Archive for the Poetry Category
From the “Argonautica”, Book II
 And straightway they went aboard as the wind blew strong; and they drew the sail down, and made it taut to both sheets; then Argo was borne over the sea swiftly, even as a hawk soaring high through the air commits to the breeze its outspread wings and is borne on swiftly, nor swerves in its flight, poising in the clear sky with quiet pinions. And lo, they passed by the stream of Parthenius as it flows into the sea, a most gentle river, where the maid, daughter of Leto, when she mounts to heaven after the chase, cools her limbs in its much-desired waters. Then they sped onward in the night without ceasing, and passed Sesamus and lofty Erythini, Crobialus, Cromna and woody Cytorus. Next they swept round Carambis at the rising of the sun, and plied the oars past long Aegialus, all day and on through the night.
–trans. R. C. Seaton via
From “Metamorphoses”, Book XIV
 She, in a beautiful recess, sat on her throne, clad richly in a shining purple robe, and over it she wore a golden veil. Nereids and nymphs, who never carded fleece with motion of their fingers, nor drew out a ductile thread, were setting potent herbs in proper order and arranging them in baskets—a confusing wealth of flowers were scattered among leaves of every hue: and she prescribed the tasks they all performed. She knew the natural use of every leaf and combinations of their virtues, when mixed properly; and, giving them her close attention, she examined every herb as it was weighed. When she observed us there, and had received our greetings and returned them, she smiled, as if we should be well received. At once she had her maidens bring a drink of parched barley, of honey and strong wine, and curds of milk. And in the nectarous draught she added secretly her baleful drugs.
 “We took the cups presented to us by her sacred right hand; and, as soon as we, so thirsty, quaffed them with our parching mouths, that ruthless goddess with her outstretched wand touched lightly the topmost hair upon our heads. (Although I am ashamed, I tell you this) stiff bristles quickly grew out over me, and I could speak no more. Instead of words I uttered hoarse murmurs and towards the ground began to bend and gaze with all my face. I felt my mouth take on a hardened skin with a long crooked snout, and my neck swell with muscles. With the very member which a moment earlier had received the cup I now made tracks in sand of the palace court. Then with my friends, who suffered a like change (charms have such power!) I was prisoned in a stye. We saw Eurylochus alone avoid our swinish form, for he refused the cup. If he had drained it, I should still remain one of a bristly herd. Nor would his news have made Ulysses sure of our disaster and brought a swift avenger of our fate.
–trans. Brookes More via
From “Metamorphoses,” Book II, 846-875
Majesty is incompatible truly with love; they cohabit
Nowhere together. The father and chief of the gods, whose right hand is
Armed with the triple-forked lightning, who shakes the whole world with a nod, laid
Dignity down with his sceptre, adopting the guise of a bull that
Mixed with the cattle and lowed as he ambled around the fresh fields, a
Beautiful animal, colored like snow that no footprint has trodden
And which no watery south wind has melted. His muscular neck bulged,
Dewlaps hung down from his chin; his curved horns you might think had been hand carved,
Perfect, more purely translucent than pearl. His unthreatening brow and
Far from formidable eyes made his face appear tranquil. Agenor’s
Daughter was truly amazed that this beautiful bull did not seem to
Manifest any hostility. Though he was gentle she trembled at first to
Touch him, but soon she approached him, adorning his muzzle with flowers.
Then he rejoiced as a lover and, while he looked forward to hoped for
Pleasures, he slobbered all over her hands, and could hardly postpone the
Joys that remained. So he frolicked and bounded about on the green grass,
Laying his snowy-white flanks on the yellowish sands. As her fear was
Little by little diminished, he offered his chest for her virgin
Hand to caress and his horns to be decked with fresh flowers. The royal
Maiden, not knowing on whom she was sitting, was even so bold as
Also to climb on the back of the bull. As the god very slowly
Inched from the shore and the dry land he planted his spurious footprints
Deep in the shallows. Thus swimming out farther, he carried his prey off
Into the midst of the sea. Almost fainting with terror she glanced back,
As she was carried away, at the shore left behind. As she gripped one
Horn in her right hand while clutching the back of the beast with the other,
Meanwhile her fluttering draperies billowed behind on the sea breeze.
–trans. Daryl Hine via
ARTEMIS, who wieldest the bow and the arrows of might, by thy fragrant temple hath Arsinoë, the maiden daughter of Ptolemy, left this lock of her own hair, cutting it from her lovely tresses.
The Graces are four, for beside those three standeth a new-erected one, still dripping with scent, blessed Berenice, envied by all, and without whom even the Graces are not Graces.
He, who on the four-drachma piece
seems to have a smile on his face,
on his beautiful, refined face,
he is Orophernes, son of Ariarthes.
A child, they chased him out of Cappadocia,
from the great ancestral palace,
and sent him away to grow up
in Ionia, to be forgotten among foreigners.
Ah, the exquisite nights of Ionia
when fearlessly, and completely as a Greek,
he came to know pleasure utterly.
In his heart, an Asiatic still:
but in his manners and in his speech a Greek,
bedecked with turquoise, yet Greek attired,
his body scented with perfume of jasmine;
and of Ionia’s beautiful young men
the most beautiful was he, the most ideal.
Later on, when the Syrians came
to Cappadocia, and had made him king,
he threw himself completely into his reign,
that he might enjoy some novel pleasure each new day,
that he might horde the gold and silver, avaricious,
that over all of this he might exult, and gloat
to see the heaped-up riches glittering.
As for cares of state, administration–
he didn’t know what was going on around him.
The Cappadocians quickly threw him out.
And so to Syria he fled, to the palace of
Demetrius, to entertain himself and loll about.
Still, one day some unaccustomed thoughts
broke in on his total idleness:
he remembered that through his mother, Antiochis,
and through that ancient lady, Stratonice,
he too descended from the Syrian crown,
he too was very nearly a Seleucid.
For a while he emerged from his lechery and drink,
and ineptly, in a kind of daze,
cast around for something he might plot,
something he might do, something to plan,
and failed miserably and came to nothing.
His death must have been recorded somewhere and then lost.
Or maybe history passed it by,
and very rightly didn’t deign
to notice such a trivial thing.
He, who on the four-drachma piece
left the charm of his lovely youth,
a glimmer of his poetic beauty,
a sensitive memento of an Ionian boy,
he is Orophernes, son of Ariarthes.
–trans. Daniel Mendelsohn