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Ah, cruel 'tis to love,
And cruel not to love,
But cruelest of all
To love and love in vain.

Anacreon (582 BC – 485 BC) was a Greek lyric poet, notable for his drinking songs and hymns.


All my care is for to-day;
What's to-morrow who can say?
  • To-day belongs to me,
    To-morrow who can tell.
    • Odes, VIII. (VIL), 9.
    • Variant translation:
      • All my care is for to-day;
        What's to-morrow who can say?
  • Persuasion's flowing well.
    • Odes, XVIII., 18 (6).
  • The black earth drinks, in turn
    The trees drink up the earth.
    The sea the torrents drinks, the sun the sea,
    And the moon drinks the sun.
    Why, comrades, do ye flout me,
    If I, too, wish to drink?
    • Odes, 21.
    • Variant translation:
      • Fruitful earth drinks up the rain,
        Trees from earth drink that again;
        The sea too drinks the air, the sun
        Drinks the sea, and him the moon.
        Is it reason, then, do ye think,
        That I should thirst when all else drink?
        • Thomas Stanley, Anacreon, Ode XIX.
  • Nature gave horns to the bull,
    Hoofs gave she to the horse.
    To the lion cavernous jaws,
    And swiftness to the hare.
    The fish taught she to swim,
    The bird to cleave the air;
    To man she reason gave;
    Not yet was woman dowered.
    What, then, to woman gave she?
    The priceless gift of beauty.
    Stronger than any buckler,
    Than any spear more piercing,
    Who hath the gift of beauty,
    Nor fire nor steel shall harm her.
    • Odes, XXIV.
    • Variant translation:
      • The bull by nature hath his horns,
        The horse his hoofs, to daunt their foes;
        The light-foot hare the hunter scorns;
        The lion's teeth his strength disclose.

        The fish, by swimming, 'scapes the weel;
        The bird, by flight, the fowler's net;
        With wisdom man is arm'd as steel;
        Poor women none of these can get.

        What have they then?—fair Beauty's grace,
        A two-edged sword, a trusty shield;
        No force resists a lovely face,
        Both fire and sword to Beauty yield.
        • "A. W." (anonymous translator), in Davison's Poetical Rhapsody, Ode II.
  • Ah, cruel 'tis to love,
    And cruel not to love,
    But cruelest of all
    To love and love in vain.
    • Odes, XXIX. (XXVII.), 1.
  • Love for lineage nothing cares,
    Tramples wisdom under foot,
    Worth derides, and only looks
    For money.
    • Odes, XXIX. (XXVIL, b), 5.
  • Cursed be he above all others
    Who's enslaved by love of money.
    Money takes the place of brothers,
    Money takes the place of parents,
    Money brings us war and slaughter.
    • Odes, XXIX. (XXVIL, b), 8.
  • Whence can we the future learn?
    Life to mortals is obscure.
    • Odes, XXXVIII. (XXXVL), 19.
  • But when an old man dances,
    His locks with age are grey,
    But he's a child in mind.
    • Odes, XXXIX. (XXXVII), 3.
  • I fled the headless darts of slanderous tongue.
    • Odes, XLII. (XL.), 11.
  • E'en though I would not, die I must;
    Why stray I thus through life?
    • XLV. (XLIII.), 5.
  • And last of all comes death.
    • Odes, L. (XL VIII.), 28.

Quotes about Anacreon

  • I see Anacreon smile and sing;
    His silver tresses breathe perfume,
    His cheek displays a second spring
    Of roses, taught by wine to bloom.
    Away, deceitful cares, away!
    And let me listen to his lay;
    While flowery dreams my soul employ;
    While turtle-wing'd the laughing hours,
    Lead hand in hand the festal powers,
    Lead youth and love, and harmless joy.
  • This tomb be thine, Anacreon; all around
    Let ivy wreath, let flow'rets deck the ground,
    And from its earth, enrich'd by such a prize,
    Let wells of milk and streams of wine arise:
    So will thine ashes yet a pleasure know,
    If any pleasure reach the shades below.
    • Antipater of Sidon, On Anacreon (Jacobs II. 26, lxxii.), as translated in The Spectator, No. 551 (December 2, 1712).
  • All thy verse is softer far
    Than the downy feathers are
    Of my wings, or of my arrows,
    Of my mother's doves or sparrows.
    Sweet as lovers' freshest kisses,
    Or their riper following blisses,
    Graceful, cleanly, smooth, and round,
    All with Venus girdle bound.
    • Abraham Cowley, Elegy upon Anacreon {Spoken by the God of Love} (1656), lines 11–18.
  • It grieves me when I see what fate
    Does on the best of mankind wait.
    Poets or lovers let them be,
    'Tis neither love nor poesy
    Can arm against death's smallest dart
    The poet's head, or lover's heart.
    For when their life in its decline
    Touches th' inevitable line,
    All the world's mortal to 'em then,
    And wine is aconite to men.
    Nay, in death's hand the grape-stone proves
    Fatal as thunder is in Jove's.
    • Abraham Cowley, Elegy upon Anacreon {Who was choaked by a Grape-Stone} (1656), lines 105–116.
  • Nec si quid olim lusit Anacreon,
    delevit aetas.
    • blithe Anacreon's sportive lay
      Still lives, in spite of time's destructive sway.
    • Horace, Carmina, Book IV (13 BC), Ode 9, lines 9–10 (tr. Duncombe).
  • With roses crown'd, on flowers supinely laid,
    Anacreon [blithe] the sprightly lyre essay'd,
    In light fantastic measures beat the ground,
    Or dealt the mirth-inspiring juice around:
    No care, no thought, the tuneful Teian knew,
    But mark'd with bliss each moment as it flew.


  • Harbottle, Thomas Benfield. Dictionary of Quotations (Classical). London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1897.
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