Thanks to a vivacious ancient Greek dead guy named Seikilos, we have access to a piece of music that was popular nearly 4000 years ago, according to this post at the History Blog.

I wonder about Seikilos. About his character. How he walked and held his drinks. We have this song because he had it transcribed into his tombstone—notes and lyrics. Apparently, it was a drinking song. It went like this:

While you live, shine
Have no grief at all;
Life exists only a short while
And time demands its toll

(How translators always convince lyrics in old, dead languages to rhyme perfectly in their English translations is also something I wonder about…Speaking of which, have you heard that Jabberwocky has been translated into French and German? By which I mean: What is translation, really?)

History/music scholars have of course come up with their own renditions, and to me, this one is shockingly, delightfully pretty…maybe it’s just the arrangement, but the millenia have not cracked it, like stone ruins, or worn away its bones, like Seikilos. It’s lovely playing from my Macbook in the year 2013 while I drink tea in my kitchen:


It is a nice thing to have tapped into your grave-head. Seikilos also had some sort of inscription dedicated to a lady, Euterpe. Maybe, the blog wonders, his wife? Did Euterpe drink and be merry with her Seikilos? Did she stay home with their two to three Ancient Greek children, and resent him? Life exists only a short while and time demands its toll. I guess what I like most of all is that 4000 years ago the Ancient Greeks were drinking in honor of their own deaths just as we do, and that to us they are mostly dead, while to themselves they were mostly alive, just as we are mostly alive, and will ultimately be mostly dead.

2 thoughts on “ For when you die, such will you be. ”

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