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Archilochus – Be bold!

March 23, 2014

A translation by Guy Davenport from the 1964 collection Carmina Archilochi: The Fragments of Archilochus. This is #43.

Be bold! That’s one way
Of getting through life.
So I turn upon her
And point out that,
Faced with the wickedness
Of things, she does not shiver.
I prefer to have, after all,
Only what pleases me.
Are you so deep in misery
That you think me fallen?
You say I’m lazy; I’m not,
Nor any of my kin-people.
I know how to love those
Who love me, how to hate.
My enemies I overwhelm
With abuse. The ant bites!
The oracle said to me:
‘Return to the city, reconquer.
It is almost in ruins.
With your spear give it glory.
Reign with absolute power,
The admiration of men.
After this long voyage,
Return to us from Gortyne.’
Pasture, fish, nor vulture
Were you, and I, returned,
Seek an honest woman
Ready to be a good wife.
I would hold your hand,
Would be near you, would have run
All the way to your house.
I cannot. The ship went down,
And all my wealth with it.
The salvagers have no hope.
You whom the soldiers beat,
You who are all but dead,
How the gods love you!
And I, alone in the dark,
I was promised the light.

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