Archilochus (Weekly Poem 5)

Archilochus is the third Greek poet, after Homer and Hesiod. He lived c. 680-640 on Paros, then Thasos, then Paros again, and was a soldier poet. We only have fragments, including the long and recently discovered Cologne Epode. He’s kind of an interesting guy, and if you know Greek, you should read him, there are bits in Campbell’s Greek Lyric Poetry. Most of you don’t know Greek, so you are at a disadvantage, but I encourage you to read him in English. He is much shorter than Homer or Hesiod or Plato or Vergil or anyone else I tend to recommend, and you could read a goodly portion, if not all, in a night. Lurking in the stacks at the Robarts Library at U of T, I found two different guys who have translated him, Ayrton and Davenport, and there’s always, of course, the Loeb Classical Library. I know I’m breaking my rule about not posting about the poems, but I haven’t told you much except that you should read Archilochus, and I was afraid that this stuff would make no sense otherwise. Here is some of his stuff:

Fragment 5A [the titles are riveting]

But come, with a cup through the rowing benches of the swift ship
wander, and draw off a draught from the hollow jars,
then seize the red wine from the dregs; for we
cannot be sober on this watch.


One of the Samians will rejoice in a shield which, in a bush,
I left behind, not wanting the blameless weapon–
but I saved myself. What care is that shield to me?
Let it perish. I shall again acquire one not lesser.

18 [this one is about Thasos]

This is as the spine of an ass
standing there, crowned with wild wood.


Glaucus, look: for the deep sea is now troubled with swells,
and an upright cloud is settled on the heights of Gyrai,
a token of a storm; fear overtakes suddenly.


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