Friday, November 12, 2010


All Are Stoicks in the Grave

Abraham Cowley, Anacreontiques, IX (The Epicure):
Underneath this Myrtle shade,
On flowry beds supinely laid,
With od'rous Oyls my Head oreflowing,
And around it Roses growing,
What should I do but drink away
The Heat, and troubles of the Day?

In this more than Kingly state
Love himself on me shall waite.
Fill to me, Love, nay fill it up;
And mingled cast into the Cup,
Wit, and Mirth, and noble Fires,
Vigorous Health and gay Desires.

The Wheel of Life no less will stay
In a smooth than rugged way.
Since it equally doth flee,
Let the Motion pleasant bee.

Why do we precious Ointments shower,
Nobler wines why do we pour,
Beauteous Flowers why do we spread,
Upon the Mon'ments of the Dead?
Nothing they but Dust can show,
Or Bones that hasten to be so.

Crown me with Roses whilst I live,
Now your Wines and oyntments give.
After Death I nothing crave,
Let me Alive my pleasures have:
All are Stoicks in the Grave.
This is a very free version of Anacreontea 32. Richard Aldington's translation is close to the original:
I would drink, stretched upon delicate myrtle boughs and lotus grass. And Love, with his robe fastened about his throat with papyrus, should serve me wine.

For like the wheel of a chariot rolling life hurries past and soon we lie, a little dust of loosened bones.

Why should one perfume a stone? Why shed foolishness upon earth?

While I live I will perfume my head and bind it with roses and speak the name of my mistress.

0 Love, before I leave the dance to go under the earth I will scatter sorrow afar!
The original:
Ἐπὶ μυρσίναις τερείναις
ἐπὶ λωτίναις τε ποίαις
στορέσας θέλω προπίνειν·
ὁ δ’ Ἔρως χιτῶνα δήσας
ὑπὲρ αὐχένος παπύρωι
μέθυ μοι διακονείτω.

τροχὸς ἅρματος γὰρ οἷα
βίοτος τρέχει κυλισθείς,
ὀλίγη δὲ κεισόμεσθα
κόνις ὀστέων λυθέντων.

τί σε δεῖ λίθον μυρίζειν;
τί δὲ γῆι χέειν μάταια;

ἐμὲ μᾶλλον, ὡς ἔτι ζῶ,
μύρισον, ῥόδοις δὲ κρᾶτα
πύκασον, κάλει δ’ ἑταίρην·

πρίν, Ἔρως, ἐκεῖ μ’ ἀπελθεῖν
ὑπὸ νερτέρων χορείας,
σκεδάσαι θέλω μερίμνας.

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