Sean Lewis’ Lament

(Editors note: the following is a fragment of a much larger work, the Ludoikiad, most of which has since been lost. Paraphrases of the epic found among the scholia of Pindar indicate that the following episode occurs just before the hero, Iohannes, undertakes his fatal voyage, during which he will die. His wife laments his death as though it had already happened, as we find Andromache doing in the Homeric Iliad, Rhapsody 6.)

. . . [15] Now Iohannes was preparing to undertake his voyage across the asphalt-grey sea (pontos), / That he might consult the oracles of Dodonian Zeus near Dumbarton, / Whose oaks rustle with prophecies, and whose seers (mantis) interpret the varied signs (sema). / As he loaded his gear into his swift-sailing ship, his wife Artemisia approached him, / Holding at her side their daughter, Bibiana of the shining eyes. / [20] She (=Artemisia) appeared in terrifying (deinos) aspect, her appearance (kosmos) in disarray. / Like one of the Maenads (bakkhai), her hair fell wild over her shoulders, / Tears streamed down her face, and her bare breasts / Were furrowed with the marks of her nails. / Artemisia approached Iohannes, and clasped his knees, addressing him as a supplicant: / [25] “Dear husband! What madness (ate) has possessed you to undertake this voyage? / Do you leave me alone, desolate, for so long a time? / What good can come from this voyage to consult with the Dononian? / Are not prophets (mantis) found also in our rugged mountains, / Inspired (enthusiasmos) by the divine Apollo? / [30] Iohannes, you rescued me from bondage, / Held in slavery to that grim-minded (noos) lady of the Muses, / Who gave me such pains (algea) in my heart (thumos). / You took me to your household (oikos) and bed, / And made me your dearest one (philtata), object of your desire (eros). / [35] What shall I do without you in our bed? When I think . . . [There is a gap in the text] . . . by no means! I am now a queen of our land; without you beside me, / how can I rule over our household (oikos)? Shall I be left as desolate as Andromache, / When brilliant, swift-footed Achilleus cut down her dear Hektor / [40] On the field of Troy, near sacred Ilion? / I foresee some sorrow under way. / Perhaps the encircling sea (Okeanos) will trap you in its flow, / And you will remain prisoner for long years in its current. / Perhaps some dreadful (deinos) creature living near Dumbarton, / [45] In his lair at Leukoikos, will catch you in his grasp / And gnaw your lovely body (soma), turning it to food for the birds who twitter! / If not for me, then for our daughter, now already a decade in years! / Soon, like Nausicaa, she will approach the time (hora) of her bridal song (epithalamion). / Who will be there to sing for her and play the clear-sounding lyre (phrominx) / [50] If you are lost on this mad (ate) voyage? Stay, Iohannes, / Have pity (eleos) on your wife, for I fear (phobein) / That your homecoming (nostos) will be prevented.” / As when a flower, under the heat of the summer sun, / Wilts (phthi-n-ein), pressing its head down to Mother Earth, / [55] So did Artemisia sink down at Iohannes’ feet, / Undone by her grief. . . .