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Archilochus, Sappho, Alkman: Three Lyric Poets of the Late Greek Bronze Age

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  • PDF | 176 pages
  • Davenport(Author)
  • University of California Press; New edition edition (1 July 1992)
  • English
  • 9
  • Gay & Lesbian

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Review Text

  • By Jan Dierckx on 12 August 2008

    Archilochos, the Warrior-PoetOn a time-scale Archilochos is the second poet after Homer. Like many of his colleagues his work survived only in fragments. Others are Sappho, Alkman, Herakleitos, and Herondas. Their poems were partially discovered on papyri, hidden under desert sand for more than two thousand years, a lot of fragments of those poets - and others - were also found in the "Banquet of Scholars" by Athenaeus. Even today, fragments on papyri are still discovered, most lately a poem by Sappho.Archilochos was born in Paros in about 650 BC. In Antiquity this island was famous for its marble. He was a mercenary, a job close to that of a beggar. After he died his fellow countrymen honored him with a monument.In this fragment Archilochos introduces himself. Between the lines he lets us know that he could use some money."My ash spear is my barley bread,My ash spear is my Ismarian wine.I lean on my spear and drink."The next fragment is my favorite, when I read it I must think about E.A.Poe. In an incantatory way he speaks of his fear ( he was not a divine hero but a common man ),"Watch, Glaukos, watch !Heavy and high buckles the sea.A cloud tall and straightHas gathered on the Gyrean mountain-tops,Forewarning of thunder, lightning, wind.What we don't expect comes fearfully,War, Glaukos, war ! ""Sardis and Sparta."Alcman was born in Sardis in the first half of the 7th century BC. Sardis was an ancient city in Asia Minor whose ruins lie near the western coast of modern Turkey. Later he became resident in Sparta, an austere community, certainly when you compare it with the luxury of Asia Minor where he was born. His masterpiece was "Hymn to Artemis". This amazing hymn was sung at the Feast of the Plow by girls dressed as doves. Beside Hymns, he liked to talk about the pleasures of a banquet, a good fireplace, and about the woes and pleasures of his old age.Later he became a resident of Sparta. One could ask why the very austere Spartans were not against his poems as being signs of moral decadence. But in the following fragment he does sound like a Spartan."My hearth is cold but the day will comeWhen a rich pot of red bean soupIs on the table, the kind Alcman loves,Good peasant cooking, nothing fine.The first day of autumn, you shall be my guest"."Shimmering, iridescent, deathless Aphrodite."In Antiquity decent women were supposed to work in the kitchen and to raise their children, nothing more, but there were exceptions. More or less 150 years after Homer's Iliad, Sappho lived on the island of Lesbos, west off the coast of what is Turkey today.. (She went in exile for a short period due to political upheavel).Sappho was already famous in Antiquity. Plato called her the tenth Muse and someone said her poetry was "as refreshing as a morning breeze".Very small fragments - only three or four words - are not included.Some of the best poems of Sappho are those that describe her loneliness.(#62)"But if you are my friend,Go to a younger woman's bed,For I will not endure an affairIn which I am older than the man."(#73)"The moon has set,And the PleiadesMidnightThe hour has gone byI sleep alone."

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