(Poem #380) Heraclitus
They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead; They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed; I wept, as I remembered, how often you and I Had tired the sun with talking, and sent him down the sky. And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest, A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest, Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake; For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.
A poem that has 'classic' written all over it - the language, the images capture the feel of the original perfectly. There isn't a whole lot I can say about it - the poem and the original should both speak for themselves. Notes: Heraclitus: Greek philosopher (ca. 540-ca. 400 BC), pre-Socratic founder of an Ionian school, whose principal tenet was change in all things. Cory translates an epigram of Callimachus, which in A. W. Mair's translation of the Greek is as follows: "One told me, Heracleitus, of thy death and brought me to tears, and I remembered how often we two in talking put the sun to rest. Thou, methinks, Halicarnasian friend, art ashes long and long ago; but thy nightingales live still, whereon Hades, snatcher of all things, shall not lay his hand" Carian: of Caria, part of southwest Asia Minor. -- From http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/poems/cory1.html And from Unauthorized Versions Heraclitus's poems appear to have been known as 'nightingales', and Lempriere explains that he was 'remarkable for the elegance of his style'. Biographical Note Educator (his tenure as Assistant Master of Eton College lasted from 1845 to 1872) and author of A Guide to Modern British History (New York: Holt, 1880-82), William Johnson became William Johnson Cory after his retirement. A brief biography appears in the third edition of Ionica, his translation of classical poems, as edited by Arthur C. Benson -- http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/authors/cory.html#notes Parodies: Two, this time, both titled 'They Told Me, Heraclitus'. The first is a couplet that neatly deflates the poem's slightly dramatic atmosphere: They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead. But I just wondered who you were, and what it was you said. -- Guy Hanlon The second is perhaps not as good overall, but it contains one of the nicest opening couplets I've seen in a parody... They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead. I never knew your proper name was Heraclitus, Fred. You made out you were working-class, you talked with adenoids, And so it was a shock to learn you were a name at Lloyd's And now I'm full of doubts about the others at the squat. Are they a load of Yuppies, or Thatcherites, or what? Is Special Branch among us, camoflauged with crabs and fleas? Is Kev a poncing Xenophon? Darren Thucydides? -- Brian Fore squat: a house occupied by squatters. poncing: effeminate I've never been able to look at a Fred in quite the same way since <g>. m.