The HyperTexts

Athenian Epitaphs

These are epitaphs (a form of epigram) translated from inscriptions on ancient Greek tombstones. I use the term "after" in my translations because these are loose translations rather than ultra-literal translations.—Michael R. Burch, editor, The HyperTexts

Now that I am dead sea-enclosed Cyzicus shrouds my bones.
Faretheewell, O my adoptive land that nurtured me, that held me;
I take rest at your breast.
Michael R. Burch, after Erycius

Mariner, do not ask whose tomb this may be,
but go with good fortune: I wish you a kinder sea.
Michael R. Burch, after Plato

Does my soul abide in heaven, or hell?
Only the sea gulls in their high, lonely circuits may tell.
Michael R. Burch, after Glaucus

Passerby,
tell the Spartans we lie
here, dead at their word,
obedient to their command.
Have they heard?
Do they understand?
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

He lies here in state tonight: great is his Monument!
Yet Ares cares not, neither does War relent.
Michael R. Burch, after Anacreon

Blame not the gale, or the inhospitable sea-gulf, or friends’ tardiness,
mariner! Just man’s foolhardiness.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

Be ashamed, O mountains and seas: these were men of valorous breath.
Assume, like pale chattels, an ashen silence at death.
Michael R. Burch, after Parmenio

These men earned a crown of imperishable glory,
nor did the maelstrom of death obscure their story.
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

They observed our fearful fetters, braved the overwhelming darkness.
Now we extol their excellence: bravely, they died for us.
Michael R. Burch, after Mnasalcas

Stranger, flee!
But may Fortune grant you all the prosperity
she denied me.
Michael R. Burch, after Leonidas of Tarentum

I am thine, O master, even in the grave:
just as you now are death’s slave.
Michael R. Burch, after Dioscorides

Dead as you are, though you lie as
still as cold stone, huntress Lycas,
my great Thessalonian hound,
the wild beasts still fear your white bones;
craggy Pelion remembers your valor,
splendid Ossa, the way you would bound
and bay at the moon for its whiteness
as below we heard valleys resound.
And how brightly with joy you would leap and run
the strange lonely peaks of high Cithaeron!
Michael R. Burch, after Simonides

Having never earned a penny,
nor seen a bridal gown slip to the floor,
still I lie here with the love of many,
to be the love of yet one more.
Michael R. Burch, after an unknown Greek poet

I lie by stark Icarian rocks
and only speak when the sea talks.
O, tell my dear father that I gave up the ghost
on the Aegean coast.
Michael R. Burch, after Theatetus

Everywhere the sea is the sea, the dead are the dead.
What difference to me—where I rest my head?
The sea knows I’m buried.
Michael R. Burch, after Antipater of Sidon

Stripped of her stripling, if asked, she’d confess:
“I am now less than nothingness.”
Michael R. Burch, after Diotimus



The following are links to other translations by Michael R. Burch:

Wulf and Eadwacer
Sweet Rose of Virtue
How Long the Night
Caedmon's Hymn
The Wife's Lament
Deor's Lament
Lament for the Makaris
Basho
Oriental Masters/Haiku
Sappho
Miklós Radnóti
Rainer Maria Rilke
Allama Iqbal
Bertolt Brecht
Ber Horvitz
Paul Celan
Primo Levi
Tegner's Drapa

The HyperTexts