Eros Caught Napping
after Anacreontea 35
Eros at one time or another in the era before
napping in a bed
of roses: against his index finger brushed what he took
to be a petal but he wasn’t
all there yet.
We’ve all been.
Stung once, twice…always the stinging
Frantically escaping making a racket
Eros soared home
to Mom, as Aphrodite
was known in the era before ohms.
How ignoble, he said.
In another moment I’ll have breathed my last,
Eros, me, immortal,
a snake in the guise of a mosquito
my assassin, not a king snake or a milk snake
miniaturized via transformational
nanofabrication but an inchworm fitted out
to probe for ichor.
Child, said Mom, you’re in for a treat.
I speak from experience.
Nostalgia and its bittersweet pangs
aren’t denied even to us who don’t age.
Your arrows amuse you, they’re toys
that draw blood.
Those you smite:
enjoy it while it lasts, the era before
᾽Έρως ποτ᾽ ἐν ῥόδοισι
οὐκ εἶδεν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐτερώθη
τὸν δάκτυλον· παταχθεὶς
τὰς χεῖρας ὠλόλυξεν·
δραμὼν δὲ καὶ πετασθεὶς
πρὸς τὴν καλὴν Κυθήρην,
ὄλωλα, μᾶτερ, εἶπεν,
ὄφις μ᾽ ἔτυψε μικρὸς
πτερωτὸς, ὃν καλοῦσιν
μέλιτταν οἱ γεωργοί.
ἁ δ᾽ εἶπεν· εἰ τὸ κέντρον
πονεῖ τὸ τᾶς μελίττας,
πόσον δοκεῖς πονοῦσιν,
᾽Έρως, ὅσους σὺ βάλλεις;
Anacreon was an ancient Greek lyric poet of the 6th century BCE who wrote in the Ionian dialect and whose work, often involving themes of infatuation, misrecognition, erotic disappointment and courtship rivalry, exerted an influence over many later imitators of his style. The Anacreontea is a collection of 62 poems which has a murky origin as a text but which gained wide fame when published in 1554 by the scholar-printer Henri II Estienne, who perpetuated the belief that the poems were written by Anacreon himself. They were not—they were written by anonymous imitators between the first century BCE and the 6th century CE. For nearly three hundred years, though, their acceptance as “genuine” persisted, and they influenced scores of European lyric poets and yielded several well-known translations and adaptations of the collection including those by Thomas Stanley (1651) and Thomas Moore (1804).