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Apr 11
POEMS ABOUT EROS AND CUPID

These are translations of ancient Greek poems about Eros. Eros was the Greek counterpart of the Roman god Cupid. While today we tend to think of Cupid as an angelic cherub shooting arrows and making people fall in love, the ancient Greek and Roman poets often portrayed Cupid/Eros as a troublemaker who was driving them mad with uncontrollable desires.


Sappho, fragment 42
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eros harrows my heart:
wilds winds whipping desolate mountains,
uprooting oaks.



Sappho, fragment 130
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eros, the limb-shatterer,
rattles me,
an irresistible
constrictor.



Sappho, fragment 54
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Eros
descends from heaven,
discarding his imperial purple mantle.



Sappho, fragment 22
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

That enticing girl's clinging dresses
leave me trembling, overcome by happiness,
as once, when I saw the Goddess in my prayers
eclipsing Cyprus.



Sappho, fragment 102
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Mother, how can I weave,
so overwhelmed by love?



Sappho, fragment 10
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I lust!
I crave!
Take me!


Around the same time Sappho was writing in ******, in nearby Greece, circa 564 B.C., we have another poem about the power of Eros:

Ibykos Fragment 286
translation by Michael R. Burch

Come spring, the grand
apple trees stand
watered by a gushing river
where the maidens’ uncut flowers shiver
and the blossoming grape vine swells
in the gathering shadows.

Unfortunately
for me
Eros never rests
but like a Thracian tempest
ablaze with lightning
emanates from Aphrodite;
the results are frightening―
black,
bleak,
astonishing,
violently jolting me from my soles
to my soul.



I hate Eros! Why does that gargantuan God dart my heart, rather than wild beasts? What can a God think to gain by inflaming a man? What trophies can he hope to win with my head?
―Alcaeus of Messene, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Have mercy, dear Phoebus, drawer of the bow, for were you not also wounded by love’s streaking arrows?
―Claudianus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In Greek mythology, Cupid shoots Phoebus Apollo to make him fall in love with Daphne, then shoots Daphne with an arrow that prevents her from falling in love with her suitor.



Matchmaker Love, if you can’t set a couple equally aflame, why not ***** out your torch?
―Rufinus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



I have armed myself with wisdom against Love;
he cannot defeat me in single combat.
I, a mere mortal, have withstood a God!
But if he enlists the aid of Bacchus,
what odds do I have against the two of them?
―Rufinus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Love, if you aim your arrows at both of us impartially, you’re a God, but if you favor one over the other, you’re the Devil!
―Rufinus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Either put an end to lust, Eros, or else insist on reciprocity: abolish desire or heighten it.
―Lucilius or Polemo of Pontus, loose translation by Michael R. Burch



Steady your bow, Cypris, and at your leisure select a likelier target ... for I am too full of arrows to take another wound.
―Archias, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Cypris was another name for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Here the poet may be suggesting, “Like mother, like son.”



Little Love, lay my heart waste;
empty your quiver into me;
leave not an arrow unshot!
Slay me with your cruel shafts,
but when you’d shoot someone else,
you’ll find yourself out of ammo!
―Archias, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



You say I should flee from Love, but it’s hopeless!
How can a man on foot escape from a winged creature with unerring accuracy?
―Archias, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Many centuries later, poets would still be complaining about the overpoweringness of ****** desire, and/or the unfairness of unrequited love, by which they often meant not getting laid!



Spring
by Charles d’Orleans
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Young lovers,
greeting the spring
fling themselves downhill,
making cobblestones ring
with their wild leaps and arcs,
like ecstatic sparks
drawn from coal.

What is their brazen goal?

They grab at whatever passes,
so we can only hazard guesses.
But they rear like prancing steeds
raked by brilliant spurs of need,
Young lovers.


Fast-forwarding again, we find the great Scottish poet William Dunbar, who was born around 1460:

Sweet Rose of Virtue
by William Dunbar
translation by Michael R. Burch

Sweet rose of virtue and of gentleness,
delightful lily of youthful wantonness,
richest in bounty and in beauty clear
and in every virtue that is held most dear,
except only that you are merciless.

Into your garden, today, I followed you;
there I saw flowers of freshest hue,
both white and red, delightful to see,
and wholesome herbs, waving resplendently,
yet everywhere, no odor but rue.

I fear that March with his last arctic blast
has slain my fair rose of pallid and gentle cast,
whose piteous death does my heart such pain
that, if I could, I would compose her roots again,
so comforting her bowering leaves have been.

Keywords/Tags: Eros, Cupid, Phoebus Apollo, Cypris, Aphrodite, love, blind love, cute love, love god, love goddess, bow, arrow, arrows, desire, passion, lust, heart
Written by
Michael R Burch  62/M/Nashville, Tennessee
(62/M/Nashville, Tennessee)   
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