Two kinds of Loneliness

The Good News According to Mark. 5:1-5:5.

And they came to the other side of the sea,
to the region of the Gerasenes.
And when he stepped from the boat, straight up to him,
from among the tombs, there came a man
with an impure spirit whose home was the tombs.

No one could restrain him then, even with chains.
He had been shackled and chained many times,
but he snapped the chains and crushed the shackles.
No one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day, among the tombs and in the hills,
he screamed and mutilated himself with stones.

Sophocles, Philoctetes 169-175, 183-186.

How I pity him.
He has no one who cares,
No eyes to face his own.
Wretched, always alone,
He’s sick with a savage sickness.
His every need a struggle.
How, how in the world does he hold out?

This man, perhaps second to no one
From an eminent house,
Has no share in common life.
He exists alone, away from others,
Among spotted or hairy beasts.
His hurt and hunger, pitiful.
Unceasing and grave, his worry.


Καὶ ἦλθον εἰς τὸ πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης εἰς τὴν χώραν τῶν Γερασηνῶν. Καὶ ἐξελθόντος αὐτοῦ ἐκ τοῦ πλοίου [εὐθὺς] ὑπήντησεν αὐτῷ ἐκ τῶν μνημείων ἄνθρωπος ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ, ὃς τὴν κατοίκησιν εἶχεν ἐν τοῖς μνήμασιν, καὶ οὐδὲ ἁλύσει οὐκέτι οὐδεὶς ἐδύνατο αὐτὸν δῆσαι διὰ τὸ αὐτὸν πολλάκις πέδαις καὶ ἁλύσεσι δεδέσθαι καὶ διεσπάσθαι ὑπ᾽αὐτοῦ τὰς ἁλύσεις καὶ τὰς πέδας συντετρίφθαι, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἴσχυεν αὐτὸν δαμάσαι: καὶ διὰ παντὸς νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας ἐν τοῖς μνήμασιν καὶ ἐν τοῖς ὄρεσιν ἦν κράζων καὶ κατακόπτων ἑαυτὸν λίθοις.


οἰκτίρω νιν ἔγωγ᾽, ὅπως,
μή του κηδομένου βροτῶν
μηδὲ ςύντροφον ὄμμ᾽ ἔχων,
δύστανος, μόνος ἀεί,
νοσεῖ μὲν νόσον ἀγρίαν,
ἀλύει δ᾽ ἐπὶ παντί τῳ
χρείας ἱσταμένῳ. πῶς ποτε πῶς δύσμορος ἀντέχει; . . .

οὗτος πρωτογόνων ἴσως
οἴκων οὐδενὸς ὕστερος,
πάντων ἄμμορος ἐν βίῳ
κεῖται μοῦνος ἀπ᾽ ἄλλων,
στικτῶν ἢ λασίων μετὰ
θηρῶν, ἔν τ᾽ ὀδύναις ὁμοῦ
λιμῷ τ᾽ οἰκτρός, ἀνήκεστ᾽ αμεριμνήμτα τ᾽ἔχων βάρη. . .

Semi-abstract painting of an old man playing a classical guitar
Pablo Picasso.
The Old Guitarist.
Art Institute of Chicago.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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