Anacreon: Praise of Bacchus

WHILST our joys with wine we raise,
Youthful Bacchus we will praise.
Bacchus dancing did invent;
Bacchus is on songs intent;
Bacchus teacheth Love to court,
And his mother how to sport;
Graceful confidence he lends;
He oppressive trouble ends;
To the bowl when we repair,
Grief doth vanish into air;
Drink we then, and drown all sorrow;
All our cares not knows the morrow;
Life is dark, let’s dance and play,
They that will be troubled may;
We our joys with wine will raise,
Youthful Bacchus we will praise.

translated by Thomas Stanley, 1651.

Anacreon: The Accompt

IF thou dost the number know
Of the leaves on every bough,
If thou can’st the reckoning keep
Of the sands within the deep;
Thee of all men will I take,
And my Love’s accomptant make.
Of Athenians first a score
Set me down; then fifteen more;
Add a regiment to these
Of Corinthian mistresses,
For the most renown’d for fair
In Achæa sojourn there;
Next our Lesbian Beauties tell;
Those that in Ionia dwell;
Those of Rhodes and Caria count;
To two thousand they amount.
Wonder’st thou I love so many?
’Las of Syria we not any,
Egypt yet, nor Crete have told,
Where his orgies Love doth hold.
What to those then wilt thou say
Which in eastern Bactria,
Or the western Gades remain?
But give o’er, thou toil’st in vain;
For the sum which thou dost seek
Puzzles all arithmetic.

Translated by Thomas Stanley, 1651.

Anacreon: Gold

NOT to love a pain is deem’d,
And to love’s the same esteem’d:
But of all the greatest pain
Is to love unlov’d again.
Birth in love is now rejected,
Parts and arts are disrespected,
Only gold is look’d upon.
A curse take him that was won
First to doat upon it; hence
Springs ‘twixt brothers difference;
This makes parents slighted; this
War’s dire cause and fuel is:
And what’s worst, by this alone
Are we lovers overthrown.

Translation by Thomas Stanley, 1651.

Anacreon: Spring

SEE the Spring herself discloses,
And the Graces gather roses;
See how the becalmed seas
Now their swelling waves appease;
How the duck swims, how the crane
Comes from winter home again;
See how Titan’s cheerful ray
Chaseth the dark clouds away;
Now in their new robes of green
Are the plowman’s labors seen:
Now the lusty teeming Earth
Springs each hour with a new birth;
Now the olive blooms: the vine
Now doth with plump pendants shine;
And with leaves and blossoms now
Freshly bourgeons every bough.


Translation by Thomas Stanley, 1651.

The definitely best portrait made of Molière during his lifetime does not show him in one of his own pieces, but as Julius Caesar in Corneille’s La Mort de Pompée. Nicolas Mignard painted it around 1658.

Nearly two hundred years later, Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse based a posthumous portrait in civilian clothes on this one.

Anacreon: Age

OFt am I by the Women told,
Poor Anacreon thou grow’st old.
Look how thy Hairs are falling all;
Poor Anacreon how they fall?
Whether I grow old or no,
By th’effects I do not know.
This I know without being told,
’Tis Time to Live if I grow Old,
’Tis time short pleasures now to take,
Of little Life the best to make,
And manage wisely the last stake.


Translation by Abraham Cowley (1618–1667).

The Venus and Adonis motif goes back to a rather complex Syrian cult that spread across the Greek world in the wake of Alexander’s conquests and gained a wide followership. Many of Theocritus’ idylls circle around it. The core story on which the motif rests is that Adonis wants to go hunting; Astarte (for whom the Greek followers substituted Aphrodite) tries to hold him back; he is killed by a wild boar; Astarte turns the drops of his blood into anemones, thus granting him some form of immortality.

This is a lifesize painting by Nicolas Mignard, now at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. He treats the subject with some understatement and rarely matched mastery.

Caesar van Everdingen was one of the few artists to paint the rape of Europa from the point of view of the shore, of her companions, who are thus much more prominent than Europa herself. He never sold the painting in his lifetime. You can find more details about it here and here.

Jacob Adriaensz Backer was a leading artist in Amsterdam, famous for his extreme quickness in painting portraits. According to Joachim von Sandrart’s Teutsche Academie, he completely finished, in one day, the half length portrait of a lady in full dress, so that she was able to return the same day back to Haarlem with the painting. This portrait of an unknown lady as the muse Euterpe was done not long before his premature death, only forty-two, in 1651.

Louis XIV as the conqueror of the Fronde, about sixteen years of age. This reproduction is cropped, but I chose it because it has the best colors. The original painting is about square, and at the bottom the following two lines are written:

Iupiter applaudens Lodoico fulmina cessit,
Iamque novum Mundus sensit adesse Iovem.

This direct association of a Christian king with the highest pagan god, under the regency of a queen who grew up in the devout Spanish court, at a time when a cardinal (Mazarin) was Chief Minister, is quite remarkable but not without tradition: Fifty years earlier, Henri IV had already been portrayed as Mars.