Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

To the Critics

Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

To the Critics

Article excerpt

Translator's Note: The crowning achievement of Callimachus (c. 305-240 BC) was the Origins, an elegiac poem in four books. Unfortunately, it doesn't survive in a direct manuscript tradition, but only in papyrus finds that are fraught with gaps. In the fragment below (which in fact led off the poem), the gaps-filled by scholarly conjecture-are indicated by brackets.

You're [always] croaking at my music's strains,

Telchines,* cretins whom the Muse disdains,

since I've made no uninterrupted song

of kings or heroes, thousands of lines long,

but speak in little spurts, as children do,

although the decades I've survived aren't few.

[Hear] this, Telchines: "Tribe [both dull and vile,]

trained just to simmer in your vicious bile:

[I] write short poems-[so what?] The tender stalk

Demeter bears outweighs the mighty [ Oak,]

and of Mimnermus' volumes, it's the Fine,

not the Fat Woman, proves his verse divine.

Let cranes fly far, from Egypt up to Thrace,

to wage their war against the Pygmy race;

from far away let Scythian arrows fall

upon the Mede; but poems are sweeter small.

Damned cross-eyed yokels! Measure my success

not by the Persian chain, but artfulness.

I can't bear thunder in my poetry-

don't seek it there! It's Zeus who booms, not me."

For, soon as I first took up pen in hand,

Lycian Apollo uttered this command;

[he said, "My friend,] a bard's nurture should render

his sacrifices fat, but his Muse slender. …

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