To Home Page
To Translations Menu

Selections from the Greek Lyric Poets
John Porter, translator

Notice: This translation is the copyrighted property of the author and should not be reproduced without the author's permission.

For discussion of the Greek Lyric Poets, see the Course Notes on The Greek Lyric Poets (Porter). Links in the following passages are to that discussion.

(Paros: 1st half of the 7th C.)

Frg. 1
I am a henchman of lord Ares,
but the Muses' servant as well,
schooled in their charming gift.
Frg. 4
So come on! Pass through the benches of the swift ship with your cup
and draw drinks from the hollow jugs.
Gulp the red wine down to the lees:
no heads will stay sober on this watch!
[See Course Notes: Archilochus and Homer]
Frg. 5
My shield some Thracian now takes pride in — my blameless shield
that I left behind in a bush, having no use for it.
My self I saved. What concern that shield to me?
Let it go: I'll get another one, no worse.
[See Course Notes: Archilochus and Homer]
Frg. 13
Pericles, none of the citizens now delights in festivities
or finds fault with our groan-laden grief:
Such were the men whom the wave of the murmuring sea
washed under. Our chests swell with brimming grief.
Yet the gods have established stout endurance
as a remedy to combat incurable woes.
Each man must face them in his turn: Now they have come to us
and we groan at the bloody wound;
Another time they will afflict others. So hold out,
driving off womanish grief.
Frg. 114
Not for me a huge general, one with long, straddling legs
vaunting in his aristocratic locks and fancy beard.
Give me a small man, knock-kneed,
but firm on his feet and full of heart.
[See Course Notes: Archilochus and Homer]

[See Course Notes: Archilochus]

(Mytilene: Late 7th-Early 6th C.)

Frg. 42
As the story goes, grief most bitter came to Priam
and his children once, O Helen, because of you,
and with his fire Zeus destroyed
sacred Ilium.
Not such a woman did the noble son of Aeacus [FN 1]
lead in marriage from the halls of Nereus,
summoning all the blessed gods to the wedding,
a tender maiden,
taking her to the home of Chiron. He loosed the
sash of the pure maiden and the love
of Peleus and the best of Nereus' daughters flourished.
In a year's time
she bore a son, the best of heroes,
a blessed driver of tawny horses.
But as for the Phrygians and their city,
they perished utterly, for Helen's sake.
[See Course Notes: Sappho and Helen]
Frg. 283
and set aflutter the heart in the breast
of Argive Helen, [FN 2] and, driven mad with love
by the Trojan man [FN 3]—the deceiver of guest-friends—
she followed him in his ship over the sea,
leaving her child [deserted?] in her halls,
and the bed of her husband with its rich coverlet ...
her heart (?) persuaded ... passion ...
the child of Zeus and ...
many of his [FN 4] brothers the dark
earth holds in the plain of the Trojans, dead
because of her,
and many chariots in the dust
crashed, and many quick-eyed
(warriors?) were trampled down, and the slaughter
[See Course Notes: Sappho and Helen]

[See Course Notes: Alcaeus]

(Colophon: Late 7th/early 6th C.)

Frg. 5
But short-lived, like a dream,
is treasured Youth. Harsh and deformed
Old Age looms just above our heads.
Hated and despised alike, it makes a man unrecognizable,
ruins his eyes, clouds his mind.

[See Course Notes: Mimnermus]

(Rhegium: 2nd half of the 6th C.)

Frg. 287
Once again Eros looks at me meltingly from under
sultry eyelids and with his various charms
tosses me into the boundless net of Cypris.
Ah me, how I tremble at his approach—
like a prize-winning racehorse near retirement
with his swift chariot, heading to the contest all unwilling.
[See Course Notes: Sappho and Male Eroticism]

[See Course Notes: Ibycus]

(Teos: 2nd half of the 6th C.)

Frg. 358
Once again Eros of the golden locks tosses
his purple ball to me and challenges me to start a game
with the nymphet in the colorful slippers.
But she—for she hails from well-built Lesbos—
finds my hair (it's grizzled) contemptible
and goes gaping after another girl.
[See Course Notes: Sappho and Male Eroticism]
Frg. 376
Lifting off from the cliffs of Leukas, [FN 5] once again
am I tumbling into the gray sea, drunk with desire.
[See Course Notes: Sappho and Male Eroticism]
Frg. 417
Thracian filly, why glance at me askance and
flee so stubbornly? Do you think I don't know a trick or two?
I tell you, I'd slip the bridle on you nicely
and, reins in hand, I'd take you round the course.
But as it is you graze the meadows, lightly skipping in your play.
You have no skillful rider experienced in horses' ways.
[See Course Notes: Sappho and Male Eroticism]

[See Course Notes: Anacreon]

(Colophon: c. 570 - c. 478)

Frg. 10
Homer and Hesiod attributed to the gods everything
that among men is cause for reproach and blame:
thieving, adultery, deceiving one another.
Frg. 13
... but if cows had hands, or if horses or lions had,
to use in drawing and doing the things men do,
they would draw pictures of the gods and give them bodies
just like the ones they had themselves:
horses would draw them like horses, cows like cows.
Frg. 14
The Aithiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and dark,
the Thracians that theirs are blue-eyed and red-haired.
Frg. 19
God is one, the greatest among gods and men;
his form is not at all like that of mortals, nor is his thought.
Frg. 20
He sees with his entire body; with his entire body he perceives;
with his entire body he hears.
Frg. 21
... but without toil he accomplishes everything, by means of his mind's thought.
Frg. 22
Always he remains in the same location, not stirring,
nor is it fitting that he should go, now here, now there.
Frg. 30
And, indeed, no man sees clearly, nor will there ever be one
with knowledge concerning the gods and concerning all the things
of which I speak:
for even if one should chance to be speaking the truth,
he himself would not know it — in all such matters we have only opinion.

[See Course Notes: Xenophanes.]


[FN 1] Peleus, who married Thetis (Nereus' daughter) and was Achilles' father. [Return to text]

[FN 2] The subject is probably Eros or Aphrodite. [Return to text]

[FN 3] I.e. Paris. [Return to text]

[FN 4] I.e. Paris'? [Return to text]

[FN 5] A famous "lover's leap." Sappho is said to have killed herself there when rejected by the youthful Phaon. [Return to text]

Top of Page : Translations of Classical Authors Menu : Home Page

Copyright John Porter, University of Saskatchewan, 1995.
May not be reproduced without the permission of the author.
These pages were designed by John Porter.
Last Modified: Monday, 08-May-2006 16:10:35 CST
Please send queries and comments to