Hiking along (see below) I was reflecting on the rant about Ares and Athena by Enoch Root in the Cryptonomicon, of which more later perhaps.
It got me thinking about Greek religion, and when I thought of Aphrodite for some reason a poem from the Greek Anthology popped unbidden into my head and suddenly reduced me to tears. I nominate it for the saddest poem ever written, but if you know a competitor send it to me.
In form, it is a fairly standard dedication of an offering at a temple. A mirror — an expensive item in the days before glass — would have been a natural offering to Aphrodite. The poem is attributed to Plato, and he puts the dedication in the mouth of Lais, a famous courtesan. No doubt it’s even more potent in the original.
A probably more accurate (and obviouslly more complete) translation is here (XXIII), but it doesn’t move me as much as the one I remembered, from a translator whose name I have forgotten in an edition I must have lost twenty years ago.
No doubt the version below isn’t perfectly faithful even to that translation, but I’m prepared to bet it’s close.
dedicate this mirror to Aphrodite.
For it will not show me as I was,
and I will not look upon myself as I am.