Wednesday, November 11, 2009

for our Veterans: Archilochos of Paros, 680-640 B.C.

These are short poems translated by Richard Lattimore of the University of Chicago from the Ancient Greek. I think they are about the living soldiers, from one who has been dead a long time but knew the score.

I am two things: a fighter who follows the Master of Battles,
and one who understands the gift of the Muses' love.

By spear is kneaded the bread I eat, by spear my Ismaric
wine is won, which I drink, leaning upon my spear.

4. (On a Willing Woman)
Wild fig-tree of the rocks, so often feeder of ravens,
Loves-them-all, the seducible, the stranger's delight.

I don't like the towering captain with the spraddly length of leg,
the one who swaggers in his love-locks and cleanshaves beneath the chin.
Give me a man short and squarely set upon his legs, a man
full of heart, not to be shaken from the place he plants his feet.

Heart, my heart, so battered with misfortune far beyond your strength,
up, and face the men who hate us. Bare your chest to the assault
of the enemy, and fight them off. Stand fast among the beam like spars.
Give no ground; and if you beat them, do not brag in open show,
nor, if they beat you, run home and lie down on your bed and cry.
Keep some measure in the joy you take in luck, and the degree
you give way to sorrow. All our life is up-and-down like this.

I will make nothing better by crying, I will make nothing
worse by giving myself what entertainment I can.

The fox knows many tricks, the hedgehog only one.
One good one.

It sounds like Archilochos probably did a lot of weeping, or else he would not have addressed it so often. Thank you to all veterans, for all your service to our country and its people.


Capt. Schmoe said...

"Kepp some measure in the joy you take in luck, and the degree you give way to sorrow. All our life is up-and-down like this."

Written by one who knew? I would guess so.

Anonymous said...

I loved these. I may have to post some at work... we are a people who enjoy a good word about warfare, so much the better if it's ancient.

Ann T. said...

Dear Captain Schmoe, and Christopher,
Yes, there's about thirty of these, and every one of them sounds true to me. I love them all. Thanks for reading them.

My lord Apollo, single out the guilty ones . . .

Have a great day!

Ann T.

Slamdunk said...

It is interesting how much we can learn from and be inspired by history. No 17 is a gem...

Ann T. said...

Dear SlamDunk,
Yeah, No. 17 is like a movie that needs to be made. Thanks for reading! Have a great day!

Ann T.

Glaukos, a soldier of fortune's your friend as long as he's fighting.