L I t T e R

Back to Leafe home

Back to Litter home

Alcaeus


To Melanippus

Get drunk with me Melanippus. Why imagine
that after the great ford of eddying Acheron

there is the holy dawn and the Sun
to look back on? Come on! No big plan!

Sisyphus someone's said - Wind King's son
and best of men - thought he could give orders to Death

But though he was canny in his head and made it back
over eddying Acheron

the Son of King Cronus had a job for him
far under the topsoil. Come on! No expectations!

We are young and now if ever happy:
We can endure whatever Heaven sends, however soon.

Under a city roof let us share a lyre
to the rising of the North Wind.


To Hebrus

Hebrus, most remorseless of rivers, by Ainos
You exit into the dark-floored sea
Having rushed with animal force through Thrace
From the crags and high hills

And there are plenty of girls to worship you
And wash their lovely thighs with soft hands.
They are enchanted, and yours, at the touch
Of these waters.



Sappho


Fragments

1

At the top of the highest branch
there is a sweet red apple.
the pickers cannot have noticed it
- or rather noticed and could not reach

2

Hesper returns what Dawn scattered
- sheep, goat, and child

3

The Moon and stars have gone,
midnight and darkness have come,
I am alone.



To a Philistine

You will be dead and stiff and no-one will remember you,
And no one will long for you, because you did not share
In the roses of the Muse, but you will be unseen
In Hades, flitting with the shadows of the Dead, far from us.



Callimachus


Two Poems About Love

1

The hunter in the hills ponders each track of the hare
And every single print of the deer,
Though it means time with frost and snow; but if someone informs him
"Here's something dead and just waiting for you" he ignores that.
Which is me in love. I chase everything that runs
But saunter round anything that's lying in the road.

2

One half of me still has breath, but as for the other
Which god took it - Eros, or Death? Anyway it's gone.
Maybe it wandered off to play with the kids. I've often enough
Told them "No asylum for refugees!" But surely someone knows
Where to search. She flits everywhere, and she's so hard on lovers
She ought to be stoned. She must be somewhere.











Translation copyright Fred Beake, 2005