ELEGIES AT MYTILENE
<Eumorphote’rha Mnasidi’ka ta^s hapala^s Gyrhinn_o^s.>
(Mnasidica is far more beautiful than the gentle Gyrrhino”)
47 – TO THE SHIP
Beautiful ship which brought me here, all along
the coast of Ionia, I abandon you to the shining
waves and with light feet jump onto the beach.
You will return to the land where the virgin is
the friend of the nymphs. Don’t forget to thank
the invisible counsellors, and take them
in offering this branch cut by my own hands.
You, made of pine, and on the mountains, the vast
inflamed Southern Wind stirred your spiny branches,
your squirrels and your birds.
The North Wind now guides you, and
pushes you gently towards the port, black prow
escorted by dolphins by the will of the benevolent sea.
48 — PSAPPHO
I rubbed my eyes… It was already day,
I thought. Ah! Who is near me…? A
woman…? By Paphia, I had forgotten…
Oh! Charity! I am so ashamed…
Into which country have I come, and what is
this isle where one hears so much about love?
If I were not so weary, I would have believed it was
some dream… Is it possible that this is Psappha?
She is sleeping… She is certainly beautiful,
although her hair was cut short like that of
an athlete. But this strange face, this
mannish chest and narrow hips…
I want to leave before she wakes.
Alas! I am beside the wall. I must
jump over her. I’m afraid of grazing her hip and
that she will not take me back to the thoroughfare.
49 – THE DANCE OF GLOTTIS AND KYSE
Two little girls brought me to their home,
and as the door was closed, they
lit the wick of a lamp and
wanted to dance for me.
Their cheeks were not made-up, and
as brown as their little tummies. They
pulled each other by the arms and spoke at
the same time, in an agony of gaiety.
Sitting on their mattress which was born by two
raised trestles, Glottis sang in a sharp
voice and clapped her resonant little hands in time.
Kyse danced by jerks, then stopping,
out of breath from laughing, and, taking her sister
by the breasts, bit her shoulder and
turned her round, like a goat which wants to play.
50 – ADVICE
Then Syllikhmas came in, and seeing us
so familiar, she sat down on the bench.
she took Glottis on one knee, Kyse on
the other and she said:
“Come here little one.” But I stayed distant.
She said again: “Are you scared of us?
Come on… these children love you. They
could teach you something you don’t know: the
honey of a woman’s caresses.
“A man is violent and parasitic. You
know that, undoubtedly. Hate them. They have
flat chests, rough skin, short hair and hairy arms.
but women are completely beautiful.
“Women alone know how to love; stay with
us, Bilitis, stay. And if you have an ardent
soul, you will see your beauty as in a
mirror on the body of your lovers.”
51 – UNCERTAINTY
Between Glottis or of Kyse I don’t know which
I would marry. As they do not resemble each
other, the one could not console me for the other
and I’m afraid of making the wrong choice.
Each of them has one of my hands,
and one of my breasts also. But to who*91
should I give my mouth? To whom should I give
my heart and all that with which I am unable to part?
We could not stay like this, all
three in the same house. They would talk about us
in Mytilene. Yesterday, in front of the temple of Ares,
a woman didn’t say “Hello!”
It’s Glottis that I prefer; but I
cannot reject Kyse. What will become of her
all alone? Should I leave them together as
they were and take another friend for myself?
52 – THE MEETING
I found her like a treasure, in a
field, under a myrtle bush, enveloped
from throat to feet in a yellow robe
embroidered with blue.
“I have no friends,” she said to me, “Because the
nearest town is five miles from
Here. I live alone with my mother who is
old and always sad. If you want, I’ll follow you.
“I will follow you to your house, leaving her on
the other side of the isle and I will live with you
until you send me back. Your hand is
tender, your eyes are blue.
“Let’s go. I’m taking nothing with me, but
the little Aphrodite which is hanging around my
neck. We will put her next to yours,
and we will give them roses in
payment for each night.”
53 – THE LITTLE APHRODITE OF BAKED EARTH
The little guardian Aphrodite which protected
Mnasidika was modelled on Camiros by a potter
of great skill. It is as big as my thumb,
and of fine yellow earth.
Her hair falls all around
her narrow shoulders. Her eyes are
long slits, and her mouth is very
small, because she is the “Ever-Beautiful.”
With her right hand she indicates her divinity,
which is riddled with little holes on the
lower belly and along the groin. Because she
is the “Very Amorous”.
In her left hand she holds her round
heavy breasts. Between her broadened hips
swells a fertile belly. Because
she is the “Mother-Of-All-Things”.
54 – DESIRE
She entered, and passionately, her eyes
half-closed, she united her lips with
mine and our tongues entwined…
Never in my life have I ever had a kiss
She was standing up against me, all in
love and consenting. One of my knees,
bit by bit, climbed between her warm thighs
which yielded as if for a lover.
My creeping hand under her tunic searched
to divine her unclothed body, which turn and turn
about sinuously writhed, or stiffly bent
with the trembling of her skin.
With the eyes of delirium she indicated her bed;
but we did not have the right to love before the
wedding ceremony and we separated brusquely.
55 — THE WEDDING
In the morning, we made a wedding repast, in the
house of Acalanthis whom she had adopted
as a mother. Mnasidika wore the white veil
and I a man’s tunic.
And then, in the midst of twenty women, she
took off her festal robe. We perfumed it with
Bakkaris; powdered it with golden powder,
and removed her jewels.
In her bedroom, full of foliage, she
waited for me like a wife. And I
placed her on a chariot between me and the
nymphs’ shrine and we cheered all who passed by.
We sang the Nuptial Song; The flutes
were also played. With one arm
round her shoulders and the other under her knees,
I carried Mnasidika across the rose-covered threshold.
56 – THE BED (not translated)
57 – SURVIVORS OF THE PAST
I left the bed as she had left it,
unmade and rumpled, the sheets tangled, so that
the shape of her body stayed imprinted beside mine.
Until tomorrow I shall not go to the baths, I shall
not wear clothes and I shall not
comb my hair, for fear of rubbing away her kisses.
This morning, I shall not eat, nor this evening,
and on my lips I will put neither rouge nor
powder, so that her kisses will remain.
I shall leave the shutters closed and I shall not open
the door, for fear that the memory which remained
might blow away on the wind.
58 – METAMORPHOSIS
Once I was a lover of the beauty of
young men, and the memory of their
speech, of old, would wake me up.
I remember having engraved a name in
the bark of a plane tree. I remember
having left a piece of my tunic in
a path where someone passes by.
I remember having loved you… Oh Pannychis,
my child, in whose hands have I left you?
How, oh unhappy me, could I have abandoned you?
Today, Mnasidika alone, and for
always, possesses me. She receives in
sacrifice the happiness of those whom I have left
59 – THE NAMELESS TOMB
Mnasidika took me by the hand to
lead me out of the gates of the town, up to a
little meadow where there was a column of
marble. And she said,
“This was my mother’s friend.”
Then I felt a great shudder, and without
letting go of her hand, I leant
on her shoulder, so as to read the four verses
between the hollow cup and the serpent:
“It was not Death who kidnapped me, but
the Nymphs of the streams. I rest here
under an earth lightened by a ‘hairstyle’
cut by Xantho. Let her alone cry for me.
I will not tell my name.
For a long time we remained standing there, and we
put no verse to the libation. Because what
does one call an unknown soul who has entered the multitudes
60 – THE THREE BEAUTIES OF MNASIDIKA
I sacrificed two male hares and two doves
so that Mnasidika will be protected by the gods.
And I sacrificed to Ares two cocks armed
for the fray, and to the sinister Hecate two
dogs who howled under the knife.
And it is not without reason that I have implored
these three Immortals, because Mnasidika wears on
her face the reflection of their triple divinity:
Her lips are red as copper, her
hair is blue-tinged like iron, and her eyes are
black, like silver.
61 – THE LAIR OF THE NYMPHS
Your feet are more delicate than those of
Thetis of the Silver Hair.
Between your crossed arms you
reunite your breasts, and you gently rock them to sleep
like the bodies of two beautiful doves.
Under your hair you conceal your moist
eyes, your trembling mouth and the red
flowers of your ears; but nothing will stop
my look nor the hot breath of your embrace.
Because, in the secret of your body, it is you,
beloved Mnasidika, who conceal the lair of the
nymphs of whom Old Homer spoke, the place
where the nyads weave their cloths of purple,
The place where flow, spout by spout,
inexhaustible springs, and from where the door to
the North allows men to descend and where the
door to the South allows the Immortals entry.
62 – THE BREASTS OF MNASIDIKA
With care, she opened my tunic with one hand
and held my warm, soft breasts; thus
one offers to the goddess a pair of
“Love them well,” she tells me; “I love them
so much! They are darlings, little
children. I busy myself with them when I’m
alone. I play with them; I give them pleasure.
“I wash them with milk. I powder them
with flowers. My fine hair which dries them
is dear down to its little roots. Trembling,
I kiss them. I put them to bed in wool.
“So I shall never have children, to
keep them well-nourished, my love; and, seeing that
they are so far from my mouth, give them lots of
kisses from me.”
63 – CONTEMPLATION (not translated)
64 – THE DOLL
I gave her a doll. A doll made of
wax with pink cheeks. Her arms were attached
by little pins and one could bend her legs.
When we were together she put it to bed
between us and it was our child. In the evening
she rocked it and gave it her breast
before putting it to sleep.
She wove it three little tunics, and
we gave it jewels on Aphrodite’s Day;
jewels and flowers, too.
She cares for her virtue and never lets her
go out without her; not in the sun, above all, because
the little doll was moulded from little pieces of wax.
65 – TENDERNESS
Softly enclose your arms, like a girdle,
around me. Oh touch, Oh touch my skin like this!
neither water nor the midday breeze are as
sweet as your hand.
Today, my darling, little sister, it is
your turn. Remember the tenderness
I taught you last night, and come near to me,
Who is wearily kneeling to you without speaking.
Your lips descend onto my lips. All
Your hair, undone, follows them, as an
Embrace follows a kiss. It slides over my
Left breast; hiding your eyes from me.
Give me your hand. It’s so warm!
Entwine it in mine, and don’t take it away.
Hands unite better than lips, and their
Passion is equal to nothing.
66 – GAMES
More than her all her balls or her doll, I am
for her a toy. All the parts of
my body she plays with like a child,
for long hours, without speaking.
She undid my hair and redid it according
to her whim, presently knotted under the chin
like a stuffed cushion, or twisted into
coils or plaited to the ends.
She looks with astonishment at the colour
of my eyelashes, the creases of my throat. Sometimes
she makes me get down on my knees to pose with my
hands on the sheets;
Then (and it is one of those days) she slides
her little head underneath and imitates the
trembling kid suckling at the belly
of its mother.
67 – EPISODE (not translated)
68 – PENUMBRA
Under the transparent woollen sheet we
slid, she and I. Even our heads
were snuggled down, and the lamp lit
the stuffing underneath us.
Thus I saw her darling body under a
mysterious light. We were nearer to
each other, and free, and intimate, and
naked. “In the same shirt,” she said.
We remained thus hooded to be even more
uncovered, and in the thin air of the
bed, the odours of two women grew, a stew
of two natural aromas.
Nothing of the world, not even the lamp, saw
us that night. Whether or not we made
love, she and I alone could say.
But the men will know nothing.
69 – THE SLEEPER
She sleeps with her undone hair, her hands
entwined behind her neck. Is she dreaming? Her
mouth is open; she breathes softly.
With something of the white swan’s grace, I wiped,
without waking her, the sweat from her arms, the
fever from her cheeks. Her closed eyelids
are two blue flowers.
Ever so softly I rise; I will have
to draw water, milk the cow and ask for
some fire from the neighbours. I want my hair curled,
and to be dressed when she opens her eyes.
Sleep, stay a while longer between her
beautifully-curved eyelashes and let her night continue
happily with a dream of good omen.
70 – THE KISS
I shall kiss the long black sails of your neck
from one end to the other , oh sweet bird,
captured dove, whose heart leaps under my hand.
I shall take her mouth in my mouth
as a child takes the breast of its mother.
Shudder! … Because the kiss penetrates
deeply, permissive to love.
I shall promenade my lips like fire on
your arms, and around your neck, and I shall make you
turn onto your ticklish side with the
dragging caress of my fingernails.
Listen to me whisper in your ear: all the rumours
of the sea… Mnasidika! Your look
teases me. I shall close your frail
and smokey eyelids with my kiss.
71 – THE PAINS OF JEALOUSY
You must not have your hair styled, for fear
a too-hot iron may burn your neck or your
hair. Leave it on your shoulders and
spreading along the length of your arm.
You must not get dressed, for fear
that a girdle might make sharp red
crease-marks on your hips.
Stay naked like a little girl.
You must not even get up, for fear
that your delicate feet may be hurt by
walking. You shall rest in bed, O victim
Of Eros, and I shall dress your poor sores.
It is because I don’t want to see on your body any other
Marks, Mnasidika, but the mark of a kiss held
Too long, the scratch of a slender nail,
Or the purpled band of my embrace.
72 – THE BEWILDERED CARESS
Love me, not with smiles, with flutes
or with cut flowers, but with your
heart and your tears, as I love you with my
breasts and with my groans.
When your breasts alternate with my breasts,
when I feel your life against my life, when
your knees stand erect behind me, then
my breathless mouth will not know even
how to find yours.
Train me as I train you! See, the
lamp is nearly dead, we are rolling in the
night; but I press your smoking body and I
hear your perpetual plea…
Moan! moan! moan! O woman! Eros
trains us in sadness. You shall suffer
less on this bed to bring a child into this
world than to lie in it with your love.
73 – REPRISE (not translated)
74 — THE HEART
Breathless, I took her hand and I
firmly pressed it under the moist skin of
my left breast. And I turned my head here
and there and I moved my lips without speaking.
My panic-stricken heart, abrupt and hard, was beating
and beating in my chest, like a bruised and
imprisoned satyr knocks, looking for a way out.
She said to me, “Your heart is hurting you…”
“Oh, Mnasidika,” I replied, the heart of
women is not there. This is a poor
bird, a dove who is beating her feeble
wings. The heart of a woman is more terrible.
“Similarly to a little bay of myrtle,
it burns with a red flame and under an
abundant sap. It is there where I feel
bitten by the voraciousness of Aphrodite.”
75 – WORDS IN THE NIGHT
We rest, with eyes closed; the silence
is great around our bed. Ineffable
nights of summer! But she, thinking
I was asleep, placed her warm hand on my arm.
She murmured, “Bilitis, are you sleeping?” My heart
beat faster, but without answering, I breathed
regularly like a sleeping woman in her
dreams. Then she began to speak:
“So that you will not hear me,” she said,
“Ah, how I love you!” And she repeated my name.
“Bilitis… Bilitis…” And she lightly touched me with
the tip of her trembling fingers:
“It is mine, this mouth! Mine alone!
Is there a more beautiful one in the world? Ah!
My happiness, my happiness! It is mine
This naked arm, this neck and this hair…”
76 – THE ABSENCE
She has left, she is far away, but I see
her, because everything is full of her in this bedroom,
everything is hers, and I am like the rest.
This bed is still warm where I let my mouth
stray, it is pressed down in the form of her body.
In this soft cushion slept her little head
enveloped in hair.
This basin is the one in which she washed; this
comb has penetrated the knots of her tangled
hair. These slippers held her naked
feet. These pockets of gauze contained her breasts.
But what I dare not even touch with my finger, is
this mirror where she saw her hot bruises, and where still lives
perhaps, the reflection of her moistened lips.
77 – LOVE
Alas, if I think of her, my throat dries up,
my head spins, my breasts harden and
hurt me, I shudder and I cry while walking.
If I see her, my heart stops, my hands
tremble, my feet slip, the redness
of a fire climbs to my cheeks, my temples throb painfully.
If I touch her, I become foolish, my arms
stiffen; my knees fail me. I fall
in front of her, and I lie there like a
woman about to die.
For all that she said to me I feel wounded.
Her love is a torture and the passers-by
hear my pleas… Alas! How
can I call her my Beloved?
78 – PURIFICATION
There you are! Get rid of your little bands, and your
fasteners and your tunic. Rid yourself of everything down to
your sandals, to the ribbons on your legs,
to the band at your breast.
Wash the black from your eyelashes, and the rouge from
your lips. Rub away the white from your shoulders
and straighten your hair with water.
Because I want to have you completely pure, so that you are
naked on the bed, at the feet of your fertile mother
and in front of your glorious father,
So chaste that my hand in your hand makes you
blush from head to toe and that one word from me
in your ear will distract your straying eyes.
79 – MNASIDIKA’S NURSEMAID
My little child, I have so few years
left with you, I love you, no, not
like a lover, but as if you had
come from my own painfully labouring entrails.
When I stretch out on my knees, your two
frail arms around me, your mouth straining,
you search my breast and my teats slowly slip
between your palpitating lips.
Then I dream of other times, I really suckled
that sensitive mouth, supple and
clean, the vase of purple-coloured myrrh
in which the happiness of Bilitis is mysteriously
Sleep. I will rock you with one hand on my
knee which gently rocks your cradle up and down. Sleep then.
I shall sing for you some sad little
songs which send the newborn to sleep…
80 – A WALK ALONG THE SEASHORE
As we were walking along the beach, without
speaking, and enveloped up to the chin
in our robes of sombre wool, some happy young
girls passed by.
“Ah! It is Bilitis and Mnasidika! See
the beautiful little squirrel that we caught:
it’s as soft as a bird and frightened as a rabbit.
“At Lydia’s house we will put it in a cage and we
will give it lots of milk with some
leaves of lettuce. It’s a female, she
will live a long time.”
And the fools ran on. For
us, without speaking we sat,
me on a rock, she on the sand, and we
watched the sea.
81 – THE OBJECT
“Hello, Bilitis, Mnasidika, hello.”
“Sit down. how is your husband?”
“Too good. Don’t tell
him you’ve seen me. He will kill me if he
knows I’m here.”
“Don’t be scared.”
“And that is your bedroom? And there is your
bed? Forgive me. I am curious.”
“You know however, Myrrhine’s bed.”
“Yes, a bit.”
“One would say pretty.”
“And lascivious, O my
dear! But we must be quiet.”
“What do you want of me?”
“What do you want to borrow?”
“I dare not name the object.”
“We don’t have any.”
“Mnasidika is a virgin.”
“Well, where can one buy it?”
“At the house of the shoemaker, Drakhon.”
“Tell me also: Who sold you your embroidery thread?
Mine was broken when I looked at it.”
“I made it myself, but Nais sells excellent thread.”
“At what price? Three obols.”
“That’s dear. And the object?”
82 — AN EVENING BY THE FIRE
Winter was hard, Mnasidika. Everything is cold
outside our bed. Get up, in the meantime, come
with me, because I have lit a big fire with
dead stumps and split wood.
We warm ourselves squatting on our heels, all
naked, our hair on our backs, and we drink milk
from the same cup and we eat millet cakes.
How loud and gay the flames are! Aren’t you too close?
Your skin is turning red.
Let me kiss everywhere the flame has burned.
In the midst of the burning firebrands I am going to heat
the iron and style your hair. With the dead coals
I shall write your name on the wall.
83 – PRAYERS
“What do you want?” said he. “If I must, I
would sell my last jewels for just one
attentive slave to watch for desire in your
eyes, the least thirst of your lips.
“If the milk of our goats seems insipid to you, I
will rent some for you, as for a child; a
wet-nurse with swollen breasts which each
morning you will milk.
“If our bed seems rough, I shall buy all
the soft cushions, all the silken
covers, all the sheets, furry with feathers from
the Amathusian merchants.
“All! But that must suffice, and if
we should sleep on the earth, the earth
must be softer to you than the warm bed
of a stranger.”
84 – THE EYES
Large eyes of Mnasidika, how
happy you make me when love darkens
your eyelids and animates you and you sink
under the tears;
But how foolish, when you
turn elsewhere, distracted by a woman
passing by, or by a memory which is not
Then my cheeks become hollow, my hands
tremble and I suffer, it seems to me
all over; before you my life is gone.
Large eyes of Mnasidika, don’t stop
looking at me! Or I shall poke holes in you with my
needle and you will see nothing more
but terrible night.
85 — MAKE-UP
Everything, and my life, and the world, and men,
everything which is not her is nothing.
everything which is not her, I give to you,
Does she know how much work I put into
being beautiful in her eyes, with my hairstyle and with
my make-up, with my dresses and my perfumes.
I would spend as much time turning a millstone, I
would row the oars of a ship or I would dig the
earth, if it could keep this prize here.
But all done so that she never learns about it,
goddesses who live above us! The day
she knows that I love her she will look for
86 — THE SILENCE OF MNASIDIKA
She laughed all day long, and she was even
a little mocking of me.
She refused to obey me, in front of several foreign
When we had gone home, I pretended
I wasn’t speaking to her, and how she threw
Herself on my neck, saying: “You’re angry?”
I said to her,
“Ah! You are not how you were, you are not
still like you were that first day. I no longer
recognize you, Mnasidika.” She made no
But she put on all her jewels which she hadn’t
Worn for a long time, and the same
Yellow dress embroidered with blue as the day of
87 — SCENE
“Where were you?”
“At the flower-sellers’.
I bought some beautiful Irises. Here you are,
I brought them for you.”
“How long did it take you
to buy four flowers?”
“The merchant kept me back.”
“You have pale cheeks and your eyes are
“It’s fatigue from the road.”
“Your hair is moist and tangled.”
“It’s the heat and the wind
which have messed up my hair.”
“Someone has undone your girdle. I tied the
knot myself; looser than this one.”
“So loose that it came undone; a passing
slave re-did it for me.”
“There is something on your dress.”
“It’s the water which has fallen from the flowers.”
“Mnasidika, my little soul, your Irises are the most beautiful in all
“I know it well, I know it well.”
88 — WAITING
The sun has spent the whole night with the
dead since I’ve been waiting for you, sitting on my
bed, weary from my vigil. The wick of the lamp
has nearly burnt down to the end.
She hasn’t come home yet: here is the last
star. I know well that she won’t come home.
I know even the name which I hate. And meanwhile
I still wait.
Now she’s coming! Yes, she
comes, her hair undone and without roses,
her robe soiled, stained, rumpled, her tongue
dry and her eyelids black.
As soon as she opened the door, I said to her…
“But here she is… This is her dress which I’m touching,
her hands, her hair, her skin.”
I kiss a mouth, lost to me, and I cry.
89 — LONELINESS
For whom now shall I paint my lips?
For whom shall I polish my fingernails? For whom
Shall I perfume my hair?
For whom are my breasts powdered with rouge, if they
must no longer tempt her? For whom are my arms
washed with milk if they must no longer
How can I sleep? How
can I go to bed? This evening my hand,
in all my bed, did not find your warm hand.
I dare no longer return home, in the
bedroom, horribly empty. I dare no longer
open the door. I dare not even open my eyes.
90 — LETTER
It’s impossible, impossible. I beg
you on my knees, with tears, all the
tears that I have cried over this horrible
letter, do not abandon me like this.
Can you dream how horrible it is to lose you again
for the second time, after having
had the immense joy of hoping to win you back.
Ah! My love! Do you not feel how much I love you!
Listen to me. Consent to see me one
more time. Would you like, tomorrow, to lie
in the sun, in front of your door? Tomorrow or the next
day. I shall come to fetch you. Do not refuse me this.
This may be the last time perhaps, but just this one
more time, just this once more! I ask
you, I cry out to you, and dream that on your
answer depends the whole of the rest of my life.
91 — THE TENTATIVE ONE
You were jealous of us, Gyrinno, you
too-ardent girl. Such bouquets
you have suspended from the mantle of our door! You
were waiting for us in the passage and you followed us
in the street.
Now you are as you wished, held
in the beloved place, and with your head on the cushion
where floats another woman’s scent. You are
larger than she was. Your
different body astonishes me.
Look, I finally give in. Yes, it is
me. You can play with my breasts, caress
my hips, open my knees. My body
entirely I surrender to your
untiring lips, — Alas!
Ah! Gyrinno! With love my tears are also
overflowing! Wipe them away with your hair,
do not kiss them, my darling; and hold me even
Closer to master my trembling.
92 — EFFORT
Again! Enough of sighs and of reaching arms!
Begin again! Do you think then, that love
is a relaxation? Gyrinno, it is a
task, and of all tasks it is the toughest.
Wake up! You must not sleep.
What matters it, your blue eyelids and
the bar of sorrow which burns your
meagre legs. Astarte boils in my loins.
We were lying together before the twilight.
Here already is hurtful daybreak; but I
am not weary for so little. I shall not sleep
before the following evening.
I shall not sleep: you must not
Sleep. Oh! How bitter is the savour of
the morning! Gyrinno, appreciate that. Embraces
are more difficult… stranger and slower.
93 — MYRRHINE (not translated)
94 — TO GYRINNO
Don’t think I loved you. I ate
you like a ripe fig, I drank you
like a burning water, I wore you around
me like a girdle of skin.
I am amused by your body, because
you have short hair and pointy breasts
above a meagre body, and black nipples
like two little dates.
As one needs water and fruit, a
woman is also necessary, but already I no
longer know your name, you who have passed through my
arms like the shadow of another adored one.
Between your flesh and mine, a burning dream
possessed me. I shall press you onto me as
onto a wound and I shall cry: Mnasidika!
95 — THE FINAL ATTEMPT
“What do you want, old woman?”
“To console you.”
“It is lost sorrow.”
“Someone told me that since your
break-up, you would go from love to love
finding neither forgetfulness nor peace. I come to
“She is a young slave born in
Sardis. She has no equal in the world,
because she is at the same time man and woman, even
though her chest and her long hair and her clear
voice create the illusion.
“Her age? Sixteen years.”
“Tall. She didn’t know anyone here, apart from Psappha
who is lost in love and wanted me to buy her for twenty minas.
If you hire her, she is yours.”
And what could I do?
For twenty-two nights I have tried in vain
to escape into memory…
“Well and good, I shall take
this one again, but warn the poor
little thing, that she is not to be afraid at all if I
sob in her arms.”
96 — THE HEART-RENDING MEMORY
I remember… (at what time of day do
I not have her in front of my eyes?) I remember
the way she put up her hair
with her feeble fingers, so pale.
I remember a night she spent here,
her cheek lay on my breast, so gently, that
happiness woke me up, and the next day she
had on her face the little round mark of my nipple.
I saw her holding her cup of milk and looking
sideways at me with a smile. I saw
her, powdered and coiffed, opening her large
eyes in front of her mirror, and retouching with
her finger the rouge on her lips.
And above all, if my despair is a perpetual
torture, it is because I know, moment by
moment, how she fainted in the arms
of another, and that whatever she asked him
he gave her.
97 — THE WAX DOLL
Doll of wax, cherished toy that she called
her child, she left you too and she
forgot you like me, who made, with her, your
father or mother, I don’t know…
The pressure of her lips have faded
your little cheeks; and here is your broken
left hand which made her cry so much. This
little cyclas you are wearing is the one she
From listening to her, you already know how to read. So that
you were not deprived, and in the evening, inclined over
you, she would open her tunic and give you her
breast, “So that you will not cry”, she said.
Doll, if I wanted to see her again, I would give you
to Aphrodite, as the dearest of my gifts.
But I want to think that she is completely dead.
98 — FUNERAL SONG
Sing a funereal song, Mytilenian muses,
Sing! The earth is sombre as a mourning
robe and the yellow trees shiver like
a head shorn of hair.
Heraios! Oh, sad, sweet month! The leaves
fall gently like snow; the sun
is more penetrating in the opening forest
I hear nothing more but silence.
Here is what I wore to the tomb of Pittakos
burdened with years. Many are dead, that
I knew. And she who lives is for me
as if she were no more.
This one is the tenth autumn that I have seen
death on this plain. It is time too
that I disappear. Weep with me, Mytilenian
Muses, weep over my footsteps.