translation copyright 1995 Guy Davenport; all rights reserved
republished from 7 Greeks (New Directions, 1995) with permission
Back away from that, [she said]
And steady on [ ]
Wayward and wildly pounding heart,
There is a girl who lives among us
Who watches you with foolish eyes,
A slender, lovely, graceful girl,
Just budding into supple line,
And you scare her and make her shy.
O daughter of the highborn Amphimedo,
I replied, of the widely remembered
Amphimedo now in the rich earth dead,
There are, do you know, so many pleasures
For young men to choose from
Among the skills of the delicious goddess
It’s green to think the holy one’s the only.
When the shadows go black and quiet,
Let us, you and I alone, and the gods,
Sort these matters out. Fear nothing:
I shall be tame, I shall behave
And reach, if I reach, with a civil hand.
I shall climb the wall and come to the gate.
You’ll not say no, Sweetheart, to this?
I shall come no farther than the garden grass.
Neobulé I have forgotten, believe me, do.
Any man who wants her may have her.
Aiai! She’s past her day, ripening rotten.
The petals of her flower are all brown.
The grace that first she had is shot.
Don’t you agree that she looks like a boy?
A woman like that would drive a man crazy.
She should get herself a job as a scarecrow.
I’d as soon hump her as [kiss a goat’s butt].
A source of joy I’d be to the neighbors
With such a woman as her for a wife!
How could I ever prefer her to you?
You, O innocent, true heart and bold.
Each of her faces is as sharp as the other,
Which way she’s turning you never can guess.
She’d whelp like the proverb’s luckless bitch
Were I to foster get upon her, throwing
Them blind, and all on the wrongest day.
I said no more, but took her hand,
Laid her down in a thousand flowers,
And put my soft wool cloak around her.
I slid my arm under her neck
To still the fear in her eyes,
For she was trembling like a fawn,
Touched her hot breasts with light fingers,
Spraddled her neatly and pressed
Against her fine, hard, bared crotch.
I caressed the beauty of all her body
And came in a sudden white spurt
While I was stroking her hair.
Note (from 7 Greeks p. 231): [S 478 Archilochos P. Colon. 7511 saec. ii p.C. prim. Ed. R. Merkelbach and M.L. West, ZPE 1974] Composed around 650 B.C., discovered by Anton Fackelmann on papyrus used for mummy wrapping. There have been many essays on this new fragment (or poem entire), and much pedantic argument as to what’s going on in it. I think it is a comic ode about a biological jumping the gun that transposes an erotically comic poem into a wholly comic one. Its humor is still native to barracks. See Peter Green, The Times Literary Supplement, 14 March 1975, p. 272, and H.D. Rankin, Archilochus of Paros (Noyes Classical Studies, 1977), pp. 57-73, and my “Archilochos: Fireworks on the Grass,” The Hudson Review XXVIII, 3: 352-356.
Read Guy Davenport’s Introduction to Archilochos
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