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      Anacreon (c.570 - c.485 BC)
Translated by Walter Headlam (1866-1908)

   AH tell me why you turn and fly,
    My little Thracian filly shy?
            Why turn askance
            That cruel glance,
    And think that such a dunce am I?

    O I am blest with ample wit
    To fix the bridle and the bit,
            And make thee bend
            Each turning-end
    In harness all the course of it.

   But now 'tis yet the meadow free
    And frisking it with merry glee;
            The master yet
            Has not been met
    To mount the car and manage thee.


Anacreon was a native of the Greek city of Teos in Asia Minor and one of the most popular poets of his time. A translation of his (supposed) works was so popular in the late 1700s that his name was used by the Anacreontic Society in London. It was this group that composed the Anacreontic Song whose tune would be reused for the national anthem of the United States. As that song makes clear, Anacreon was chiefly known for his poems on love and wine. Unfortunately, the translated poems in question were not actually written by Anacreon, instead they were the Anacreontea - anonymous poems written between 100 BC and 600 AD in imitation of Anacreon's work. Anacreon's actual works are claimed to have filled at least five volumes, but all that remain are fragments.

Appearing under the title Take her, break her, the above translation can be found, for example, in:

  • Higham, T.F. and C. M. Bowra, eds. The Oxford Book of Greek Verse in Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938.

    A perhaps superior, but copyright protected, translation by J.M. Edmonds can be found under the title Tell Me Why in:

  • Whall, Arthur L., ed. The Greek Reader. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1943.

    Quotations about Anacreon from the classical period and a translation of the remaining fragments of his poetry (the above is number 84) can be found in:

  • Edmonds, J. M., ed. Lyra Graeca, Volume II. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1924.

    An overview of Anacreon's life and imitators and a translation of the Anacreontea can be found in:

  • Rosenmeyer, Patricia A. The Poetics of Imitation: Anacreon and the Anacreontic Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.