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Aulus Gellius 19.11

Translation copyright 2003 Neil W. Bernstein; all rights reserved.

[He gives some erotic verses which Plato wrote while still quite young and competing in the tragic competition. (1)]

  1. The following two Greek verses are famous, and many learned men commit them to memory because they are extremely charming and wittily brief.
  2. There are not a few ancient writers who affirm that these are the verses of Plato the philosopher. He toyed with them as a young man while at the same time he was beginning to compose tragedies.
    Kissing Agathon on the lips I caught my soul,
    as if (wretched thing) it came hoping to cross over. (2)
  3. My friend, a young man not lacking the Muses, freely and unabashedly translated this couplet into many verses. Since they did not seem unworthy of commemoration to me, I have appended them below:
  4. While with half-parted lips
    I was kissing my young boyfriend
    And drawing in his breath's sweet flower
    By an open path,
    My sad and wounded soul
    Rushed to my lips.
    It searched for a way of passing
    Through my mouth's opening
    And the boy's soft lips,
    And struggled so it could leap across.
    If there had been the tiniest prolongation
    Of the kiss's union,
    Stirred up by Love's fire
    My soul would have crossed over and left me behind,
    And straightway there would have been an amazing result—
    I would have become dead for myself,
    And lived within the boy.

Notes

  1. Although modern editors reject this lemma (chapter title), I have included it here for ease of reference.
  2. Plato, Greek Anthology 5.78; cf. Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.2.15-17.

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