Donatello’s David

Vasti membris animisque Gethei
corpore non animo parvus de sanguine mixto
Iesseius torta lapidem in cava tempora funda
misit; qui lapsus tremefacto pectore lata
ilice glandifera texit productior arva.
cum caderet, tellus tremuit magnamque ruinam
corporis inmensi moles dedit, ut diuturno
dilabens aevo, quae caelum vertice pulsat,
impete praecipitis Circi petit infima turris.
accurrit victor strictoque viriliter ense
amputat obnixe lentissima colla precantis.
nec mirum dextra tantum cecidisse gigantem
Iesseii; qui cum puer esset, tristibus ursis
intulit atque lupis mortem domuitque leones.
(Eupolemius 2.395-408)

Jesse’s son, small in body but not in spirit, of mixed ancestry, whirled a sling and shot a stone against the hollow temples of the Gittite, Goliath, who was awesome in both limbs and courage. After Goliath’s heart was made to tremble with fear and he fell, he stretched out, longer than an acorn-producing holm oak, and covered broad fields. When he fell, the earth trembled and the mass of his huge body caused great ruin, just as a tower, which strikes the heavens with its peak but which is collapsing from extreme age, topples down to the lowest point from the onset of a rushing northwest wind. The victor ran up and, with sword manfully drawn, resolutely severs Goliath’s very tough neck as he pleads for mercy. No wonder that so great a giant fell by the right hand of Jesse’s son; when David was a boy, he inflicted death upon grim bears and wolves, and he subdued lions. (tr. Jan M. Ziolkowski)


Digenis Akritas

Καὶ εὐθὺς περὶ ἔρωτος ὑμᾶς ἀναμιμνῄσκω·
ῥίζα γὰρ οὗτος καὶ ἀρχὴ καθέστηκεν ἀγάπης,
ἐξ ἧς φιλία τίκτεται, εἶτα γεννᾶται πόθος,
ὃς αὐξηθεὶς κατὰ μικρὸν φέρει καρπὸν τοιοῦτον,
μερίμνας μὲν διηνεκεῖς, ἐννοίας καὶ φροντίδας,
εὐθὺς κινδύνους παμπληθεῖς καὶ χωρισμὸν γονέων.
νεότης γὰρ ἀκμάζουσα καρδίας ἀνασπάει,
εἶτα πάντα κατατολμᾷ τῶν ἀνεπιχειρήτων,
θαλάττης μὲν ἐφίκεσθαι, πῦρ μηδόλως πτοεῖσθαι·
δράκοντας δὲ καὶ λέοντας καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ θηρία
οὐδοτιοῦν λογίζεται στερεωθεὶς ὁ πόθος
καὶ τοὺς λῃστὰς τοὺς τολμηροὺς ἀντ’ οὐδενὸς ἡγεῖται,
νύκτας ἡμέρας προσδοκᾷ καὶ τὰς κλεισούρας κάμπους,
ἀγρυπνίαν ἀνάπαυσιν καὶ τὰ μακρὰν πλησίον·
πολλοὶ καὶ πίστιν τὴν αὐτῶν ἀρνοῦνται διὰ πόθον.
καὶ τοῦτο μηδεὶς ἄπιστον ἐξ ὑμῶν λογισθήτω,
μάρτυρα γὰρ ἐπαινετὸν εἰς μέσον παραστήσω
ἀμιρᾶν τὸν πανεύγενον καὶ πρῶτον τῆς Συρίας,
ὃς εἶχε κάλλη πάντερπνα καὶ τόλμην θηριώδη
καὶ μέγεθος πανθαύμαστον, ἰσχὺν γενναιοτάτην,
καὶ μᾶλλον δεύτερος Σαμψὼν αὐτὸς ἐπενοήθη·
ἐκεῖνος γὰρ ἠρίστευσε χερσὶ λέοντα σχίσας,
οὗτος δὲ πλῆθος ἄπειρον ἀπέκτεινε λεόντων.
παύσασθε γράφειν Ὅμηρον καὶ μύθους Ἀχιλλέως
ὡσαύτως καὶ τοῦ Ἕκτορος, ἅπερ εἰσὶ ψευδέα.
(Digenes Akrites (Grottaferrata version) 4.4-28)

And immediately I remind you about passion,
for this is established as the root and beginning of love,
from which affection is begotten, then desire is born,
which as it increases gradually bears such fruit
as constant anxieties, worries and concerns,
and immediately brings abundant dangers and separation from parents.
For youth in its prime breaks hearts,
then dares every deed that has never been ventured,
to reach the sea and have no fear at all of fire;
ogres and lions and other wild beasts
desire, once established, considers as trifles,
and it regards bold brigands as worth nothing;
it reckons night as day and mountain passes as plains,
sleeplessness as rest and what is far off as near.
And many renounce their faith because of desire.
And let none of you consider this incredible,
for I shall set before you a renowned witness,
the most high-born emir and first man of Syria,
who possessed the most handsome grace and savage daring,
and quite amazing stature, most noble strength,
and indeed was thought to be a second Samson.
For Samson achieved distinction by rending a lion with his bare hands,
but the emir killed a boundless host of lions.
Cease writing of Homer and the legends of Achilles
and likewise of Hektor: these are false.
(tr. Elizabeth Jeffreys)