Friday, 11 June 2021

Hair today, gone tomorrow

The newly translated epigrams in this post continue the theme of the cruel brevity of a boy's anthos, emphasising how pitiful it would be for a lover to fancy such a boy after his moment has passed.

The first (AP 12.40) of these poems is by an unknown author. My version contains two rather large unpackings of single Greek words. The 'old-time cultic statue made of wood' is a xōanon; 'with only the extremities of stone' is its qualifying adjective, akrolithos. There's a perfectly good Wikipedia article about acroliths. Only the exposed 'flesh' parts of an acrolith -- head, hands, feet -- were of marble; they were attached to a fully clothed body in a cheaper material, either wood or a coarser stone.

My little cloak, good sir — leave it alone;
Look at me rather in the way you would
An old-time cultic statue made of wood,
With only the extremities of stone,
Polished and gleaming. If you seek to know
Antiphilus’s loveliness laid bare,
Then, so to speak, you’ll find the rose-bud grow
Upon the spiny briars of his hair. 

Its companion epigram (AP 12.41) is by someone very famous -- Meleager of Gadara, the accomplished erotic epigrammatist who in the first century BC interwove some of his own poems with those of illustrious predecessors to fashion a Garland. This was the first great prototype of the Greek Anthology, a thousand or so years later.

Therōn has been deleted from my list
Of lovely boys. Apollodotus too,
Who in his moment kindled like a flame,
Now a spent torch. I want to love a girl:
Pounding some willing victim’s coarse behind
I’ll leave to swains who shag the goats they mind.


  1. Now Therōn's off my list of boys,
    Apollodotus too.
    Their former incandescent joys
    Are gone. Alas, it's true.

    I think that all that's left for me
    Is looking she-ward now.
    It's definitely not for me
    When hairy down below.

    It may be great, up in the hills
    Shafting a shaggy rear,
    If that's how you prefer your thrills,
    But not for me I fear.