Nov 202010

What constitutes a happy life?
Enough money to meet your needs
steady work
a comfortable fire
a clear distance from law
a minimum of city business
a peaceful mind and a healthy body
simple wisdom and firm friends
enjoyable dinners and plain living
nights free from care
a virtuous wife who’s not a prude
enough sleep to make the darkness short
contentment with the life you have,
avoiding the sneer, the poisoned sigh:
no fear of death
and no desire to die.

Lindsay and Patricia Watson, trans.

Nov 202010

As the ancient stories tell us, invisible
to mortal men, beauty dwells among
the high-capped rocks near a wind gap
arduous to climb. And you must almost
wear your heart out in the struggle
required to attain its height.

On Poetry

Like the bee, she consorts with flowers
to concoct her dream
of a scented, pollen-yellow honey.

On Poetry and Painting

The word is the image of the thing.

Poetry is painting that speaks.
Painting is poetry that’s silent.

translated by Sherod Santos in Greek Lyric Poetry

Nov 202010

It was man who made god, who endowed god
with the body of a man, the voice of a man,
who dressed him in the earthly garments of a man.

If a workhorse or lion or unyoked ox
had eyes to paint, had hands to sculpt,
had voice to sing its tribal song,

the horse would paint god as a horse,
the lion would sculpt a lion god,
the ox would sing a divinity of oxen.

The Ethiopians say, “Our gods have flat noses
and black skins.” The Thracians say, “The hair
of our gods is red, their eyes the color of jade.”

translated by Sherod Santos from Greek Lyric Poetry

Nov 192010

(Catullus XII)

Marrucinus Asinius, your sinister manoeuvre –
letting your left hand hover over
a fellow diner’s lap as he leans to hear
a punchline or pour wine
from a carafe – respects neither
the gods of wine nor conversation.
And what does it mean? It means I’m afraid
you’re at your old trick of stealing napkins
– an act that isn’t clever, nor even that skilful,
merely sad and graceless in my book. But why
believe me when you can go ask your brother
Pollio, a gifted, witty, really charming boy,
who’d glad fork out coffers full of hush-money
to keep your vileness unremarked? So either
steel yourself for a several-hundred-liner
of relentless, barbed hendecasyllables
or send me back that lovely piece of linen.
And don’t think I’m irked because it’s worth so much:
memory is something other than a cash till –
the whole set of Valencian serviettes
was sent from distant Spain by Fabullus
and Veranius as a gift I’m therefore
bound to care for as I care
for Veranolo mio and for Fabullus.

translated by James McKendrick

Nov 192010

translated by Tony Harrison

Why this desperation to move heaven and earth
to try to change what’s doled out at your birth,
the lot you’re made a slave by the gods?

Learn to love tranquillity, and against all odds
coax your glum spirit to its share of mirth.

Man’s clay, and such a measly bit
and measuring the Infinite!

Leave geography alone, you can’t survey
the paltry area of that poor clay.

Forget the spheres and first assess
not space but your own littleness.

God rot the guts and guts’ indulgences.
It’s their fault that sobriety lets go.

Loving the rituals that keep men close,
Nature created means for friends apart:

pen, paper, ink, the alphabet,
signs for the distant and disconsolate heart.

Nouns and poor grammarians decline.
I’m selling off these rotten books of mine,
my Pindar, my Callimachus, the lot.
I’m a bad ‘case’. It’s poverty I’ve got.
Dorotheus has given me the sack
and slanders me behind my back.

Help me, Theon, or all that’ll stand
between poverty and me’s an &

The blacksmith’s quite a logical man
to melt an Eros down and turn
the God of Love into a frying pan,
something that can also burn.