I learnt Cory’s translation of Callimachus’ poem by heart sixty years ago and wrote it just now, I am glad to say, from memory.
This poem carries the essential Classical qualities of brevity, simplicity, and emotional restraint.
Εἶπέ τις, Ἡράκλειτε, τεὸν μόρον, ἐς δέ με δάκρυ
ἤγαγεν. ἐμνήσθην δ᾿ ὁσσάκις ἀμφότεροι
ἠέλιον λέσχῃ κατεδύσαμεν, ἀλλὰ σὺ μέν που,
ξεῖν᾿ Ἁλικαρνησεῦ, τετράπαλαι σποδιή.
αἱ δὲ τεαὶ ζώουσιν ἀηδόνες, ᾗσιν ὁ πάντων
ἁρπακτὴς Ἀίδης οὐκ ἐπὶ χεῖρα βαλεῖ.
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.
But 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.
Translated by William Johnson Cory 1823–1892
The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900, edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch,1919. Poem 759. Heraclitus
For a more literal translation of this poem go to: