Adieu

After Sappho, fragment 58

Now that old age is withering my once smooth skin,
now that my hair, once black, has turned to snowy white,
now that my knees are feeble and my legs too thin
to carry me, as once, to dances every night,
what can I do? Nothing. At least avoid the fate
to which the foolish goddess of the dawn condemned
her mortal lover: helpless ageing without end.

My own dear girls, I’m weary and the hour is late.
You must take up my lyre and sing my songs. And yet
I contemplate oncoming death without regret
for that I have known love, and with it I have won
the brightness and the beauty, briefly, of the sun.

Listen to this poem — read by the author

Sappho, Fragment 58

Υμμες πεδὰ Μοίσαν ἰοκόλπων κάλα δῶρα, παῖδες,
σπουδάσδετε καὶ τὰν φιλάοιδαν λιγύραν χελύνναν·
ἔμοι δ’ ἄπαλον πρίν ποτ’ ἔοντα χρόα γῆρας ἤδη
ἐπέλλαβε, λεῦκαι δ’ ἐγένοντο τρίχες ἐκ μελαίναν·
βάρυς δέ μ’ ὀ θῦμος πεπόηται, γόνα δ’ οὐ φέροισι,
τὰ δή πότα λαίψηρ’ ἔον ὄρχησθ’ ἴσα νεβρίοισι.
τὰ μὲν στεναχίσδω θαμέως· ἀλλὰ τί κεν ποείην;
ἀγήραον ἄνθρωπον ἔοντ’ οὐ δύνατον γένεσθαι.
καὶ γάρ ποτα Τίτωνον ἔφαντο βροδόπαχυν Αὔων
ἔρωι φυράθεισαν βάμεν’ εἰς ἔσχατα γᾶς φέροισαν,
ἔοντα κάλον καὶ νέον, ἀλλ’ αὖτον ὔμως ἔμαρψε
χρόνωι πόλιον γῆρας, ἔχοντ’ ἀθανάταν ἄκοιτιν.