Thursday, February 27, 2014


Earlier this month I posted the following poem from The Greek Anthology:

This stone, beloved Sabinus, on thy grave
     Memorial small of our great love shall be.
I still shall seek thee lost; from Lethe's wave
     Oh! drink not thou forgetfulness -- of me.

Anonymous (translated by Goldwin Smith), in Henry Wellesley (editor), Anthologia Polyglotta: A Selection of Versions in Various Languages, Chiefly from The Greek Anthology (1849).

I realize that some may find the poem to be slight:  four lines by a nameless ancient poet translated by a Victorian historian who dabbled in poetry. And I suspect that those who have knowledge of the original Greek text may find the translation wanting (and/or florid).  Yes, I understand.  But it keeps haunting me, and I cannot let it go.

But I will not destroy it by dissecting it.  I will only say that this is marvelous:  "I still shall seek thee lost."  As is this:  "Memorial small of our great love shall be."  Translation or not, the poem bridges the millennia and reminds us that we are all one and the same.  From an unknown Greek poet in an antique land to a translator in Victorian England to readers in the 21st century:  nothing has changed.

John Piper
"Tombstones, Holy Trinity Churchyard, Hinton-in-the-Hedges" (1940)

William Johnson Cory, whose wonderful translation of a poem by Callimachus appeared here recently, wrote a poem in Greek which he then translated into English.  It is an appropriate companion to the first poem. From the other side of the grave.


You come not, as aforetime, to the headstone every day,
And I, who died, I do not chide because, my friend, you play;
Only, in playing, think of him who once was kind and dear,
And, if you see a beauteous thing, just say, he is not here.

William Johnson Cory, Ionica (1891).

Cory has captured the spirit and tone of the poems in The Greek Anthology very well:  that characteristic mixture of emotion and stoicism (lower case) -- restrained passion, with an underlying foundation of dignity and decency.  Ancient, not modern.

John Piper, "Exterior of the Church of St. Denis, Faxton" (1940)

In his essay "The Charm of the Greek Anthology" (in More Literary Recreations), Edward Cook perceptively pairs Cory's "Remember" with a poem of the same title by Christina Rossetti (which has previously been posted here, but is always worth revisiting).


Remember me when I am gone away,
     Gone far away into the silent land;
     When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
     You tell me of our future that you planned:
     Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
     And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
     For if the darkness and corruption leave
     A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
     Than that you should remember and be sad.

Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862).

John Piper, "Tithe Barn, Great Coxwell, Berkshire" (1940)

Monday, February 24, 2014


Given that I am residing in a Mediterranean, classical Greek daydream world at the moment (courtesy of The Greek Anthology), a visit to C. P. Cavafy is appropriate.  Cavafy's entire body of work is a dreamy amalgam of the ancient Alexandrian-Grecian-Roman-Mediterranean world and the less-than-enchanted (well, somewhat tawdry) modern world, so it is hard to choose where to begin.

The following poem captures, for me at least, Cavafy's old-in-new world. I've posted it here previously (in three different translations), but I'm not averse to circling back when the mood strikes.  As I have noted before, Cavafy has a marvelous knack for intermingling the ancient and the modern.  If you surrender to him, you may find yourself wondering where you are.  Here?  Alexandria in the age of the Ptolemies?  Or perhaps on a hillside on the golden coast of vanished Ionia, looking out over the Aegean Sea.


That we've broken their statues,
that we've driven them out of their temples,
doesn't mean at all that the gods are dead.
O land of Ionia, they're still in love with you,
their souls still keep your memory.
When an August dawn wakes over you,
your atmosphere is potent with their life,
and sometimes a young ethereal figure,
indistinct, in rapid flight,
wings across your hills.

C. P. Cavafy (translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard), in C. P. Cavafy, Collected Poems (Princeton University Press 1975).

Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013), "Richmond Park II" (1999)

Bernard Spencer is also very good at this intertwining of the ancient and the modern.  Wherever Spencer lived or visited, he unerringly divined the essence of the place, including the echoing revenants of its history.

               Delicate Grasses

Delicate grasses blowing in the wind,
grass out of cracks among tiered seats of stone
where a Greek theatre swarmed with audience,
till Time's door shut upon
the stir, the eloquence.

A hawk waiting above the enormous plain,
lying upon the nothing of the air,
a hawk who turns at some sky-wave or lull
this way, and after there
as dial needles prowl.

Cool water jetting from a drinking fountain
in crag-lands, miles from any peopled spot,
year upon year with its indifferent flow;
sound that is and is not;
the wet stone trodden low.

There is no name for such strong liberation;
I drift their way; I need what their world lends;
then, chilled by one thought further still than those,
I swerve towards life and friends
before the trap-fangs close.

Bernard Spencer, With Luck Lasting (1963).  When first published in Spencer's The Twist in the Plotting in 1960, the poem was titled "Feathery Grasses," and it began:  "Feathery grasses blowing in the wind."

Spencer said this of the poem:

"After crossing the plain [of Anatolia] we drove over the mountains to look at the remains of some ancient Greek towns on the south coast of Turkey. These towns, although overgrown with grass and weeds, often have recognizable remains of temples and theatres standing, with their semi-circular tiers of stone seats.  So much emptiness and all those ruins put me in a state of melancholy excitement.  I was half-attracted by it and half afraid . . .What is the trap?  What was I afraid of?  Later, at his request, I read the poem out to John Betjeman, and he cried out 'Oh!  Eternity!'  That is as good an answer as any."

Bernard Spencer, Madrid University Lecture (March 1962), in Collected Poems (edited by Roger Bowen) (Oxford University Press 1981), page 137.

Thus, "Delicate Grasses" is likely set in one of the regions known to the ancient Greeks as Caria (birthplace of Herodotus), Lycia, or Pamphylia. Ionia, the setting of Cavafy's poem, is immediately to the north of Caria. Ionia and Caria lie along the Aegean Sea.

Jeffrey Smart, "The Steps"

Friday, February 21, 2014


My recent meanderings in The Greek Anthology have me daydreaming of golden classical landscapes and seascapes.  Idealized landscapes and seascapes, I readily concede.  Without barathrums, for instance.  Still . . .

Bernard Spencer (who I have previously identified as a "neglected poet") spent a great deal of time in the Mediterranean as an employee of the British Council, and became stranded in Egypt during the Second World War.  His poems about the region -- first Greece, then to Egypt and other parts of the Middle East, and later to Spain -- are lovely and evocative.

Helen Lavinia Cochrane, "Song of Spring" (c. 1939)

            Aegean Islands 1940-41

Where white stares, smokes or breaks,
Thread white, white of plaster and of foam,
Where sea like a wall falls;
Ribbed, lionish coast,
The stony islands which blow into my mind
More often than I imagine my grassy home;

To sun one's bones beside the
Explosive, crushed-blue, nostril-opening sea
(The weaving sea, splintered with sails and foam,
Familiar of famous and deserted harbours,
Of coins with dolphins on and fallen pillars.)

To know the gear and skill of sailing,
The drenching race for home and the sail-white houses,
Stories of Turks and smoky ikons,
Cry of the bagpipe, treading
Of the peasant dancers;

The dark bread
The island wine and the sweet dishes;
All these were elements in a happiness
More distant now than any date like '40,
A. D. or B. C., ever can express.

Bernard Spencer, Aegean Islands and Other Poems (1946).

The "grassy home" (line 6) to which Spencer refers is England.

Helen Lavinia Cochrane, "Almond Blossom, Majorca"

                                   Olive Trees

The dour thing in olive trees
is that their trunks are stooped like never dying crones,
and they camp where roads climb, and drink with dust and stones.

The pleasant thing is how in the heat
their plumage brushes the sight with a bird's-wing feeling:
and perhaps the gold of their oil is mild with dreams of healing.

The cold thing is how they were
there at the start of us; and one grey look surveyed
the builder imagining the city, the historian with his spade.

The warm thing is that they are
first promise of the South to waking travellers:
of the peacock sea, and the islands and their boulder-lumbered spurs.

Bernard Spencer, Ibid.

"The dour thing . . . The pleasant thing . . . The cold thing . . . The warm thing . . ." is a nice back-and-forth progression.  And Spencer captures the telescoping of Time -- with the olive tree as a constant and as a mute witness -- very well:  ". . . and one grey look surveyed/the builder imagining the city, the historian with his spade."

I spent my teenage years in a part of California where wild peacocks roamed the dry hills.  I remember the brilliant, ever-turning blues of their heads and bodies and tails.  (And the sound of their screams!)  Thus, I think Spencer's "the peacock sea" is exactly right.

Helen Lavina Cochrane, "Olive Gatherers" (c. 1939)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


From an early age, I have thought of the oak as the exemplar of trees.  I'm not sure why.  I suspect it has something to do with childhood impressions of the shape of its leaf, smoldering piles of its fallen, raked-up leaves on autumn afternoons, and -- those wondrous things -- acorns.

But it may simply be a product of their size and substance: the oaks of my youth in Minnesota were majestic in height and breadth.  They were proverbial pillars of strength throughout the year.  And their lovely leaves and magical acorns added to their allure.  All accomplished without speaking a word.

Andrew McCallum, "Oak Trees in Sherwood Forest" (1877)

Spare the parent of acorns, good wood-cutter, spare!
     Let the time-honour'd Fir feel the weight of your stroke,
The many-stalk'd thorn, or Acanthus worn bare,
     Pine, Arbutus, Ilex -- but touch not the Oak!
Far hence be your axe, for our grandams have sung
How the Oaks are the mothers from whom we all sprung.

Zonas (translated by J. H. Merivale), in Henry Wellesley (editor), Anthologia Polyglotta: A Selection of Versions in Various Languages, Chiefly from The Greek Anthology (1849).

Here is a prose rendering of the epigram:

"Oh labourer!  Fear to cut down the mother of acorns; spare her!  Let the aged pine be destroyed, or the fir, or yonder paliurus, or the ilex, or the dry arbutus.  But let your axe be far from the oak-tree.  For our forefathers have told us that our first mothers were oaks."

Zonas (translated by Robert Bland), in Robert Bland (editor), Collections from The Greek Anthology (1813).

Stephen McKenna, "An English Oak Tree" (1981)

In the following poem, A. H. Bullen provides us with a chronological catalogue of the oak's legendary attributes -- together with reminders of humanity's less-than-noble relationship with the noble tree.

                                 The Oak

"Dodona's oaks were through the world renown'd."
Their riddling answers oft did men confound.

"Our Dryads were to mortals ever good."
Your Druid altars smoked with human blood.

"We saved your second Charles from dread mishap."
King David's son you caught in deadly trap.

"In oaken pulpit parsons preach'd and pray'd."
From oaken gibbet poor folk swung and sway'd.

"Rare banquets on oak-board were richly spread."
Oak-coffins were the revellers' last bed.

"Who carried Drake through strange uncharted seas?"
Be all your faults forgot, heroic trees!

A. H. Bullen, Weeping-Cross and Other Rimes (1921).

Martin Snape (1853-1930)
"The Oldest Oak in the Greenwood"

On a more encouraging note, we have this from Tennyson:

     The Oak

Live thy Life,
     Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
     Living gold;

     Then; and then
     Gold again.

All his leaves
     Fallen at length,
Look, he stands,
Trunk and bough,
     Naked strength.

Alfred Tennyson, Demeter and Other Poems (1889).

"Bright in spring,/Living gold" brings to mind "Nature's first green is gold,/Her hardest hue to hold."  The two poems are variations on the same theme, aren't they?

I like the fact that, unlike a great deal of Tennyson's poetry, "The Oak" is not prolix, ponderous, or sonorous.  The poem's brevity and simplicity may reflect the fact that he wrote it in his eightieth year.  It is worth noting that Tennyson said of the poem that it could be described as "clean cut like a Greek epigram."  Hallam Tennyson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson: A Memoir, Volume II (1897), page 366.  I think that lines 6 through 8 are particularly nice:  a line consisting of "Then; and then" is quite striking in a poem of that period.

Gerald Dewsbury, "Sycamore and Oak" (1992)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

In Memory Of Crethis

The angled light of early spring and early autumn is, I think, the loveliest light of the year.  It calls things to your attention, things that detain you, delightfully.

After a rain-filled night, today was bright and blustery.  It was a wide-open-sky day, a day that encouraged expansiveness.  But, as I walked, my attention was drawn to the various mosses lining the edges of the paths or filling the cracks in the sidewalks.  In the slanting yellow afternoon light they glowed in a range from bright lime green to deep forest green.

Some lines from Louis Simpson's poem "The Foggy Lane" come to mind: "Walking in the foggy lane/I try to keep my attention fixed/on the uneven, muddy surface."  The loud, importunate parts of the World -- the media, politics, economics, et cetera -- do their best to lure us into abstractions and categories and classifications.  But in our heart of hearts we know it is the particulars that matter.

John Aldridge, "Artichokes and Cathay Quinces" (1967)

Their Crethis, with her prattle and her play,
The girls of Samos often miss to-day:
Their loved workmate, with flow of merry speech,
Here sleeps the sleep that comes to all and each.

Callimachus (c. 310 B.C. - c. 240 B. C.) (translated by A. H. Bullen), in A. H. Bullen, Weeping-Cross and Other Rimes (1921).

Henry Lamb, "Tea Things" (1932)

Crethis, young prattler, full of graceful play,
Vainly the maids of Samos seek all day;
Cheerfullest workmate; ever talking; -- she
Sleeps here, -- that sleep, from which none born can flee.

Callimachus (translated by "F. H."), in The Classical Journal, Volume XXXIII (March and June, 1826), page 9.

Charles Mahoney, "Auriculas in Pots" (1956)

The Samian virgins us'd often to play
With Crethis the witty, the pleasant and gay,
But now, when they seek her, she cannot be found,
Their sportive companion sleeps here under ground,
Discharging the debt which to nature we owe;
For all must descend to the regions below.

Callimachus (translated by H. W. Tytler), in H. W. Tytler, The Works of Callimachus, Translated into English Verse (1793).

Thomas Henslow Barnard, "Still Life"

The Samian maidens oft regret their friend,
     Sweet Crethis, full of play and cheer,
     Whose gossip lightened toil.  But here
She sleeps the sleep they all will sleep at end.

Callimachus (translated by Edward Cook), in Edward Cook, "The Charm of The Greek Anthology," More Literary Recreations (1919).

Charles Ginner, "Yellow Chrysanthemums" (1929)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

"As Under The Sea"

John Drinkwater's poem "The Wood," which appeared in my previous post, wonderfully evokes the feeling of late winter within a grove of trees.  At this time of year, all is silent and still and half-lit -- an impression heightened by the damp, leaf-strewn ground, which deepens the silence and stillness.

But, as Drinkwater's poem suggests, things are alive underfoot.  There are tiny hints of emerging green in the leaf-mouldy mud.  We seem to be on the verge of something.

Felicity Charlton (1913-2009), "Porthkerry Park from the Artist's Studio"

The following poem is not necessarily set in late winter, but it captures the feeling I am struggling to articulate.

          Dirge in Woods

A wind sways the pines,
               And below
Not a breath of wild air;
Still as the mosses that glow
On the flooring and over the lines
Of the roots here and there.
The pine-tree drops its dead;
They are quiet, as under the sea.
Overhead, overhead
Rushes life in a race,
As the clouds the clouds chase;
               And we go,
And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
               Even we,
               Even so.

George Meredith, A Reading of Earth (1888).

"As under the sea" (line 8) in particular gets at the still and hushed feeling on the forest floor at this time of year, as does the image of clouds moving quickly overhead, while nothing stirs in the all-day twilight of the world that lies beneath the empty branches.

Felicity Charlton, "Llandaff House"

Here is another similarly evocative poem out of the Victorian era.

                            The Pool

A wood obscure in this man's haunt of love,
     And midmost in the wood where leaves fall sere,
A pool unplumbed; no winds these waters move,
     Gathered as in a vase from year to year.

And he has thought that he himself lies drowned,
     Wan-faced where the pale water glimmereth,
And that the voiceless man who paces round
     The brink, nor sheds a tear now, is his wraith.

Edward Dowden, Poems (1914).

Call me old-fashioned, but I love "Wan-faced where the pale water glimmereth."  The world becomes a poorer, less enchanted place when a word such as "glimmereth" passes out of use.  Or so it seems to me.

"The Pool" brings to mind some lines from T. S. Eliot's "Burnt Norton" -- likely due to the haunted feel of both poems.

So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.

T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets (1943).

Felicity Charlton, "Cadoxton Methodist Church" (1969)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Winter Into Spring, Part Seven: "Mystery, Unresting, Taciturn"

Lo and behold: yesterday I saw the first crocuses of the year.  Purple and yellow they were, on a sunny patch of ground facing westward.  They seem a trifle premature in this week's freezing weather.  And tonight the snow has begun to fall.  Ah, but what do I know?

There is ever a mystery to all this, isn't there?  And our ability to put names to it, to "explain" it -- in the language of Science -- means nothing.

John Aldridge (1905-1983), "February Afternoon"

                         The Wood

I walked a nut-wood's gloom.  And overhead
A pigeon's wing beat on the hidden boughs,
And shrews upon shy tunnelling woke thin
Late winter leaves with trickling sound.  Across
My narrow path I saw the carrier ants
Burdened with little pieces of bright straw.
These things I heard and saw, with senses fine
For all the little traffic of the wood,
While everywhere, above me, underfoot,
And haunting every avenue of leaves,
Was mystery, unresting, taciturn.
          .          .          .          .          .
And haunting the lucidities of life
That are my daily beauty, moves a theme
Beating along my undiscovered mind.

John Drinkwater, Loyalties (1919).  The ellipses are in the original.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I tend to be skeptical of the primacy of Science in our modern world, and the claims that are made for it in the name of "progress."  (See, for example:  Wittgenstein and "Progress"; Edmund Blunden and  "Progress"; R. S. Thomas and "Progress.")  I should be clear that I am not opposed to the practice of science that leads to cures for diseases, efficient plumbing, and The Wonders of the Internet.

But I am opposed to the utopian belief (which is what it is: a belief -- no different than any sincerely-held religious belief) that Science, by "explaining" all, will ameliorate our ills, improve our lives, and, ultimately, bring us to the gates of Paradise.  Alas (for true believers), scientific "explanation" leaves one tiny thing out of account:  the human soul -- individual, indissoluble, and inexplicable.  As it happens, this tiny omission invalidates the whole utopian project.  For which we can all be grateful.  Oh, well, back to the drawing board . . .

John Aldridge, "Bridge, February" (1963)

               In the Conservatory

A bird's nest lined with leaves and moss
Kept here through the winter . . .
                  Spring come, I find among leaf-mould
A brown mouse -- the tail an unlikely flourish --
Modelling the letter 'C'
As if it stood for Comfort,
Though it lay there fixed and cold.

Clive Wilmer, The Times Literary Supplement (December 8, 2006).

John Aldridge, "Beslyn's Pond, Great Bardfield"

Thursday, February 6, 2014

At Sea

I've been put in a maritime mood by the seaside grave poems from The Greek Anthology that have appeared in my recent posts.  But the two poems I have in mind are neither funereal nor littoral: they take us out on to the deep with the living.

John Brett, "Falmouth Harbour, 13 July 1883" (1883)

First, an untitled poem by A. E. Housman:

There pass the careless people
     That call their souls their own:
Here by the road I loiter,
     How idle and alone.

Ah, past the plunge of plummet,
     In seas I cannot sound,
My heart and soul and senses,
     World without end, are drowned.

His folly has not fellow
     Beneath the blue of day
That gives to man or woman
     His heart and soul away.

There flowers no balm to sain him
     From east of earth to west
That's lost for everlasting
     The heart out of his breast.

Here by the labouring highway
     With empty hands I stroll:
Sea-deep, till doomsday morning,
     Lie lost my heart and soul.

A. E. Housman, Poem XIV, A Shropshire Lad (1896).

"Plummet" (line 5) is "a piece of lead or other heavy material attached to a line, used for measuring the depth of water; a sounding lead."  OED.  (But the more commonly-used sense of "a rapid fall; an instance of plummeting rapidly" is perhaps invoked by implication.)  "Sain" (line 13) means "to bless . . . esp. in collocation with save" or "to secure by prayer or enchantment from evil influence."  Ibid.  These two senses derive from the primary meaning:  "to make the sign of the cross on (a thing or person) in token of consecration or blessing; or for the purpose of exorcizing a demon, warding off the evil influences of witches, poison, etc." Ibid.

I like the way Housman works his sea imagery into the poem without being too insistent about it.  But, at the end, he brings it to the fore beautifully: "Sea-deep . . . lie lost my heart and soul" is wonderful.

John Brett, "Christmas Morning, 1866" (1868)

I've never been able to figure out the following poem.  I'll attempt to excuse my thickheadedness by positing that it is a poem of evocative atmosphere, with no "plot" per se.  Which, come to think of it, may be exactly the point. At any rate, I do know this: it sounds good.


Rain patters on a sea that tilts and sighs.
Fast-running floors, collapsing into hollows,
Tower suddenly, spray-haired.  Contrariwise,
A wave drops like a wall: another follows,
Wilting and scrambling, tirelessly at play
Where there are no ships and no shallows.

Above the sea, the yet more shoreless day,
Riddled by wind, trails lit-up galleries:
They shift to giant ribbing, sift away.

Such attics cleared of me!  Such absences!

Philip Larkin, The Less Deceived (The Marvell Press 1955).

Interestingly, Larkin chose "Absences" when he was asked to select a poem to be included in an anthology titled Poet's Choice (Dial Press 1962). Larkin, who was usually not given to explicating his own work, wrote this as an introduction to the poem:

"I suppose I like 'Absences' (a) because of its subject matter -- I am always thrilled by the thought of what places look like when I am not there; (b) because I fancy it sounds like a different, better poet rather than myself. The last line, for instance, sounds like a slightly unconvincing translation from a French symbolist.  I wish I could write like this more often.

Incidentally, an oceanographer wrote to me pointing out that I was confusing two kinds of wave, plunging waves and spilling waves, which seriously damaged the poem from a technical viewpoint.  I am sorry about this, but do not see how to amend it now."

Philip Larkin, "Poet's Choice," in Further Requirements: Interviews, Broadcasts, Statements and Book Reviews 1952-85 (edited by Anthony Thwaite) (Faber and Faber 2001), page 17.

"I am always thrilled by the thought of what places look like when I am not there."  Part of me thinks that Larkin is pulling our leg.  But, then, think about it . . .

John Brett, "A North-West Gale off the Longships Lighthouse" (1873)

Monday, February 3, 2014


Over the past month or so, I've been beguiled by the poems of The Greek Anthology.  Although the epigrammatic poems were written two thousand or so years ago, they do not have an out-of-date feel.  The local particulars may be ancient (the various gods of vales and groves and waters; classical landscapes; et cetera), but the human particulars have not changed.

No dust, no paltry marble for his grave
Has Erasippus, but the wide sea wave.
For with his ship he sank.  His bones decay --
But where, the cormorant alone can say.

Glaucus (translated by Goldwin Smith), in Henry Wellesley (editor), Anthologia Polyglotta: A Selection of Versions in Various Languages, Chiefly from The Greek Anthology (1849), page 70.

"Full fathom five thy father lies;/Of his bones are coral made;/Those are pearls that were his eyes . . ."

James Cowie (1886-1956), "Pastoral"

John Addington Symonds writes:

"The Anthology may from some points of view be regarded as the most valuable relic of antique literature which we possess.  Composed of several thousand short poems, written for the most part in the elegiac metre, at different times and by a multitude of authors, it is coextensive with the whole current of Greek history, from the splendid period of the Persian war to the decadence of Christianized Byzantium.  Many subjects of interest in Greek life, which would otherwise have had to be laboriously illustrated from the historians or the comic poets, are here fully and melodiously set forth.
 . . . . . . . . . .
The slight effusions of these minor poets are even nearer to our hearts than the masterpieces of the noblest Greek literature.  They treat with a touching limpidity and sweetness of the joys and fears and hopes and sorrows that are common to all humanity.  They introduce us to the actual life of a bygone civilization, stripped of its political or religious accidents, and tell us that the Greeks of Athens or of Sidon thought and felt exactly as we feel.

John Addington Symonds, Studies of the Greek Poets, First Series (Second Edition, 1877), pages 356-357.

Stephen McKenna, "Maritime Still Life" (1988)

Full oft, of old, the islands changed their name,
And took new titles from some heir of fame:
Then dread not ye the wrath of gods above,
But change your own, and be the Isles of Love;
For "Love's" own name and shape the infant bore
Whom late we buried on your sandy shore . . .
Break softly there, thou never-weary wave,
And earth, lie light upon his little grave!

Crinagoras (translated by John William Burgon), in Anthologia Polyglotta, page 239.

Meredith Frampton, "Still Life" (1932)

It is refreshing to encounter human beings who are but little infected with our contemporary ironic know-it-allness, our obtuse and unironic self-regard.  They are seemly; we are unseemly in comparison.

This stone, beloved Sabinus, on thy grave
     Memorial small of our great love shall be.
I still shall seek thee lost; from Lethe's wave
     Oh! drink not thou forgetfulness -- of me.

Anonymous (translated by Goldwin Smith), in Anthologia Polyglotta, page 107.

William Adeney (1878-1966), "The Window"