EPIGRAMS IN THE ISLE OF CYPRUS
<Alla’ me narhki’ssois anad_e’sate, kai` plagiau’l_on
geu’sate kai` krhoki’nois chrhi’sate gui^a my’rhois.
Kai` Mytil_enai’_o*i to`n pneu`mona te’gxate Bakch_o*i
xai` syzeu’xate moi ph_ola’da parhthenix_e’n.>
99 — HYMN TO ASTARTE
Unmarriageable mother, incorruptible, creatress,
self-conceived, issue of yourself alone and
who rejoices in yourself, Astarte!
Oh, perpetually fertile, oh virgin and
nourisher of all, chaste and lascivious, pure and
joyful, ineffable, nocturnal, sweet,
breather of fire, foam of the sea!
You who secretly dispenses her grace, you
who unite, you who love, you who seized by a
furious desire, multiplies the races of savage
beasts, and conjoins the sexes in the forest,
Oh, irresistible Astarte, hear me, take me,
possess me, Oh Moon! And thirteen times, each
year, tear from my entrails the libation
of my blood!
100 — HYMN TO NIGHT
The black masses of the trees don’t move
any more than the mountains. The stars
fill an immense sky. A warm breeze
like a human breath caresses my eyes
and my cheeks
Oh Night which brings forth the Gods! How
sweet you are on my lips! How warm you are
in my hair! How you enter into me
this evening, and how I feel impregnated by
The flowers which will blossom will all
come from me. The wind which sighs is my
breath. The perfume which passes is my desire.
all the stars are in my eyes.
Your voice, is it the noise of the sea, is it
the silence of the plain? Your voice, I do not
understand it, but it throws me head over
heels and my tears wash my two hands.
101 — THE MAENADS
Across the forests which dominate the sea,
the Maenads rushed. Maskhale with
the passionate breasts, howling, brandishing the
Phallus, which was of sycamore wood and
daubed with vermillion.
All, under the [?bassaris’] and the crowns
of vine-branches, ran and shouted and leaped,
the rattles [lit: ‘crotales’ = rattlesnakes?] clapped in their hands, and
the drumsticks? [?thyrses?] were bursting the skins
on the resounding drums.
Moistened hair, agile legs, breasts
reddened and disordered, sweating cheeks, foam
on their lips, Oh Dionysos, they offer
in return the ardour which you throw into them!
And the wind from the sea climbs back up to the sky
twisting the sandy hair of Heliokomis into it,
like the furious flames on a torch
of white wax.
102 — THE SEA OF KYPRIS
On the highest promontory I
lay in front. The sea was black as
a field of violets. The Milky Way
spurted [ruisselait] from the great divine breast.
A thousand Maenads around me slept in
the plucked flowers. And it is here that
the sun is born in the eastern waters.
Transferred from the same flood and the same shore
one day appeared the white body
of Aphrodite… Suddenly I hid my
eyes in my hands.
Because I saw, trembling on the water a thousand
little lips of light: pure sex or the
smile of Kypris Philommeides.
103 — THE PRIESTESSES OF ASTARTE
The priestesses of Astarte made love at
the rising of the moon; then they rose again and
bathed in a vast, silver-edged basin.
With their curved fingers, they combed
their hair, and their hands tinted with
purple, tangled by their black rings,
seeming like branches of coral in a
sombre and flooding sea.
They never pluck their hair, so that the
triangle of the goddess marks their bellies
as a temple; but they tint themselves[?se teignent?] with
paintbrushes and profoundly perfume themselves.
The priestesses of Astarte make love at
the setting of the moon; then in a
carpeted room where burns a bright golden lamp, they
sleep at random.
104 — THE MYSTERIES
In the thrice mysterious enclosure, where
men never penetrate, we feasted,
Astarte of the Night, Mother of the World,
Fountain of the life of the Gods!
I shall reveal something to you, but no
more than is permitted. Around the Phallus
Crown, a hundred and twenty women swayed [‘se balancaient’
and shouted. The initiates were in men’s clothes;
The others in split tunics.
The vapours of the perfumes, the smoke from the
torches, floated between us like
clouds. I shall cry smokey tears.
Everyone, at the feet of the Borbeia,
threw ourselves onto our backs.
Finally, when the religious Act was consummated,
and when, into the Unique Triangle we had
plunged the purple phallus, then the mystery
began, but I can tell you no more about it.
105 — THE EGYPTIAN COURTESANS
I went with Plango to the house of the Egyptian
courtesans, at the top of the old town.
There were earthen amphorae, plates of
copper and yellow straw mats where they
Their bedrooms were silent, without
angles and without corners, so that the
successive couches of blue limestone were blunt at the
cornices and rounded at the foot of the walls
They held themselves immobile, their hands
placed on their knees. When they offer us
porridge, they murmured, “Happiness.”
And when we thanked them, they said,
“Thanks to you.”
They understood Greek but pretended to
speak it badly so they could laugh at us in their own
language; but, tooth for tooth, we
spoke Lydian and they were suddenly worried.
106 — I SING MY FLESH AND MY LIFE
I shall certainly not sing of famous
lovers. If they are no more, why should
we speak of them? Am I not similar to them?
Do I too not have much to dream about myself?
I shall forget you, Pasiphae, even though your passion
was extreme. I shall not hire you, Syrinx
nor you, Byblis, nor you, by the goddess, of
all choices, Helen of the white arms!
If anyone suffered, I felt nothing but their
pain. If anyone loved, I loved more.
I sing of my flesh and my life, and not of
the sterile shades of interred lovers.
Lie there, oh my body, according to your voluptuous
mission! Savour the daily delights
and the passions with no tomorrow.
Do not leave with even one delight unknown to regret
at the day of your death.
107 — PERFUME
I shall perfume my skin all over to attract
lovers. On my beautiful legs, in
a basin of silver, I shall pour oil [?’nard’?] of
Tarsus and [?metopion?] from Egypt.
Under my arms, crispy [?crepue?] mint; on
my eyelashes and on my eyes, some [?margolaine?]
from Kos. Slave, let down my hair and
fill it with the smoke from the incense.
Here is [?l’oinanthe’] from the mountains of Kypris; I
let it trickle down between my breasts; the pink liqueur
which comes from Pharsalis [?Phaselis?] embalms my
neck and my cheeks.
And now, spread over my loins the
irresistible [?bakkaris?]. It is well, for
a courtesan, to know the perfumes of
Lydia and the customs of the Peloponnese.
108 — CONVERSATION
“Hello.” — “Hello also.” – “You’re in
A hurry.” — “Perhaps less than you
think.” — “You are a pretty girl.” — “Perhaps
more than you believe.”
— “What is your charming name?” — “I will not
tell you that so quickly.” — “You have someone this
evening?” — “Always the one who loves me.” – “And
How do you love him?” — “As he wishes.”
“Let’s sup together.” — “If you want.
But what will you give me?” — “This here.” — “Five drachmas?
That’s for my slave. And for me?”
“Say yourself.” – “A hundred.”
“Where do you live?” — “In this blue
house.” — “What time shall I send someone
to look for you?” — “Right away, if you like.”
— “Right away.” — “Go in front.”
109 — THE TORN DRESS
“Hey! By the two goddesses, who was
the insolent one who has put her foot on my
dress?” — “It was a lover.” — “It was an idiot.”
“I was clumsy, forgive me.”
“Imbecile! My yellow dress is all
torn at the back, and if I walk down
the street like that, they’ll take me for a
poor girl who serves the contrary Kypris.”
“Will you not stop?” — “I believe that he’s
Talking to me again!” — “Will you leave me thus
angry?… You don’t answer?” — “Alas!
I dare speak no more.”
“I really must go home
to change my dress.” – “And can I not follow
you?” — “Who is your father?” — “He’s the
rich armourer, Nikias.” — “You have beautiful
eyes, I’ll forgive you.”
110 — THE JEWELS
A diadem of gold [?ajoure?] crowns my narrow
white forehead. Five little chains of gold, which
surround my cheeks and my chin,
are suspended from my hair by two large
On my arms which Iris would envy, thirteen
silver bracelets are attached. How heavy
they are! But they are weapons; and I know
an enemy who has suffered by them.
I am truly all covered in gold. My
breasts are cuirasses with two pectorals of gold.
The images of the gods are not as rich as I am.
And I wear on my thick dress a girdle
spangled with silver. There you can read this verse:
“Love me eternally; but do not be
Dismayed if I deceive you three times a day.”
111 — THE INDIFFERENT ONE
Since he came into my bedroom, what
was he like (is that important?): “See,”
I said to the slave, “What a handsome man! And
that a courtesan is happy!”
I declare, Adonis, Ares or Herakles
according to his face, or the Old Man of the Sea,
if his hair was pale silver. And
then, what disdain for the levity of youth!
“Ah!” said I, “if I had not to pay my
florist tomorrow and my goldsmith,
How I would like to say to you: I don’t want your
gold! I am your passionate servant!”
Then, when he had closed his arms once more
around my shoulders, I see a boatman from the port
pass like a divine image on the starry heavens
through my transparent eyelids.
112 — PURE WATER OF THE POND
“Pure water of the pond, immobile mirror, tell me
about my beauty. – Oh, Bilitis, or whoever you are,
Tethys perhaps or Amphitrite, you are beautiful,
“Your face inclines under your thick hair,
swollen with flowers and perfume.
Your soft eyelids open to pain and
your flanks are weary from the movements of
“Your body is tired from gravity and your breasts
carry the delicate marks of fingernails and the
blue bruises of love-making [baiser]. Your arms are
reddened by embraces. Each line of your
skin was made by love.
Clear water of the pond, your coolness is restful.
Receive me, who am tired indeed. Bring
the paint for my cheeks, and the sweat of my
belly and the memory of night.”
113 — THE NOCTURNAL FEAST (not translated)
114 — SENSUAL PLEASURE [VOLUPTE]
On a white terrace, the night
leaves us swooning among the roses. The
hot sweat cooled like tears from our
armpits across our breasts. An overwhelming
sensual pleasure turns our inverted heads purple.
Four captive doves, bathed in
four perfumes, flew over us
in silence. From their wings, droplets
of scent were sprinkled
over the naked women,
I was soaked in the essence of Irises.
Oh weariness! I was resting my cheek on the
belly of a young girl who enveloped herself
in the coolness of my humid hair. The scent
of her saffron-coloured skin intoxicated my open
mouth. She closed her thigh on my neck.
I slept, but an exhausting dream woke me:
[?l’iynx’] bird of nocturnal desires, was singing
madly from afar. I coughed with a shudder.
A languid arm, like a flower, rises
bit by bit towards the moon, in the air.
115 — THE HOSTELRY
Hostel-keeper, there are four of us. Give us
a bedroom with two beds. It is too late
now to go home to the town and the
rain has ruined the road.
Bring a basket of figs, some cheese
and some black wine; but first remove my sandals
and wash my feet, because the dirt tickles my feet.
You will carry into my bedroom two basins
of water, a full lamp, a krater
and some calices [?kylix’?]. You will shake out the covers
and beat the cushions.
See that the beds are of good maple and
that the planks are mute! Tomorrow
you will not wake us.
116 — DOMESTICITY
Four slaves keep my house: two
robust Thracians at my door, a Sicilian in
my kitchen and a docile and mute Phrygian
for the service of my bed.
The two Thracians are beautiful men.
They have sticks in their hands to chase away the
poor lovers and a hammer to nail
to the wall the crowns they send me.
The Sicilian is a rare cook; I paid
him a dozen minas. No-one else knows
how he prepares fried croquettes and
cakes and corn-poppies.
The Phrygian bathes me, does my coiffure and
plucks my hair. She sleeps in the morning in my bedroom
And for three nights, each month, she
takes my place beside my lovers.
117 — THE TRIUMPH OF BILITIS
The procession carried me in
triumph, me, Bilitis, completely naked on a
shell-shaped chariot [‘char en coquille’] where slaves, during
the night had stripped the petals [‘effeuilles’] from ten thousand roses.
I was lying down, my hands under my neck,
my feet alone were clothed in gold, and my
body softly stretched, on the bed some of
my warm hair tangles in fresh petals.
A dozen children, with their winged shoulders,
served me as a goddess; some holding
a parasol, the others soaking me with
perfumes, or burning incense at the prow [?proue’?]
And around me I heard noised the intense murmur
of the throng, while the breath of
desire floated over my nudity, in the
blue mist of the aromatics.
118 — TO HER BREASTS
Flowers in flesh, oh my breasts! How
rich and voluptuous you are! My breasts in my
hands, how soft you are with such
a mellow warmth and such young perfumes!
Of old, you were ice-cold like the chest
off a statue and hard as insensible
marble. Since you have given way I
cherish you no more, you who were loved.
Your shape, smooth and swollen is the honour of
my brown torso. Well and good that I imprison you
under a net of gold, well and good that I
deliver you completely naked, you precede me
with your splendour.
So be happy this night. If my fingers
Bring forth caresses, you alone will know
Until tomorrow morning; because this night,
Bilitis has paid Bilitis.
119 — FREEDOM (not translated)
120 — MYDZOURIS
Mydzouris, you dirty little thing, don’t cry.
you are my friend. If these women insult you
any more, It is me who will answer them. Come
into my arms, and dry your eyes.
Yes, I know that you are a horrible child
and that your mother taught you early to
prove your courage. But you are young
and that is why you cannot do anything which
is not charming.
The mouth of a girl of fifteen years stays
pure in spite of everything. The lips of a grey-haired
woman, even a virgin, are degraded; because
the only opprobrium is to grow old and we
are withered with wrinkles.
Mydzouris, I love your frank eyes, your
lewd and impudent name, your laughing voice and
your light body. Come to my house, you will
be my helper, and when we go out together,
the women will say, “Hello.”
121 — THE BATH
Child, guard the door well and don’t let in
the passers-by, because me and six girls
with beautiful arms are bathing secretly
in the warm water of the pond.
We only want to laugh and swim. Leave
the lovers in the street. We shall soak
our legs in the water and, sitting on the
marble rim, we shall play knucklebones.
We shall play with the ball. Don’t let
the lovers in; our hair is
too moist; our throats have goose-pimples [la chair de poule]
and the tips of our fingers are wrinkled.
Besides, they shall repent, the ones
who would surprise us naked! Bilitis isn’t
Athena, but she only shows herself during her own
hours and chastises too-ardent eyes.
122 — TO THE GOD OF THE WOODS
O Venerable Priapos, god of the woods which I
made to put my official seal in the marble of the rim of my
baths, it is not without reason, guardian of
orchards, that you watch over the courtesans here.
God, we have not bought you by
sacrificing our virginities to you. No-one can give you
what they no longer have, and the zealots [zelatrices] of Pallas
do not run the streets of Amathonte.
No. You would otherwise watch over the canopies [chevelures = ‘hairstyles’]
of the trees, over the well-watered flowers,
over the heavy and flavoursome fruit. That is
why we have chosen you.
Today, watch over our blonde heads, the
open poppies of our lips and the violets
of our eyes. Watch over the hard fruits of our
breasts and give us lovers who resemble yourself.
123 — THE RATTLESNAKE DANCER
[LA DANSEUSE AU CROTALES]
You attach to your light hands your resounding
rattlesnakes, Myrrhinidion my darling, and to
pained nakedness out of your dress, you stretch your
nervous limbs. How pretty you are, with your arms in the air,
your arched loins and your red breasts!
You begin: your feet posed one in front of
the other, hesitate, and slide softly.
Your body bends like a sash [un echarpe], you
caress your shivering skin, and voluptuousness
inundates your long, swooning eyes.
Suddenly, you clap your rattlesnakes! Draw yourself up
on your tip-toes [pieds dresses], shake your loins,
throw your legs about and let your hands full of
mischief [fracas] call all the desires in a troop
around your spinning body!
We applauded with great shouts; well and good as,
Smiling over your shoulder, you stir up a
Shuddering of your convulsive and muscular buttocks;
Well and good that you undulate nearly outstretched, to
The rhythm of your memories.
124 — THE FLUTE PLAYER
Melixo, with your clenched legs, your inclined body,
your arms in front, you slide your double
flute lightly between your lips, moistened with wine,
and you play over the couch where Teleas
embraces me still.
Aren’t I imprudent? I who hire
an equally young girl to distract my
laborious hours… I who show her thus
naked to the curious looks of my lovers, am
I not inconsiderate?
No, Melixo, little musician, you are an
honest friend. Yesterday you did not refuse
to exchange your flute for another when I
was despairing of accomplishing an amour full of
difficulties. But you are sure.
Because I know very well what you are thinking. You
are waiting for the end of this excessive night which
excites you cruelly in vain, and for the first light of
morning, when you will run down the street with your only
friend, Psyllos, towards your own battered little mattress.
125 — THE WARM GIRDLE
“You think that you don’t love me any more, Teleas, and
for a month you have spent your nights at the table,
as if the fruits, wines and honeys
could make you forget my mouth. You
think that you don’t love me any more, poor fool!”
Saying that, I undid my girdle and
rolled its moistness around his head.
It was quite warm still from the heat
of my belly; the perfume of my skin came out
of it’s fine threads.
He breathed deeply, with closed eyes,
then I felt that he would come back to me and I
even saw very clearly his desires reawaken
such that he could not hide them at all; but as a ruse,
I still resisted.
No, my friend. This evening, Lysippus owns me.
Farewell!” And I joined those who were escaping [‘j’ajoutai en m’enfuyant’]:
Of fruits and vegetables! The little garden of
Bilitis has only one fig, but it is good.”
126 — A HAPPY HUSBAND
I envy you, Agorakrites, having a wife
as zealous as yourself. She looks after the
stable herself, and in the morning, instead of making
love, she gives the beasts something to drink.
You rejoice. What of the others, you say, who
dream only of voluptuous bottoms, sitting up all
night and sleeping during the day, and demanding
in adultery a criminal satiety.
Yes; your wife works in the stable. They even
say that she has a thousand tendernesses for the
youngest of your donkeys. Ah! Ha! It is a beautiful
animal! It has a black tuft over its eyes.
They say that she plays between its hooves, under
its sweet grey belly… But those who
say that are slanderers. If your donkey
pleases her, Agorakrites, it is undoubtedly
because its looks remind her of yours.
127 — TO A WANDERER
The love of women is the most beautiful of
all those that mortals have tried, and you
should think thus, Kleon, if you had a truly
voluptuous soul; but you dream only of vanities.
You waste your nights cherishing the boys [?ephebes?]
who misjudge us. Look at them!
How ugly they are! Compare their round heads
with our immense hairstyles; search for
our white breasts on their chests.
Beside their narrow flanks, consider
our luxuriant hips, large beds hollowed
out for love. Finally, say which human lips,
apart from those which they would like to have,
elaborate the voluptuous.
You are ill, oh Kleon, but a woman
can cure you. Go to the house of young Satyra,
the daughter of my neighbour Gorgo. Her crupper [sa croupe]
is a rose in the sun, and she would not refuse you
the pleasure that she herself favours.
128 — THERAPY
Oh, Asklepios, be propitious for me, Oh god of
divine health, the day of eternal black night
menaces my withered eyes; because the
poison of my beauty, one day served as a
remedy. [lit: ‘… a servi de remede’?]
They sent word [mandee en costume] with me in costume into the bedroom
of a young man the women would have nothing to do with.
Bursting underwear [‘des calecons creves’] clung to my
thighs, and my breasts were flashing [jaillissaient] naked
from a brassiere of gold.
I danced according to the rite of the sound of the rattlesnakes, [crotales]
the twelve desires of Aphrodite. And here it was that
love entered into him suddenly, and on his
virginal bed I started the whole dance once more.
“You know how to make love yourself”, he said, “yet you
are not moved. What must I do to
make you love me?” I looked at him from
further away than his eyes and I told him, slowly:
“Imagine you are a woman.”
129 — THE COMMAND
“Old woman, listen to me. I’m giving a banquet in
three days. I need some entertainment.
You will rent me all your girls. How many
do you have and what can they do?”
“I have seven. Three dance the Kordax
with the harp and the phallus. Nephele of the
smooth armpits will mimic the love of
doves between her rose-coloured breasts.
A singer in an embroidered peplos (?) will sing
songs from Rhodes, accompanied by
two fluteplayers[?’auletrides?] who will have garlands
of myrtle rolled at their brown legs.”
“That’s good. Have them freshly plucked,
washed and perfumed from head to
toe. Give them other games if they ask.
Go and give the orders. Farewell.”
130 — THE FACE OF PASIPHAE
In a debauch which two young people and some
courtesans were having at my house, where love
flowed like wine, Damalis, to celebrate
her name, danced ‘The Face of Pasiphae’
She had had made in Kition two masks
of a cow and a bull, for she and
Kharmantides. She wore terrible horns,
and a real tail in her leather pants [calecon de cuir]
The other women guided by me, holding
flowers and torches, we turned on
ourselves with shouts, and we caressed
Damalis with the tips of our dangling hair.
Their bellowing and our songs and the wild
dances lasted longer than the night. The
empty bedroom is still warm. I look at
my reddened hands and the [?’canthares’?] of Khios
where swam some roses. [‘… et les canthares de Khios ou nagent des roses.”?]
131 — THE JUGGLER
When the first dawn mingled with the
weakening glimmer of the torches, I introduced to
the orgy a flute player, defective and nimble [?vicieuse et agile? contradictory!]
who trembled a bit, being cold.
Hire the little girl with the blue eyelids,
with short hair, with pointy breasts, clothed
only in a girdle, from which hung some
yellow ribbons and some stalks of black irises.
Hire her! Because she was clever and did some
difficult turns. She juggled with some
hoops, without breaking anything in the room, and
slid across it like a grasshopper.
Occasionally she performed cartwheels [‘… faisait la roué sur les mains et sur les pieds’] Or with two arms in
the air and her knees apart she bent herself
backwards and touched the earth, laughing.
132 — THE FLOWER DANCE
Anthis, the dancer from Lydia, has seven veils
around her. She unrolls the yellow veil,
her black hair spills out. The pink veil
slides from her mouth. The white veil falls
letting us see her naked arms.
She releases her small breasts from the red veil
which she unravels. She drops the green veil from
her hips to her feet. She pulls the
blue veil from her shoulders, but she presses
on her modesty the last, transparent veil.
The young people beg her: she shakes her
head back. To the sound of flutes alone,
she tears it away just a little, then entirely, and,
with the gestures of the dance, she plucks
flowers from her body,
Singing, “Where are my roses, where are my
perfumed violets? Where are my sprigs of
parsley? – There are my roses, I give them to you.
There are my violets, do you want them? There is
my beautiful curly parsley.”
133 — SATYRA’S DANCE (not translated)
134 — MYDZOURIS CROWNED (not translated)
135 — VIOLENCE
No, you will not take me by force, it doesn’t
count, Lamprias. If you had heard said
that someone had violated Parthenis, you know
what that puts in her breast, because no-one enjoys us
without being invited.
Oh! Away from your betters, make some effort, it’s
missing. Meanwhile I protect myself from pain.
I shall not call for help. And I
shall not even struggle; but I move. Poor friend,
Continue. This little game amuses me. In the same proportion
that I am sure to vanquish you. One more unhappy
attempt, and perhaps you will be less
disposed to prove to me your extinct desires.
Tyrant, what are you doing! Dog! You’re breaking
my wrists! And this knee is disembowelling me!
Ah! Go, now, it is a beautiful victory,
to ravish a tearful young girl on the ground.
136 — SONG
The first gave me a necklace, a necklace of
pearls which was worth [?’…qui vaut…’] a town, with the palace and
the temples, and the treasures and the slaves.
The second made me some verses. He said
that my hair was black as the
night on the sea and my eyes were blue like
The third was so beautiful that his mother
could not kiss him without blushing. He put his
hand on my knees, and his lips on my
You, you have said nothing to me. You have given
me nothing, because you are poor. And you are not
beautiful, but it is you that I love.
137 — ADVICE TO A LOVER
If you wish to be loved by a woman, oh young
friend, such as she, don’t tell her that
you want her, but make her see you every
day, then disappear, so you can return.
If she addresses her words to you, be amorous
without being too earnest. She will come to you
by herself. Know then, to take her by force, the
day she intends to give herself to you.
When you receive her into your bed, forget
about your own pleasure. The hands of a woman
in love are trembling and without caresses.
Dispense with them to be zealous.
But you, take no rest. Prolong
your embraces until you lose your breath. Do not let
her sleep, even if she begs you. Always
kiss the part of her body towards which
she turns her eyes.
138 — FRIENDS AT DINNER
Myromeris and Maskhale, my friends, come with
me, because I have no lover this evening, and,
lying on beds of [?’byssos’], we
will chat over dinner.
A night of rest will do you good: you
will sleep in my bed, even without make-up and
un-coiffed. Put on a simple tunic of wool
and leave your jewels in their chest.
No-one will make you dance to admire your
legs and the heavy movements of your loins.
no-one will ask you for sacred symbols,
to judge if you are lovers.
And I have not commanded, for us, two
flute-players with beautiful mouths, but
two cooking-pots of peas, rissoles, some
honey-cakes, some fried croquettes and my last
wine-skin from Khios.
139 — TOMB OF A YOUNG COURTESAN
Here is housed the delicate body of Lydia, little
dove, the most joyous of all the
courtesans, who more than any other loved
orgies, her floating hair, the soft
dances and tunics of hyacinth.
More than any other she loved savoury [?’glottismes?]
kisses on the cheek, the games
which the lamp alone saw and love which broke
her limbs to pieces. And now, she is a
But before she was put in her tomb, she was
marvellously coiffed and laid
among roses; even the stone which covers her
is all impregnated with essences and perfumes.
Sacred earth, nurturer of all, welcome
gently the poor dead, let her sleep in
your arms oh Mother! And let grow all around
the stele, not nettles and brambles, but
delicate white violets.
140 — THE LITTLE ROSE-SELLER
“Yesterday,” Nais told me, “I was in the square,
when a little girl in red rags
passed, carrying roses, in front of a group of
young people. And here is what I heard:
“Buy something from me.” – “Explain yourself,
little one, because we don’t know what your are selling:
You? Your roses? Or both at once?” — “If
you buy all my flowers, you may have
the seller for nothing.”
“And how much do you want for your roses?” — “I must have
six obols for my mother or else I shall be beaten
like a dog.” — “Follow us. You shall have one
drachma.” — “Then shall I go and look for my little sister?”
“This child was not a courtesan, Bilitis,
nobody knew her. Truly is it not a
scandal… and shall we tolerate these girls
coming to dirty during the day the beds which
we rely upon during the evening?”
141 — THE DISPUTE
Ah! By Aphrodite, there you are! Bloodsucker!
Putrefaction! Stinker! Barren! Riff-raff [?‘carcan’?]!
Left-hander! Good-for-nothing! Sow!
Don’t try to run away from me, but come here…
And again closer still…
See me, this sailors’ woman, who
doesn’t even know how to pleat her robe over
her shoulder and who puts on such bad make-up that
the black from her eyelashes runs down her cheek
in rivers of ink.
You are Phoenician: sleep with those of
your own race. For me, my father was Greek:
I have a right over all those who wear the [?’petase’?].
and even over the others, If I so choose.
Don’t stop any more in my street, or I’ll send you
to Hades to make love with Charon, and I
shall say very justly, “May the earth rest
lightly upon you…”
So the dogs can dig you up!
142 — MELANCHOLY
I shiver; the night is cool, and the
forest all moist. Why have you brought me
here? Isn’t my big bed
sweeter than this moss strewn with stones?
My flowery dress will be stained with greenery
my hair will be tangled with twigs;
my neck, look at my neck,
how soiled it is already by the humid earth.
Of old however, I’d have followed into these
woods here… Ah! Leave me alone for little while.
I am sad, this evening. Leave me, without speaking,
hands over my eyes.
In truth, can you not wait! Are
we brute beasts to take each other
thus! Leave me alone. You shall not open my
knees nor my lips. My eyes even, from
fear of crying, are closed.
143 — LITTLE PHANION
Stranger, stop, look who has beckoned
you: it’s little Phanion from Kos, she
deserves that you choose her.
See, her hair is frizzy as parsley,
her skin is sweet as a bird’s down.
She is small and brown. She speaks well.
If you wish to follow her, she will not ask
for all the money from your voyage; no, but
one drachma or a pair of shoes.
You will find at her house a good bed, some fresh
figs, some milk, some wine, and, if it is
cold, there will be a fire.
144 — SIGNS
If you must have, passer-by who stops, slender
thighs and nervous loins, a hard
throat, knees which grip, go to the house of
Plango, she’s my friend.
If you’re looking for a laughing girl, with
exuberant breasts, of a delicate height, her crutch
fleshy and moist [‘grasse’], go to the corner
of this street, where lives Spidorrhodellis.
But if long tranquil hours in the
arms of a courtesan with sweet skin,
a warm belly and pleasantly scented hair
look for Milto, and you will be content.
Do not hope for much from love; but
profit from her experience. One can ask
all from a woman, when she is naked,
when it is night, and when the hundred drachmas
are on the mantel.
145 — THE SELLER OF WOMEN
“Who is there?” — “I am the seller of
women. Open the door, Sostrata, I have
presented to you on two occasions before this one.
Approach, Anasyrtolis, and undo your robe.” –“She
is a bit fat.”
“She is a beauty. What’s more, she dances
the Kordax and she knows eighty
songs.” – “Turn around. Lift your arms.
Show your hair. Give me your foot. Smile. That’s good.
This one, now.” – “She is too
young!” — “No she’s not, she was twelve years old
the day before yesterday, and you would not have to teach
her anything.” – “Remove your tunic. Let’s see? No, she
is too thin.”
“I’m only asking one mina.” – “And the
first?” — “Two minas thirty.” — “Three minas
for both of them?” — “Done!”. “Go in there
and wash yourselves. You, farewell.”
146 — THE STRANGER
Stranger, go no further into the town.
You will not find elsewhere but in my house
girls younger or more expert. I am
Sostrata, famous across the sea.
See this one whose eyes are green
as water in the grass. You don’t want her?
Here are some other eyes which are black as
violets, and hair three cubits long.
I have still better. Xantho, open your [?cyclas?].
Stranger, her breasts are hard as quinces,
Touch them. And her beautiful belly, as you see,
wears the three folds of Kypris.
I bought her with her sister, who is not yet
of an age to love, but who seconds her
usefully. By the two goddesses! You are of a
noble race. Phyllis and Xantho, follow the
147 — PHYLLIS (not translated)
148 — THE MEMORY OF MNASIDIKA
They danced one in front of the other, with
rapid, flying movements; seeming
always to want to be entwined, and yet they
never touched at all, except at the tips of their lips.
When they turned their back in dancing,
they looked at each other over their shoulders,
and the sweat shone on their raised arms,
and their fine hair brushed across their breasts.
The languor of their eyes, the fire of their
cheeks, the gravity of their faces, were
three earnest songs. They brushed against each other
furtively, bowing their bodies at the hips.
and suddenly, they fell, to
perform on the ground a softer dance [la danse molle]… Memory
of Mnasidika, it was then that you appeared to me,
and everything, outside your dear image, was tiresome.
149 — THE YOUNG MOTHER
Do not believe, Myromeris, that, having become a
mother, that you will be diminished in beauty. See here, how
your body under your dress has drowned its thin
form within a voluptuous softness.
Your breasts are two vast flowers inverted
on your chest, whose cut stems
nurture a milky sap. Your belly,
sweeter still, swoons under the hand.
And now consider the tiny little child
which is born from the thrills that you had one
evening in the arms of a passer-by whose name you
no longer know. Dream of her remote destiny.
Her eyes which opened to pain will be elongated
one day with a line of black paint, and they
will sprinkle over men sadness or joy,
with a movement of their lashes.
150 — THE UNKNOWN
He’s sleeping. I don’t know him. He
horrifies me. However, his purse is full of gold
and he gave a slave four drachmas when he
came in. I hope for a mina for myself.
But I have said to the Phrygian to get into the bed
in my place. He was drunk and mistook her for
me. I would sooner die on the
rack than to stretch out next to this man.
Alas! I dream of the prairies of the Taurus…
I had been a little virgin… Then, I had a
light chest, and I was so foolish with a
lover’s envy that I hated my married sisters.
What would I not have done to obtain that which
I refuse tonight! Today, my
breasts are shapeless [‘se plient’], and in my worn-out
heart too, Eros sleeps from weariness.
151 — TRICKERY
I wake up… Is he gone then? Did he
leave anything? No: two empty
amphorae and some soiled flowers. The whole carpet
is red with wine.
I slept, but I am still drunk… With
whom then, did I come home?… Nevertheless we
slept together. The bed is even soaked
Perhaps there were several; the bed is
such a mess [si bouleverse] I don’t know any more… But I
saw them! There’s my Phrygian! Still
sleeping across the door.
I kicked her in the chest
and I shouted, “Bitch, you couldn’t…”
I was so hoarse I couldn’t speak.
152 — THE LAST LOVER
Child, do not pass by without having loved me.
I am still beautiful, in the night; you will see
how much my warmer is my autumn than the
springtime of another.
Do not look for love from virgins. Love
is a difficult art in which young girls are
little versed. I have taught them all my
life to give to my last lover.
My last lover, it will be you, I know.
Here is my mouth, for which a whole people [pour laquelle un peuple a…]
have paled with desire. Here is my hair, the same
hair that Psappho the Great sang about.
I shall receive in your favour all that
is left to me of my lost youth. I shall burn
the memories themselves. I shall give you
the flute of Lykas, the girdle of Mnasidika.
153 — THE DOVE
I have already been beautiful for a long time; the day
is coming when I will no longer be a woman. And then I
shall know torn memories, the
solitary burning envies and the tears
in my hands.
If life is a long dream, what good is it
to resist it? Now, four and five times a
night I ask for the joy of love, and
when my flanks are exhausted I sleep where
my body falls.
In the morning, I opened my eyelids and I
shudder in my hair. A dove is
on my windowsill; I asked it what month
it was. She said to me, “It is the month when
women are in love.”
Ah! Whatever the month, the dove spoke
truly, Kypris! And I throw my two arms
around my lover, and with much
trembling I pull to the foot of the bed my
Legs, still numb.
154 — THE MORNING RAIN
Night wears on. The stars disappear.
Here are the last courtesans
going home with their lovers. And me, in the
morning rain, I wrote these verses on the sand.
The leaves are full of sparkling water.
That streams across the footpath,
soaking the earth and the dead leaves.
The rain, drop by drop, makes holes
in my song.
Oh! How sad and alone I am and here! The
youngest don’t look at me; the oldest
forget me. But it’s good. They and the children of their
children are learning my verses,
There is something about which neither Myrtale, nor Thais, nor Glykera
tell themselves, the day when their beautiful cheeks
become hollow. Those who love after me
will sing my stanzas together.
155 — DEATH
Aphrodite! Unpitiable goddess, you wished
that on me also the happiness of long-haired
youth should disappear in a few days.
How is it I am not dead entirely!
I looked at myself in the mirror: I no longer
had neither smiles nor tears. Oh sweet face
that loved Mnasidika, I cannot believe that you
Could it be that it’s all finished? I no longer have
[?’vecu’?] five times eight years, it seems to me
that I was born yesterday, and already here is
what I must say: They will love me no more.
All my hair cut off, I twisted it
into my girdle and I offer it to you eternal
Kypris! I shall not cease to adore you.
This is the last verse of the pious
156 — FIRST EPITAPH
In the country where springs are born of the
sea, and where the riverbed is made of
sheets of rock, I, Bilitis, was born.
My mother was Phoenician; my father
Damophylos, Greek. My mother taught me
the songs of Byblos, sad as the
I adored Astarte in Kypris. I knew
Psappha in Lesbos. I sang as I loved.
If I have [?‘bien vecu’?], Passer-by, tell it
to your daughter.
And don’t sacrifice for me a black goat;
but, in sweet libation, press her teats
on my tomb.
157 — SECOND EPITAPH
On the sombre banks of the Melas, at Tamassos of
Pamphylia, I, daughter of Damophylos, Bilitis,
was born. I rest far from my country, as you can see.
Whilst still a child, I learned the loves of Adonis [l’Adon] and of Astarte,
the mysteries of the sacred Syrie (?) and
Death and the return to
If I was a courtesan, what blame is there in that?
Was it not my duty as a woman?
Stranger, the Mother-Of-All-Things guides us.
To misunderstand that is not prudent.
In gratitude to you who have stopped, I
wish you this destiny: Strive to be loved,
not to love. Goodbye. Remember in your
old age, that you have seen my tomb.
158 — LAST EPITAPH
Under the black leaves of the laurels, under
the beloved flowers of roses, it is here that
I am lying, I who interwove verse
Upon verse to make embraces flourish.
I grew up in the land of the Nymphs; I have
[‘vecu’] in the isle of friends; I am dead in
the Isle of Kypris. That is why my name is
illustrated and my stele rubbed with oil.
Do not cry for me, you who stop: they gave me
a beautiful funeral, the mourners
raked their cheeks; they lay my
mirrors and my necklaces in my tomb.
And now, on the pale prairies
of asphodel, I walk, an impalpable
shade, and the memory of my earthly
Life is the joy of my existence under the ground.
I. — BILITIS’ SAEMMTLICHE LIEDER zum ersten Male herausgegeben
und mit einem Woerterbuche versehen, von G. Heim — Leipzig.
II. — LES CHANSONS DE BILITIS, traduites du grec pour la
premiere fois par P. L. (Pierre Louys). — Paris. 1895.
III. — SIX CHANSONS DE BILITIS, traduites en vers par Mme Jean
Bertheroy. — _Revue pour les jeunes filles_. Paris. Armand
IV. — VINGT-SIX CHANSONS DE BILITIS, traduites en allemand par
Richard Dehmel.– _Die Gesellschaft_, Leipzig. 1896.
V. — VINGT CHANSONS DE BILITIS, traduites en allemand par le Dr
Paul Goldmann. — Frankfurter Zeitung. 1896.
VI. — LES CHANSONS DE BILITIS, par le professeur von
Willamovitz-Moellendorf. — Goettingsche Gelehrte. —
VII, — HUIT CHANSONS DE BILITIS, traduites en tcheque par
Alexandre Backovsky. — Prague. 1897.
VIII. — QUATRE CHANSONS DE BILITIS, traduites en suedois par
Gustav Uddgren. — Nordisk Revy. — Stockholm. 1897.
IX. — TROIS CHANSONS DE BILITIS, mises en musique par Claude
Debussy. — Paris. Fromont. 1898, etc.
VIE DE BILITIS
I — BUCOLIQUES EN PAMPHYLIE
1 — L’ARBRE
2 — CHANT PASTORAL
3 — PAROLES MATERNELLES
4 — LES PIEDS NUS
5 — LE VIEILLARD ET LES NYMPHES
6 — CHANSON
7 — LE PASSANT
8 — LE REVEIL
9 — LA PLUIE
10 — LES FLEURS
11 — IMPATIENCE
12 — LES COMPARAISONS
13 — LA RIVIERE DE LA FORET
14 — PHITTA MELIAI
15 — LA BAGUE SYMBOLIQUE
16 — LES DANSES AU CLAIR DE LUNE
17 — LES PETITS ENFANTS
18 — LES CONTES
19 — L’AMIE MARIEE
20 — LES CONFIDENCES
21 — LA LUNE AUX YEUX BLEUS
22 — REFLEXIONS (non traduite)
23 — CHANSON (Ombre du bois)
24 — LYKAS
25 — L’OFFRANDE A LA DEESSE
26 — L’AMIE COMPLAISANTE
27 — PRIERE A PERSEPHONE
28 — LA PARTIE D’OSSELETS
29 — LA QUENOUILLE
30 — LA FLUTE DE PAN
31 — LA CHEVELURE
32 — LA COUPE
33 — ROSES DANS LA NUIT
34 — LES REMORDS
35 — LE SOMMEIL INTERROMPU
36 — AUX LAVEUSES
37 — CHANSON
38 — BILITIS
39 — LA PETITE MAISON
40 — LA JOIE (non traduite)
41 — LA LETTRE PERDUE
42 — CHANSON
43 — LE SERMENT
44 — LA NUIT
45 — BERCEUSE
46 — LE TOMBEAU DES NAIADES
II — ELEGIES A MYTILENE
47 — AU VAISSEAU
48 — PSAPPHA
49 — LA DANSE DE GLOTTIS ET DE KYSE
50 — LES CONSEILS
51 — L’INCERTITUDE
52 — LA RENCONTRE
53 — LA PETITE APHRODITE DE TERRE CUITE
54 — LE DESIR
55 — LES NOCES
56 — LE LIT (non traduite)
57 — LE PASSE QUI SURVIT
58 — LA METAMORPHOSE
59 — LE TOMBEAU SANS NOM
60 — LES TROIS BEAUTES DE MNASIDIKA
61 — L’ANTRE DES NYMPHES
62 — LES SEINS DE MNASIDIKA
63 — LA CONTEMPLATION (non traduite)
64 — LA POUPEE
65 — TENDRESSES
66 — JEUX
67 — EPISODE (non traduite)
68 — PENOMBRE
69 — LA DORMEUSE
70 — LE BAISER
71 — LES SOINS JALOUX
72 — L’ETREINTE EPERDUE
73 — REPRISE (non traduite)
74 — LE COEUR
75 — PAROLES DANS LA NUIT
76 — L’ABSENCE
77 — L’AMOUR
78 — LA PURIFICATION
79 — LA BERCEUSE DE MNASIDIKA
80 — PROMENADE AU BORD DE LA MER
81 — L’OBJET
82 — SOIR PRES DU FEU
83 — PRIERES
84 — LES YEUX
85 — LES FARDS
86 — LE SILENCE DE MNASIDIKA
87 — SCENE
88 — ATTENTE
89 — LA SOLITUDE
90 — LETTRE
91 — LA TENTATIVE
92 — L’EFFORT
93 — MYRRHINE (non traduite)
94 — A GYRINNO
95 — LE DERNIER ESSAI
96 — LE SOUVENIR DECHIRANT
97 — A LA POUPEE DE CIRE
98 — CHANT FUNEBRE
III — EPIGRAMMES DANS L’ILE DE CHYPRE
99 — HYMNE A ASTARTE
100 — HYMNE A LA NUIT
101 — LES MENADES
102 — LA MER DE KYPRIS
103 — LES PRETRESSES DE L’ASTARTE
104 — LES MYSTERES
105 — LES COURTISANES EGYPTIENNES
106 — JE CHANTE MA CHAIR ET MA VIE
107 — LES PARFUMS
108 — CONVERSATION
109 — LA ROBE DECHIREE
110 — LES BIJOUX
111 — L’INDIFFERENT
112 — L’EAU PURE DU BASSIN
113 — LA FETE NOCTURNE (non traduite)
114 — VOLUPTE
115 — L’HOTELLERIE
116 — LA DOMESTICITE
117 — LE TRIOMPHE DE BILITIS
118 — A SES SEINS
119 — LIBERTE (non traduite)
120 — MYDZOURIS
121 — LE BAIN
122 — AU DIEU DE BOIS
123 — LA DANSEUSE AUX CROTALES
124 — LA JOUEUSE DE FLUTE
125 — LA CEINTURE CHAUDE
126 — A UN MARI HEUREUX
127 — A UN EGARE
128 — THERAPEUTIQUE
129 — LA COMMANDE
130 — LA FIGURE DE PASIPHAE
131 — LA JONGLEUSE
132 — LA DANSE DES FLEURS
133 — LA DANSE DE SATYRA (non traduite)
134 — MYDZOURIS COURONNEE (non traduite)
135 — LA VIOLENCE
136 — CHANSON
137 — CONSEILS A UN AMANT
138 — LES AMIES A DINER
139 — LE TOMBEAU D’UNE JEUNE COURTISANE
140 — LA PETITE MARCHANDE DE ROSES
141 — LA DISPUTE
142 — MELANCOLIE
143 — LA PETITE PHANION
144 — INDICATIONS
145 — LE MARCHAND DE FEMMES
146 — L’ETRANGER
147 — PHYLLIS (non traduite)
148 — LE SOUVENIR DE MNASIDIKA
149 — LA JEUNE MERE
150 — L’INCONNU
151 — LA DUPERIE
152 — LE DERNIER AMANT
153 — LA COLOMBE
154 — LA PLUIE AU MATIN
155 — LA MORT VERITABLE
LE TOMBEAU DE BILITIS
156 — PREMIERE EPITAPHE
157 — SECONDE EPITAPHE
158 — DERNIERE EPITAPHE