The Praise Singer
I said he must certainly sing the Lament for Hyakinthos. We discussed a couple of others, which he could give as encores. Then he spent an hour at the bathhouse, before going on to the barber to have his hair and beard trimmed and curled. I always looked after his recital robe. I had shaken it out the day before, aired it, and tuned the kithara.
    I had to leave before him, to go to work, but he was dressed already. Not so richly, it seemed, as when last he’d sung, though the robe was just the same. Bright colors and gold thread were the wear in Samos; I had not known that my eye had got so used to them. But he had aged, as well. I embraced him, wished him every good fortune the gods can give, and went off to the Victory.
    It was full that night. I was cheered when I came in, which got the best from me. When I broke off, I was asked to several tables; it was Theodoros’s I went to. He said, “When I have time, I’ll do a bronze of your Perseus, just as you made me see him. The Gorgon’s head, now; the snakes we could work in the forge, and weld on after the casting …” He ran on, while I sat there as mute as a cream-filled cat. “Now Ibykos, last night at the Palace, he’s been cried up enough; he should have worked with the tools he knew. A foolish business.”
    I sat up like a cat drenched from a bucket. “Ibykos? But he lives in Sicily.”
    “Yes, that’s where he’s from. Landed two days back. Samos is the honeypot now, my boy.”
    My pleasure in the evening trickled away; it seemed treachery to my master. The great Ibykos, pupil of Stesichoros himself; the singer of heroes. Polykrates had imported another treasure. So tonight’s supper would be for often-invited guests, who had tasted all the treats and must be offered a change of fare, even though the dish was simpler.
    Youthful and hopeful still, I told myself that if Kleobis made his mark tonight, he would be asked again; thanked Theodores for his wine, and went back to my singing. After my supper-break, I always gave the late guests something; so Kleobis would be home before me.
    He was sleeping when I got back. At least, it was clear that he wanted me to think so. I went quietly to bed, and pretended to sleep myself. When the late guests came in, some had come on from the Palace, and told us all about Ibykos’ recital.
    His ode had first promised to reject all former themes, and then declared its own: the gifts and graces of the Tyrant’s son, young Polykrates, whose beauty he compared with that of the young Troilos, to the Trojan’s disadvantage. This was his offering, the gift of undying fame.
    The promise was kept, as such promises sometimes are. The song is still given sometimes, and people have asked me who this young Polykrates was. Only Ibykos’ name has kept it in the repertoire. Anakreon always said it was the worst thi?ng he’d ever done, notable only for its gross sycophancy. As he said later, “Shameless as a dog, my dear. He must have made it before he’d even seen the boy, who was no fool and knew it. He hardly knew where to look, any more than I did. However, he’s the apple of Father’s eye, and that’s all Ibykos cared for. It’s made his fortune in Samos.”
    For Anakreon, this was sharp. But different men as we were and different artists, we had some things in common. I have never come to want in my calling, I am glad to say; but I have gone where my work was liked as I chose to do it. Neither he nor I were like robe-makers to whom anyone can say, “Cut it this size, and trim it so.”
    Kleobis did not say much next morning; only that everyone had been very civil, and the fee would be useful till something came our way. Soon he was picking up small engagements at houses of the Landsharers. They would never have been offered to a man in the Tyrant’s favor; nor accepted by a man who had any hope of it. He was an old-fashioned singer, who had no more sense than to take on an ugly pupil, and sing of immortal loves where

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