Memory

Moero
Greek
c. 300 B.C.

 

Now mighty Zeus was raised in Crete, and not one
of the blessed gods knew about him. In every limb he grew strong,
while doves looked after him in a holy cave
bringing ambrosia from Ocean’s streams,
a mighty eagle, ever drawing nectar from a rock,
in its beak carried a drink for wise Zeus.
After defeating his father Cronus, wide-seeing Zeus
made the eagle immortal and settled it in heaven.
Just so did he bestow honour on the trembling doves
who are the messengers of summer and winter.

Hymn to Roma

Melinno
Greek
c. 150 B.C.

 

Hail to Roma, the war-god’s daughter
Warrior queen in a golden girdle,
Your Heaven here on earth, eternal
And unassailable.

On you alone, our ancient of days,
Fate has bestowed this royal glory
Of unbroken rule, sovereign strength
To lead where all follow.

For under your yoke, by your strong reins,
The great back of earth and foam-white seas
Are bent; without a falter your steer
The cities of all men.

But time’s great span can topple us all;
Life sways us one way, then another
You alone sail on fair winds of rule
And never alter course.

For you alone have borne strong warriors,
Great spearman, springing up unbidden
Like Demeter’s fruitful ears of corn,
A crop of mortal men.

from The Iliad

Homer
Greek
c. 700 B.C. – ?

 

Unseen by these, the king his entry made:
And, prostrate now before Achilles laid,
Sudden (a venerable sight!) appears;
Embraced his knees, and bathed his hands in tears;
Those direful hands his kisses press’d, embrued
Even with the best, the dearest of his blood!

As when a wretch (who, conscious of his crime,
Pursued for murder, flies his native clime)
Just gains some frontier, breathless, pale, amazed,
All gaze, all wonder: thus Achilles gazed:
Thus stood the attendants stupid with surprise:
All mute, yet seem’d to question with their eyes:
Each look’d on other, none the silence broke,
Till thus at last the kingly suppliant spoke:

“Ah think, thou favour’d of the powers divine!
Think of thy father’s age, and pity mine!
In me that father’s reverend image trace,
Those silver hairs, that venerable face;
His trembling limbs, his helpless person, see!
In all my equal, but in misery!
Yet now, perhaps, some turn of human fate
Expels him helpless from his peaceful state;
Think, from some powerful foe thou seest him fly,
And beg protection with a feeble cry.
Yet still one comfort in his soul may rise;
He hears his son still lives to glad his eyes,
And, hearing, still may hope a better day
May send him thee, to chase that foe away.
No comfort to my griefs, no hopes remain,
The best, the bravest, of my sons are slain!
Yet what a race! ere Greece to Ilion came,
The pledge of many a loved and loving dame:
Nineteen one mother bore—Dead, all are dead!
How oft, alas! has wretched Priam bled!
Still one was left their loss to recompense;
His father’s hope, his country’s last defence.
Him too thy rage has slain! beneath thy steel,
Unhappy in his country’s cause he fell!
“For him through hostile camps I bent my way,
For him thus prostrate at thy feet I lay;
Large gifts proportion’d to thy wrath I bear;
O hear the wretched, and the gods revere!

“Think of thy father, and this face behold!
See him in me, as helpless and as old!
Though not so wretched: there he yields to me,
The first of men in sovereign misery!
Thus forced to kneel, thus grovelling to embrace
The scourge and ruin of my realm and race;
Suppliant my children’s murderer to implore,
And kiss those hands yet reeking with their gore!”

These words soft pity in the chief inspire,
Touch’d with the dear remembrance of his sire.
Then with his hand (as prostrate still he lay)
The old man’s cheek he gently turn’d away.
Now each by turns indulged the gush of woe;
And now the mingled tides together flow:
This low on earth, that gently bending o’er;
A father one, and one a son deplore:
But great Achilles different passions rend,
And now his sire he mourns, and now his friend.
The infectious softness through the heroes ran;
One universal solemn shower began;
They bore as heroes, but they felt as man.

fragments

While little of the poet’s work survives, and very little context is known, we have made an effort to piece these fragments together in a manner that may be interpreted as cohesive if the reader chooses.

Sappho
Greek
c. 630 B.C. – c. 570 B.C.

 

Pain penetrates

Me drop
by drop

You may forget but

Let me tell you
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us

Before they were mothers

Leto and Niobe
had been the most
devoted of friends

If you are squeamish

Don’t prod the
beach rubble

Experience shows us

Wealth unchaperoned
by Virtue is never
an innocuous neighbor

We know this much

Death is an evil;
we have the gods’
word for it; they too
would die if death
were a good thing