The Megaran Elegiac poet Theognis leaves us over a thousand lines of conventional advice presented in a traditional order. Four couplets attributed to him (or his tradition) don’t fit into this order and are thus “fragments of uncertain place” (Fragmenta Sedis Incertae). I don’t know if I read them before today; but I am certain they’re worth reading again:
“Logic is in the habit of inflicting upon men, Kurnos
The many stumbles of troubled judgment.”
Πολλὰ φέρειν εἴωθε λόγος θνητοῖσι βροτοῖσιν
πταίσματα τῆς γνώμης, Κύρνε, ταρασσομένης.
“Nothing, Kurnos, is more unjust than anger, which pains
The man who has it even as it appeals to the baser parts of his heart.”
Οὐδέν, Κύρν’, ὀργῆς ἀδικώτερον, ἣ τὸν ἔχοντα
πημαίνει θυμῶι δειλὰ χαριζομένη.
“Nothing, Kurnos, is sweeter than a good woman.
I am a witness to this, and you are witness to the truth”
Οὐδέν, Κύρν’, ἀγαθῆς γλυκερώτερόν ἐστι γυναικός.
μάρτυς ἐγώ, σὺ δ’ ἐμοὶ γίνου ἀληθοσύνης.
“Even now the sea’s corpse calls me home,
But when dead, I will sound through the mouth of a living man”
῎Ηδη γάρ με κέκληκε θαλάσσιος οἴκαδε νεκρός,
τεθνηκὼς ζωιῶι φθεγγόμενος στόματι.
3 thoughts on “Logic, Anger, Ladies and Death: The Fragmenta Sedis Incertae of Theognis”
Though he may be a bit on the aristocratic, priggish side, I’ve always liked Theognis. It would probably never fly, given our modernist standards, if I professed an admiration for Theognis far greater than that for the common-person’s moralizer, Hesiod.
I am a fan of Theognis–but I think you’re unfair to Hesiod: imagine if we could excerpt his best stuff!
To be fair, of the few thousand lines of Hesiod we have, far fewer are quotable than Theognis’. And who would be a better companion at a bar? No contest.
No contest indeed: give me the perfumed, rich Theognis (drinks are on him!) over and above the manure-spattered Hesiod!