On the Swing She Sits (Komiaki, Naxos)
The girl is sitting on the swing, no dove was ever prettier,
spreads and flaps her pure white wings, and fans the air around us.
Now stir yourself and bend your limbs to make your blossom scatter,
to wither up your cruel heart and cause your lips to shrivel.
Get going there, my tongue, and start to sing some lofty praises
of the red carnations and the silver-petalled violas.
There’s one, there’s two, there’s three, and with one other four,
a marvellous life we have, we lucky bachelors.
A pair of dainty silver hands took hold of both the swing ropes
with fingers that were pencil thin and finger-nails of ivory.
Dear nightingales, peacocks and carolling canaries,
for heaven’s sake don’t wake that lovely bird of mine.
May the beam be made of steel, the rope of stoutest iron.
I pray the man who fathered her may live to sire another.
The sun is setting in the west, the day is almost over,
the little bird who’s dear to me is nowhere to be seen.
Residing in this neighbourhood there is a pretty dove-bird.
If we come back a year from now we’ll find her with a soul-mate.
The sun is setting now before your open windows
and, mischief ’s daughter, you are dyeing your arched eyebrows.
Translated by John Leatham
Red-faced Scyphos, 450-420 BC.
Staatliche Μuseen, Berlin