brevity of life

One verse by the blind poet of Chios is indelible:
“The life of man is like a summer’s leaf.”
Yet few who hear these words take them into their heart,
for hope is rooted in every youthful soul,
the lovely flower of youth grows tall with color,
life will have no end,
or there is no place for growing old, for death;
and while in health, no fear of foul disease.
Poor fools! in islands of illusion,
for men have but a day of youth and life.
You few who understand, know when death is near
the food you give your soul must be supreme…

Semonides

lyrica poema

Some say a host of cavalry, others of infantry,
and others of ships,
is the most beautiful thing on the black earth,
but I say it is whatsoever a person loves.
It is perfectly easy to make this understood by everyone:
for she who far surpassed mankind in beauty, Helen,
left her most noble husband and went sailing off to Troy with no thought at all!
for her child or dear parents, but (love) led her astray . . . lightly . . . and she has reminded me now of Anactoria who is not here;
I would rather see her lovely walk and the bright sparkle of her face
than the Lydians’chariots and armed infantry…

Sappho

erotica II

Calamity and conflagration! Strife!
Elissus has attained the time of life,
Sixteen, that’s made for love, and he has all
The adolescent graces great and small:
A honeyed voice, a mouth that’s sweet to kiss,
And an accommodating orifice.
But, “Look, don’t touch!” he tells me. What a fate!
I’ll lie awake all night and—meditate.

Scythinus

a call to arms against the cimmerian invaders

When will you show some courage, young comrades?
How long will you lie back and do nothing?
Lazing in shabby peace on our land bled by war,
have you no shame before the neighboring townsmen?

Let each man hurl his spear once more before he dies,
for glory dazzles on our helmets when we battle
the enemy for farmland and children and true wife.
Death will come only when the web of destiny is spun.
So move out, charge into the barbarous ranks
with spear held high and shield gripping a brave heart.
From death there is no escape; all men face the dark,
even those with blood of gods in their veins.

Often a man flees from the clash and thud of spears
and comes home to fall into sudden doom,
but he is neither loved nor missed by his townsmen.

Yet when a hero dies the great and small shed tears;
by a whole people a brave warrior is mourned.
In life he seems a demigod before the crowd;
as a marble pillar they look upon his strength,
for all alone he does the great deeds of an army.

Kallinos