Friday, 14 January 2022

'Love-Epigrams', part three: starting with Strato

Woodward opens with a piquant choice: AP 12.2, the second of the programmatic poems with which Strato introduces his Boyish Muse. Stripped of typographic archaism, the caroller's version runs as follows, in three stanzas:

Seek not in these leaves of mine
Priam at the altar-shrine:
Look not for Medea's woes,
Nor for Niobe's ill throes:
Nor for chamber'd Itys' grief,
Nor for night-cocks on the leaf:
For of all such manner stuff
Former bardies wrote enough.
But the blitheful Graces iii, [i.e., three]
And sweet Eros ye shall see,
Blent with Bacchus; and, I wot,
Serious looks become them not.

My World's Classics version, for comparison:

No Priam at the altars on my page,
Woes of Medea or of Niobe;
No dozing Itys and no nightingales
Among my leaves, so do not seek them here.
Poets of old penned them exhaustively;
Instead find sweet Desire with pleasant Grace,
And Bacchus. They do not deserve a frown.

It's a matter of taste which one you prefer; Woodward's is hardly inaccurate. Instead he changes the poem's meaning it by uncoupling it from its immediate company. Here is 12.1, the poem that precedes it and opens the book:

‘Let us begin from Zeus’, Aratus said;
Muses, I shall not bother you today.
If I love boys and keep their company,
What is it to the maids of Helicon?

The poem immediately following it, AP 12.3, is explicitly homosexual and assigns pet names to the stages of erection of a young man's penis (I've blogged this poem). Woodward's isolation of 'Seek not in these leaves...' from its original context reframes his Strato as a poet of presumptively heterosexual amours.

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