Puerilities: Erotic Epigrams of The Greek Anthology

Puerilities: Erotic Epigrams of The Greek Anthology

Puerilities: Erotic Epigrams of The Greek Anthology

Puerilities: Erotic Epigrams of The Greek Anthology

Synopsis

"Daryl Hine's translations from "The Greek Anthology" are the liveliest, frequently loveliest, and certainly the most libidinous versions of these celebrated texts that I've ever seen. I know from years of teaching that American students, even of the Classics, are quite vague about what The Greek Anthology was really like--particularly the salacious aspect of those poems. Hine alone gives a fair (or is that foul) sample."--Richard Howard, Columbia University

Excerpt

The twelfth book of The Greek Anthology compiled at the court of Hadrian in the second century A.D. by a poetaster Straton, who like most anthologists included an immodest number of his own poems, is itself a part of a larger collection of short poems dating from the dawn of Greek lyric poetry (Alcaeus) down to its last florescence, which survived two Byzantine recensions to end up in a single manuscript in the library of the Count Palatine in Heidelberg—hence its alternative title, The Palatine Anthology, usually abbreviated to Anth. Pal. This particular, indeed special, collection contained in Book xii subtitled The Musa Paedika or Musa Puerilis, alternately from the Greek word for a child of either sex— and girls are not wholly absent from these pages—or the Latin for “boy,” consists of 258 epigrams on various aspects of Boy Love or, to recur to the Greek root, paederasty. Some of these poems are by the greatest poets of the Greek language, such as Alcaeus and Callimachus; many are by less well known but nonetheless polished writers, such as Meleager, Asclepiades, Rhianus, and Strato himself; many, these not the least worthy, are anonymous. Their tone varies from the lighthearted and bawdy to the grave and resigned. the overall effect is one of witty wistfulness rather than rampant, reciprocated lust, of longing—what the Greeks called pothos— rather than satisfaction, and also of regret. As happy, let alone domestic, love has occasioned very little poetry at any time, as passion almost always sounds a plaintive note—here at least seldom rising into the desperate wail we hear, for example in Catullus— we might well seek an explanation in the nature of desire itself, on the Platonic model envisaging a forever unattainable, divine object, of which all earthly affection is merely a mirror, however . . .

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