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October 6, 2009

Bilitis: Chapter 3

Filed under: Bilitis: Chapter 3 — astyages @ 1:05 am

 

Chapter 3

 

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.>

                                          PHILODEMUS.

 

99  —  HYMN TO ASTARTE

Unmarriageable mother, incorruptible, creatress,

first-born, self-begotten,

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

your Spring!

 

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

squatted effortlessly.

 

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

clips. 

 

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,

know it.

 

“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

love.

 

“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’]:

 “Oh gourmand

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,

missed again!

 

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 morning.

 

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

naked feet.

 

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

little shade. 

 

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

cavalryman!

 

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

with sweat.

 

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

were mine!

 

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

Bilitis.

 

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

first dawn.

 

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

She-With-The-Rounded-Eyes.

 

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.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHIE

 

I. — BILITIS’ SAEMMTLICHE LIEDER zum ersten Male herausgegeben

und mit einem Woerterbuche versehen, von G. Heim — Leipzig.

1894.

 

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

Colin.  1896.

 

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. —

Goettinge. 1896.

 

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.

 

TABLE

 

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

 

 BIBLIOGRAPHIE

 TABLE

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