Friday, September 11, 2009


Epitaph for Eumelus

Greek Anthology 7.156 (Isidorus of Aegae), tr. William Cowper:
With seeds and bird-lime, from the desert air,
Eumelus gather'd free, though scanty, fare.
No lordly patron's hand he deign'd to kiss,
Nor lux'ry knew, save liberty, nor bliss.
Thrice thirty years he liv'd, and to his heirs
His seeds bequeath'd, his bird-lime, and his snares.
The same, tr. W.R. Paton:
By his bird-lime and canes Eumelus lived on the creatures of the air, simply but in freedom. Never did he kiss a strange hand for his belly's sake. Thus his craft supplied him with luxury and delight. Ninety years he lived, and now sleeps here, having left to his children his bird-lime, nets and canes.
The original Greek:
Ἰξῷ καὶ καλάμοισιν ἀπ' ἠέρος αὑτὸν ἔφερβεν
  Εὔμηλος, λιτῶς, ἀλλ' ἐν ἐλευθερίῃ.
οὔποτε δ' ὀθνείην ἔκυσεν χέρα γαστρὸς ἕκητι·
  τοῦτο τρυφὴν κείνῷ, τοῦτ' ἔφερ' εὐφροσύνην.
τρὶς δὲ τριηκοστὸν ζήσας ἔτος ἐνθάδ' ἰαύει,
  παισὶ λιπὼν ἰξὸν καὶ πτερὰ καὶ καλάμους.
Norman Douglas, Birds and Beasts of the Greek Anthology (London: Chapman and Hall, 1927), p. 95:
We have a number of allusions, however, to fowling, to snares of various kinds for feet and necks of birds, to traps and nets, and to birdlime which the fowler carried about with him, spread on canes—canes that could be fitted into each other and so lengthened out after the manner (says Mr. W. R. Paton) of a fishing-rod. The practice is referred to in Bion's idyll of Love and the boy-fowler. The invention of gunpowder has brought most of these implements into disuse, besides making the birds both shyer and scarcer. Decoy-birds and birdlime, for which the old name ixos has been revived, though prohibited, are still used in Greece to catch chiefly goldfinches, and also chaffinches and green linnets.

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