that fair youth Dorkio, beloved of the young, can loose the flying darts of Kypris! Love flashes from his eyes if he sits at our table in petass and chlamys, leaving the breast bare.17
THE CHARMING SCHOLAR
Not armed with the bow, nor yet full-grown, but a mere child, my love returns to Kypris, taking with him the golden writing tablets!
With them he spells out the names of Philokrates, son of Diaulos and Antigene, revealing a charm which enslaves the soul.
LOVE IN DIFFICULTIES
It was night, it was raining, and for a third obstacle to love I was too much in wine. The North wind blew and I was alone. But lovely Moskos was worth all. “Would you, too, had had to wander about instead of resting indoors!” I said no more, but drenched through, exclaimed: “How long, Zeus? Peace, dear Zeus! You, too, have known love.”