Translated by Steven Willett
Tyrtaeus fragment 10 Lycurg. in Leocr: 107
To die when he’s fallen in the front ranks is good
for a brave man fighting for his homeland,
but to abandon his city and abundant fields
as a beggar is the most painful of all,
wandering with his dear mother and aged father,
with small children and wedded wife.
For he’s hateful to whomever he may meet
yielding to need and hateful poverty,
he disgraces his lineage, refutes his noble form,
and all dishonor and baseness attend him.
If a man who wanders thus hasn’t any regard
or respect, nor for the family after him,
let us fight with spirit for this land and our children,
let us die, no longer sparing our lives.
Fight, O young men, standing fast with one another,
and don’t start shameful flight or fear,
but make the heart in your breasts great and valiant,
and don’t love your life fighting with men.
And for the elders, whose knees are no longer nimble,
don’t flee abandoning them, revered men.
For this is shameful, when fallen in the front ranks,
an older man lies with the young behind him,
who's already got a white head and gray beard,
breathing out his valiant spirit in the dust,
grasping his bloody genitals in his dear hands—
a shameful sight and wrathful to see—
his body naked. Yet for young men all is seemly
long as their noble bloom of lovely youth,
a marvel for men to see, and a desire for women
while alive, but noble fallen in the front ranks.
Let each one planting himself firmly stand with both legs
fixed on the ground, biting his lip with teeth.