TRANSLATION – Sappho, Horace, Heraclitus, Alcaeus, and Callimachus

Translated by Christopher Childers


Heraclitus 1 (vii.465)

The earth is freshly dug, and the leaves wave
and drop from garlands draped about the grave.
Traveller, come, let’s read the stone and find
whose scoured bones it says are here enshrined.
“I’m Aretemias, kind Euphro’s wife,
from Cnidus. Birth-pangs brought me twins in life:
one helps my husband in infirmity;
one, to remind me of him, came with me.”




Alcaeus 208

Which way the winds are blowing, I can’t tell.

From here, now from there, breakers are rocking the keel;

we’re swept along in the swell

right through the riotous heart of the gale,


stumbling and straining under the storm to bale

the bilge—now over the masthold, swamping it—

and big holes in the sail

open on sky-fragments opposite.




Sappho 96

in Sardis,

where frequently she still remembers us.


…you always did impress her

as like a goddess in the flesh,

and when you sang it was her greatest pleasure.


Lydian now, she outshines the ladies there

as, after the sun has dipped his flaring

head, the moon’s rose fingers brush the air


and shutter all the stars, and an equal luster

shimmers the ocean’s salty surf

and lights the meadows where the flowers cluster,


where the dew scatters spangles and the rose

riots, where melilot uncloses

blossoms and, delicate, the chervil blows.


So she goes back and forth, and still recalls her

kind Atthis with desire, and mulls

what happened to you and, no doubt, it galls her.




Horace 1.37

High time to drink now, time with unfettered feet

to pound the ground now; it was high time before

now, friends, to fix a seat

for the gods at the feast of our Priests of War.


To raid the family cellars for noble vintage

was wrong till now, while of the Capitol

the mad queen sought the wreckage;

insane, sought the Empire’s funeral,


wielding a flock of “men” sick from the stink

of their own squalor, possessed by an enervated

and grasping hope, and drunk

on luck’s sweet serum. Her fit abated


when hardly one ship fled burning and her blear

brain, spongy with the Mareotic grape,

back to the truth of fear

flew, far from Italy, flew to escape


Caesar, straining his oars, a hawk giving chase

to delicate doves, a hunter stalking the hare

through ice-blind fields of Thrace

with awful alacrity to ensnare


the fate-bedeviled creature—who, steeled to meet

a nobler end, did not, like a woman, cower

from swords, or speed her fleet

to a secret harbor and take cover,


but dared behold, with brow serenely blank,

her realm in rubble; dared with her hands constrain

venomous asps, and drank

caliginous liquor through every vein,


the fiercer now for her final freedom weighed,

denying our cruel ships—as a throneless, common

subject on parade—

glory of her, who was no low woman.




Callimachus Ep. 31 (vii.524)


Does Charidas lie here?

You mean, I guess,

Arimmas of Cyrene’s son? Then yes.

Say, Charidas, what is it like below?

No light.

Is there an upward passage?


And Pluto?

Just a fable.

Then we’re through—!

I’ve told the truth. But if the truth appalls,

an ox goes for a dime in Hades’ halls.




Heraclitus 1 (vii.465)


Ἁ κόνις ἀρτίσκαπτος, ἐπὶ στάλας δὲ μετώπων

σείονται φύλλων ἡμιθαλεῖς στέφανοι.

γράμμα διακρίναντες, ὁδοιπόρε, πέτρον ἴδωμεν,

λευρὰ περιστέλλειν ὀστέα φατὶ τίνος.

“ξεῖν’, Ἀρετημιάς εἰμι· πάτρα Κνίδος· Εὔφρονος ἦλθον

εἰς λέχος· ὠδίνων οὐκ ἄμορος γενόμαν,

δισσὰ δ’ ὁμοῦ τίκτουσα τό μὲν λίπον ἀνδρὶ ποδηγόν

γήρως, ὃν δ’ ἀπάγω μναμόσυνον πόσιος.”




Alcaeus 208

ἀσυν⟨    ν⟩έτημμι τὼν ἀνέμων στάσιν·
τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἔνθεν κῦμα κυλίνδεται,
τὸ δ’ ἔνθεν, ἄμμες δ’ ὂν τὸ μέσσον
νᾶι φορήμ⟨   μ⟩εθα σὺν μελαίνᾳ

χείμωνι μόχθεντες μεγάλῳ μάλα·
πὲρ μὲν γὰρ ἄντλος ἰστοπέδαν ἔχει,
λαῖφος δὲ πὰν ζάδηλον ἤδη,
καὶ λάκιδες μέγαλαι κὰτ αὖτο[.]




Sappho 96

       ]Σαρδ . [ . . ]
πόλ]λακι τυίδε [ν]ῶν ἔχοισα

ὠσπ . [ . . . ] . ώομεν, . [ . . . ] . . χ[ . . ]-
σε θέαι σ’ ἰκέλαν ἀρι-
γνώται, σᾶι δὲ μάλιστ’ ἔχαιρε μόλπαι.

νῦν δὲ Λύδαισιν ἐμπρέπεται γυναί-
κεσσιν ὤς ποτ’ ἀελίω
δύντος ἀ βροδοδάκτυλος σελάννα

πάντα περρέχοισ’ ἄστρα· φάος δ’ ἐπί-
σχει θάλασσαν ἐπ’ ἀλμύραν
ἴσως καὶ πολυανθέμοις ἀρούραις·

ἀ δ’ ἐέρσα κάλα κέχυται, τεθά-
λαισι δὲ βρόδα κἄπαλ’ ἄν-
θρυσκα καὶ μελίλωτος ἀνθεμώδης·

πόλλα δὲ ζαφοίταισ’, ἀγάνας ἐπι-
μνάσθεισ’ Ἄτθιδος ἰμέρῳ
λέπταν ποι φρένα κ[ᾶ]ρ[ι σᾶι] βόρηται·




Horace 1.37

Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero
pulsanda tellus, nunc Saliaribus
ornare pulvinar deorum
tempus erat dapibus, sodales.

Antehac nefas depromere Caecubum
cellis avitis, dum Capitolio
regina dementis ruinas
funus et imperio parabat

contaminato cum grege turpium
morbo virorum, quidlibet impotens
sperare fortunaque dulci
ebria. Sed minuit furorem

vix una sospes navis ab ignibus,
mentemque lymphatam Mareotico
redegit in veros timores
Caesar, ab Italia volantem

remis adurgens, accipiter velut
mollis columbas aut leporem citus
venator in campis nivalis
Haemoniae, daret ut catenis

fatale monstrum. Quae generosius
perire quaerens nec muliebriter
expavit ensem nec latentis
classe cita reparavit oras,

ausa et iacentem visere regiam
voltu sereno, fortis et asperas
tractare serpentes, ut atrum
corpore conbiberet venenum,

deliberata morte ferocior:
saevis Liburnis scilicet invidens
privata deduci superbo,
non humilis mulier, triumpho.

ausa et iacentem visere regiam
voltu sereno, fortis et asperas
tractare serpentes, ut atrum
corpore conbiberet venenum,

deliberata morte ferocior:
saevis Liburnis scilicet invidens
privata deduci superbo,
non humilis mulier, triumpho.




Callimachus Ep. 31 (vii.524)

—Ἦ ῥ’ ὑπὸ σοὶ Χαρίδας ἀναπαύεται;   Χ. Εἰ τὸν Ἀρίμμα

τοῦ Κυρηναίου παῖδα λέγεις, ὑπ’ ἐμοί.

—Ὦ Χαρίδα, τί τὰ νέρθε;   Χ. Πολὺ σκότος.   —Αἱ δ’ ἄνοδοι τί;

Χ. Ψεῦδος.   —Ὁ δὲ Πλούτων;   Χ. Μῦθος.   —Ἀπωλόμεθα.

Χ. Οὗτος ἐμὸς λόγος ὔμμιν ἀληθινός, εἰ δὲ τὸν ἡδύν

βούλει, Πελλαίου βοῦς μέγας εἰν Ἀίδῃ.



Christopher Childers has poems, essays, and translations published or forthcoming from Yale Review, Barrow Street, Agni, Parnassus, and elsewhere. He has been a finalist for the Ruth Lilly Fellowship and is currently working on a new translation of Greek and Latin Lyric Poetry from Archilochus to Martial, under contract with Penguin Classics. He is an MFA candidate in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University.

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