Nine Voices

theseusIn ancient Greece, nine poets were esteemed as the greatest above all other lyrical poets.  These were (in no particular order): Bacchylides, Alcman, Sappho, Alcalus, Anacreon, Stesichorus, Ibycus, Simonides, and Pindar.  The following poem takes a line from a poem authored by one of these, cycling through the list for three stanzas.  If you’re more of an expert than I am, try to spot the tell-tale signs of which poet is being quoted.  For the curious and bored, the poem’s lines have been numbered, with references to which poet contributed which line given after the poem itself.

Stanza I

1 There is such a thing as the vengeance of the gods,
2 Some an army of horsemen, some an army on foot
3 Over the wide earth, over all the earth
4 If thou dost the number know
5 Where monster Geryon first beheld the light,
6 Growing under the shadowy branches,
7 O stranger, send the news home to the people of Sparta
8 Grown fat on the harsh words of hate
9 that generous host, victory with its fresh applause.

Stanza II

10 Theseus had seen, beneath his frowning brow
11 A gleam of splendor given to heaven
12 That here we are laid to rest
13 Streams there were the maidens
14 Born near the unfathomed silver springs that gleam
15 Drink we then, and drain all sorrows;
16 Come hither, ye mighty sons of Zeus
17 On the throne of many hues, Immortal Aphrodite
18 blooms like untarnished gold.

Stanza III

19 No countryman was he, not clumsy, not one of the uncultured
20 and in my wild heart did I most wish
21 to help them forget their troubles. Mix one part of wine and two parts of water
22 And thy verdant cup does fill;
23 Famed Erytheia rises to the sight;
24 but like the Thracian north wind
25 Send the news home
26 Creatures for a day! What is a man!
27 All dancing in a maze.

Alcman – Lines 1, 18, 19
Sappho – Lines 2, 17, 20
Alcaeus – Lines 3, 16, 21
Anacreon – Lines 4, 15, 22
Stesichorus – Lines 5, 14, 23
Ibycus – Lines 6, 13, 24
Simonides – Lines 7, 12, 25
Pindar – Lines 8, 11, 26
Bacchylides – Lines 9, 10, 27


Jerusalem Delivered – Selections from Book I

“THE ARGUMENTstrange tasso
Godfrey unites the Christian Peers and Knights;
And all the Lords and Princes of renown
Choose him their Duke, to rule the wares and fights.
He mustereth all his host, whose number known,
He sends them to the fort that Sion hights;
The aged tyrant Juda’s land that guides,
In fear and trouble, to resist provides.”

Thither thou know’st the world is best inclined
Where luring Parnass most his sweet imparts,
And truth conveyed in verse of gentle kind
To read perhaps will move the dullest hearts:
So we, if children young diseased we find,
Anoint with sweets the vessel’s foremost parts
To make them taste the potions sharp we give;
They drink deceived, and so deceived, they live.”

Not as we list erect we empires new
On frail foundations laid in earthly mould,
Where of our faith and country be but few
Among the thousands stout of Pagans bold,
Where naught behoves us trust to Greece untrue,
And Western aid we far removed behold:
Who buildeth thus, methinks, so buildeth he,
As if his work should his sepulchre be.”

Where divers Lords divided empires hold,
Where causes be by gifts, not justice tried,
Where offices be falsely bought and sold,
Needs must the lordship there from virtue slide.
Of friendly parts one body then uphold,
Create one head the rest to rule and guide:
To one the regal power and sceptre give,
That henceforth may your King and Sovereign live.”

My mind, Time’s enemy, Oblivion’s foe,
Disposer true of each noteworthy thing,
Oh, let the virtuous might avail me so,
That I each troop and captain great may sing,
That in this glorious war did famous grow,
Forgot till now by Time’s evil handling:
This work, derived from my treasures dear,
Let all times hearken, never age outwear.”

But these and all, Rinaldo far exceeds,
Star of his sphere, the diamond of this ring,
The next where courage with sweet mercy breeds:
A comet worthy each eye’s wondering.
His years are fewer than his noble deeds,
His fruit is ripe soon as his blossoms spring,
Armed, a Mars, might coyest Venus move,
And if disarmed, then God himself of Love.”

Torquato Tasso, Jerusalem Delivered