Epigrams for Empire
Mackail’s twelve ‘Chapters’
II. Prayers and Dedications
IV. Literature and Art
VII. The Family
IX. Fate and Change
X. The Human Comedy
Butcher: Greek as brain gym…and soul food
Greek ‘leisure’ is sometimes spoken of slightingly as if it were the luxury of the rich or the dilettanti… But in truth it is not the opposite of activity, but a special form of activity, the strenuous exercise of the intellectual or artistic faculties. It is no state of blissful indolence, which is the ideal of some Orientals… It is work, genuine work.
From Baring’s preface
The epigrams are, with a very few exceptions, selected from Mr. Mackail’s Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology. The classification and, in the great majority of cases, the title of each epigram are also borrowed from Mr. Mackail…
I beg any one who may do me the honour of glancing at this little volume to bear in mind that it is not the work of a scholar, or of even a very minor poet, but that of a Government official who, during the leisure moments of a somewhat busy life, has dabbled a little in Greek literature, and has occasionally amused himself by making verses — which is not always the same thing as writing poetry.
Some versions by Baring (from Mackail’s selection)
Ah, Cup of sweetness, lasting joy is thine,
My love’s own honeyed mouth has given thee bliss!
Would that she now would join her lips to mine,
And drain my very soul in one long kiss!
On a Slain Warrior
Timocritus lies here. Mars takes the brave,
And spares the coward for a nameless grave.
The Last Word
Thou talkest much, O man, but spare thy breath,
Keep silence here on earth, and think on Death.
From Wilde’s ‘L’Envoi’
Among the many young men in England who are seeking along with me to continue and to perfect the English renaissance — jeunes guerriers du drapeau romantique, as Gautier would have called us — there is none whose love of art is more flawless and fervent…than the young poet whose verses I have brought with me to America…
This recognition of the primary importance of the sensuous element in art, this love of art for art’s sake, is the point in which we of the younger school have made a departure from the teaching of Mr Ruskin — a departure definite and different and decisive… He would judge a picture by the amount of noble moral ideas it expresses…
From Rodd’s preface
These little flowers of song reveal, as does no other phase of that great [Greek] literature, a personal outlook on life, kindly, direct and simple, the tenderness which characterised family relations, the reciprocal affection of master and slave, sympathy with the domestic animals, a generous sense of the obligations of friendship, a gentle piety and a close intimacy with the nature gods.
Some versions by Rodd (from Mackail’s selection)
On the Spartans
These who with fame eternal their own dear land endowed
Took on them as a mantle the shade of death’s dark cloud;
Yet dying thus they died not, on whom is glory shed
By virtue which exalts them above all other dead.
Love and Death
Friend Cleobulus, when I die,
Who conquered by desire,
Abandoned in the ashes lie
Of youth’s consuming fire,
Do me this service, drench in wine
The urn you pass beneath,
And grave upon it this one line,
‘The gift of Love to Death.’
The End of the Comedy
Fortune and Hope, a long adieu!
My ship is safe in port.
With me is nothing left to do,
Make other lives your sport.
Gideon Nisbet 07/03/18