The Spirits of Death and the Choice Each Day Brings

For all those surrounded by ghosts each holiday season. CW, suicide

Simonides, fr. 1 = Stobaeus 4.34.15

“Child, Zeus the loud-thunderer maintains the end
Of everything in the world and makes it how he likes.

Humans have no plans, but we just live for each day
Like animals who know nothing about
How the god will bring each thing to pass.

Hope and belief feed everyone who is eager
For the impossible. Some wait for the day to come,
But others look for the next season;
There’s no mortal alive who doesn’t think
That the new year will make them a friend to wealth and good living.

But old age beats us to it and takes one person
Before they’re done and terrible diseases that
Torture mortals overtake others. In the meantime,
Hades sends others subdued by war under the dark earth.

Even more die tossed about on the sea by winds
And on the rising waves of purple brine,
Whenever they fail to make a living on land.
And some leave the life of the sun by choice,
Tying a noose in a loop for an awful end.

So nothing is free of troubles, and thousands
Of death spirits and unpredictable pains stand waiting for us.
If we listen to my advice, though, we won’t long for grief,
Nor will we give ourselves more, by feasting our hearts on pain.”

ὦ παῖ, τέλος μὲν Ζεὺς ἔχει βαρύκτυπος
πάντων ὅσ᾿ ἐστὶ καὶ τίθησ᾿ ὅκῃ θέλει,
νοῦς δ᾿ οὐκ ἐπ᾿ ἀνθρώποισιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπήμεροι
ἃ δὴ βοτὰ ζώομεν, οὐδὲν εἰδότες
5ὅκως ἕκαστον ἐκτελευτήσει θεός.
ἐλπὶς δὲ πάντας κἀπιπειθείη τρέφει
ἄπρηκτον ὁρμαίνοντας· οἱ μὲν ἡμέρην
μένουσιν ἐλθεῖν, οἱ δ᾿ ἐτέων περιτροπάς·
νέωτα δ᾿ οὐδεὶς ὅστις οὐ δοκεῖ βροτῶν
πλούτῳ τε κἀγαθοῖσιν ἵξεσθαι φίλος.
φθάνει δὲ τὸν μὲν γῆρας ἄζηλον λαβὸν
πρὶν τέρμ᾿ ἵκηται, τοὺς δὲ δύστηνοι βροτῶν
φθείρουσι νοῦσοι, τοὺς δ᾿ Ἄρει δεδμημένους
πέμπει μελαίνης Ἀΐδης ὑπὸ χθονός·
οἱ δ᾿ ἐν θαλάσσῃ λαίλαπι κλονεόμενοι
καὶ κύμασιν πολλοῖσι πορφυρῆς ἁλὸς
θνήσκουσιν, εὖτ᾿ ἂν μὴ δυνήσωνται ζόειν·
οἱ δ᾿ ἀγχόνην ἅψαντο δυστήνῳ μόρῳ
καὐτάγρετοι λείπουσιν ἡλίου φάος.
οὕτω κακῶν ἄπ᾿ οὐδέν, ἀλλὰ μυρίαι
βροτοῖσι κῆρες κἀνεπίφραστοι δύαι
καὶ πήματ᾿ ἐστίν. εἰ δ᾿ ἐμοὶ πιθοίατο,
οὐκ ἂν κακῶν ἐρῷμεν, οὐδ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἄλγεσιν
κακοῖς ἔχοντες θυμὸν αἰκιζοίμεθα.

Mimnermus, 2 [=Stobaeus 4.34.12]5-8

“The dark spirits of death are standing beside us.
One holds eventual old age, in pain,
The other has death. The fruit of youth is brief,
As long as the sun’s light stretches across the earth.”

…Κῆρες δὲ παρεστήκασι μέλαιναι,
ἡ μὲν ἔχουσα τέλος γήραος ἀργαλέου,
ἡ δ᾿ ἑτέρη θανάτοιο· μίνυνθα δὲ γίνεται ἥβης
καρπός, ὅσον τ᾿ ἐπὶ γῆν κίδναται ἠέλιος.

Homer, Iliad 12.326-8

“But now, since the spirts of death stand fast around us
By the thousands, and there is no way any mortal can escape them,
Let us go and offer a reason to boast to someone else, or take it for ourselves”

νῦν δ’ ἔμπης γὰρ κῆρες ἐφεστᾶσιν θανάτοιο
μυρίαι, ἃς οὐκ ἔστι φυγεῖν βροτὸν οὐδ’ ὑπαλύξαι,
ἴομεν ἠέ τῳ εὖχος ὀρέξομεν ἠέ τις ἡμῖν.

Draweing of a main on a bed with one figure floating above him and another standing above him weeping while his spirit flees through a window

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