Women by Semonides of Amorgos

She from the steed of wanton mane
Shall spurn all servile toil and pain:
Nor shake the sieve, nor ply the mill
Nor sweep the floor, though dusty still,
Nor near the oven take her seat,
But loathe the ashes, smoke, and heat,
And to her husband profit naught,
Unless by sheer compulsion taught.
Twice, thrice she bathes her through the day,
Washing the slightest soil away;
Perfumes with oils her every limb,
Her tresses combs in order trim;
Tress upon tress, in thickening braid,
While twisted flowers her temples shade.
A goodly sight to strangers’ view,
But he that owns her sore shall rue
The cost I ween, unless he be
Satrap or king and joy in luxury.

Her from an Ape the Maker sent
Man’s evil mate and punishment.
Her visage foul, she walks the streets
The laughing-stock of all she meets.
Scarce her short neck can turn; all slim
And lank and spare; all leg and limb!
Wretched the man who in his breast
Is doomed to fold this female pest!
She, like the Ape, is versed in wiles
And tricking turns; she never smiles,
Obliges none; but ponders still
On mischief-plots and daily ill.

Who gains the creature from the Bee
By fortune favoured most is he:
To her alone, with pointless sting,
Would Scandal impotently cling.
With her his May of life is long;
His days are flourishing and strong.
Beloved, her fond embrace she twines
Round him she loves: with him declines
In fading years; her race is known
For goodly forms and fair renown.

Her decent charms her sex outshine:
Around her flits a grace divine.
She sits not pleased where women crowd,
In amorous tattle, light and loud:
With such the God mankind has blest;
With such the wisest and the best.

From: Miller, Marion Mills (ed.), The Greek Classics: Didactic and Lyric Poetry, Volume Three, 1909, Vincent Parke and Company: New York, pp. 100-101.

Date: 7th century BCE (original in Greek); 1814 (translation in English)

By: Semonides of Amorgos (7th century BCE)

Translated by: Charles Abraham Elton (1778-1853)

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