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Erinna: "The Distaff"

Translated by D.L.Page. In his introduction, Page says: "This beautiful fragment is part of Erinna's 'Distaff', a poem written in sorrow for the death of Baucis, a friend of her girlhood. Erinna herself is said to have died at the age of nineteen : and this poem, which (according to Suidas) consisted of 300 hexameters, was perhaps her only published work.".

Much more information about Erinna, along with the Greek text of this fragment and a French translation, can be found on the Chaerephon website.



. . . From white horses with madcap bound into the deep wave you leapt : "I catch you," I shouted, "my friend!" And you, when you were Tortoise, * ran leaping through the yard of the great court.

Thus I lament, unhappy Baucis, and make deep moan for you. These traces of you, dear maid, lie still glowing in my heart : all that we once enjoyed, is embers now.

We clung to our dolls in our chambers when we were girls, playing Young Wives, without a care. And towards dawn your Mother, who allotted wool to her attendant workwomen, came and called you to help with the salted meat. Oh, what a trembling the Bogy brought us then, when we were little ones! - On its head were huge ears, and it walked on all fours, and changed from one face to another!

But when you went to a man's bed, you forgot all that you heard from your Mother, dear Baucis, in babyhood : Aphrodite set oblivion in your heart. So I lament you, yet neglect your obsequies my feet are not so profane as to leave the house, my eyes may not behold a body dead, nor may I moan with hair unbound, yet a blush of shame distracts me . . .

* This paragraph refers to the game described by Pollux ix. 125 : one girl (called the Tortoise) sat among others and spoke with them in alternate lines. At the end of the last line the Tortoise leapt up and tried to catch, or touch, one of the others - who would then take her turn as Tortoise. The last two lines are given by Pollux as : (Girls) "What was your son doing when he died?" (Tortoise) "From white horses into the sea he leapt" (on the last word the Tortoise leaps up) : hence the first line here.


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