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Ancient Poetry

Translated into modern English metrical verse.

Sappho 96
April 2020

] this way she often bends her mind
as if [
you, like a goddess to behold,
and in your song she took the most delight.

But she is famed amongst the women now
of Lydia, like when the sun
is sunken down, the rosy-fingered moon

eclipses every star; the brilliance
is spread across the briny sea
just like a meadow burgeoning with flowers;

the dew has fallen here in loveliness,
and roses and the chervil soft
are blossoming, and florid melilot.

But she remembers, roaming back and forth,
the gentle Attis with desire
her tender heart [ ] is consumed

Odyssey 11.204-8
January 2020

Loosely translated into a single Sapphic stanza for an epitaph on a Homestuck fic.

In my mind I pondered and longed to hold my
perished mother’s ghost - at my heart’s behest I
reached out thrice and thrice like a dream or shade she
slipped from my fingers.

Bacchylides Ode 5, 16-30
June 2019

The lofty
ether cutting with tawny
speedy wings on high the
eagle the herald of far-ruling
bellowing Zeus is
dauntless with trust in his mighty
strength, and the warbling
birds - they cower in fear.
The peaks of the towering earth will not curb him
nor rugged waves
of the tireless sea - in the
weariless abyss he wields the
breath of the westerly wind with his
feathery plumage - unmistakable,
easy for humans to see.

Horace Odes 4.7
June 2019

The snows have fled, and grass now grows anew in fields
and greenery on trees -
the earth in cycle turns, and rivers on the ebb
run by within their banks.

The Graces and the nymphs now with their sisters dare
to lead the dance undressed;
“Hope not to live forever” warn the years and hours
which steal the tender day.

The west wind calms the cold, and summer tramples spring,
which will itself be lost
as soon as fruitful Autumn spreads its produce - then
the stagnant winter comes.

But moons are swift to heal what wounds the sky incurs
whilst we will sink down there
where good Aeneas went, and Ancus and Tullus divine -
shadow and dust are we.

Who knows if the gods on high will add to this day’s sum
the measure of the next?
All which you grant to your own gracious heart evades
your heir’s rapacious hands.

When after you have died, and Minos has decreed
his honourable charge -
Torquatus - never then will your nobility
or words or goodness return.

For neither from infernal gloom Diana could
free pure Hippolytus
nor Theseus destroy the chains of Lethe for
his dearest Pirithous.

Sappho 22
May 2019

] I urge you, sing
of Gongyla, Abanthis, as you lift
your lyre as once again desire [
encircles you in flight,

you pretty girl - for when you saw her dress
it set you quite aflutter. But I’m glad,
for she herself once reprimanded me -
the holy Aphrodite,

for praying [
this [
I want [

CIL 4. 5296
March 2019

This is a piece of graffiti found in Pompeii. The grammatical gender of two of the words indicates that both the speaker and the addressee were female, making it the only extant Latin love poem from one woman to another. You can find the Latin here, and I would reccomend reading "Milnor, Kristina. “Gender and Genre: The Case of CIL 4. 5296.” In Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014." if you want more information about the fragment.

A few Latin teachers and academics have asked to use this translation in their classes, and any others are welcome to do so! Please give your students a link to this page or my twitter as credit.

oh would that I could hold embraced around my neck
your little arms, and bring to tender lips a kiss.
go now and to the wind your joys, my dear, entrust -
and trust me that the ways of men have little weight.
so often whilst awake, at midnight when I’m lost,
I think this to myself: that fate lifts many high
who then off-hand she flings and headlong tramples down -
as suddenly when Venus lovers’ bodies joins
the light divides them and