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V. TO APHRODITE (293 lines)

(ll. 1-6) Muse, tell me the deeds of golden Aphrodite the
Cyprian, who stirs up sweet passion in the gods and subdues the
tribes of mortal men and birds that fly in air and all the many
creatures that the dry land rears, and all the sea: all these
love the deeds of rich-crowned Cytherea.

(ll. 7-32) Yet there are three hearts that she cannot bend nor
yet ensnare.  First is the daughter of Zeus who holds the aegis,
bright-eyed Athene; for she has no pleasure in the deeds of
golden Aphrodite, but delights in wars and in the work of Ares,
in strifes and battles and in preparing famous crafts.  She first
taught earthly craftsmen to make chariots of war and cars
variously wrought with bronze, and she, too, teaches tender
maidens in the house and puts knowledge of goodly arts in each
one's mind.  Nor does laughter-loving Aphrodite ever tame in love
Artemis, the huntress with shafts of gold; for she loves archery
and the slaying of wild beasts in the mountains, the lyre also
and dancing and thrilling cries and shady woods and the cities of
upright men.  Nor yet does the pure maiden Hestia love
Aphrodite's works.  She was the first-born child of wily Cronos
and youngest too (24), by will of Zeus who holds the aegis, -- a
queenly maid whom both Poseidon and Apollo sought to wed.  But
she was wholly unwilling, nay, stubbornly refused; and touching
the head of father Zeus who holds the aegis, she, that fair
goddess, sware a great oath which has in truth been fulfilled,
that she would be a maiden all her days.  So Zeus the Father gave
her an high honour instead of marriage, and she has her place in
the midst of the house and has the richest portion.  In all the
temples of the gods she has a share of honour, and among all
mortal men she is chief of the goddesses.

(ll. 33-44) Of these three Aphrodite cannot bend or ensnare the
hearts.  But of all others there is nothing among the blessed
gods or among mortal men that has escaped Aphrodite.  Even the
heart of Zeus, who delights in thunder, is led astray by her;
though he is greatest of all and has the lot of highest majesty,
she beguiles even his wise heart whensoever she pleases, and
mates him with mortal women, unknown to Hera, his sister and his
wife, the grandest far in beauty among the deathless goddesses --
most glorious is she whom wily Cronos with her mother Rhea did
beget: and Zeus, whose wisdom is everlasting, made her his chaste
and careful wife.

(ll. 45-52) But upon Aphrodite herself Zeus cast sweet desire to
be joined in love with a mortal man, to the end that, very soon,
not even she should be innocent of a mortal's love; lest
laughter-loving Aphrodite should one day softly smile and say
mockingly among all the gods that she had joined the gods in love
with mortal women who bare sons of death to the deathless gods,
and had mated the goddesses with mortal men.

(ll. 53-74) And so he put in her heart sweet desire for Anchises
who was tending cattle at that time among the steep hills of
many-fountained Ida, and in shape was like the immortal gods.
Therefore, when laughter-loving Aphrodite saw him, she loved him,
and terribly desire seized her in her heart.  She went to Cyprus,
to Paphos, where her precinct is and fragrant altar, and passed
into her sweet-smelling temple.  There she went in and put to the
glittering doors, and there the Graces bathed her with heavenly
oil such as blooms upon the bodies of the eternal gods -- oil
divinely sweet, which she had by her, filled with fragrance.  And
laughter-loving Aphrodite put on all her rich clothes, and when
she had decked herself with gold, she left sweet-smelling Cyprus
and went in haste towards Troy, swiftly travelling high up among
the clouds.  So she came to many-fountained Ida, the mother of
wild creatures and went straight to the homestead across the
mountains.  After her came grey wolves, fawning on her, and grim-
eyed lions, and bears, and fleet leopards, ravenous for deer: and
she was glad in heart to see them, and put desire in their
*******, so that they all mated, two together, about the shadowy
coombes.

(ll. 75-88) (25) But she herself came to the neat-built shelters,
and him she found left quite alone in the homestead -- the hero
Anchises who was comely as the gods.  All the others were
following the herds over the grassy pastures, and he, left quite
alone in the homestead, was roaming hither and thither and
playing thrillingly upon the lyre.  And Aphrodite, the daughter
of Zeus stood before him, being like a pure maiden in height and
mien, that he should not be frightened when he took heed of her
with his eyes.  Now when Anchises saw her, he marked her well and
wondered at her mien and height and shining garments.  For she
was clad in a robe out-shining the brightness of fire, a splendid
robe of gold, enriched with all manner of needlework, which
shimmered like the moon over her tender *******, a marvel to see.

Also she wore twisted brooches and shining earrings in the form
of flowers; and round her soft throat were lovely necklaces.

(ll. 91-105) And Anchises was seized with love, and said to her:
'Hail, lady, whoever of the blessed ones you are that are come to
this house, whether Artemis, or Leto, or golden Aphrodite, or
high-born Themis, or bright-eyed Athene.  Or, maybe, you are one
of the Graces come hither, who bear the gods company and are
called immortal, or else one of those who inhabit this lovely
mountain and the springs of rivers and grassy meads.  I will make
you an altar upon a high peak in a far seen place, and will
sacrifice rich offerings to you at all seasons.  And do you feel
kindly towards me and grant that I may become a man very eminent
among the Trojans, and give me strong offspring for the time to
come.  As for my own self, let me live long and happily, seeing
the light of the sun, and come to the threshold of old age, a man
prosperous among the people.'

(ll. 106-142) Thereupon Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus answered
him: 'Anchises, most glorious of all men born on earth, know that
I am no goddess: why do you liken me to the deathless ones?  Nay,
I am but a mortal, and a woman was the mother that bare me.
Otreus of famous name is my father, if so be you have heard of
him, and he reigns over all Phrygia rich in fortresses.  But I
know your speech well beside my own, for a Trojan nurse brought
me up at home: she took me from my dear mother and reared me
thenceforth when I was a little child.  So comes it, then, that I
well know you tongue also.  And now the Slayer of Argus with the
golden wand has caught me up from the dance of huntress Artemis,
her with the golden arrows.  For there were many of us, nymphs
and marriageable (26) maidens, playing together; and an
innumerable company encircled us: from these the Slayer of Argus
with the golden wand rapt me away.  He carried me over many
fields of mortal men and over much land untilled and unpossessed,
where savage wild-beasts roam through shady coombes, until I
thought never again to touch the life-giving earth with my feet.
And he said that I should be called the wedded wife of Anchises,
and should bear you goodly children.  But when he had told and
advised me, he, the strong Slayer of Argos, went back to the
families of the deathless gods, while I am now come to you: for
unbending necessity is upon me.  But I beseech you by Zeus and by
your noble parents -- for no base folk could get such a son as
you -- take me now, stainless and unproved in love, and show me
to your father and careful mother and to your brothers sprung
from the same stock.  I shall be no ill-liking daughter for them,
but a likely.  Moreover, send a messenger quickly to the swift-
horsed Phrygians, to tell my father and my sorrowing mother; and
they will send you gold in plenty and woven stuffs, many splendid
gifts; take these as bride-piece.  So do, and then prepare the
sweet marriage that is honourable in the eyes of men and
deathless gods.'

(ll. 143-144) When she had so spoken, the goddess put sweet
desire in his heart.  And Anchises was seized with love, so that
he opened his mouth and said:

(ll. 145-154) 'If you are a mortal and a woman was the mother who
bare you, and Otreus of famous name is your father as you say,
and if you are come here by the will of Hermes the immortal
Guide, and are to be called my wife always, then neither god nor
mortal man shall here restrain me till I have lain with you in
love right now; no, not even if far-shooting Apollo himself
should launch grievous shafts from his silver bow.  Willingly
would I go down into the house of Hades, O lady, beautiful as the
goddesses, once I had gone up to your bed.'

(ll. 155-167) So speaking, he caught her by the hand.  And
laughter-loving Aphrodite, with face turned away and lovely eyes
downcast, crept to the well-spread couch which was already laid
with soft coverings for the hero; and upon it lay skins of bears
and deep-roaring lions which he himself had slain in the high
mountains.  And when they had gone up upon the well-fitted bed,
first Anchises took off her bright jewelry of pins and twisted
brooches and earrings and necklaces, and loosed her girdle and
stripped off her bright garments and laid them down upon a
silver-studded seat.  Then by the will of the gods and destiny he
lay with her, a mortal man with an immortal goddess, not clearly
knowing what he did.

(ll. 168-176) But at the time when the herdsmen driver their oxen
and hardy sheep back to the fold from the flowery pastures, even
then Aphrodite poured soft sleep upon Anchises, but herself put
on her rich raiment.  And when the bright goddess had fully
clothed herself, she stood by the couch, and her head reached to
the well-hewn roof-tree; from her cheeks shone unearthly beauty
such as belongs to rich-crowned Cytherea.  Then she aroused him
from sleep and opened her mouth and said:

(ll. 177-179) 'Up, son of Dardanus! -- why sleep you so heavily?
-- and consider whether I look as I did when first you saw me
with your eyes.'

(ll. 180-184) So she spake.  And he awoke in a moment and obeyed
her.  But when he saw the neck and lovely eyes of Aphrodite, he
was afraid and turned his eyes aside another way, hiding his
comely face with his cloak.  Then he uttered winged words and
entreated her:

(ll. 185-190) 'So soon as ever I saw you with my eyes, goddess, I
knew that you were divine; but you did not tell me truly.  Yet by
Zeus who holds the aegis I beseech you, leave me not to lead a
palsied life among men, but have pity on me; for he who lies with
a deathless goddess is no hale man afterwards.'

(ll. 191-201) Then Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus answered him:
'Anchises, most glorious of mortal men, take courage and be not
too fearful in your heart.  You need fear no harm from me nor
from the other blessed ones, for you are dear to the gods: and
you shall have a dear son who shall reign among the Trojans, and
children's children after him, springing up continually.  His
name shall be Aeneas (27), because I felt awful grief in that I
laid me in the bed of mortal man: yet are those of your race
always the most like to gods of all mortal men in beauty and in
stature (28).

(ll. 202-217) 'Verily wise Zeus carried off golden-haired
Ganymedes because of his beauty, to be amongst the Deathless Ones
and pour drink for the gods in the house of Zeus -- a wonder to
see -- honoured by all the immortals as he draws the red nectar
from the golden bowl.  But grief that could not be soothed filled
the heart of Tros; for he knew not whither the heaven-sent
whirlwind had caught up his dear son, so that he mourned him
always, unceasingly, until Zeus pitied him and gave him high-
stepping horses such as carry the immortals as recompense for his
son.  These he gave him as a gift.  And at the command of Zeus,
the Guide, the slayer of Argus, told him all, and how his son
would be deathless and unageing, even as the gods.  So when Tros
heard these tidings from Zeus, he no longer kept mourning but
rejoiced in his heart and rode joyfully with his storm-footed
horses.

(ll. 218-238) 'So also golden-throned Eos rapt away Tithonus who
was of your race and like the deathless gods.  And she went to
ask the dark-clouded Son of Cronos that he should be deathless
and live eternally; and Zeus bowed his head to her prayer and
fulfilled her desire.  Too simply was queenly Eos: she thought
not in her heart to ask youth for him and to strip him of the
slough of deadly age.  So while he enjoyed the sweet flower of
life he lived rapturously with golden-throned Eos, the early-
born, by the streams of Ocean, at the ends of the earth; but when
the first grey hairs began to ripple from his comely head and
noble chin, queenly Eos kept away from his bed, though she
cherished him in her house and nourished him with food and
ambrosia and gave him rich clothing.  But when loathsome old age
pressed full upon him, and he could not move nor lift his limbs,
this seemed to her in her heart the best counsel: she laid him in
a room and put to the shining doors.  There he babbles endlessly,
and no more has strength at all, such as once he had in his
supple limbs.

(ll. 239-246) 'I would not have you be deathless among the
deathless gods and live continually after such sort.  Yet if you
could live on such as now you are in look and in form, and be
called my husband, sorrow would not then enfold my careful heart.

But, as it is, harsh (29) old age will soon enshroud you --
ruthless age which stands someday at the side of every man,
deadly, wearying, dreaded even by the gods.

(ll. 247-290) 'And now because of you I shall have great shame
among the deathless gods henceforth, continually.  For until now
they feared my jibes and the wiles by which, or soon or late, I
mated all the immortals with mortal women, making them all
subject to my will.  But now my mouth shall no more have this
power among the gods; for very great has been my madness, my
miserable and dreadful madness, and I went astray out of my mind
who have gotten a child beneath my girdle, mating with a mortal
man.  As for the child, as soon as he sees the light of the sun,
the deep-breasted mountain Nymphs who inhabit this great and holy
mountain shall bring him up.  They rank neither with mortals nor
with immortals: long indeed do they live, eating heavenly food
and treading the lovely dance among the immortals, and with them
the Sileni and the sharp-eyed Slayer of Argus mate in the depths
of pleasant caves; but at their birth pines or high-topped oaks
spring up with them upon the fruitful earth, beautiful,
flourishing trees, towering high upon the lofty mountains (and
men call them holy places of the immortals, and never mortal lops
them with the axe); but when the fate of death is near at hand,
first those lovely trees wither where they stand, and the bark
shrivels away about them, and the twigs fall down, and at last
the life of the Nymph and of the tree leave the light of the sun
together.  These Nymphs shall keep my son with them and rear him,
and as soon as he is come to lovely boyhood, the goddesses will
bring him here to you and show you your child.  But, that I may
tell you all that I have in mind, I will come here again towards
the fifth year and bring you my son.  So soon as ever you have
seen him -- a scion to delight the eyes -- you will rejoice in
beholding him; for he shall be most godlike: then bring him at
once to windy Ilion.  And if any mortal man ask you who got your
dear son beneath her girdle, remember to tell him as I bid you:
say he is the offspring of one of the flower-like Nymphs who
inhabit this forest-clad hill.  But if you tell all and foolishly
boast that you lay with ric
Sophia Granada Nov 2012
Sweet-lipped Psyche's pale white skin
All the men in Greece dragged in.
And the poor girl's dark brown eyes
Led Aphrodite her to despise.
For Psyche truly was a beauty,
Reputed as brighter than Aphrodite.
If Aphrodite was a dark red rose,
Of which we've written poetry and prose,
Psyche was a pure-white Aganisia
For which they wrote a deep-sea saga.
But she knew it was sore unwise
To find herself level with a Goddess' eyes.
The only proof needed for Psyche
Was the sad fate of the maiden Arachne,
Who challenged Athena to a weaving contest,
And though her tapestry was judged the best,
It was she that ended as the melancholy loser,
For Athena punished her with the life of a spider.
And so it was that Psyche knew
Aphrodite wold claim her life too.
So Aphrodite sent her son,
The lovely, winged, holy one,
Whose golden arrows fly at night
And relieve bored lovers of their plights.
She sent Eros to shoot his arrow
And pierce it through to Psyche's marrow,
Then set before her a crocodile,
The scaly terror of the Nile,
With which she'd fall in love straightway,
And then she'd come to rue the day.
For crocodiles have no love to give,
So it would eat her, and she'd cease to live.
On the sleeping Psyche Eros descended,
Long before the night had ended,
In whose dainty breast to shove
A golden arrow poisoned with love.
He prepared to bury it to the hilt,
But a drop of love on him was spilt,
At the moment he saw her eyes, dark brown,
Look to him and stare him down.
Then Eros went back to his mother
And told her he could not wed another
Who did not shine quite so brightly
As his sweet-lipped brown-eyed Psyche.
So spiteful Aphrodite cursed
Psyche through her red lips pursed,
That the girl would find no husband
Among God, animal, or man.
And Eros this so greatly angered
He could no more with arrows linger
At the foot of lovers' beds
To foster love in their young heads.
The entire world then ceased to love
Whether it walked on foot or hoof.
Whether it swam or flew on wing
It could not love nor gain others' loving.
When love no longer circulated,
Aphrodite it aggravated
To see her temple lying bare
And to feel the gray growing in her hair.
She told Eros he'd have what he desired
If only he would kindle love's fires.
So at the mountain, Psyche's family offered her
And she was borne away on the back of Zephyr
To Eros' golden gay abode
That he and his ghostly servants called home.
In the golden rooms she wandered by daylight,
But she lay with Eros in the dark when came night.
She knew not who her darling was,
But called her ignorance a test of trust.
Never to look upon him by day,
She continued in this way,
Until she longed to visit her family,
Which her husband granted her gladly.
But he held her, and he warned her
Not to let her sisters persuade her.
"They may try to tear you away
By telling you gruesome stories." he'd say.
Then, trippingly, from Olympus she jumped down
To walk the streets of her hometown.
She told her sisters her whole story
And they turned it into something gory.
"He could be a serpent," they'd say,
"Fattening you up for the day
When he can pop you in his mouth and eat you"
Unfortunately, she took their words as true.
"So, when he comes to you at night,
Just gaze on him by candlelight!
If he's a serpent, use this knife,
And you'll no longer be his wife.
But make sure not to spill the oil,
Or his waking will cause great turmoil!
We'll find out about that young buck!
Use the candle, the knife, don't spill, and good luck!"
She walked back to the palace at their behest,
Butterflies banging within her chest.
Could the faceless man with whom she'd spent her nights
Be revealed as a serpent by candlelight?
She did not have to wait for long
To prove her treacherous sisters wrong.
As she lay in the great soft bed,
The instructions tangled inside her head,
And lighting the candle, she almost fumbled,
But when she saw his face, she truly stumbled!
Eros' beauty knocked her senseless,
Leaving mortal Psyche defenseless,
And causing her to spill the oil, which smoldered
On Eros' godly golden shoulder.
He, awaking with a start
Was disappointed to his heart
That Psyche cold be so unfaithful
And make a decision so egregiously fatal.
Then, jumping from the casing, he flew
Out of Psyche's lustful view.
And she, for her part, suddenly found
That from the palace she'd been cast down
To a field of which she had no memory,
Or very dim, if she had any.
In despair, she began to flounder,
Then resigned herself to wander
Until she came to a temple edifice,
Which was, on Earth, Aphrodite's face,
And begged the unseen Goddess hear her out,
Trying her patience with childish whining shouts.
Aphrodite, trying only to divert,
Cast a basket of grains down to the dirt,
And told the weeping lovely malcontent
That if she sorted the grains 'fore day was spent,
She just may see her sweetheart once again.
All she had to do was sort the grain.
But Psyche, though her fingers were dainty and thin,
To separate the grains could not begin,
And sobbing, lay upon the stony floor
That was as cold as the Goddess had acted before.
The ants, which had been drawn to the golden grain,
Bore her load and relieved her of her pain.
In their famously sure and straight black line,
They each picked up a piece of grain so fine
That it might with ease pass through a needle,
And into order they the sweet grain wheedled.
Then at the very setting of the sun,
Aphrodite found the task was done,
And though she praised the poor girl outwardly,
Inside she felt the bloom of hate for Psyche.
So she set her down on one side of a stream,
Where on the other was a field of green,
In which lived Helios' golden sheep
From which she was to obtain some shining fleece.
Then Aphrodite left her there to play,
And flew to Mount Olympus far away.
But Flumen, God of Rivers, raised his head
To warn sweet Psyche from his riverbed
That the sheep were so fierce, if she but pulled one hair,
They'd all turn on her and eat her then and there.
It was better if she waited 'til midday
When the sheep lay down to sleep the heat away.
Then she could cross where the river rushes,
And pick the wool that had got caught in the bushes.
So Psyche followed Flumen's good advice,
And for Aphrodite's cruelty she paid no price.
Aphrodite's blood boiled when she saw
That Psyche had survived it after all.
Again, she tried to send her to her death
And charged her to collect water from a cleft
Which mortal humans could not enter,
And in which serpents would surely spend her.
But now it was an eagle came to her aid,
Who stormed inside and flew between the snakes,
Then picked a pouch of water in its beak,
And back out of the cleft to Psyche it sneaked.
Aphrodite, at her dastardly wit's end,
Devised a horrible place for her to Psyche send.
"Psyche, caring for my ailing son
Has drained each drop of beauty, every one,
From my former glory of a face.
Therefore, I command you to that place
Where Persephone dwells. Then you must beg
For some of her beauty, just a tiny dreg.
Then you may have my son, I give my promise,
As holding him from you has marred my face."
Then Psyche, with tears streaming from her eyes,
Decided the only way there was to die.
In what she had appointed her fatal hour,
She climbed up to the top of a high tower,
But her melancholy was so disturbingly great,
All the Universe moved to it abate,
So that the very tower she climbed upon,
Awoke and spoke to her as if a person.
"Psyche, there is a way to the Underworld alive,
So that you need not from my roofing dive."
And to the Underworld the tower gave her
A route and some directions just to save her,
Then it sternly warned her that not of meat,
Nor of anything but bread in Hades could she eat.
So she followed the Tower's path back down
And disappeared into the heaving ground.
And when she found herself before Persephone's throne
She asked to take a parcel of her beauty home,
Which the emotionless Queen of the Screaming ******
Without word placed in Psyche's quivering hand.
The hardest part of the impossible task being done,
Psyche headed back up toward the sun,
And, reasoning that she was to see her beloved before nightfall,
Decided to use some beauty from the parcel.
Inside she found not beauty, but a stifling sleep,
Which forever in its clutches would she keep
If Eros had not chancely happened by,
And wiped Persephone's sleep from Psyche's eye.
Then, carrying her on his back, he barged
Into the Hall of the Olympian Gods.
He bade them let him wed himself and Psyche
And disregard the protests of Aphrodite.
Then Jupiter, indeed, allowed it obligingly,
For he was a man who greatly enjoyed a party.
Ambrosia she was given so to seal
Her immortality and place her among the surreal.
Then after many years of love and laughter,
Psyche bore Hedone, their lovely daughter.
This is how the beauty of the Human Soul,
Triumphed over the beauty of lust and gold.
All this Eros and Psyche had to take.
All this they endured for their love's sake.
They demonstrate the purity of love,
That is admired by Gods above.
In the end, it is the pure Mariposa
Who is more deserving of ambrosia.
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
Hymn to Aphrodite
by Sappho
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Immortal Aphrodite, throned in splendor!
Wile-weaving daughter of Zeus, enchantress, and beguiler!
I implore you, dread mistress, discipline me no longer
with love's anguish!

But come to me once again in kindness,
heeding my prayers as you have done before;
O, come Divine One, descend once again from
heaven's golden dominions!

Your chariot yoked to love's consecrated doves,
their multitudinous pinions aflutter,
you once came gliding from the utmost heights, to
the dark-bosomed earth.

Swiftly they came and vanished, leaving you,
O my Goddess, smiling, your face eternally beautiful,
asking me what unfathomable longing compelled me
to cry out.

Asking me what I sought in my hopeless, bewildered desire.
Asking, "Who has harmed you, why are you so alarmed,
my poor Sappho? Whom should
Persuasion summon here?"

"Though today she flees love, soon she will pursue you;
spurning love's gifts, soon she shall return them;
tomorrow she will woo you,
however unwillingly!"

Come to me now, most Holy Aphrodite!
Release me from my heavy heartache and anguish;
grant me all I request, be once again
my ally and protector!

"Hymn to Aphrodite" is the only poem by Sappho of ****** to survive in its entirety. The poem survived intact because it was quoted in full by Dionysus, a Roman orator, in his "On Literary Composition," published around 30 B.C. A number of Sappho's poems mention or are addressed to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. It is believed that Sappho may have belonged to a cult that worshiped Aphrodite with songs and poetry. If so, "Hymn to Aphrodite" may have been composed for performance within the cult. We do know that Sappho was held in very high regard. For instance, when Sappho visited Syracuse the residents were so honored they erected a statue to commemorate the occasion! During Sappho's lifetime, coins of ****** were minted with her image. Furthermore, Sappho was called "the Tenth Muse" and the other nine were goddesses. Keywords/Tags: Sapphic, Sappho, ******, translation, ancient Greek, hymn, Aphrodite, Zeus, daughter, immortal, goddess, holy, lady, heaven, enchantress, enchantment, love potion, charm, spell, persuasion, beguiler, beguilement, mistress, discipline, *******, prayer, prayers, chariot, heaven, descent, ally, protector, lust, desire, passion, longing, ***, crush, girlfriend, women, grief
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
Hymn to Aphrodite
by Sappho (her only complete poem)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Immortal Aphrodite, throned in splendor!
Wile-weaving daughter of Zeus, enchantress, and beguiler!
I implore you, dread mistress, discipline me no longer
with love's anguish!

But come to me once again in kindness,
heeding my prayers as you have done before;
O, come Divine One, descend once again from heaven's
golden dominions!

Your chariot yoked to love's consecrated doves,
their multitudinous pinions aflutter,
you once came gliding from the utmost heights, to
this dark earth.

Swiftly they came and vanished, leaving you,
O my Goddess, smiling, your face eternally beautiful,
asking me what unfathomable longing compelled me
to cry out.

Asking me what I sought in my hopeless, bewildered desire.
Asking, "Who has harmed you, why are you so alarmed,
my poor Sappho? Whom should Persuasion
summon here?"

"Though today she flees love, soon she will pursue you;
spurning love's gifts, she soon shall return them;
tomorrow she will woo you,
however unwillingly!"

Come to me now, most Holy Aphrodite!
Release me from my heavy heartache and anguish;
grant me all I request, be once again
my ally and protector!

"Hymn to Aphrodite" is the only poem by Sappho of ****** to survive in its entirety. The poem survived intact because it was quoted in full by Dionysus, a Roman orator, in his "On Literary Composition," published around 30 B.C. A number of Sappho's poems mention or are addressed to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. It is believed that Sappho may have belonged to a cult that worshiped Aphrodite with songs and poetry. If so, "Hymn to Aphrodite" may have been composed for performance within the cult. We do know that Sappho was held in very high regard. For instance, when Sappho visited Syracuse the residents were so honored they erected a statue to commemorate the occasion! During Sappho's lifetime, coins of ****** were minted with her image. Furthermore, Sappho was called "the Tenth Muse" and the other nine were goddesses. Keywords/Tags: Sapphic, Sappho, ******, translation, ancient Greek, hymn, Aphrodite, Zeus, daughter, immortal, goddess, holy, lady, heaven, enchantress, enchantment, love potion, charm, spell, persuasion, beguiler, beguilement, mistress, discipline, *******, prayer, prayers, chariot, heaven, descent, ally, protector, lust, desire, passion, longing, ***, crush, girlfriend, women, grief
claire Jun 2017
(athena)
        the sweaty, jacked-up summer is approaching quick
        fired from the mouth of april
        like a bullet from a handgun

(aphrodite)
       we are fast, beautiful
       ***** like gasoline on someone’s palm
       ***** like fences that hold gardens of shredded tires
       ***** like blood dried on the sidewalk in the shape of a
       tightened fist

(athena)
       ***** sneakers and ***** hair
    
(aphrodite)
       with shampoo that never got washed all the way out

(athena)
       ***** because of how we love

(aphrodite)
       sharp-beautiful-longing!

(athena)
       with our hands on other girls’ knees and thighs
       like birds out of their cage
       or the statue of liberty punching her light
       into a sky that holds as much desire
       as it holds stars

(aphrodite)
        nameless-bursting-burning!

(athena)
       rough and sweet and fresh from hell
       crawling to emancipation
       just wanting to love
       just wanting to live

(aphrodite)
       just wanting to move her hair out of her face
       with our thumbs

(athena)
     asking to be allowed to want
     what we are not supposed to have

(aphrodite)
     quivering        

(athena)
       hot and sweaty like little kids under the covers
       with a flashlight reading
       harold and the purple crayon
      
(aphrodite)
       but there is no flashlight this time

(athena)
       and no picture book
galaxy of myths Mar 2017
[02/03 2:37 pm] Blue: I hate him. I keep staring at him from afar and then when I can't see him, I'll stalk his pics. Drinking in his features, scrutinizing everything, comparing to what it looks like. Always, always in my thoughts. When I'm awake, when I'm asleep. Always. I need to stop this. I haven't had a crush this bad in so long
[02/03 2:38 pm] Blue: When he's next to me I'd sneak some glances and have it etched in my memory. Like last week I noticed his long nails and how it tat-tat-tatted on the table as he waited for the page on the laptop to load
[02/03 2:40 pm] Blue: When he walks I see how he moves his arms a little. It's like he needs to keep moving and I find it fascinating cause I've always been reserved and try not to attract people's attention while he basks in them. Seems like he wants to fill in the empty spaces around him. That is something I wouldn't do intentionally
[02/03 2:42 pm] Blue: If he were a dancer I'd understand why he's so laid back, so confident with his swagger and he's used to moving a lot. It's really mesmerizing and it pains me that I couldn't get close to him. I wish I could see more of him and study his quirks
[02/03 2:44 pm] Blue: Do you see where this is going? I, a curious watcher, am filled with restless waves crashing when it comes to him but he is just the calm waters after the storm
[02/03 2:44 pm] Blue: So you can't really ship it cause it isn't good for me
[02/03 4:48 pm] Aphrodite: I, for one, do not know him enough, still. Physically, yes, he's lovely to look at. Absolute eye candy. Like how some people are to me. They're fun to poke around with and maybe flirt a little, but a serious relationship is hard with them, at least, that's what I think.
[02/03 4:49 pm] Aphrodite: I still don't know him enough to know if he's good for you and, trust me, I would want nothing but the best for you.
[02/03 4:49 pm] Aphrodite: How intriguing he is to you doesn't really faze me. I think it's adorable, and it's a fun thing to watch people gush about.
[02/03 4:51 pm] Aphrodite: He's a typical bad boy but I've seen his loyalty to his friends and his unwavering need to be with his friends. Maybe he's not too bad.
[02/03 4:51 pm] Aphrodite: You are an absolute queen and anyone you date should be on par, if not better.
[02/03 4:51 pm] Aphrodite: Bad boys are fun too.
[02/03 4:55 pm] Blue: Thank you :(
[02/03 4:55 pm] Blue: Aha I wish he'd find it (and me) adorable too
[02/03 4:56 pm] Blue: When will I ever find that person
[02/03 4:56 pm] Blue: But I'm not a bad girl? Idk
[02/03 4:57 pm] Aphrodite: Sometimes never, because you're an angel and everyone here are devils and they're never gonna be good enough for tou
[02/03 4:57 pm] Aphrodite: Bad boys don't need bad girls
[02/03 5:01 pm] Blue: Guess I'm ****** to be alone, unloved, forever
[02/03 5:02 pm] Blue: Idk but I'm probably uninteresting to him
[02/03 5:02 pm] Aphrodite: I highly doubt it won't happen, especially with the way you are and how your words pull people in and your voice breaks hearts
[02/03 5:03 pm] Aphrodite: He's nonchalant about the world
[02/03 5:04 pm] Blue: And I break a little on the inside for wanting to be a part of his world
Oh Adorable Zeus, hear Aphrodite’s petition to regain Adonis!

I, the goddess of love & beauty, will
Make sure to the fullest that no one can ****
The charming Adonis who makes me feel
Great beyond any ****** that’s real

Oh Adorable Zeus, hear Aphrodite’s petition to regain Adonis!

I, as the discoverer of this beautiful creature so rare
Is the first beholder of his countenance so fair
It is I who granted him the first unmatched care
The kind of caress he will acquire only in my lair

Oh Adorable Zeus, hear Aphrodite’s petition to regain Adonis!

His refuge in me never has the stench of death
It’s just like everyday he experiences rebirth
‘Coz there I can render him the greatest of health
Beauty & youth of flesh beyond any mirth

Oh Adorable Zeus, hear Aphrodite’s petition to regain Adonis!

Be vigilant towards the welfare of Adonis, my delight
His bulging muscles are proofs of his radiant might
So alluring to any mortal & immortal sight
No one can also equal his handsome face so bright

Oh Adorable Zeus, hear Aphrodite’s petition to regain Adonis!

That beauty of his can only be cherished
In my realm where beauty never goes blemished
The place that all mortals have ever wished
There the bright sun will keep his body nourished

Oh Adorable Zeus, hear Aphrodite’s petition to regain Adonis!

Adonis’ beauty is not fit for the home of the dead
He is so vibrant from foot to head
Remove him from Hades! To my haven, instead!
There he will be nourished by life-giving bread!

-02/10/2015
(Dumarao)
*Hopelessly Immortal Collection
My Poem No. 333
Bob B Jan 2020
Sometimes you see her admiring herself
In the mirror that's hanging next to the shelf.
And when she does it, oh, how she shines!
Is that, dear cat, how you practice your lines?
She seems not to care if we pay attention,
But maybe right here I ought to make mention
That being an actress, she's disinclined
To always reveal what's going on in her mind.
And she'll never, never tell you her age--
Aphrodite, the cat of the stage.

She says, "You know…I'm not one to cuss,
But when I am hungry, I WILL make a fuss."
Yes, she can certainly put on a scene
And act as though she's an importunate queen.
She says, "My dears, if I'm weak or mild,
I'll never drive the audience wild."
That critical scene is repeated each night--
A regular tour de force all right.
Yes, it's best to try to assuage
Aphrodite, the cat of the stage.

Her eyes were surely her greatest feature;
She THUS scoured the town for a drama teacher,
"Who," she says dolefully, "told me one night he
Could make me a star. ME: Aphrodite!"
But as it turned out, ol' Mr. Mittens
Made her instead a mom of eight kittens.
"But," she says, "THAT'S between you and me.
You know how I like my privacy."
It's good to always be on the same page
With Aphrodite, the cat of the stage.

One thing you learn is for her it's the norm
To act a bit slighted when asked to perform.
She must be totally in the mood
Or else she behaves in a manner subdued.
And heaven help you if you are neglectful
Of if her audience is disrespectful.
She'll exit the room like a "cat" out of hell,
And you may not see her for quite a long spell.
You never want to see her rage--
Aphrodite, the cat of the stage.

She sighs and says, "It's such a shame that
Few playwrights write good roles for a cat.
My friends say--when they see me upset--
'Commercials might be a better bet.'
My talents, however, as you might have guessed,
Best fit the stage. But now I must rest."
With that she lifted her nose in the air
And strutted out of the room with great flair.
It's always nice: advice from a sage
Like Aphrodite, the cat of the stage.

-by Bob B (1-24-20)
prince Oct 2019
Aphrodite, oh sweet Aphrodite.
Cast your gaze on me, cast a spell on me.
Give your warm embrace, kiss me under the soft moonlight.
Oh sweet Aphrodite, Oh sweet Aphrodite.

Oh, I wish I could see you everyday.
Even if the clouds choke out the sunlight.
Even when the rain anchors me to the earth.
Just stay with me, even just only for tonight.

I'm so infatuated, I would do anything for you.
Just to see if you're okay.
Even for a second, for a glimpse of your face.
I just wish I could see you everyday.

Things are stressful, sometimes I feel like I could drown.
And sink into the sand, to disappear.
But when I gaze into your teals, the strain collapses.
Sinks away like the ground beneath my feet.
Sweet Aphrodite, I just wish you were here.
Forever more, just to love you my dear.
:)
Kassiani  Nov 2010
Aphrodite
Kassiani Nov 2010
They said the fairest of the goddesses
Was the one to give us love,
The one to fetch the maidens
And bring the boys their girls.
What they meant by fair was beautiful,
Not just or right or equitable,
For it hardly seems fair
That she's a goddess,
Enthroned on a mountain with a mirror in her hand
And we're all of us mere mortals,
Hapless humans,
With our ribcages wide open,
With no bone to shield our vulnerable ventricles
And no sense to tell us to cover our chests.
It's no wonder that this otherworldly seduction
Can ****** us
And string us along
And consume us
Until we forget what life was
Before love caught us.

It seems impossible
That these frail, impermanent bodies
Can hold such ethereal infatuation;
It's too strong,
So it ravages us,
Strips away dignity,
Rips away common sense,
And seizes all control.
Our little human selves
Never stood a chance.

Tell me, Aphrodite,
Does it make you laugh to watch us struggle?
From your lofty vantage point,
Do you giggle when the rational become foolish,
When the thinkers become unfocused,
When the innocent become broken?
Does it please your fair reflection
When those devoted mortals go to ungodly lengths
For this love that you inflict,
Until they have nothing left of themselves,
Until they're worn to the very bones
That couldn't protect their unsuspecting hearts?

Do you revel in the irony,
Aphrodite,
When, exhausted and dejected
And downright tortured,
They still worship you?
When they bow
And sacrifice
In gratitude?
When we miserable mortals
Thank you for these feelings that destroy us,
Because for tiny moments
We felt transcendentally good.

Perhaps she'd had better intentions,
That goddess Aphrodite,
Thought that she was filling our open hearts
With something to give them meaning.
Maybe she thought
We'd left our ribcages open on purpose,
That we'd all simply been waiting for her,
Wondering when she'd reach down her power
And give us a love to cling to.
Or,
It could be that she had it right,
That our chests were left gaping
And our hearts were left empty
So that Aphrodite could look away from her mirror,
Smile from the clouds,
And send us someone to make us whole.
Written 10/28/09
poetrychick  Feb 2014
Aphrodite
poetrychick Feb 2014
The prettiest goddess, Aphrodite,
Got hit in the face by a pie,
and oh my, she wasnt seen till a long time

Aprodite fell in love with Ares,
he was a *** full of jelly,
Because melly didnt come out

Aphrodite lived an eternal life,
but Kronos cut her in pieces
That is Aphrodite's life
Michael R Burch Mar 2020
What the Poet Sees
by Michael R. Burch

What the poet sees,
he sees as a swimmer
~~~~underwater~~~~
watching the shoreline blur
sees through his breath’s weightless bubbles ...
Both worlds grow obscure.

Published by ByLine, Mandrake Poetry Review, Poetically Speaking, E Mobius Pi, Underground Poets, Little Brown Poetry, Triplopia, Poetic Ponderings, Poem Kingdom, PW Review, Muse Apprentice Guild, Mindful of Poetry, Poetry on Demand, Poet’s Haven, Famous Poets and Poems, Bewildering Stories, Neovictorian/Cochlea

Keywords/Tags: Poet, poetic vision, sight, seeing, swimmer, underwater, breath, bubbles, blur, blurry, blurred, blurring, obscure, obscured, obscuring

How valiant he lies tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here he lies in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Yes, bring me Homer’s lyre, no doubt,
but first yank the bloodstained strings out!
by Anacreon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here we find Anacreon,
an elderly lover of boys and wine.
His harp still sings in lonely Acheron
as he thinks of the lads he left behind ...
by Anacreon or the Anacreontea, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
But go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

We who left behind the Aegean’s bellowings
Now sleep peacefully here on the mid-plains of Ecbatan:
Farewell, dear Athens, nigh to Euboea,
Farewell, dear sea!
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Passerby,
Tell the Spartans we lie
Lifeless at Thermopylae:
Dead at their word,
Obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

They observed our fearful fetters,
braved the overwhelming darkness.
Now we extol their excellence:
bravely, they died for us.
Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

Blame not the gale, nor the inhospitable sea-gulf, nor friends’ tardiness,
Mariner! Just man’s foolhardiness.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas:
that these valorous men lack breath.
Assume, like pale chattels,
an ashen silence at death.
Michael R. Burch, after Parmenio

These men earned a crown of imperishable glory,
Nor did the maelstrom of death obscure their story.
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Stranger, flee!
But may Fortune grant you all the prosperity
she denied me.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me―where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
Michael R. Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

I lie by stark Icarian rocks
and only speak when the sea talks.
Please tell my dear father that I gave up the ghost
on the Aegean coast.
Michael R. Burch, after Theatetus

Here I lie dead and sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that reared and nurtured me;
once again I take rest at your breast.
Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

I am loyal to you master, even in the grave:
Just as you now are death’s slave.
Michael R. Burch, after Dioscorides

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she’d confess:
“I am now less than nothingness.”
Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.
Michael R. Burch, Epitaph for a Palestinian Child

Sail on, mariner, sail on,
for while we were perishing,
greater ships sailed on.
Michael R. Burch, after Theodorides

All this vast sea is his Monument.
Where does he lie―whether heaven, or hell?
Perhaps when the gulls repent―
their shriekings may tell.
Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

His white bones lie bleaching on some inhospitable shore:
a son lost to his father, his tomb empty; the poor-
est beggars have happier mothers!
Michael R. Burch, after Damegtus

A mother only as far as the birth pangs,
my life cut short at the height of life’s play:
only eighteen years old, so brief was my day.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Having never earned a penny,
nor seen a bridal gown slip to the floor,
still I lie here with the love of many,
to be the love of yet one more.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Little I knew―a child of five―
of what it means to be alive
and all life’s little thrills;
but little also―(I was glad not to know)―
of life’s great ills.
Michael R. Burch, after Lucian

Pity this boy who was beautiful, but died.
Pity his monument, overlooking this hillside.
Pity the world that bore him, then foolishly survived.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Insatiable Death! I was only a child!
Why did you ****** me away, in my infancy,
from those destined to love me?
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Tell Nicagoras that Strymonias
at the setting of the Kids
lost his.
Michael R. Burch, after Nicaenetus

Here Saon, son of Dicon, now rests in holy sleep:
say not that the good die young, friend,
lest gods and mortals weep.
Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

The light of a single morning
exterminated the sacred offspring of Lysidice.
Nor do the angels sing.
Nor do we seek the gods’ advice.
This is the grave of Nicander’s lost children.
We merely weep at its bitter price.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Pluto, delighting in tears,
why did you bring our son, Ariston,
to the laughterless abyss of death?
Why―why?―did the gods grant him breath,
if only for seven years?
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Heartlessly this grave
holds our nightingale speechless;
now she lies here like a stone,
who voice was so marvelous;
while sunlight illumining dust
proves the gods all reachless,
as our prayers prove them also
unhearing or beseechless.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

I, Homenea, the chattering bright sparrow,
lie here in the hollow of a great affliction,
leaving tears to Atimetus
and all scattered―that great affection.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

We mourn Polyanthus, whose wife
placed him newly-wedded in an unmarked grave,
having received his luckless corpse
back from the green Aegean wave
that deposited his fleshless skeleton
gruesomely in the harbor of Torone.
Michael R. Burch, after Phaedimus

Once sweetest of the workfellows,
our shy teller of tall tales
―fleet Crethis!―who excelled
at every childhood game . . .
now you sleep among long shadows
where everyone’s the same . . .
Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

Although I had to leave the sweet sun,
only nineteen―Diogenes, hail!―
beneath the earth, let’s have lots more fun:
till human desire seems weak and pale.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

Though they were steadfast among spears, dark Fate destroyed them
as they defended their native land, rich in sheep;
now Ossa’s dust seems all the more woeful, where they now sleep.
Michael R. Burch, after Aeschylus

Aeschylus, graybeard, son of Euphorion,
died far away in wheat-bearing Gela;
still, the groves of Marathon may murmur of his valor
and the black-haired Mede, with his mournful clarion.
Michael R. Burch, after Aeschylus

Now his voice is prisoned in the silent pathways of the night:
his owner’s faithful Maltese . . .
but will he still bark again, on sight?
Michael R. Burch, after Tymnes

Poor partridge, poor partridge, lately migrated from the rocks;
our cat bit off your unlucky head; my offended heart still balks!
I put you back together again and buried you, so unsightly!
May the dark earth cover you heavily: heavily, not lightly . . .
so she shan’t get at you again!
Michael R. Burch, after Agathias

Wert thou, O Artemis,
overbusy with thy beast-slaying hounds
when the Beast embraced me?
Michael R. Burch, after Diodorus of Sardis

Dead as you are, though you lie still as stone,
huntress Lycas, my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness,
bellowing as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would canter and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Constantina, inconstant one!
Once I thought your name beautiful
but I was a fool
and now you are more bitter to me than death!
You flee someone who loves you
with baited breath
to pursue someone who’s untrue.
But if you manage to make him love you,
tomorrow you'll flee him too!
Michael R. Burch, after Macedonius

Not Rocky Trachis,
nor the thirsty herbage of Dryophis,
nor this albescent stone
with its dark blue lettering shielding your white bones,
nor the wild Icarian sea dashing against the steep shingles
of Doliche and Dracanon,
nor the empty earth,
nor anything essential of me since birth,
nor anything now mingles
here with the perplexing absence of you,
with what death forces us to abandon . . .
Michael R. Burch, after Euphorion

We who left the thunderous surge of the Aegean
of old, now lie here on the mid-plain of Ecbatan:
farewell, dear Athens, nigh to Euboea,
farewell, dear sea!
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

My friend found me here,
a shipwrecked corpse on the beach.
He heaped these strange boulders above me.
Oh, how he would wail
that he “loved” me,
with many bright tears for his own calamitous life!
Now he sleeps with my wife
and flits like a gull in a gale
―beyond reach―
while my broken bones bleach.
Michael R. Burch, after Callimachus

Cloud-capped Geraneia, cruel mountain!
If only you had looked no further than Ister and Scythian
Tanais, had not aided the surge of the Scironian
sea’s wild-spurting fountain
filling the dark ravines of snowy Meluriad!
But now he is dead:
a chill corpse in a chillier ocean―moon led―
and only an empty tomb now speaks of the long, windy voyage ahead.
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides


Erinna Epigrams

This portrait is the work of sensitive, artistic hands.
See, my dear Prometheus, you have human equals!
For if whoever painted this girl had only added a voice,
she would have been Agatharkhis entirely.
by Erinna, translation by Michael R. Burch

You, my tall Columns, and you, my small Urn,
the receptacle of Hades’ tiny pittance of ash―
remember me to those who pass by
my grave, as they dash.
Tell them my story, as sad as it is:
that this grave sealed a young bride’s womb;
that my name was Baucis and Telos my land;
and that Erinna, my friend, etched this poem on my Tomb.
by Erinna, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Excerpts from “Distaff”
by Erinna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

… the moon rising …
      … leaves falling …
           … waves lapping a windswept shore …
… and our childish games, Baucis, do you remember? ...
... Leaping from white horses,
running on reckless feet through the great courtyard.  
“You’re it!’ I cried, ‘You’re the Tortoise now!”
But when your turn came to pursue your pursuers,
you darted beyond the courtyard,
dashed out deep into the waves,
splashing far beyond us …
… My poor Baucis, these tears I now weep are your warm memorial,
these traces of embers still smoldering in my heart
for our silly amusements, now that you lie ash …
… Do you remember how, as girls,
we played at weddings with our dolls,
pretending to be brides in our innocent beds? ...
... How sometimes I was your mother,
allotting wool to the weaver-women,
calling for you to unreel the thread? ...
… Do you remember our terror of the monster Mormo
with her huge ears, her forever-flapping tongue,
her four slithering feet, her shape-shifting face? ...
... Until you mother called for us to help with the salted meat ...
... But when you mounted your husband’s bed,
dearest Baucis, you forgot your mothers’ warnings!
Aphrodite made your heart forgetful ...
... Desire becomes oblivion ...
... Now I lament your loss, my dearest friend.
I can’t bear to think of that dark crypt.
I can’t bring myself to leave the house.
I refuse to profane your corpse with my tearless eyes.
I refuse to cut my hair, but how can I mourn with my hair unbound?
I blush with shame at the thought of you! …
... But in this dark house, O my dearest Baucis,
My deep grief is ripping me apart.
Wretched Erinna! Only nineteen,
I moan like an ancient crone, eyeing this strange distaff ...
O *****! . . . O Hymenaeus! . . .
Alas, my poor Baucis!

On a Betrothed Girl
by Errina
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I sing of Baucis the bride.
Observing her tear-stained crypt
say this to Death who dwells underground:
"Thou art envious, O Death!"
Her vivid monument tells passers-by
of the bitter misfortune of Baucis―
how her father-in-law burned the poor ******* a pyre
lit by bright torches meant to light her marriage train home.
While thou, O Hymenaeus, transformed her harmonious bridal song into a chorus of wailing dirges.
*****! O Hymenaeus!


Roman Epigrams

Wall, we're astonished that you haven't collapsed,
since you're holding up verses so prolapsed!
Ancient Roman graffiti, translation by Michael R. Burch

Ibykos Fragment 286, Circa 564 B.C.
loose translation/interpretation 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.

Originally published by The Chained Muse


Elegy for a little girl, lost
by Michael R. Burch

. . . qui laetificat juventutem meam . . .
She was the joy of my youth,
and now she is gone.
. . . requiescat in pace . . .
May she rest in peace.
. . . amen . . .
Amen.


Birdsong
by Rumi
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Birdsong relieves
my deepest griefs:
now I'm just as ecstatic as they,
but with nothing to say!
Please universe,
rehearse
your poetry
through me!


To the boy Elis
by Georg Trakl
translation by Michael R. Burch

Elis, when the blackbird cries from the black forest,
it announces your downfall.
Your lips sip the rock-spring's blue coolness.

Your brow sweats blood
recalling ancient myths
and dark interpretations of birds' flight.

Yet you enter the night with soft footfalls;
the ripe purple grapes hang suspended
as you wave your arms more beautifully in the blueness.

A thornbush crackles;
where now are your moonlike eyes?
How long, oh Elis, have you been dead?

A monk dips waxed fingers
into your body's hyacinth;
Our silence is a black abyss

from which sometimes a docile animal emerges
slowly lowering its heavy lids.
A black dew drips from your temples:

the lost gold of vanished stars.


W. S. Rendra translations

SONNET
by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Best wishes for an impending deflowering.
Yes, I understand: you will never be mine.
I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
I contemplate
irrational numbers―complex & undefined.
And yet I wish love might ... ameliorate ...
such negative numbers, dark and unsigned.
But at least I can’t be held responsible
for disappointing you. No cause to elate.
Still, I am resigned to my undeserved fate.
The gods have spoken. I can relate.
How can this be, when all it makes no sense?
I was born too soon―such was my fate.
You must choose another, not half of who I AM.
Be happy with him when you consummate.


THE WORLD'S FIRST FACE
by W. S. Rendra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill―
both of them naked,
both consisting of nothing but themselves.

As in all beginnings
the world is naked,
empty, free of deception,
dark with unspoken explanations―
a silence that extends
to the limits of time.

Then comes light,
life, the animals and man.

As in all beginnings
everything is naked,
empty, open.

They're both young,
yet both have already come a long way,
passing through the illusions of brilliant dawns,
of skies illuminated by hope,
of rivers intimating contentment.

They have experienced the sun's warmth,
drenched in each other's sweat.

Here, standing by barren reefs,
they watch evening fall
bringing strange dreams
to a bed arrayed with resplendent coral necklaces.

They lift their heads to view
trillions of stars arrayed in the sky.
The universe is their inheritance:
stars upon stars upon stars,
more than could ever be extinguished.

Illuminated by the pale moonlight
the groom carries his bride
up the hill―
both of them naked,
to recreate the world's first face.


Brother Iran
by Michael R. Burch

for the poets of Iran

Brother Iran, I feel your pain.
I feel it as when the Turk fled Spain.
As the Jew fled, too, that constricting span,
I feel your pain, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I know you are noble!
I too fear Hiroshima and Chernobyl.
But though my heart shudders, I have a plan,
and I know you are noble, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I salute your Poets!
your Mathematicians!, all your great Wits!
O, come join the earth's great Caravan.
We'll include your Poets, Brother Iran.

Brother Iran, I love your Verse!
Come take my hand now, let's rehearse
the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
For I love your Verse, Brother Iran.

Bother Iran, civilization's Flower!
How high flew your spires in man's early hours!
Let us build them yet higher, for that's my plan,
civilization's first flower, Brother Iran.


Passionate One
by Michael R. Burch

Love of my life,
light of my morning―
arise, brightly dawning,
for you are my sun.

Give me of heaven
both manna and leaven―
desirous Presence,
Passionate One.


In My House
by Michael R. Burch

When you were in my house
you were not free―
in chains bound.

Manifest Destiny?

I was wrong;
my plantation burned to the ground.
I was wrong.
This is my song,
this is my plea:
I was wrong.

When you are in my house,
now, I am not free.
I feel the song
hurling itself back at me.
We were wrong.
This is my history.

I feel my tongue
stilting accordingly.

We were wrong;
brother, forgive me.


faith(less)
by Michael R. Burch

Those who believed
and Those who misled
lie together at last
in the same narrow bed

and if god loved Them more
for Their strange lack of doubt,
he kept it well hidden
till he snuffed Them out.


Habeas Corpus
by Michael R. Burch

from “Songs of the Antinatalist”

I have the results of your DNA analysis.
If you want to have children, this may induce paralysis.
I wish I had good news, but how can I lie?
Any offspring you have are guaranteed to die.
It wouldn’t be fair―I’m sure you’ll agree―
to sentence kids to death, so I’ll waive my fee.


Shock
by Michael R. Burch

It was early in the morning of the forming of my soul,
in the dawning of desire, with passion at first bloom,
with lightning splitting heaven to thunder's blasting roll
and a sense of welling fire and, perhaps, impending doom―
that I cried out through the tumult of the raging storm on high
for shelter from the chaos of the restless, driving rain ...
and the voice I heard replying from a rift of bleeding sky
was mine, I'm sure, and, furthermore, was certainly insane.


evol-u-shun
by Michael R. Burch

does GOD adore the Tyger
while it’s ripping ur lamb apart?

does GOD applaud the Plague
while it’s eating u à la carte?

does GOD admire ur intelligence
while u pray that IT has a heart?

does GOD endorse the Bible
you blue-lighted at k-mart?


Deor's Lament (circa the 10th century AD)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Weland endured the agony of exile:
an indomitable smith wracked by grief.
He suffered countless sorrows;
indeed, such sorrows were his ***** companions
in that frozen island dungeon
where Nithad fettered him:
so many strong-but-supple sinew-bands
binding the better man.
That passed away; this also may.

Beadohild mourned her brothers' deaths,
bemoaning also her own sad state
once she discovered herself with child.
She knew nothing good could ever come of it.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard the Geat's moans for Matilda,
his lovely lady, waxed limitless,
that his sorrowful love for her
robbed him of regretless sleep.
That passed away; this also may.

For thirty winters Theodric ruled
the Mæring stronghold with an iron hand;
many acknowledged his mastery and moaned.
That passed away; this also may.

We have heard too of Ermanaric's wolfish ways,
of how he cruelly ruled the Goths' realms.
That was a grim king! Many a warrior sat,
full of cares and maladies of the mind,
wishing constantly that his crown might be overthrown.
That passed away; this also may.

If a man sits long enough, sorrowful and anxious,
bereft of joy, his mind constantly darkening,
soon it seems to him that his troubles are limitless.
Then he must consider that the wise Lord
often moves through the earth
granting some men honor, glory and fame,
but others only shame and hardship.
This I can say for myself:
that for awhile I was the Heodeninga's scop,
dear to my lord. My name was Deor.
For many winters I held a fine office,
faithfully serving a just king. But now Heorrenda
a man skilful in songs, has received the estate
the protector of warriors had promised me.
That passed away; this also may.


The Temple Hymns of Enheduanna
with modern English translations by Michael R. Burch

Lament to the Spirit of War
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You hack down everything you see, War God!

Rising on fearsome wings
you rush to destroy our land:
raging like thunderstorms,
howling like hurricanes,
screaming like tempests,
thundering, raging, ranting, drumming,
whiplashing whirlwinds!

Men falter at your approaching footsteps.
Tortured dirges scream on your lyre of despair.

Like a fiery Salamander you poison the land:
growling over the earth like thunder,
vegetation collapsing before you,
blood gushing down mountainsides.

Spirit of hatred, greed and vengeance!
******* of heaven and earth!
Your ferocious fire consumes our land.
Whipping your stallion
with furious commands,
you impose our fates.

You triumph over all human rites and prayers.
Who can explain your tirade,
why you carry on so?


Temple Hymn 15
to the Gishbanda Temple of Ningishzida
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Most ancient and terrible shrine,
set deep in the mountain,
dark like a mother's womb ...

Dark shrine,
like a mother's wounded breast,
blood-red and terrifying ...

Though approaching through a safe-seeming field,
our hair stands on end as we near you!

Gishbanda,
like a neck-stock,
like a fine-eyed fish net,
like a foot-shackled prisoner's manacles ...
your ramparts are massive,
like a trap!

But once we’re inside,
as the sun rises,
you yield widespread abundance!

Your prince
is the pure-handed priest of Inanna, heaven's Holy One,
Lord Ningishzida!

Oh, see how his thick, lustrous hair
cascades down his back!

Oh Gishbanda,
he has built this beautiful temple to house your radiance!
He has placed his throne upon your dais!


The Exaltation of Inanna: Opening Lines and Excerpts
Nin-me-šara by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Lady of all divine powers!
Lady of the resplendent light!
Righteous Lady adorned in heavenly radiance!
Beloved Lady of An and Uraš!
Hierodule of An, sun-adorned and bejeweled!
Heaven’s Mistress with the holy diadem,
Who loves the beautiful headdress befitting the office of her own high priestess!

Powerful Mistress, seizer of the seven divine powers!
My Heavenly Lady, guardian of the seven divine powers!
You have seized the seven divine powers!
You hold the divine powers in your hand!
You have gathered together the seven divine powers!
You have clasped the divine powers to your breast!
You have flooded the valleys with venom, like a viper;
all vegetation vanishes when you thunder like Iškur!
You have caused the mountains to flood the valleys!
When you roar like that, nothing on earth can withstand you!
Like a flood descending on floodplains, O Powerful One, you will teach foreigners to fear Inanna!
You have given wings to the storm, O Beloved of Enlil!
The storms do your bidding, blasting the unbelievers!
Foreign cities cower at the chaos You cause!
Entire countries cower in dread of Your deadly South Wind!
Men cower before you in their anguished implications,
raising their pitiful outcries,
weeping and wailing, beseeching Your benevolence with many wild lamentations!
But in the van of battle, everything falls before You, O Mighty Queen!
My Queen,
You are all-conquering, all-devouring!
You continue Your attacks like relentless storms!
You howl louder than the howling storms!
You thunder louder than Iškur!
You moan louder than the mournful winds!
Your feet never tire from trampling Your enemies!
You produce much wailing on the lyres of lamentations!
My Queen,
all the Anunna, the mightiest Gods,
fled before Your approach like fluttering bats!
They could not stand in Your awesome Presence
nor behold Your awesome Visage!
Who can soothe Your infuriated heart?
Your baleful heart is beyond being soothed!
Uncontrollable Wild Cow, elder daughter of Sin,
O Majestic Queen, greater than An,
who has ever paid You enough homage?
O Life-Giving Goddess, possessor of all powers,
Inanna the Exalted!
Merciful, Live-Giving Mother!
Inanna, the Radiant of Heart!
I have exalted You in accordance with Your power!
I have bowed before You in my holy garb,
I the En, I Enheduanna!
Carrying my masab-basket, I once entered and uttered my joyous chants ...
But now I no longer dwell in Your sanctuary.
The sun rose and scorched me.
Night fell and the South Wind overwhelmed me.
My laughter was stilled and my honey-sweet voice grew strident.
My joy became dust.
O Sin, King of Heaven, how bitter my fate!
To An, I declared: An will deliver me!
I declared it to An: He will deliver me!
But now the kingship of heaven has been seized by Inanna,
at Whose feet the floodplains lie.
Inanna the Exalted,
who has made me tremble together with all Ur!
Stay Her anger, or let Her heart be soothed by my supplications!
I, Enheduanna will offer my supplications to Inanna,
my tears flowing like sweet intoxicants!
Yes, I will proffer my tears and my prayers to the Holy Inanna,
I will greet Her in peace ...
O My Queen, I have exalted You,
Who alone are worthy to be exalted!
O My Queen, Beloved of An,
I have laid out Your daises,
set fire to the coals,
conducted the rites,
prepared Your nuptial chamber.
Now may Your heart embrace me!
These are my innovations,
O Mighty Queen, that I made for You!
What I composed for You by the dark of night,
The cantor will chant by day.
Now Inanna’s heart has been restored,
and the day became favorable to Her.
Clothed in beauty, radiant with joy,
she carried herself like the elegant moonlight.
Now to the Noble Hierodule,
to the Wrecker of foreign lands
presented by An with the seven divine powers,
and to my Queen garbed in the radiance of heaven ...
O Inanna, praise!


Temple Hymn 7: an Excerpt
to the Kesh Temple of Ninhursag
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, high-situated Kesh,
form-shifting summit,
inspiring fear like a venomous viper!

O, Lady of the Mountains,
Ninhursag’s house was constructed on a terrifying site!

O, Kesh, like holy Aratta: your womb dark and deep,
your walls high-towering and imposing!

O, great lion of the wildlands stalking the high plains! ...


Temple Hymn 17: an Excerpt
to the Badtibira Temple of Dumuzi
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house of jeweled lapis illuminating the radiant bed
in the peace-inducing palace of our Lady of the Steppe!


Temple Hymn 22: an Excerpt
to the Sirara Temple of Nanshe
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house, you wild cow!
Made to conjure signs of the Divine!
You arise, beautiful to behold,
bedecked for your Mistress!


Temple Hymn 26: an Excerpt
to the Zabalam Temple of Inanna
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O house illuminated by beams of bright light,
dressed in shimmering stone jewels,
awakening the world to awe!


Temple Hymn 42: an Excerpt
to the Eresh Temple of Nisaba
by Enheduanna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O, house of brilliant stars
bright with lapis stones,
you illuminate all lands!

...

The person who put this tablet together
is Enheduanna.
My king: something never created before,
did she not give birth to it?


Villanelle: Hangovers
by Michael R. Burch

We forget that, before we were born,
our parents had “lives” of their own,
ran drunk in the streets, or half-******.

Yes, our parents had lives of their own
until we were born; then, undone,
they were buying their parents gravestones

and finding gray hairs of their own
(because we were born lacking some
of their curious habits, but soon

would certainly get them). Half-******,
we watched them dig graves of their own.
Their lives would be over too soon

for their curious habits to bloom
in us (though our children were born
nine months from that night on the town

when, punch-drunk in the streets or half-******,
we first proved we had lives of our own).


Happily Never After (the Second Curse of the ***** Toad)
by Michael R. Burch

He did not think of love of Her at all
frog-plangent nights, as moons engoldened roads
through crumbling stonewalled provinces, where toads
(nee princes) ruled in chinks and grew so small
at last to be invisible. He smiled
(the fables erred so curiously), and thought
bemusedly of being reconciled
to human flesh, because his heart was not
incapable of love, but, being cursed
a second time, could only love a toad’s . . .
and listened as inflated frogs rehearsed
cheekbulging tales of anguish from green moats . . .
and thought of her soft croak, her skin fine-warted,
his anemic flesh, and how true love was thwarted.


Haunted
by Michael R. Burch

Now I am here
and thoughts of my past mistakes are my brethren.
I am withering
and the sweetness of your memory is like a tear.

Go, if you will,
for the ache in my heart is its hollowness
and the flaw in my soul is its shallowness;
there is nothing to fill.

Take what you can;
I have nothing left.
And when you are gone, I will be bereft,
the husk of a man.

Or stay here awhile.
My heart cannot bear the night, or these dreams.
Your face is a ghost, though paler, it seems
when you smile.


Have I been too long at the fair?
by Michael R. Burch

Have I been too long at the fair?
The summer has faded,
the leaves have turned brown;
the Ferris wheel teeters ...
not up, yet not down.
Have I been too long at the fair?


Her Preference
by Michael R. Burch

Not for her the pale incandescence of dreams,
the warm glow of imagination,
the hushed whispers of possibility,
or frail, blossoming hope.

No, she prefers the anguish and screams
of bitter condemnation,
the hissing of hostility,
damnation's rope.


hey pete
by Michael R. Burch

for Pete Rose

hey pete,
it's baseball season
and the sun ascends the sky,
encouraging a schoolboy's dreams
of winter whizzing by;
go out, go out and catch it,
put it in a jar,
set it on a shelf
and then you'll be a Superstar.


Moon Lake
by Michael R. Burch

Starlit recorder of summer nights,
what magic spell bewitches you?
They say that all lovers love first in the dark . . .
Is it true?
Is it true?
Is it true?

Starry-eyed seer of all that appears
and all that has appeared―
What sights have you seen?
What dreams have you dreamed?
What rhetoric have you heard?

Is love an oration,
or is it a word?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?
Have you heard?


Tomb Lake
by Michael R. Burch

Go down to the valley
where mockingbirds cry,
alone, ever lonely . . .
yes, go down to die.

And dream in your dying
you never shall wake.
Go down to the valley;
go down to Tomb Lake.

Tomb Lake is a cauldron
of souls such as yours―
mad souls without meaning,
frail souls without force.

Tomb Lake is a graveyard
reserved for the dead.
They lie in her shallows
and sleep in her bed.


Nevermore!
by Michael R. Burch

Nevermore! O, nevermore
shall the haunts of the sea―
the swollen tide pools
and the dark, deserted shore―
mark her passing again.

And the salivating sea
shall never kiss her lips
nor caress her ******* and hips
as she dreamt it did before,
once, lost within the uproar.

The waves will never **** her,
nor take her at their leisure;
the sea gulls shall not have her,
nor could she give them pleasure ...
She sleeps forevermore.

She sleeps forevermore,
a ****** save to me
and her other lover,
who lurks now, safely covered
by the restless, surging sea.

And, yes, they sleep together,
but never in that way!
For the sea has stripped and shorn
the one I once adored,
and washed her flesh away.

He does not stroke her honey hair,
for she is bald, bald to the bone!
And how it fills my heart with glee
to hear them sometimes cursing me
out of the depths of the demon sea ...
their skeletal love―impossibility!


Regret
by Michael R. Burch

Regret,
a bitter
ache to bear . . .

once starlight
languished
in your hair . . .

a shining there
as brief
as rare.

Regret . . .
a pain
I chose to bear . . .

unleash
the torrent
of your hair . . .

and show me
once again―
how rare.


Veronica Franco translations

Capitolo 19: A Courtesan's Love Lyric (I)
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"I resolved to make a virtue of my desire."

My rewards will be commensurate with your gifts
if only you give me the one that lifts
me laughing ...

And though it costs you nothing,
still it is of immense value to me.

Your reward will be
not just to fly
but to soar, so high
that your joys vastly exceed your desires.

And my beauty, to which your heart aspires
and which you never tire of praising,
I will employ for the raising
of your spirits. Then, lying sweetly at your side,
I will shower you with all the delights of a bride,
which I have more expertly learned.

Then you, who so fervently burned,
will at last rest, fully content,
fallen even more deeply in love, spent
at my comfortable *****.

When I am in bed with a man I blossom,
becoming completely free
with the man who loves and enjoys me.


Capitolo 19: A Courtesan's Love Lyric (II)
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"I resolved to make a virtue of my desire."

My rewards will match your gifts
If you give me the one that lifts

Me, laughing. If it comes free,
Still, it is of immense value to me.

Your reward will be―not just to fly,
But to soar―so incredibly high

That your joys eclipse your desires
(As my beauty, to which your heart aspires

And which you never tire of praising,
I employ for your spirit's raising).

Afterwards, lying docile at your side,
I will grant you all the delights of a bride,

Which I have more expertly learned.
Then you, who so fervently burned,

Will at last rest, fully content,
Fallen even more deeply in love, spent

At my comfortable *****.
When I am in bed with a man I blossom,

Becoming completely free
With the man who freely enjoys me.


Capitolo 24
by Veronica Franco
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

(written by Franco to a man who had insulted a woman)

Please try to see with sensible eyes
how grotesque it is for you
to insult and abuse women!
Our unfortunate *** is always subject
to such unjust treatment, because we
are dominated, denied true freedom!
And certainly we are not at fault
because, while not as robust as men,
we have equal hearts, minds and intellects.
Nor does virtue originate in power,
but in the vigor of the heart, mind and soul:
the sources of understanding;
and I am certain that in these regards
women lack nothing,
but, rather, have demonstrated
superiority to men.
If you think us "inferior" to yourself,
perhaps it's because, being wise,
we outdo you in modesty.
And if you want to know the truth,
the wisest person is the most patient;
she squares herself with reason and with virtue;
while the madman thunders insolence.
The stone the wise man withdraws from the well
was flung there by a fool ...

When I bed a man
who―I sense―truly loves and enjoys me,
I become so sweet and so delicious
that the pleasure I bring him surpasses all delight,
till the tight
knot of love,
however slight
it may have seemed before,
is raveled to the core.
―Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We danced a youthful jig through that fair city―
Venice, our paradise, so pompous and pretty.
We lived for love, for primal lust and beauty;
to please ourselves became our only duty.
Floating there in a fog between heaven and earth,
We grew drunk on excesses and wild mirth.
We thought ourselves immortal poets then,
Our glory endorsed by God's illustrious pen.
But paradise, we learned, is fraught with error,
and sooner or later love succumbs to terror.
―Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I wish it were not considered a sin
to have liked *******.
Women have yet to realize
the cowardice that presides.
And if they should ever decide
to fight the shallow,
I would be the first, setting an example for them to follow.
―Veronica Franco, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Sessiz Gemi (“Silent Ship”)
by Yahya Kemal Beyatli
loose translation by Nurgül Yayman and Michael R. Burch

for the refugees

The time to weigh anchor has come;
a ship departing harbor slips quietly out into the unknown,
cruising noiselessly, its occupants already ghosts.
No flourished handkerchiefs acknowledge their departure;
the landlocked mourners stand nurturing their grief,
scanning the bleak horizon, their eyes blurring ...
Poor souls! Desperate hearts! But this is hardly the last ship departing!
There is always more pain to unload in this sorrowful life!
The hesitations of lovers and their belovèds are futile,
for they cannot know where the vanished are bound.
Many hopes must be quenched by the distant waves,
since years must pass, and no one returns from this journey.


Full Moon
by Yahya Kemal Beyatli
loose translation by Nurgül Yayman and Michael R. Burch

You are so lovely
the full moon just might
delight
in your rising,
as curious
and bright,
to vanquish night.

But what can a mortal man do,
dear,
but hope?
I’ll ponder your mysteries
and (hmmmm) try to
cope.

We both know
you have every right to say no.


The Music of the Snow
by Yahya Kemal Beyatli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This melody of a night lasting longer than a thousand years!
This music of the snow supposed to last for thousand years!

Sorrowful as the prayers of a secluded monastery,
It rises from a choir of a hundred voices!

As the *****’s harmonies resound profoundly,
I share the sufferings of Slavic grief.

Then my mind drifts far from this city, this era,
To the old records of Tanburi Cemil Bey.

Now I’m suddenly overjoyed as once again I hear,
With the ears of my heart, the purest sounds of Istanbul!

Thoughts of the snow and darkness depart me;
I keep them at bay all night with my dreams!


She Was Very Strange, and Beautiful
by Michael R. Burch

She was very strange, and beautiful,
like a violet mist enshrouding hills
before night falls
when the hoot owl calls
and the cricket trills
and the envapored moon hangs low and full.

She was very strange, in a pleasant way,
as the hummingbird
flies madly still,
so I drank my fill
of her every word.
What she knew of love, she demurred to say.

She was meant to leave, as the wind must blow,
as the sun must set,
as the rain must fall.
Though she gave her all,
I had nothing left . . .
yet I smiled, bereft, in her receding glow.


The Stake
by Michael R. Burch

Love, the heart bets,
if not without regrets,
will still prove, in the end,
worth the light we expend
mining the dark
for an exquisite heart.


If
by Michael R. Burch

If I regret
fire in the sunset
exploding on the horizon,
then let me regret loving you.

If I forget
even for a moment
that you are the only one,
then let me forget that the sky is blue.

If I should yearn
in a season of discontentment
for the vagabond light of a companionless moon,
let dawn remind me that you are my sun.

If I should burn―one moment less brightly,
one instant less true―
then with wild scorching kisses,
inflame me, inflame me, inflame me anew.


Snapshots
by Michael R. Burch

Here I scrawl extravagant rainbows.
And there you go, skipping your way to school.
And here we are, drifting apart
like untethered balloons.

Here I am, creating "art,"
chanting in shadows,
pale as the crinoline moon,
ignoring your face.

There you go,
in diaphanous lace,
making another man’s heart swoon.
Suddenly, unthinkably, here he is,
taking my place.


East Devon Beacon
by Michael R. Burch

Evening darkens upon the moors,
Forgiveness--a hairless thing
skirting the headlamps, fugitive.

Why have we come,
traversing the long miles
and extremities of solitude,
worriedly crisscrossing the wrong maps
with directions
obtained from passing strangers?

Why do we sit,
frantically retracing
love’s long-forgotten signal points
with cramping, ink-stained fingers?

Why the preemptive frowns,
the litigious silences,
when only yesterday we watched
as, out of an autumn sky this vast,
over an orchard or an onion field,
wild Vs of distressed geese
sped across the moon’s face,
the sound of their panicked wings
like our alarmed hearts
pounding in unison?


The Princess and the Pauper
by Michael R. Burch

Here was a woman bright, intent on life,
who did not flinch from Death, but caught his eye
and drew him, powerless, into her spell
of wanting her himself, so much the lie
that she was meant for him―obscene illusion!―
made him seem a monarch throned like God on high,
when he was less than nothing; when to die
meant many stultifying, pained embraces.

She shed her gown, undid the tangled laces
that tied her to the earth: then she was his.
Now all her erstwhile beauty he defaces
and yet she grows in hallowed loveliness―
her ghost beyond perfection―for to die
was to ascend. Now he begs, penniless.


I, Too, Sang America (in my diapers!)
by Michael R. Burch

I, too, served my country,
first as a tyke, then as a toddler, later as a rambunctious boy,
growing up on military bases around the world,
making friends only to leave them,
saluting the flag through veils of tears,
time and time again ...

In defense of my country,
I too did my awesome duty―
cursing the Communists,
confronting Them in backyard battles where They slunk around disguised as my sniggling Sisters,
while always demonstrating the immense courage
to start my small life over and over again
whenever Uncle Sam called ...

Building and rebuilding my shattered psyche,
such as it was,
dealing with PTSD (preschool traumatic stress disorder)
without the adornments of medals, ribbons or epaulets,
serving without pay,
following my father’s gruffly barked orders,
however ill-advised ...

A true warrior!
Will you salute me?


Wulf and Eadwacer (ancient Anglo-Saxon poem)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My clan’s curs pursue him like crippled game;
they'll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.
It is otherwise with us.

Wulf's on one island; we’re on another.
His island's a fortress, fastened by fens.
Here, bloodthirsty curs howl for carnage.
They'll rip him apart if he approaches their pack.
It is otherwise with us.

My hopes pursued Wulf like panting hounds,
but whenever it rained―how I wept!―
the boldest cur grasped me in his paws:
good feelings for him, but for me loathsome!

Wulf, O, my Wulf, my ache for you
has made me sick; your seldom-comings
have left me famished, deprived of real meat.
Have you heard, Eadwacer? Watchdog!
A wolf has borne our wretched whelp to the woods!
One can easily sever what never was one:
our song together.


Advice to Young Poets
by Nicanor Parra Sandoval
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Youngsters,
write however you will
in your preferred style.
Too much blood flowed under the bridge
for me to believe
there’s just one acceptable path.
In poetry everything’s permitted.


Prayer for a Merciful, Compassionate, etc., God to ****** His Creations Quickly & Painlessly, Rather than Slowly & Painfully
by Michael R. Burch

Lord, **** me fast and please do it quickly!
Please don’t leave me gassed, archaic and sickly!
Why render me mean, rude, wrinkly and prickly?
Lord, why procrastinate?

Lord, we all know you’re an expert killer!
Please, don’t leave me aging like Phyllis Diller!
Why torture me like some poor sap in a thriller?
God, grant me a gentler fate!

Lord, we all know you’re an expert at ******
like Abram―the wild-eyed demonic goat-herder
who’d slit his son’s throat without thought at your order.
Lord, why procrastinate?

Lord, we all know you’re a terrible sinner!
What did dull Japheth eat for his 300th dinner
after a year on the ark, growing thinner and thinner?
God, grant me a gentler fate!

Dear Lord, did the lion and tiger compete
for the last of the lambkin’s sweet, tender meat?
How did Noah preserve his fast-rotting wheat?
God, grant me a gentler fate!

Lord, why not be a merciful Prelate?
Do you really want me to detest, loathe and hate
the Father, the Son and their Ghostly Mate?
Lord, why procrastinate?


Progress
by Michael R. Burch

There is no sense of urgency
at the local Burger King.

Birds and squirrels squabble outside
for the last scraps of autumn:
remnants of buns,
goopy pulps of dill pickles,
mucousy lettuce,
sesame seeds.

Inside, the workers all move
with the same très-glamorous lethargy,
conserving their energy, one assumes,
for more pressing endeavors: concerts and proms,
pep rallies, keg parties,
reruns of Jenny McCarthy on MTV.

The manager, as usual, is on the phone,
talking to her boyfriend.
She gently smiles,
brushing back wisps of insouciant hair,
ready for the cover of Glamour or Vogue.

Through her filmy white blouse
an indiscreet strap
suspends a lace cup
through which somehow the ****** still shows.
Progress, we guess, ...

and wait patiently in line,
hoping the Pokémons hold out.


Reclamation
by Michael R. Burch

I have come to the dark side of things
where the bat sings
its evasive radar
and Want is a crooked forefinger
attached to a gelatinous wing.

I have grown animate here, a stitched corpse
hooked to electrodes.
And night
moves upon me―progenitor of life
with its foul breath.

Blind eyes have their second sight
and still are deceived. Now my nature
is softly to moan
as Desire carries me
swooningly across her threshold.

Stone
is less infinite than her crone’s
gargantuan hooked nose, her driveling lips.
I eye her ecstatically―her dowager figure,
and there is something about her that my words transfigure
to a consuming emptiness.

We are at peace
with each other; this is our venture―
swaying, the strings tautening, as tightropes
tauten, as love tightens, constricts
to the first note.

Lyre of our hearts’ pits,
orchestration of nothing, adits
of emptiness! We have come to the last of our hopes,
sweet as congealed blood sweetens for flies.
Need is reborn; love dies.


ANCIENT GREEK EPIGRAMS

These are my translations of ancient Greek and Roman epigrams, or they may be better described as interpretations or poems “after” the original poets …

You begrudge men your virginity?
Why? To what purpose?
You will find no one to embrace you in the grave.
The joys of love are for the living.
But in Acheron, dear ******,
we shall all lie dust and ashes.
—Asclepiades of Samos (circa 320-260 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let me live with joy today, since tomorrow is unforeseeable.
―Michael R Burch, after Palladas of Alexandria

Laments for Animals

Now his voice is prisoned in the silent pathways of the night:
his owner’s faithful Maltese . . .
but will he still bark again, on sight?
―Michael R Burch, after Tymnes

Poor partridge, poor partridge, lately migrated from the rocks;
our cat bit off your unlucky head; my offended heart still balks!
I put you back together again and buried you, so unsightly!
May the dark earth cover you heavily: heavily, not lightly . . .
so she shan’t get at you again!
―Michael R Burch, after Agathias

Hunter partridge,
we no longer hear your echoing cry
along the forest's dappled feeding ground
where, in times gone by,
you would decoy speckled kinsfolk to their doom,
luring them on,
for now you too have gone
down the dark path to Acheron.
―Michael R Burch, after Simmias

Wert thou, O Artemis,
overbusy with thy beast-slaying hounds
when the Beast embraced me?
―Michael R Burch, after Diodorus of Sardis

Dead as you are, though you lie as
still as cold stone, huntress Lycas,
my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness
as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would leap and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
―Michael R Burch, after Simonides

Anyte Epigrams

Stranger, rest your weary legs beneath the elms;
hear how coolly the breeze murmurs through their branches;
then take a bracing draught from the mountain-fed fountain;
for this is welcome shade from the burning sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here I stand, Hermes, in the crossroads
by the windswept elms near the breezy beach,
providing rest to sunburned travelers,
and cold and brisk is my fountain’s abundance.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sit here, quietly shaded by the luxuriant foliage,
and drink cool water from the sprightly spring,
so that your weary breast, panting with summer’s labors,
may take rest from the blazing sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is the grove of Cypris,
for it is fair for her to look out over the land to the bright deep,
that she may make the sailors’ voyages happy,
as the sea trembles, observing her brilliant image.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Nossis Epigrams

There is nothing sweeter than love.
All other delights are secondary.
Thus, I spit out even honey.
This is what Gnossis says:
Whom Aphrodite does not love,
Is bereft of her roses.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Most revered Hera, the oft-descending from heaven,
behold your Lacinian shrine fragrant with incense
and receive the linen robe your noble child Nossis,
daughter of Theophilis and Cleocha, has woven for you.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Stranger, if you sail to Mitylene, my homeland of beautiful dances,
to indulge in the most exquisite graces of Sappho,
remember I also was loved by the Muses, who bore me and reared me there.
My name, never forget it!, is Nossis. Now go!
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Pass me with ringing laughter, then award me
a friendly word: I am Rinthon, scion of Syracuse,
a small nightingale of the Muses; from their tragedies
I was able to pluck an ivy, unique, for my own use.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ibykos/Ibycus Epigrams

Euryalus, born of the blue-eyed Graces,
scion of the bright-tressed Seasons,
son of the Cyprian,
whom dew-lidded Persuasion birthed among rose-blossoms.
—Ibykos/Ibycus (circa 540 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Ibykos/Ibycus Fragment 286, circa 564 B.C.
this poem has been titled "The Influence of Spring"
loose translation/interpretation 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.

Ibykos/Ibycus Fragment 282, circa 540 B.C.
Ibykos fragment 282, Oxyrhynchus papyrus, lines 1-32
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch,

... They also destroyed the glorious city of Priam, son of Dardanus,
after leaving Argos due to the devices of death-dealing Zeus,
encountering much-sung strife over the striking beauty of auburn-haired Helen,
waging woeful war when destruction rained down on longsuffering Pergamum
thanks to the machinations of golden-haired Aphrodite ...

But now it is not my intention to sing of Paris, the host-deceiver,
nor of slender-ankled Cassandra,
nor of Priam’s other children,
nor of the nameless day of the downfall of high-towered Troy,
nor even of the valour of the heroes who hid in the hollow, many-bolted horse ...

Such was the destruction of Troy.

They were heroic men and Agamemnon was their king,
a king from Pleisthenes,
a son of Atreus, son of a noble father.

The all-wise Muses of Helicon
might recount such tales accurately,
but no mortal man, unblessed,
could ever number those innumerable ships
Menelaus led across the Aegean from Aulos ...
"From Argos they came, the bronze-speared sons of the Achaeans ..."

Antipater Epigrams

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
―Michael R Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

Mnemosyne was stunned into astonishment when she heard honey-tongued Sappho,
wondering how mortal men merited a tenth Muse.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch,

O Aeolian land, you lightly cover Sappho,
the mortal Muse who joined the Immortals,
whom Cypris and Eros fostered,
with whom Peitho wove undying wreaths,
who was the joy of Hellas and your glory.
O Fates who twine the spindle's triple thread,
why did you not spin undying life
for the singer whose deathless gifts
enchanted the Muses of Helicon?
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Here, O stranger, the sea-crashed earth covers Homer,
herald of heroes' valour,
spokesman of the Olympians,
second sun to the Greeks,
light of the immortal Muses,
the Voice that never diminishes.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

This herald of heroes,
this interpreter of the Immortals,
this second sun shedding light on the life of Greece,
Homer,
the delight of the Muses,
the ageless voice of the world,
lies dead, O stranger,
washed away with the sea-washed sand ...
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

As high as the trumpet's cry exceeds the thin flute's,
so high above all others your lyre rang;
so much the sweeter your honey than the waxen-celled swarm's.
O Pindar, with your tender lips witness how the horned god Pan
forgot his pastoral reeds when he sang your hymns.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Here lies Pindar, the Pierian trumpet,
the heavy-smiting smith of well-stuck hymns.
Hearing his melodies, one might believe
the immortal Muses possessed bees
to produce heavenly harmonies in the bridal chamber of Cadmus.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Harmonia, the goddess of Harmony, was the bride of Cadmus, so his bridal chamber would have been full of pleasant sounds.

Praise the well-wrought verses of tireless Antimachus,
a man worthy of the majesty of ancient demigods,
whose words were forged on the Muses' anvils.
If you are gifted with a keen ear,
if you aspire to weighty words,
if you would pursue a path less traveled,
if Homer holds the scepter of song,
and yet Zeus is greater than Poseidon,
even so Poseidon his inferior exceeds all other Immortals;
and even so the Colophonian bows before Homer,
but exceeds all other singers.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

I, the trumpet that once blew the ****** battle-notes
and the sweet truce-tunes, now hang here, Pherenicus,
your gift to Athena, quieted from my clamorous music.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Behold Anacreon's tomb;
here the Teian swan sleeps with the unmitigated madness of his love for lads.
Still he sings songs of longing on the lyre of Bathyllus
and the albescent marble is perfumed with ivy.
Death has not quenched his desire
and the house of Acheron still burns with the fevers of Cypris.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

May the four-clustered clover, Anacreon,
grow here by your grave,
ringed by the tender petals of the purple meadow-flowers,
and may fountains of white milk bubble up,
and the sweet-scented wine gush forth from the earth,
so that your ashes and bones may experience joy,
if indeed the dead know any delight.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Stranger passing by the simple tomb of Anacreon,
if you found any profit in my books,
please pour drops of your libation on my ashes,
so that my bones, refreshed by wine, may rejoice
that I, who so delighted in the boisterous revels of Dionysus,
and who played such manic music, as wine-drinkers do,
even in death may not travel without Bacchus
in my sojourn to that land to which all men must come.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Anacreon, glory of Ionia,
even in the land of the lost may you never be without your beloved revels,
or your well-loved lyre,
and may you still sing with glistening eyes,
shaking the braided flowers from your hair,
turning always towards Eurypyle, Megisteus, or the locks of Thracian Smerdies,
sipping sweet wine,
your robes drenched with the juices of grapes,
wringing intoxicating nectar from its folds ...
For all your life, old friend, was poured out as an offering to these three:
the Muses, Bacchus, and Love.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

You sleep amid the dead, Anacreon,
your day-labor done,
your well-loved lyre's sweet tongue silenced
that once sang incessantly all night long.
And Smerdies also sleeps,
the spring-tide of your loves,
for whom, tuning and turning you lyre,
you made music like sweetest nectar.
For you were Love's bullseye,
the lover of lads,
and he had the bow and the subtle archer's craft
to never miss his target.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Erinna's verses were few, nor were her songs overlong,
but her smallest works were inspired.
Therefore she cannot fail to be remembered
and is never lost beneath the shadowy wings of bleak night.
While we, the estranged, the innumerable throngs of tardy singers,
lie in pale corpse-heaps wasting into oblivion.
The moaned song of the lone swan outdoes the cawings of countless jackdaws
echoing far and wide through darkening clouds.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Who hung these glittering shields here,
these unstained spears and unruptured helmets,
dedicating to murderous Ares ornaments of no value?
Will no one cast these virginal weapons out of my armory?
Their proper place is in the peaceful halls of placid men,
not within the wild walls of Enyalius.
I delight in hacked heads and the blood of dying berserkers,
if, indeed, I am Ares the Destroyer.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

May good Fortune, O stranger, keep you on course all your life before a fair breeze!
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Docile doves may coo for cowards,
but we delight in dauntless men.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Here by the threshing-room floor,
little ant, you relentless toiler,
I built you a mound of liquid-absorbing earth,
so that even in death you may partake of the droughts of Demeter,
as you lie in the grave my plough burrowed.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

This is your mother’s lament, Artemidorus,
weeping over your tomb,
bewailing your twelve brief years:
"All the fruit of my labor has gone up in smoke,
all your heartbroken father's endeavors are ash,
all your childish passion an extinguished flame.
For you have entered the land of the lost,
from which there is no return, never a home-coming.
You failed to reach your prime, my darling,
and now we have nothing but your headstone and dumb dust."
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Everywhere the Sea is the Sea
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Everywhere the Sea is the same;
why then do we idly blame
the Cyclades
or the harrowing waves of narrow Helle?

To protest is vain!

Justly, they have earned their fame.

Why then,
after I had escaped them,
did the harbor of Scarphe engulf me?

I advise whoever finds a fair passage home:
accept that the sea's way is its own.
Man is foam.
Aristagoras knows who's buried here.


Orpheus, mute your bewitching strains
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Orpheus, mute your bewitching strains;
Leave beasts to wander stony plains;
No longer sing fierce winds to sleep,
Nor seek to enchant the tumultuous deep;
For you are dead; each Muse, forlorn,
Strums anguished strings as your mother mourns.
Mind, mere mortals, mind—no use to moan,
When even a Goddess could not save her own!


Orpheus, now you will never again enchant
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch



Orpheus, now you will never again enchant the charmed oaks,
never again mesmerize shepherdless herds of wild beasts,
never again lull the roaring winds,
never again tame the tumultuous hail
nor the sweeping snowstorms
nor the crashing sea,
for you have perished
and the daughters of Mnemosyne weep for you,
and your mother Calliope above all.
Why do mortals mourn their dead sons,
when not even the gods can protect their children from Hades?
—Antipater of Sidon, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch


The High Road to Death
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

Men skilled in the stars call me brief-lifed;
I am, but what do I care, O Seleucus?
All men descend to Hades
and if our demise comes quicker,
the sooner we shall we look on Minos.
Let us drink then, for surely wine is a steed for the high-road,
when pedestrians march sadly to Death.


The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
by Antipater of Sidon
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

I have set my eyes upon
the lofty walls of Babylon
with its elevated road for chariots
... and upon the statue of Zeus
by the Alpheus ...
... and upon the hanging gardens ...
... upon the Colossus of the Sun ...
... upon the massive edifices
of the towering pyramids ...
... even upon the vast tomb of Mausolus ...
but when I saw the mansion of Artemis
disappearing into the cirri,
those other marvels lost their brilliancy
and I said, "Setting aside Olympus,
the Sun never shone on anything so fabulous!"


Sophocles Epigrams

Not to have been born is best,
and blessed
beyond the ability of words to express.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It’s a hundred times better not be born;
but if we cannot avoid the light,
the path of least harm is swiftly to return
to death’s eternal night!
—Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Never to be born may be the biggest boon of all.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Oblivion: What a blessing, to lie untouched by pain!
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The happiest life is one empty of thought.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Consider no man happy till he lies dead, free of pain at last.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

What is worse than death? When death is desired but denied.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When a man endures nothing but endless miseries, what is the use of hanging on day after day,
edging closer and closer toward death? Anyone who warms his heart with the false glow of flickering hope is a wretch! The noble man should live with honor and die with honor. That's all that can be said.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Children anchor their mothers to life.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

How terrible, to see the truth when the truth brings only pain to the seer!
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wisdom outweighs all the world's wealth.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Fortune never favors the faint-hearted.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wait for evening to appreciate the day's splendor.
—Sophocles (circa 497-406 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Homer Epigrams

For the gods have decreed that unfortunate mortals must suffer, while they themselves are sorrowless.
—Homer, Iliad 24.525-526, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“It is best not to be born or, having been born, to pass on as swiftly as possible.”
—attributed to Homer (circa 800 BC), loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ancient Roman Epigrams

Wall, I'm astonished that you haven't collapsed,
since you're holding up verses so prolapsed!
—Ancient Roman graffiti, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R Burch

There is nothing so pointless, so perfidious as human life! ... The ultimate bliss is not to be born; otherwise we should speedily slip back into the original Nothingness.
—Seneca, On Consolation to Marcia, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch


Remembering Not to Call
by Michael R. Burch

a villanelle permitting mourning, for my mother, Christine Ena Burch

The hardest thing of all,
after telling her everything,
is remembering not to call.

Now the phone hanging on the wall
will never announce her ring:
the hardest thing of all

for children, however tall.
And the hardest thing this spring
will be remembering not to call

the one who was everything.
That the songbirds will nevermore sing
is the hardest thing of all

for those who once listened, in thrall,
and welcomed the message they bring,
since they won’t remember to call.

And the hardest thing this fall
will be a number with no one to ring.
No, the hardest thing of all
is remembering not to call.


Sailing to My Grandfather, for George Hurt
by Michael R. Burch

This distance between us
―this vast sea
of remembrance―
is no hindrance,
no enemy.

I see you out of the shining mists
of memory.
Events and chance
and circumstance
are sands on the shore of your legacy.

I find you now in fits and bursts
of breezes time has blown to me,
while waves, immense,
now skirt and glance
against the bow unceasingly.

I feel the sea's salt spray―light fists,
her mists and vapors mocking me.
From ignorance
to reverence,
your words were sextant stars to me.

Bright stars are strewn in silver gusts
back, back toward infinity.
From innocence
to senescence,
now you are mine increasingly.


All Things Galore
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandfathers George Edwin Hurt Sr. and Paul Ray Burch, Sr.

Grandfather,
now in your gray presence
you are

somehow more near

and remind me that,
once, upon a star,
you taught me

wish

that ululate soft phrase,
that hopeful phrase!

and everywhere above, each hopeful star

gleamed down

and seemed to speak of times before
when you clasped my small glad hand
in your wise paw

and taught me heaven, omen, meteor . . .


Attend Upon Them Still
by Michael R. Burch

for my grandparents George and Ena Hurt

With gentleness and fine and tender will,
attend upon them still;
thou art the grass.

Nor let men’s feet here muddy as they pass
thy subtle undulations, nor depress
for long the comforts of thy lovingness,

nor let the fuse
of time wink out amid the violets.
They have their use―

to wave, to grow, to gleam, to lighten their paths,
to shine sweet, transient glories at their feet.
Thou art the grass;

make them complete.


Sanctuary at Dawn
by Michael R. Burch

I have walked these thirteen miles
just to stand outside your door.
The rain has dogged my footsteps
for thirteen miles, for thirty years,
through the monsoon seasons ...
and now my tears
have all been washed away.

Through thirteen miles of rain I slogged,
I stumbled and I climbed
rainslickened slopes
that led me home
to the hope that I might find
a life I lived before.

The door is wet; my cheeks are wet,
but not with rain or tears ...
as I knock I sweat
and the raining seems
the rhythm of the years.

Now you stand outlined in the doorway
―a man as large as I left―
and with bated breath
I take a step
into the accusing light.

Your eyes are grayer
than I remembered;
your hair is grayer, too.
As the red rust runs
down the dripping drains,
our voices exclaim―

"My father!"
"My son!"


Ah! Sunflower
by Michael R. Burch

after William Blake

O little yellow flower
like a star ...
how beautiful,
how wonderful
we are!



Anyte Epigrams

Stranger, rest your weary legs beneath the elms;
hear how coolly the breeze murmurs through their branches;
then take a bracing draught from the mountain-fed fountain;
for this is welcome shade from the burning sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Here I stand, Hermes, in the crossroads
by the windswept elms near the breezy beach,
providing rest to sunburned travelers,
and cold and brisk is my fountain’s abundance.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Sit here, quietly shaded by the luxuriant foliage,
and drink cool water from the sprightly spring,
so that your weary breast, panting with summer’s labors,
may take rest from the blazing sun.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is the grove of Cypris,
for it is fair for her to look out over the land to the bright deep,
that she may make the sailors’ voyages happy,
as the sea trembles, observing her brilliant image.
—Anyte, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Nossis Epigrams

There is nothing sweeter than love.
All other delights are secondary.
Thus, I spit out even honey.
This is what Gnossis says:
Whom Aphrodite does not love,
Is bereft of her roses.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Most revered Hera, the oft-descending from heaven,
behold your Lacinian shrine fragrant with incense
and receive the linen robe your noble child Nossis,
daughter of Theophilis and Cleocha, has woven for you.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Stranger, if you sail to Mitylene, my homeland of beautiful dances,
to indulge in the most exquisite graces of Sappho,
remember I also was loved by the Muses, who bore me and reared me there.
My name, never forget it!, is Nossis. Now go!
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Pass me with ringing laughter, then award me
a friendly word: I am Rinthon, scion of Syracuse,
a small nightingale of the Muses; from their tragedies
I was able to pluck an ivy, unique, for my own use.
—Nossis, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Excerpts from “Distaff”
by Erinna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

… the moon rising …
      … leaves falling …
           … waves lapping a windswept shore …

… and our childish games, Baucis, do you remember? ...

... Leaping from white horses,
running on reckless feet through the great courtyard.  
“You’re it!’ I cried, ‘You’re the Tortoise now!”
But when your turn came to pursue your pursuers,
you darted beyond the courtyard,
dashed out deep into the waves,
splashing far beyond us …

… My poor Baucis, these tears I now weep are your warm memorial,
these traces of embers still smoldering in my heart
for our silly amusements, now that you lie ash …

… Do you remember how, as girls,
we played at weddings with our dolls,
pretending to be brides in our innocent beds? ...

... How sometimes I was your mother,
allotting wool to the weaver-women,
calling for you to unreel the thread? ...

… Do you remember our terror of the monster Mormo
with her huge ears, her forever-flapping tongue,
her four slithering feet, her shape-shifting face? ...

... Until you mother called for us to help with the salted meat ...

... But when you mounted your husband’s bed,
dearest Baucis, you forgot your mothers’ warnings!
Aphrodite made your heart forgetful ...

... Desire becomes oblivion ...

... Now I lament your loss, my dearest friend.
I can’t bear to think of that dark crypt.
I can’t bring myself to leave the house.
I refuse to profane your corpse with my tearless eyes.
I refuse to cut my hair, but how can I mourn with my hair unbound?
I blush with shame at the thought of you! …

... But in this dark house, O my dearest Baucis,
My deep grief is ripping me apart.
Wretched Erinna! Only nineteen,
I moan like an ancient crone, eying this strange distaff ...

O *****! . . . O Hymenaeus! . . .
Alas, my poor Baucis!



On a Betrothed Girl
by Erinna
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I sing of Baucis the bride.
Observing her tear-stained crypt
say this to Death who dwells underground:
"Thou art envious, O Death!"

Her vivid monument tells passers-by
of the bitter misfortune of Baucis —
how her father-in-law burned the poor ******* a pyre
lit by bright torches meant to light her marriage train home.
While thou, O Hymenaeus, transformed her harmonious bridal song into a chorus of wailing dirges.

*****! O Hymenaeus!

Keywords/Tags: elegy, eulogy, child, childhood, death, death of a friend, lament, lamentation, epitaph, grave, funeral

Published as the collection "Ancient Greek Epigrams"
Jackeline Chacon Aug 2014
Ruler of beauty
Grace as a dove
Thy name Aphrodite
Goddess of love

Power to sway
Thy lustful mind
Ability to lure
Man of every kind

Appealing charm
Equal summers rose
Thou pleasant aroma
Could make all man doze

****** attraction
Alludes all thy wants
Goddess so elegant
Created thy flaunts

One defect slays
Aphrodite soul within
Profound jealousy for
Psyche thy alleged twin

— The End —