Anacreon fr. 417: I heard you were a wild one

Another funny little poem by Anacreon. Here the poet, an old man again, clumsily tries to impress a beautiful young girl. In an extended metaphor the narrator compares her to a ‘filly’, a young horse, and asks her why she is avoiding him. After all, he is an experienced lover and could show her a good time.

Thracian filly, why so sharply
shy away with sidelong glances,
thinking I’ve no expertise?

Be assured, I’d put your bit on
smartly, hold the rains and run you
round the limits of the course.

But for now you graze the meadows,
frisk and play, for want of any
good experienced riding man.

Sadly, this would-be-seducer is rather unconvincing. Worry about his lack of expertise is probably the least of the girl’s concerns. After all the narrator’s promise to ‘put her bit on’ and ‘run her around the course’ does not sound especially appealing. The description of her in the third stanza playing in the meadow sounds far more pleasant than anything of the things Anacreon wants to do with her. This misunderstanding as to why he is being rejected also suggests that the narrator is not as worldly as he would have us believe. Anacreon unconvincingly tries to pass off his advanced age as experience, however he cannot help but see the funny side as he chases after girls who are far out of his league

 

Translation:
West, M. (2008).

Old age and the Greek lyric poets

Lamenting old age was a popular trope among the Greek lyricists. This made for some beautiful poetry that is most touching in its bittersweet admiration of youth. Dating from the 7th to the 6th century BC, these four poems are some of the first we have in a poetic tradition that stretches across Western literature.
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Anacreon 358: A Short-Lived Affair

My next poem is ascribed to a poet called Anacreon, a Greek lyricist writing from the 6th century BC. The lives of these ancient poets are shrouded in half-truths and legend, but the tradition went that Anacreon lived to a very old age, and that he was a great lover and laugher all the way up to his death. This is one of the most famous examples of a few fragments that have survived where Anacreon takes on the persona of an elderly and unsuccessful lover.

358 is an extremely playful piece describing an initially promising encounter. The poet is struck by a ball thrown by a well-dressed girl, probably while she is playing with her friends. He decides this isn’t a chance encounter, and rather that the god of love, Eros, has intervened for his sake.

Golden-haired Eros strikes me
once again with a purple ball
And invites me to play with a
girl in fancy sandals.

But she is from proud Lesbos,
and turns her nose up at my
grey hair; she is gawping after
some other girl.

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