pigeon letter

Ἐρασμίη πέλεια,
πόθεν, πόθεν πέτασαι;
πόθεν μύρων τοσούτων
ἐπ’ ἠέρος θέουσα
πνέεις τε καὶ ψεκάζεις;
τίς εἶ, τί σοι μέλει δέ;
“Ἀνακρέων μ’ ἔπεμψε
πρὸς παῖδα, πρὸς Βάθυλλον
τὸν ἄρτι τῶν ἁπάντων
κρατοῦντα καὶ τυράννων.
πέπρακέ μ’ ἡ Κυθήρη
λαβοῦσα μικρὸν ὕμνον
ἐγὼ δ’ Ἀνακρέοντι
διακονῶ τοσαῦτα·
καὶ νῦν οἵας ἐκείνου
ἐπιστολὰς κομίζω·
καί φησιν εὐθέως με
ἐλευθέρην ποιήσειν·
ἐγὼ δέ, κἢν ἀφῇ με,
δούλη μενῶ παρ’ αὐτῷ.
τί γάρ με δεῖ πέτασθαι
ὄρη τε καὶ κατ’ ἀγρούς
καὶ δένδρεσιν καθίζειν
φαγοῦσαν ἄγριόν τι;
τὰ νῦν ἔδω μὲν ἄρτον
ἀφαρπάσασα χειρῶν
Ἀνακρέοντος αὐτοῦ,
πιεῖν δέ μοι δίδωσι
τὸν οἶνον ὃν προπίνει,
πιοῦσα δ’ ἀγχορεύω
καὶ δεσπότην κρέκοντα
πτεροῖσι συγκαλύπτω·
κοιμωμένου δ’ ἐπ’ αὐτῷ
τῷ βαρβίτῷ καθεύδω.
ἔχεις ἅπαντ’· ἄπελθε·
λαλιστέραν μ’ ἔθηκας,
ἄνθρωπε, καὶ κορώνης.”
(Anacreontea 15)

Lovely pigeon, where, where have you flown from? As you race on the air you smell of perfumes, you rain perfumes: where did they all come from? Who are you and what is your business?
“Anacreon sent me to a boy, to Bathyllus, now lord and master of all. Cythere* sold me in return for a little song; and it is for Anacreon that I perform tasks like this. And what letters I am carrying from him now! And he says he will give me my freedom immediately; but if he does release me, I shall stay with him as his slave. Why should I fly over mountains and fields and sit on trees after eating some wild food? As things are, I eat bread which I snatch from Anacreon’s own hands, and for drink he gives me the wine which he drinks to his loves; after drinking I begin to dance, and while my master plays his lyre I shade him with my wings. When he goes to bed, I sleep on the lyre itself. There, you know it all. Go away: you have made me more talkative than a crow, fellow.”

* Aphrodite

(tr. David A. Campbell, with his note)

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