I’ve been leafing through Fulke Greville’s Caelica, partly as congenial bedtime reading, partly to try to find a favorite passage from years ago. It turns out to be lines 69-74 of poem LXXXIII:
The ship of Greece, the streams and she be not the same
They were, although ship, streams and she still bear their antique name.
The wood which was, is worn, those waves are run away,
Yet still a ship, and still a stream, still running to a sea.
She lov’d, and still she loves, but doth not still love me,
To all except myself yet is, as she was wont to be.
The reference to Heraclitus and the impossibility of stepping in the same stream twice (or even once) is fairly obvious, but “the ship of Greece” is more obscure. The reference is to a story told in Plutarch’s Life of Theseus 23:
The ship on which Theseus sailed with the youths and returned in safety, the thirty-oared galley, was preserved by the Athenians down to the time of Demetrius Phalereus. They took away the old timbers from time to time, and put new and sound ones in their places, so that the vessel became a standing illustration for the philosophers in the mooted question of growth, some declaring that it remained the same, others that it was not the same vessel. (Bernadotte Perrin’s Loeb translation)
This was the subject of an interesting thread on the Classics list that started seven years ago tomorrow: scroll down to Argo puzzler. (The person asking about the ship was under the impression that it was Jason’s, not Theseus’.) When I tracked down the passage just now, I found that I had remembered it almost, but not quite, word for word, after something like twenty years. (When I quoted it in 1998, it was from memory.) Which words had I dropped? “They were” in the second line, which don’t seem to add much to the thought or the rhythm.