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.