(Originally read as A Strange Race of Critters.)
Antiphanes, ancient Greece, 388-311 BCE.
A strange race of critics,
They perform autopsies on
The poetry of the dead.
They chew through thorns.
No poet’s too dull
For them to elucidate, these who defile
The bones of the great.
Callimachus attacked them like a dog.
Out! Into the long darkness.
Perpetual beginner, little gnat—
It is a poet you distract.
Full title: Theris, the old man who lived by his fish traps.
By Leonidas of Tarentum, somewhere in Greece, circa 300 BCE.
Theris, the old man who lived by his fish traps
And nets, more at home on the sea than a gull,
The terror of fishes, the net hauler, the prober
Of sea caves, who never sailed on a many-oared ship
Died in spite of Arcturus. No storm shipwrecked
His many decades. He died in his reed hut,
And went out by himself like a lamp at the
End of his years. No wife or child set up this
Tomb, but his fishermen’s union.
By Archilochus, circa 650 BCE. Remember, kids: brevity is the lifeblood of communication.
Fox knows many,
(Sorry for no Music Monday yesterday, but I spent the evening listening to the bandleader/pianist of Cirque du Soleil Corteo, as well as the show’s whistler—he’s amazing!—and one of the most beautiful/powerful voices I’ve ever heard. I even sang a duet from Phantom of the Opera; had no idea I knew the words!)
But on with our regularly scheduled show.
This little ditty is by Theocritus, somewhere in Greece, circa 300 BCE. Quite literally the definition of “classic snark.”
The poet Hipponax lies here.
In justice, this is only fair.
His lines were never dark or deep.
Now he enjoys—like his readers—sleep.
By Tymnes, somewhere in Greece, circa 300 BCE.
He came from Malta; and Eumelus says
He had no better dog in all his days,
He called him Bull; he went into the dark,
Along those roads we cannot hear him bark.
From the one and only Plato; there’s nothing platonic about this!
You were the morning star among the living;
But now in death your evening lights the dead.
By Euenos, somewhere in Greece (most likely), about 2000 years ago.
Relish honey. If you please
Regale yourself on Attic bees.
But spare, O airy chatterer,
Spare the chattering grasshopper!
Winging, spare his gilded wings,
Chatterer, his chatterings.
Summer’s child, do not molest
Him the summer’s humblest guest.
Snatch not for your hungry young
One who like yourself has sung–
For it is neither just nor fit
That poets should each other eat.
Martial, aka Marcus Valerius Martialis, lived around the time when the calendar clicked over to AD. Therefore, I’m calling him the world’s first satirist.
You’ve planted seven wealthy husbands
While the bodies were still warm.
You own, Chloe, what I’d call
A profit-making farm.
By Antipater of Thessalonica, somewhere around the turn of the letters (from B.C. to the more current one).
I’ve never feared the setting of the Pleiades
or the hidden reefs beneath the waves
or even the lightning at sea
like I dread friends who drink with me
and remember what we say.
By the one and only Aristophanes of Byzantium, 257-180 BCE.
On the advice of Praxilla,
we are asked to look
under every stone
for a hiding scorpion.
The proverb sounds all right.
But, turning stones,
poets also bite.