The Painful Journey to Understanding (Aeschylus)

Aeschylus, Agamemnon 176-183

“[Zeus] puts mortals on
The journey of comprehension.
And made this the powerful law:
We learn by suffering.
Pain-recalling trouble trickles
Through the heart in sleep—
And wisdom comes just so
To the unwilling.
The gods seated on their sacred seats
Bestow a hard grace I think.”

Ζῆνα δέ τις προφρόνως ἐπινίκια κλάζων
τεύξεται φρενῶν τὸ πᾶν,

τὸν φρονεῖν βροτοὺς ὁδώ-
σαντα, τὸν πάθει μάθος
θέντα κυρίως ἔχειν.
στάζει δ’ ἀνθ’ ὕπνου πρὸ καρδίας
μνησιπήμων πόνος· καὶ παρ’ ἄ-
κοντας ἦλθε σωφρονεῖν.
δαιμόνων δέ που χάρις βίαιος
σέλμα σεμνὸν ἡμένων.

Robert F. Kennedy used a version of this passage in discussing the death of Rev. Martin Luther King.


Doing the same thing again and again and again

2 thoughts on “The Painful Journey to Understanding (Aeschylus)

  1. μνησιπήμων πόνος is pulchre bene recte and all of that, a clear example of how much sentiment Aeschylus could cram into a small space. That fool Euripides can take a hike!

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