The Fourth Ode to Antinous was delivered by the
Alack! Despair! This Palaemon be drained;
Wearied and emptied of effort’s essence.
With flaccid flesh and placid face retrained,
Among us still, tho’ useless of presence.
Poor Favorinus! Wretched supplicant –
He whose place for the Idol’s worship’s last –
Pays the price of a poet mendicant
And comes when the feasting be scraps and passed.
How shall I find my full satisfaction?
How shall I give to the boy-god his due?
How shall effect my desire to action?
How shall my off’ring be knocked not askew?
I fear I’ll needs fold to bury my lust
As Sisyphus once o’er the drowned boy fussed.
And yet, what did he, when done was the day;
When funeral rites for the god were had?
What iron was wrought o’er the grass he lay?
What marker was sought to commend the lad?
I see you, Antinous, smiling there;
Can hear Thy thoughts to my thinking aligned.
Thou knowest the words I am want to share;
Art wise to my wiles and wailings designed.
Aye, ‘twas Sisyphus – Corinthian king –
Who sent from Achaia to lands afar
An invite for athletes their brawn to bring
With guaranteed passage through times of war.
And thus, ‘twas the Isthmian Games he gave,
To praise that god in the Isthmian grave.
What be the mark of an athlete lauded?
What shall determine his gloried success?
Wherefore be men, once stately, besotted
When struck by an athlete the gods caress?
Be it his strength? Speed? Balance, breed or poise?
Be it the beauty of his perfect flesh?
Be it the envy of aspiring boys,
Or pang of his elders for all what’s fresh?
Nay – ‘tis endurance what anoints his win:
Effort ever stretched over months of toil;
Thrusting undaunted through days thick and thin;
Fuelled by the sun and its withering broil!
Come, Antinous – be this for me then:
With athlete’s endurance, engorge again!
And so it was that Antinous went eagerly into Favorinus, and took
His Second Pleasure of the Evening from the flesh of the willing
The third stanza is exerpted and enacted as a live-action
presentation by Sir Richard Wadd: