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Bacchylides: Paean on peace

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Bacchylides
Paean on peace
Translated by Christopher North

Innumerous are the boons bestow’d on man by gracious Peace!
The Flowers of Poets honey-tongued, and Wealth’s immense increase.
Then to the joyful altars unto the gods arise
The fumes of sheep’s and oxen’s flesh in ruddy sacrifice;
In crowds to the gymnasium the strenuous youth resort,
Or to the pipe the revellers pursue their madd’ening sport;
The spider black doth weave his web on iron-handled shield,
And sharp-set spear and two-edged sword to mouldy canker yield;
No longer anywhere is heard the trumpet’s brazen blare,
From men’s eyes soul-delighting sleep at midnight wont to scare;
Banquets heaped high with food and wine are spread in every street,
And songs from youthful companies are sounding strong and sweet.

Anonymous translation

To mortal men Peace giveth these good things:
Wealth, and the flowers of honey-throated song;
The flame that springs
On craven altars from fat sheep and kine,
Slain to the gods in heaven; and, all day long,
Games for gold youths, and flutes, and wreaths, and circling wine.
Then in the steely shield swart spiders weave
Their web and dusky woof:
Rust to the pointed spear and sword doth cleave;
The brazen trump sounds no alarms;
Nor is sleep harried from our eyes aloof,
But with sweet rest my bosom warms:
The streets are thronged with lovely men and young,
And hymns in praise of boys like flames to heaven are flung.

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