A Good Person and the Parade of Fools

Simonides fr. 542.11-40 (=Plat. Protag. 339a–346d)

“Pittacus’ saying doesn’t sound right
To me, even though spoken by a wise person.
He said it is hard to be good.

Only god can have that prize, it is impossible
For a human to not be bad,
When unalterable misfortune grips them.
When things are going well,
Anyone can be noble–
And anyone breaks bad in bad times.
And the people who are best?
They’re mostly the ones the gods favor.

That’s why I am not going to throw my life away
Searching out the impossible, an impractical
Empty hope–a person free of all fault,
Not a one of all those who eat the harvest of the broad earth

But if I find one, I will let you know.
For now, I praise all people who
Do nothing shameful willingly.
Not even the gods battle necessity.

I don’t love blame–it seems enough to me
For someone not to be evil, and not too untrustworthy
And to know something of the justice that keeps a city safe.

That’s a safe man–I will not fault
Him, since there’s no limit
To the parade of fools.
All things not completely mixed with shame,
Are fine indeed.”

οὐδέ μοι ἐμμελέως τὸ Πιττάκειον
νέμεται, καίτοι σοφοῦ παρὰ φωτὸς εἰρημένον·
χαλεπὸν φάτ᾿ ἐσθλὸν ἔμμεναι.
θεὸς ἂν μόνος τοῦτ᾿ ἔχοι γέρας, ἄνδρα δ᾿ οὐκ
ἔστι μὴ οὐ κακὸν ἔμμεναι,
ὃν ἀμήχανος συμφορὰ καθέλῃ·
πράξας γὰρ εὖ πᾶς ἀνὴρ ἀγαθός,
κακὸς δ᾿ εἰ κακῶς [
[ἐπὶ πλεῖστον δὲ καὶ ἄριστοί εἰσιν
[οὓς ἂν οἱ θεοὶ φιλῶσιν.]
τοὔνεκεν οὔ ποτ᾿ ἐγὼ τὸ μὴ γενέσθαι
δυνατὸν διζήμενος κενεὰν ἐς ἄπρακτον
ἐλπίδα μοῖραν αἰῶνος βαλέω,
πανάμωμον ἄνθρωπον, εὐρυεδέος ὅσοι
καρπὸν αἰνύμεθα χθονός·
ἐπὶ δ᾿ ὑμὶν εὑρὼν ἀπαγγελέω.
πάντας δ᾿ ἐπαίνημι καὶ φιλέω,

ἑκὼν ὅστις ἔρδῃ
μηδὲν αἰσχρόν· ἀνάγκᾳ
δ᾿ οὐδὲ θεοὶ μάχονται.

[οὐκ εἰμὶ φιλόψογος, ἐπεὶ ἔμοιγε ἐξαρκεῖ
ὃς ἂν μὴ κακὸς ᾖ] μηδ᾿ ἄγαν ἀπάλαμνος εἰδώς
γ᾿ ὀνησίπολιν δίκαν,
ὑγιὴς ἀνήρ· οὐδὲ μή μιν ἐγὼ
μωμήσομαι· τῶν γὰρ ἠλιθίων
ἀπείρων γενέθλα.
πάντα τοι καλά, τοῖσίν
τ᾿ αἰσχρὰ μὴ μέμεικται.

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), “Landscape with the Parable of the good Samaritan”

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