nobody’s perfect

To be a good man, without blame and without question,
foursquare founded hand and foot, mind also
faultless fashioned, is difficult.

Thus the word of Pittacus, but it does not
run right, though it was a wise man who said it:
that it is difficult to be excellent. Not difficult;
only a god could have this privilege; it is not possible
for a man not to go bad
when he has more bad luck than he can handle.
Any man is good while his luck is good,
bad when bad, and for the most part they are best
whom the gods love.

Therefore, I will not throw away my time and life
into unprofitable hope and emptiness, the search
for that object which cannot possibly be,
the Utterly Blameless Man among all of us who enjoy
man’s food on the wide earth.
But if I find one, I will let you know.
No, I admire all, am a friend of any
who of his own will does nothing shameful.
Against necessity not even the gods can fight.

I do not like to find fault.
Enough for me if one is not
bad, not too unsteady, knows
what is right and good for his city,
a sound man. I will not
look out his faults. For the generation
of fools is endless. Take anything as good
which is not soiled with shame.

Simonides

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love’s madness

He seems as fortunate as the gods who
sits where he can look in your eyes, who listens
close to you, to hear the soft voice, its sweetness
murmur in love and

laughter, all for him. But it breaks my spirit;
sets my heart trembling in my breast.
For when I look at you for a moment, the voice dies,
I can say nothing,

but my lips are stricken to silence, underneath
my skin the tenuous flame suffuses;
nothing shows in front of my eyes, my ears are
muted in thunder.

And the sweat breaks running upon me,
a trembling seizes me all over, I am greener
than grass, and it seems to me that
I am little short of dying.

Sappho

on friends lost at sea

Blaming the bitterness of this sorrow, Perikles, no man
in all our city can take pleasure in festivities:
Such were the men the surf of the roaring sea washed under,
all of us go with hearts aching against our ribs
for misery. Yet against such grief that is past recovery
the gods, dear friend, have given us strong endurance to be our medicine.
Such sorrows are variable. They beat now
against ourselves, and we take the hurt of the bleeding sore.
Tomorrow it will be others who grieve, not we. From now on
act like a man, and put away these feminine tears.

Archilochus

storm and calm

I saw die calm light of the red sun clouded,
and its pleasant face disappear in a moment,
and the sky all around obscured
by a most horrible darkness.

The stormy South wind roars angrily,
its fury rises, the storm increases,
and tall Olympus shakes on Atlas’ shoulders,
thundering in alarm;

but later I saw the black veil break,
dissolving into water, and the clear day
happily restored to its original brightness,

and gazing on the sky lovely with a new splendor,
I said: ,,Who knows if a similar change
is not in store for my fortunes?’’

Juan de Arguijo

sonnet for sinope

If I were Jupiter, mistress, you would be my spouse Juno;
if I were king of the waves, you would be my Tethys,
queen of the deep waters, and for your palace
you would have the world.

If the world were mine, you would hold sway with me
over the earth with its fertile breasts, and in a splendid coach,
with your long fair tresses, you would ride
among the people honored as a goddess.

But I am not a god, and I cannot be one;
heaven gave me life only to serve you.
My hazardous fate depends on you alone.

You are my whole pleasure, my pain, and my fortune.
If it pleases you to love me, I shall become Neptune, wholly Jupiter,
wholly king, wholly rich, and wholly happy.

Pierre de Ronsard

to Apollo

Sun, your phosphorescent rays
pin fire across the eternal firmament.
Snap a far-hunting arrow against our enemies,
O careering Healer to whom we cry!

Timotheus

the well-tempered symposium

Now the floor is swept clean, and the hands of all who are present
are washed, and the cups are clean. One puts the garlands on,
another passes the fragrant myrrh on a dish. The mixing
bowl is set up and stands by, full of the spirit of cheer,
and more wine still stands ready and promises no disappointment;
sweet wine, in earthen jars, preserving its own bouquet.
In the middle of all, frankincense gives out its holy fragrance,
and we have water there too, cold and crystal and sweet.
Golden-brown loaves are set nearby, and the lordly table
is weighted down underneath its load of honey and cheese.
The altar, in the center, is completely hidden in flowers.
Merriment and singing fill all the corners of the house.
First of all, enlightened men should hymn the God, using
words of propriety, and stories that have no fault.
Then, when they have made libation and prayed to be able
to conduct themselves like gentlemen as occasion demands,
it will not be drunk-and-disorderly to drink as much as one can
and still get home without help—except for a very old man.
Best approve that man who in drinking discloses notable
ideas, as they come to his mind and his good disposition directs.
It’s no use to tell the tale of the battles of Titans and Giants,
or Centaurs either, those fictions of our fathers’ imaginations,
nor wars of the Gods; there’s no good to be got from such subjects.
One should be thoughtful always and right-minded toward the Gods.

Xenophanes