Boasts, Denials, and Unattainable Desire

Pindar, Nemean 11.29-31; 43-47

“But empty-headed boasts toss some mortals
From good ends ,while a heart that is overly cautious
Holds others back by the hand, making them deny their own strength,
And keeping them from their natural wins.”

ἀλλὰ βροτῶν τὸν μὲν κενεόφρονες αὖχαι
ἐξ ἀγαθῶν ἔβαλον· τὸν δ᾿ αὖ καταμεμφθέντ᾿ ἄγαν
ἰσχὺν οἰκείων παρέσφαλεν καλῶν
χειρὸς ἕλκων ὀπίσσω θυμὸς ἄτολμος ἐών.

“Yet anything from Zeus has no clear sign for mortals.
Nevertheless, we still make a start on massive projects
Because we desire many accomplishments.

Our limbs are devoted to shameless hope,
while rivers of forethought flow far away.
We need to hunt for some limit to profits,
Obsession with unattainable desires is too sharp.”

τὸ δ᾿ ἐκ Διὸς ἀνθρώποις σαφὲς οὐχ ἕπεται
τέκμαρ· ἀλλ᾿ ἔμπαν μεγαλανορίαις ἐμβαίνομεν,
ἔργα τε πολλὰ μενοινῶντες· δέδεται γὰρ ἀναιδεῖ
ἐλπίδι γυῖα· προμαθείας δ᾿ ἀπόκεινται ῥοαί.
κερδέων δὲ χρὴ μέτρον θηρευέμεν·
ἀπροσίκτων δ᾿ ἐρώτων ὀξύτεραι μανίαι.

Color photo of a frieze. a Long painting of impressionistic images: mostly figures turned away from the viewer in a few clusters
Edvaed Munch, “Desire” 1907-7. Munch Museum. from Wikimedia Commons

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