You meet your friend, your face
Brightens - you have struck gold.
Wealth covers sin - the poor
Are naked as a pin.
Poverty? wealth? seek neither -
One causes swollen heads,
The other, swollen bellies.
A learned fool? God save us!
The pigs are wearing pearls.
Better unborn than fool.
If born, spare earth your tread.
Don't wait, Go straight to hell.
Ask for a taste of luck
Before you ask for beauty.
and my favourite in this group:
A half-dead, bald, one-handed,
Stuttering, pint-sized, pimply,
Pigeon-toed, cross-eyed man,
When mocked by a lying pimp,
A thieving, murderous drunk,
Of his misfortune said:
"I'm not to blame - you think
I asked to be like this?
But you! . . . the credit's yours.
Your Maker gave you nothing,
Behold! a self-made man.'
Kassia is the only woman poet of distinction in Byzantine history. Tradition says she was to be chosen as a bride by the Emperor but was rejected when she answered him with the edged wit for which she is famous. She founded a convent and was its abbess for the remainder of her life. She wrote epigrams in iambics, and a substantial number of hymns.
Epigrams translated from Byzantine Greek by Patrick Diehl