This movingly distilled elegy is evidence of why Callimachus has been regarded since antiquity as one of the greats: he was a big influence on Roman poets including Catullus (in his serious moments) and the later Propertius. It has a curious niche in English literature in a verse translation by William Johnson Cory, whose unlikely other claim to fame is to have written the Eton Boating Song (“Jolly boating weather/And a hay-harvest breeze” etc). Cory’s translation is nevertheless a good poem in its own right: see it, with one of Heraclitus’s nightingales, in the blog post here.
To scroll both versions of the poem at the same time - tap inside one box to select it and then scroll.
εἶπέ τις Ἡράκλειτε τεὸν μόρον, ἐς δέ με δάκρυ
ἤγαγεν, ἐμνήσθην δ᾽ ὁσσάκις ἀμφότεροι
ἥλιον ἐν λέσχηι κατεδύσαμεν: ἀλλὰ σὺ μέν που
ξεῖν᾽ ‘Αλικαρνησεῦ τετράπαλαι σποδιή:
αἱ δὲ τεαὶ ζώουσιν ἀηδόνες, ἧισιν ὁ πάντων
ἁρπακτὴς Ἀίδης οὐκ ἐπὶ χεῖρα βαλεῖ.
Someone told me, Heraclitus, of your fate and brought
me to tears; I recalled how often we two made the sun set
as we talked. But now somewhere you, my friend
from Halicarnassus, are ashes long and long ago.
But your nightingales, that death, snatcher
of all things, will never lay hand on, live on.