Selected Odes of Anacreon
Translated or Imitated
When between Ten and Thirteen Years of Age.
On His Lyre
Tho’ Atreus’ sons my verse inspire,
Tho’ mightier Cadmus wakes my lyre,
In vain my glowing hand I try
The rebel strings to love reply!
My glowing hand the rebels chang’d,
Thro’ every faithless chord I rang’d;
My tongue Alcides’ labours fir’d,
Yet still my lyre with love conspir’d.
Heroes! I quit the towering song!
These strings to love alone belong.
The lordly bull to Nature owes
The polish’d armour of his brows;
She guards with hoofs the bounding steed,
And lends the timid hare her speed:
Th’ imperial lion teeth she gave,
To fish the empire of the wave;
To denizens of the air their wings,
And valour to creation’s kings.
But women! had she nought to suit ye?
What better could she give than beauty?
Beauty which braves the sword and shield,
Beauty which bids the sceptre yield;
Beauty whose heaven-deputed sway
Ev’n fire and adamant obey:
Let man the elements enthrall,
Imperial Beauty mocks them all.
(Written at eight Years of Age.)
’Twas midnight; by Boötes sway’d,
The bear his sullen light display’d;
While toil-exhausted mortals slept,
Sly Cupid to my threshold crept.
“What daring hands my gate invest?
Who thus at midnight breaks my rest?”
“O open, haste, dismiss your fear,
A feeble boy asks shelter here;
The moon is absent; bath’d in rain,
I wander on the pathless plain.”
Well, now, behold my rage compos’d,
My lamp renew’d, my door unclos’d;
O’er my warm hearth an urchin tripp’d,
With quiver, bow, and wings equipp’d.
His frozen fingers mine caress’d,
My palms his humid hair compress’d;
Till bold with heat he whisper’d, “Friend,
Let’s see if yet my bow will bend:”
’Twas bent; the well-directed dart,
Deep in the centre pierc’d my heart;
The faithless elf his pinions tried,
And slily laughing, “Host,” he cried;
“Congratulate me, now your part ’tis,
My bow is safer than your heart is.”
Beneath a myrtle’s tender shade,
On beds of fragrant lotos laid,
The vacant bowl I chide;
Then love shall come, his tunic bound
His soft vermillion neck around,
And new libations guide.
Like circling wheels our years are roll’d.
Till shrunk in dust, unseen and cold,
Our humbled relics lie:
Then why unpitying marble lave?
Ah! why to melt the envious grave
Mellifluous showers supply?
On me the liquid treasure shed,
Again with roses crown my head,
And bid my nymph appear;
Ere yet I join th’ infernal choir,
Ere yet, O Love, thy flames expire,
My cares shall leave me here!
Bring, bring the rose from Cupid’s shrine,
Its tender foliage bathed in wine,
With liberal clusters wreathe;
Now fill the bowl, let mirth abound,
The rose shall clasp our temples round,
And richer incense breathe.
O Rose! luxuriant queen of flow’rs,
O Rose! delight of heavenly bow’rs,
Unrivall’d care of spring!
With thee the Paphian God entwines,
His golden tresses ere he joins
The Graces frolic ring.
Mine too adorn—and, while I sing,
Yon ample-bosom’d virgin bring,
With rosy garlands crown’d:
Then, Bacchus, round thy glowing fane,
I too will lead the jocund train,
I too will lightly bound!
Yes, weave our rosy crowns again;
Now let the social Grace reign;
Give jocund laughter place:
Yon blooming nymphs my lyre shall string,
The ivy-mantled thyrsis bring,
And airy footsteps trace.
Awake! your silken tresses twine,
Wake, sons of revelry divine,
The festal song improve:
Come—on those lips with nectar blest,
The soul of harmony shall rest—
The soul of peace and love!
The bright-hair’d god of tender wiles,
The queen of every-ready smiles,
Shall purple Bacchus greet;
While we his cluster’d rubies press,
Their long-lov’d ministers they bless,
And ev’ry joy complete.
Love rested on my silver head
His hyacinth wand, and said,
“Wilt thou with me they swiftness prove?
Wilt thou again contend with Love?”
O’er raging floods he urg’d his flight,
O’er many a steep and sky-crown’d height;
My trembling feet pursued and strove
Mistaken strife! to conquer love!
But strength forsook my trembling feet,
My palsied heart forgot to beat;
Love with his velvet pinions spread,
Refresh’d my throbbing brow and said,
“Thou canst not love!”
Stay, gentle dove, descend and say,
For whom you wing your easy way?
Say whence those perfum’d plumes diffuse,
Thro’ the rich air ambrosial dews?
“Anacreon sent me to his Boy,
Bathyllus, minister of joy;
Venus to old Anacreon kind,
Me for a simple hymn resign’d;
I glide, his herald, through the air,
And now a love tale claims my care.
He bids me soon unfetter’d roam,
But still his lap shall be my home.
O’er meagre plains or mountains blue,
Shall I my rustic food pursue?
Or cradled on a barren spray,
Consume th’ unprofitable day?
Now by Anacreon’s side I stand,
Stealing a banquet from his hand;
Or from his rich empurpled lip,
The vine’s ambrosial balsam sip.
I dance and fan his glowing cheek,
Then on his harp my slumber seek;
The tale is finish’d, stranger—go!
I learn to tattle like a crow.”
Imitated as a Modern Song
The Waxen Cupid
Thy form in tender wax impress’d,
I saw thee, Love! a quiet guest;
A Doric stripling, shrewd and cold,
Expos’d thy cherub form for gold:
“If this be love,” I said and smil’d,
“To me consign the harmless child.”
“No price I ask,” (the swain replies)
“But far remove your fatal prize;
For not by me with magic toil,
The breathing wax was taught to smile:
If this is Love, the cruel boy,
Will those who shelter him destroy.”
Take, take thy prize! this doit behold,
Enough when love himself is sold:
Now, beauteous boy! thy ransom paid,
To hoar Anacreon lend thine aid;
If thou are Love, my bosom fire,
Or soon thyself in flames expire.
“Anacreon, lo! (they smile and say)
Thy youth is gone, thy hairs are grey—”
I know not if ’tis true;
But this I know, as life retires,
The social Sage will feed its fires,
And richer joys pursue.
Yes, Love’s resistless pow’r I own,
Now, now I bend before his throne;
Long since the smiling tyrant stole,
With gentle whispers near my soul;
But taught by wisdom, arm’d by pride,
My soul the childish foe defied.
Next day his dreaded bow he bore,
And shew’d his quiver’s golden store;
With leer malignant brav’d my might,
And dar’d me to unequal fight.
An ample shield my shoulder brac’d,
My side a glitt’ring falchion grac’d;
Fierce as Achilles in the field,
I bade the infant archer yield.
But swift as light his arrow came,—
I fled and mock’d its erring aim;
His quiver spent, the vengeful elf,
Deep in his bosom plung’d himself.
Its inmost citadel confest
The triumph of the fatal guest;
Vain spear and faithless shield, depart!
The battle rages in my heart.
Not for the wealth by Gyges pil’d,
Not for the pow’r by kings defil’d,
Imploring sighs I breathe;
Let me, confined to softer cares,
Enrich with balm these snowy hairs,
And crowns of roses wreathe.
To day is ours, ’tis ours alone,
To-morrow comes unseen—unknown,
Ah! who can bid it fly?
Drink, then, while sportive hours remain
Lest venom’d care and cureless pain.
The social bowl deny.
The Silver Cup
Sculptor! a tempting cup provide,
A spacious cup, Anacreon’s pride!
First round it let a deathless wreath
Of spreading roses seem to breathe.
One image on the jocund bowl
One, only one, delights my soul;
No mystic orgie there record,
No combat by the sage abhorr’d:
But imag’d in the glowing gold,
Let me the son of Jove behold;
Kind Bacchus, lord of bounteous wine,
And Venus, queen of joy divine:
Triumphant Hymen by her side,
And Love unarm’d, his gentle guide.
With him the laughing graces join,
Beneath a nectar-yielding vine:
And last, to fill the frolic throng,
Its wide and fragrant shades among,
Let ever-beauteous youths advance,
Graceful as Phœbus in the dance.
The Law of Drinking
The skies to earth potations give,
These leafy crowds by drinking live;
By tributes rich from air distill’d,
Old Ocean’s ample cup is fill’d:
The sun his sparkling forehead laves,
And quaffs his nectar from the waves;
Pale in her thirst, the queen of night,
Renews from him her wat’ry light;
Then, friends! why all these scruples make,
If I the great example take?
To His Mistress
On Phrygian hills, by stone embrac’d,
Thy daughter, Tantalus, was plac’d;
Thine, Pandion, to a swallow chang’d,
Once thro’ the fields of Æther rang’d;
But me—to tempt my fair one’s eye,
Let me a mirror’s place supply;
Or in a tunic’s folds prepare me,
And may my nymph for ever wear me.
Dissolve me to a limpid wave,
Fair maid! thy faultless form to lave;
Or bid me, chang’d to fragrant dews,
Around, inferior sweets diffuse;
Or in a modest pearl compress’d,
Teach me to grace that envied vest;
Or if thy neck a gem requires,
I’ll ask the diamond’s purest fires;
If these are vain—in sandals weave me,
But let thy feet alone receive me.
The balmy grape supply;
Now, from the life-restoring spring,
For boundless draughts I sigh.
Bring flowers; to shade my wither’d brow,
Let roseate wreaths agree;
But what from Love’s consuming glow,
Fond heart, shall shelter thee?
I too might boundless wealth pursue;
Would death his trembling victim spare,
Content the splendid pile to share.
Yet since the grave its guest requires,
Shall barren care my joys controul?
Since the brief dream of life retires,
Shall thirst of gold consume my soul?
No, let inspiring bowls be mine,
While with the riches of the vine,
Warm friendship’s richer treasures blend;
Let me in Beauty’s lap recline,
Still let the loves my couch attend.
* It is said Anacreon having received a present of ten thousand crowns from Policrates, King of Samos, was seized with such an apprehension of thieves that he could not sleep. Accordingly he carried back the gift, telling the monarch he preferred repose to riches.
On Life’s Enjoyment
Blind mortal! ere the day is fled,
Thy narrow path contented tread;
The passing time serenely flows,
But who the clouded future knows,
If mine or thine?
Haste then, devouring care, depart!
No place I yield thee in my heart;
Ere envious Death prepares his sting,
Leave me to laugh, and sport and sing
With sparkling wine!
To a Painter
Painter, supreme in Rhodian art,
Painter, thy magic aid impart:
In faithful wax these charms combine,
And bid my absent nymph be mine.
First, then, in soft profusion spread,
Let sable tresses grace her head.
And, if thy wax can sweets diffuse,
Paint them exhaling fragrant dews:
Now let their rich empurpled shade,
Her forehead’s iv’ry arch invade;
Next with a soft and secret line
Her placid eye-brows intertwice;
Their slender union half betray,
Half, undiscover’d melt away.
Now, Painter, all thy pow’r unite,
Now form an eye—a seat of light;
Arrest her side-glance kindly keen,
That side-glance taught by Beauty’s queen;
And let they ample art supply
The still, slow fire of sage Minerva’s eye.
Next on my fair one’s cheek disclose,
Suffus’d with milk, the modest rose;
Paint those ripe lips that love engage,
Lips that seduce the sober sage:
Round her fair neck, their lov’d retreat,
Bid troops of frolic graces meet:
The rest—let purple fields enclose,
And round in easy waves repose:
Yet of those envious folds divide,
Still trace the shape they seem to hide:
Enough; ’tis she—I see her move,
Speak too, fair form, and speak of love!
The Muses once to learn his duty
Their captive, Cupid, gave to Beauty;
In chains of woven roses tam’d him,
Till Venus ransom’d and reclaim’d him;
But still their flow’ry bonds he chuses,
Sly Cupid still attends the Muses.
The History of His Loves
Go! count the waves in yonder sea,
Count ev’ry leaf on ev’ry tree,
Then ask how oft Anacreon’s heart
Has welcom’d Cupid’s golden dart.
First twenty bright Athenian dames
Involv’d this melting heart in flames;
And five time thrice to brighter eyes
This melting heart became a prize:
How oft in Corinth’s envied plains
It courted Beauty’s silver chains!
For still in happy Greece are seen
The richest gifts of Beauty’s queen.
Then ’midst Ionia’s blooming isles,
’Midst Carian wit and Lesbian wiles;
’Midst far-fam’d Rhodia’s syren race
Two thousand tender conquests trace.
Ah, why those tender conquests measure,
When all my life is love and pleasure!
How oft on Syria’s fervid plains,
How oft where old Canopus reigns,
For glowing Beauty’s smiles I sigh’d,
I boast not now with youthful pride;
As often on his Cretan throne
Love made his magic sceptre known;
Where, in a hundred cities round,
He sees his richest altars crown’d.
But could I tell how oft my soul
Bow’d to the laughing god’s controul,
Beyond where warm’d by western skies
Rich Gades’ purple vineyards rise:
Or where the yellow Bactrian roves*,
’Mid balmy rocks and silken groves,
Or where to meet the orient tide,
Th’ imperial waves of Indus glide;
the would the ample record prove
Anacreon only liv’d to love.
* Bactria, now a province of Persia, called Chorazin, is remarkable for silk trees, and rocks, which yield the balm used for the dead.
To a Beauty
Tho’ silver hairs my brow entwine,
Tho’ youth’s luxuriant bloom is thine,
My tender vows approve:
Behold this wreath; the blushing rose,
More sweetly breathes, more richly glows
With silver lilies wove.
Hence with the maze of cynic rules!
The pomp of words, the war of schools
To me, to all is vain:
Teach me the magic grape to court,
Bid me with laughing Venus sport
In pleasure’s rich domain.
Boy, fill yon sober goblet high,
With wine the liquid crystal dye;
Let roses crown my head:
Yet once again my cares compose
Ere life’s departing visions close;
No cares awake the dead.
See, Spring awakes! The Graces shed
New rose-buds round her op’ning bed;
The placid sea subsides;
The bird of love its pinion tries,
The crane departs—thro’ cloudless skies
Imperial Phœbus rides.
Far flies the humid vapour’s gloom;
Now sons of toil their task resume,
The laughing sky befriends;
Now earth her balmy store displays;
Her debt the silver olive pays,
And ripen’d treasure lends.
Now by luxurious Bacchus sent
The vine, with teeming clusters bent
Its welcome tribute pours;
In ev’ry stem, in ev’ry flow’r,
Creation owns the genial hour
Which streams of life restores.
As Cupid slept with roses shaded,
A lurking bee his rest invaded:
Hw rings his hand, he runs, he flies;
Then thus to blooming Venus cries,
“Help, mother, help! your Cupid dies!
A hateful serpent wing’d—a Bee
By rustics call’d—has murder’d me!”
“And if, (she cry’d) and insect’s sting
Such fierce and fatal pain can bring,
Think, Cupid! how much keener smart
Thy arrows cost the wounded heart!”
* In this little Ode it is peculiarly difficult to preserve the naivete which distinguishes the father of Lyric Poetry.
To His Companions
Fill, fill the bowl, and praises sing,
To Bacchus our immortal king;
Your jocund voices blend:
To Love who reigns ’midst flowing bowls,
To Venus, queen of noble souls,
Let choral hymns ascend!
Venus! to whom the sons of earth
Owe ever-smiling rapture’s birth:
From whom the Graces sprung!
Venus, who bids our cares depart,
And steeps in balm the bleeding heart,
By serpent-sorrows stung!
Haste, blooming boys, the bowl attend,
With busy hands the nectar blend,
The cordial draught prolong;
Fly, swiftly fly, malignant care!
Fly hence, and melt to empty air
The vagrant winds among.
Yes, urge the bowl: avails it ought
If dull delay, or anxious thought,
Our proffer’d bliss devours!
Ah! why to mortal eyes display
The secrets of the coming day?
We know not if ’tis ours.
Then give me wine—my locks perfume;
A nymph in Beauty’s brightest bloom,
The graceful dance shall weave:
No cares my easy soul employ
But ow to crown the present joy,
And care itself deceive.
Fill, fill the bowl, and praises sing
To Bacchus our immortal king!
Bacchus! I love thy jocund quire;
I love to strike the careless lyre,
And bid thy sparking cups abound
While rosy youths sit laughing round.
I love my furrow’d brow to hid
With hyacinths’ cerulean pride;
But more than friendship, more than wine,
Beauty! I prize thy smile divine.
No envy stains my placid breast,
No vulture cares devour my rest;
Far, far I fly the slender darts
Of venom’d lips and canker’d hearts:
Thee, Bacchus! even thee I scorn,
When Discord at thy shrine is born.
Let us, (while hid in Beauty’s breast
Love sits and smiles, a recent guest)
Guide to the harp our frolic feet,
And ask if life can be more sweet!
Ode 29 [sic]
To the Cicada*
Sweet monitor of jocund day
I deem thee blest!
Still, which rich spring invites thy lay,
The honied dews of morn repay
Her long lov’d guest.
Still the green honours of the plain
Thy banquet bring;
Still, tuneful Sage! the rural swain
Receives and welcomes in they strain
A pledge of Spring.
Thy silver voice, Apollo’s pride,
Delights the Nine;
To age, to pain, to care deny’d,
Th’ gods, th’ immortal gods preside
In bliss like thine!
* A fly about an inch and a half long, remarkably light and shrill-voiced, in proportion to its size, and well known in the south of Europe.
Methought the fleeting winds I chas’d,
My back with ample pinions grac’d;
Fell Cupid linger’d far behind,
His beauteous feet in lead confin’d:
But soon my spreading wings were vain,
The tyrant seiz’d his slave again
What means thy omen, mystic dream?
What would the shadowy image seem?
Shall Hope her golden wings supply,
While airy loves around me fly;
And in a fruitless chace detain me,
Till all in one combine to chain me?
The husband of the Paphian dame
To Lemnos’ far-fam’d furnace came;
There with destructive art begun
The arrows of her wily son.
The blue-ey’d dame his work approv’d;
And, with celestial pity mov’d,
In mild ambrosia dipp’d them all,
But Cupid mingled it with gall.
The warrior-god with scornful look
His death-deciding jav’lin shook:
“Poor babe! thy pow’rless arms resign,
The ministers of death are mine.”
“Try this,” said Love, in whisper bland,
“No common weapon tempts thy hand.”
Deluded Mars the point apply’d,
While rosy Venus smil’d aside.
Deep in the centre of his heart
The mighty warrior felt the smart:
“Take, take it hence, insidious boy!
Take hence thy venom-pointed toy.”
“I thank thee,” said the laughing elf,
“But keep the pointed toy thyself.”
The Power of Riches
To love, or not to love, is pain,
But he who loves and loves in vain,
The keenest pang endures;
Since now no more to worth ally’d,
The bliss to noble souls deny’d,
Imperial gold secures. In vain at Love’s polluted throne
For joys consign’d to wealth alone,
The sons of honour sue;
The mind by sacred science taught,
The mind with Nature’s treasures fraught,
Must bid these joys adieu. Curst be the wretch, whose meagre soul
First own’d the shining foe’s controul,
And spread its dire domain!
For gold the bands of Nature break,
The fiends of war and murder wake,
And lovers love in vain!
I love the smiles of social age;
I love the sports which youth engage:
Ev’n he whose early bloom is fled,
My yet the frolic measure tread;
Tho’ whiten’d locks his years proclaim,
His youthful soul is still the same!
Lend, lend immortal Homer’s lyre,
But far remove each blood-stain’d wire;
My bowl, my nectar’d bowl, prepare,
Its sacred rites shall be my care:
Then, king of Bards! my soul inspire,
Then warm me with celestial fire,
While in the dance’s mazy round
I wake thy Lyre’s heart-swelling sound;
And, mellow’d by ambrosial wine,
Mingle its dulcet voice with mine.
The Birth of Venus
Let sov’reign art the bridge suspend,
Or bid a mimic flood extend;
I ask no mimic flood to grace
With silver waves yon swelling vase;
Sculptor! the trivial labour scorn;
Let new-born Venus mine adorn;
Soar from the sordid bounds of earth,
And trace the joy of god, immortal Beauty’s birth.
Shew her as in the calm repose
Of Ocean, from its lap she rose;
Half-mantled in a floating shade,
Half to the dazzled eye betray’d:
While on the deep’s translucent breast
Light as its silv’ry foam, she prest,
Soft smil’d the blue expanse, and hail’d its radiant guest.
Describe her as with coy consent,
Her beauty to its waves she lent;
Still from their cold embraces gliding,
Her thin and faithless vesture chiding,
When first her rosy neck reveal’d
Its graces through the liquid shield.
As tow’rs a lily’s snow-white head
Amidst the purple violet’s bed,
Venus, those envious waves between,
Shone more resplendent thro’ the sapphire screen.
Behold her! on a silver tide
Again the goddess seems to rise;
On bounding dolphins by her side,
Hymen and Love triumphant ride,
Sly mirth and malice in their eyes.
The silent tenants of the main,
Grow vocal in her joyous train;
On the smooth waves with antic sport,
Her life-bestowing eye they court,
While Cytherea smiles and skims the crystal plain.
The Origin of the Rose
Aid, aid my lyre; with flow’r-crown’d spring,
The Rose, rich summer’s gift, I sing.
Breath’d by the gods, its sweets beguile
Imperial man; the Graces smile,
While woven with their saffron hair,
The Loves the blushing trophy wear:
Pleas’d their gay queen the blushing trophy views,
The pride of fabling bards, the treasure of the Muse.
O Rose, thy fragrant store is blest
By him whom venom’d thorns assail;
Or when by tender hands caress’d,
Thy balmy folds the enamour’d sense regale!
And oft in consecrated lays
The raptur’d poet sings thy praise;
Where mirth-inspiring feasts invite,
Or purple Bacchus claims his rite:
For when! fair flow’r! without thy aid
Is Beauty’s radiant form array’d?
Aurora’s rosy hands we praise,
The nymph her rose-tipp’d arm displays,
And as Parnassian sages tell,
In Cytherea’s skin eternal roses dwell.
To pain, to death’s unpitying hour
Thy smile a gentle moment lends;
Ev’n vanquish’d time assists thy pow’r,
The soul of sweets thy latest age attends.
When thro’ the waves, her crystal zone,
Proud beauty’s new-born goddess shone;
While in the teeming brow of Jove,
Pallas, her mighty rival, strove:
At that rich hour triumphant earth,
First gave the glowing rose-bud birth;
The gods beheld; with nectar fed,
They bade its infant beauties spread;
Bacchus the immortal tribute chose,
And with his conquering vine enshrin’d the Rose.
To His Friends
Happy youths! when ye are near
My wither’d heart grows young;
When your social choir I hear,
Apollo fires my tongue.
Then, blest nymph, expect my vows!
The rosy wreath prepare;
Yet once more these silver’d brows
The crown of love shall wear.
Then with yonder blooming band
My nimble feet shall vie:
Bacchus! then thy bounteous hand
Shall purple grapes supply.
Let me Time’s unsparing waste
With tuneful mirth repair;
Let me still thy nectar taste,
And graceful follies share!
The warrior-steed’s illustrious race,
First in his flaming eyes we trace;
The proud tiara’s gems proclaim
The yellow Parthian’s wealth and fame:
But with a love-instructed eye
Love’s faithful vassals I descry;
For only in the lucid breast
His sacred symbol is imprest;
And to a lover’s eye alone
The secrets of the soul are known.
* Anachréon est sans contredit le Poëte le plus aimable, le plus facile, & le plus riant de toute l’antiquité: mais comment dans le silence d’un cabinet, peut on se remplir de ce feu qu’il puisoit dans les yeux de sa maitresse & dans le entretien de ses amis? C’est un fleur qui n’a ni éclat ni parfum loin de sol qui l’a vu naitre. Ce Poëte est un de ceux qu’il est moins difficile d’egaler que de traduire.
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