This Poem is Probably about Sex

Theognis, Elegies 949-954 

“Just like a lion confident in its strength I grabbed a fawn
From a doe with my hands but did not drink its blood.
After I climbed the high walls, I did not sack the city.
Although I yoked the horses to the chariot, I did not climb on board.
“Although I have acted, I have not done; Although I am done, I have not finished.
Although I have tried, I have not accomplished. While I have met success, I have not succeeded.”

νεβρὸν ὑπὲξ ἐλάφοιο λέων ὣς ἀλκὶ πεποιθὼς
ποσσὶ καταμάρψας αἵματος οὐκ ἔπιον·
τειχέων δ᾿ ὑψηλῶν ἐπιβὰς πόλιν οὐκ ἀλάπαξα·
ζευξάμενος δ᾿ ἵππους ἅρματος οὐκ ἐπέβην·
πρήξας δ᾿ οὐκ ἔπρηξα, καὶ οὐκ ἐτέλεσσα τελέσσας,
δρήσας δ᾿ οὐκ ἔδρησ᾿, ἤνυσα δ᾿ οὐκ ἀνύσας.

Ah, the World is Wretched: At Least There’s Sappho…

Fragment 1 (Preserved in Dionysus of Halicarnassus’ On Literary Composition 23)

Immortal Aphrodite in your elaborate throne,
Wile-weaving daughter of Zeus, I beseech you:
Don’t curse my heart with grief and pains
My queen—

But come here, if ever at different time
You heeded me somewhere else because you heard
My pleadings, and once you left the golden home of your father
You came

After you yoked your chariot. Then the beautiful, swift
Sparrows ferried you over the dark earth
By churning their wings quickly down through the middle
Of the sky.

And they arrived quickly. But you, blessed one,
Composed a grin on your immortal face
And were asking what in fact it was I suffered that made me
Call you.

“The things which I most wish would happen for me
In my crazy heart”. “Whom, then, do I persuade to
Return you to their love? O Sappho, who is it who
Hurt you?

For if she flees now, she will soon chase you.
If she refuses gifts, then she will give them too.
If she does not love you now, she will love you soon, even if,
She doesn’t want to.”

Come to me now, too, and free me from
my terrible worries. Whatever things my heart longs
to accomplish, you, achieve them—
be my ally.

παῖ] Δ[ί]ος δολ[όπλοκε, λίσσομαί σε,
μή μ’] ἄσαισι [μηδ’ ὀνίαισι δάμνα,
[]πότν]ια, θῦ[μον,

ἀλλ]ὰ τυίδ’ ἔλ[θ’, αἴ ποτα κἀτέρωτα
τὰ]ς ἔμας αὔ[δας ἀίοισα πήλοι
ἔκ]λυες, πάτρο[ς δὲ δόμον λίποισα
χ]ρύσιον ἦλθ[ες

ἄρ]μ’ ὐπασδε[ύξαισα· κάλοι δέ σ’ ἆγον
ὤ]κεες στροῦ[θοι περὶ γᾶς μελαίνας
πύ]κνα δίν[νεντες πτέρ’ ἀπ’ ὠράνωἴθε-
ρο]ς διὰ μέσσω·

αἶ]ψα δ’ ἐξίκο[ντο· σὺ δ’, ὦ μάκαιρα,
μειδιαί[σαισ’ ἀθανάτωι προσώπωι
ἤ]ρε’ ὄττ[ι δηὖτε πέπονθα κὤττι
δη]ὖτε κ[άλ]η[μμι

κ]ὤττι [μοι μάλιστα θέλω γένεσθαι
μ]αινόλαι [θύμωι· τίνα δηὖτε πείθω
.].σάγην [ἐς σὰν φιλότατα; τίς σ’, ὦ
Ψά]πφ’, [ἀδικήει;

κα]ὶ γ[ὰρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέως διώξει,
<αἰ δὲ δῶρα μὴ δέκετ’, ἀλλὰ δώσει,>
<αἰ δὲ μὴ φίλει, ταχέως φιλήσει>
<κωὐκ ἐθέλοισα.>

<ἔλθε μοι καὶ νῦν, χαλέπαν δὲ λῦσον>
<ἐκ μερίμναν, ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι>
<θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον, σὺ δ’ αὔτα>
<σύμμαχος ἔσσο.>

Image result for Aphrodite chariot ancient

Disappointingly, not a sparrow chariot.

To Suffer As Odysseus Did

Theognis, Elegies 991-992

“Sometimes you will lament what you suffer; at other times
You’ll delight in what you do: a different man is able at different times.”

ἄλλοτέ τοι πάσχων ἀνιήσεαι, ἄλλοτε δ᾿ ἔρδων
χαιρήσεις· δύναται δ᾿ ἄλλοτε ἄλλος ἀνήρ.

1027-1028

“Evil action is certainly easy for people, Kurnos;
And the completion of something good is hard.”

ῥηϊδίη τοι πρῆξις ἐν ἀνθρώποις κακότητος,
τοῦ δ᾿ ἀγαθοῦ χαλεπή, Κύρνε, πέλει παλάμη

1123-1128

“Don’t remind me of my troubles. I have suffered as Odysseus did
When he returned after ascending from Hades’ great home,
The one who also killed the suitors with a pitiless heart,
Filled with joy for his wedded wife Penelope
Who was waiting for him so long, staying alongside his dear son
Until he embarked on the shores and the vales of his land.”

Μή με κακῶν μίμνησκε· πέπονθά τοι οἷά τ’ ᾿Οδυσσεύς,
ὅστ’ ᾿Αίδεω μέγα δῶμ’ ἤλυθεν ἐξαναδύς,
ὃς δὴ καὶ μνηστῆρας ἀνείλατο νηλέι θυμῶι,
Πηνελόπης εὔφρων κουριδίης ἀλόχου,
ἥ μιν δήθ’ ὑπέμεινε φίλωι παρὰ παιδὶ μένουσα,
ὄφρα τε γῆς ἐπέβη δείλ’ ἁλίους τε μυχούς.

The Ship of State, Run Aground

Theognis, Elegies 797-798

“One man strongly condemns our betters; another praises them.
But of the commoners, there’s no mention at all”

-τοὺς ἀγαθοὺς ἄλλος μάλα μέμφεται, ἄλλος ἐπαινεῖ,
τῶν δὲ κακῶν μνήμη γίνεται οὐδεμία.

847-850

“Kick the empty-minded people in the ass, smack them with a sharp goad,
Put an uncomfortable yoke over their neck.
For no matter how many people the are under the sun
You will find none more in love with a despot.”

λὰξ ἐπίβα δήμῳ κενεόφρονι, τύπτε δὲ κέντρῳ
ὀξέι καὶ ζεύγλην δύσλοφον ἀμφιτίθει·
οὐ γὰρ ἔθ᾿ εὑρήσεις δῆμον φιλοδέσποτον ὧδε
ἀνθρώπων ὁπόσους ἠέλιος καθορᾷ.

855-856

“This state has often run to ground like a failing ship
Thanks to the wickedness of its leaders.”

πολλάκις ἡ πόλις ἥδε δι᾿ ἡγεμόνων κακότητα
ὥσπερ κεκλιμένη ναῦς παρὰ γῆν ἔδραμεν.

A Lack of Brains, Pain, and Trash-Talking Neighbors

Theognis, Elegies 683–86

“Many stupid people have wealth. And others
Who are worn down by hard poverty pursue noble things.
But helplessness affects both groups:
A lack of money stops one; a lack of brains hurts the other.”

πολλοὶ πλοῦτον ἔχουσιν ἀίδριες· οἱ δὲ τὰ καλὰ
ζητοῦσιν χαλεπῇ τειρόμενοι πενίῃ.
ἔρδειν δ᾿ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἀμηχανίη παράκειται·
εἴργει γὰρ τοὺς μὲν χρήματα, τοὺς δὲ νόος.

689–90

“It isn’t right to cause pain, unless pain must be caused.
Nor is it right to do whatever is better not done.”

οὐ χρὴ πημαίνειν, ὅτε μὴ πημαντέον εἴη,
οὐδ᾿ ἔρδειν ὅ τι μὴ λώιον ᾖ τελέσαι.

695–696

“I cannot give you everything that is right, my heart
Be brave: you do not long for the finer things alone.”

οὐ δύναμαί σοι, θυμέ, παρασχεῖν ἄρμενα πάντα·
τέτλαθι· τῶν δὲ καλῶν οὔ τι σὺ μοῦνος ἐρᾷς.

795–796

“Find some joy for your heart: some of the trash-talking citizens
Will slander you, others will say better things.”

τὴν σαυτοῦ φρένα τέρπε· δυσηλεγέων δὲ πολιτῶν
ἄλλος τοί σε κακῶς, ἄλλος ἄμεινον ἐρεῖ.

Silent Out of Necessity

Theognis, Elegies 225-256

“Most beautiful is what is most just; the best thing is to be healthy
Most pleasurable of all: to gain whatever you love.”

κάλλιστον τὸ δικαιότατον· λῷστον δ᾿ ὑγιαίνειν·
πρᾶγμα δὲ τερπνότατον, τοῦ τις ἐρᾷ, τὸ τυχεῖν.

313-314

“I am the craziest among the crazy, but among just men
I am the justest person of all.”

ἐν μὲν μαινομένοις μάλα μαίνομαι, ἐν δὲ δικαίοις
πάντων ἀνθρώπων εἰμὶ δικαιότατος.

363-364

“Charm your enemy well. But whenever the advantage is yours,
Pay him back without any explanation.”

εὖ κώτιλλε τὸν ἐχθρόν· ὅταν δ᾿ ὑποχείριος ἔλθῃ,
τεῖσαί μιν πρόφασιν μηδεμίαν θέμενος.

365-366

“Keep your thoughts close, but let your tongue be ever sweet:
A temper which grows sharply is a mark of worthless men.”

ἴσχε νόῳ, γλώσσῃ δὲ τὸ μείλιχον αἰὲν ἐπέστω·
δειλῶν τοι τελέθει καρδίη ὀξυτέρη.

419-420

“Many things which occur I understand—but I am silent
Because of necessity, since I know my own power.”

πολλά με καὶ συνιέντα παρέρχεται· ἀλλ᾿ ὑπ᾿ἀνάγκης
σιγῶ, γινώσκων ἡμετέρην δύναμιν.

465-466

“Exhaust yourself for excellence; let just pursuits be dear do you;
Never may any profit which is shameful overpower you.”

ἀμφ᾿ ἀρετῇ τρίβου, καί τοι τὰ δίκαια φίλ᾿ ἔστω,
μηδέ σε νικάτω κέρδος ὅ τ᾿ αἰσχρὸν ἔῃ.

Publius Terencius Afer, Comoediae [comédies de Térence] ca. 1411;  Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Ms-664 réserve, 157r

Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Ms-664 réserve, 157r

We Don’t Have Justice, But We Still have Hope

Theognis, Elegies 1135-1150

“Hope is the only noble god left among mortals:
The rest of have abandoned us to go to Olympos.
Trust, a great god, left; Prudence has left men.
The Graces, my friend, have surrendered the earth.

Oaths in a court of law can no longer be trusted;
And no one fears shame before the immortal gods
As the race of righteous men has disappeared.
People no longer recognize precedents or sacred duties.

But as long as someone lives and sees the light of the sun,
Let him foster Hope and act righteously before the gods.
Let him pray to the gods and, while burning shining thigh bones,
Sacrifice to Hope first and last.

And let each person always look out for the crooked word of unjust men:
Those men who do not fear the rage of the gods at all,
Who forever conspire in their thoughts against others’ property,
Men who make shameful agreements for future evil deeds.”

᾿Ελπὶς ἐν ἀνθρώποισι μόνη θεὸς ἐσθλὴ ἔνεστιν,
ἄλλοι δ’ Οὔλυμπόν<δ’> ἐκπρολιπόντες ἔβαν·
ὤιχετο μὲν Πίστις, μεγάλη θεός, ὤιχετο δ’ ἀνδρῶν
Σωφροσύνη, Χάριτές τ’, ὦ φίλε, γῆν ἔλιπον·
ὅρκοι δ’ οὐκέτι πιστοὶ ἐν ἀνθρώποισι δίκαιοι,
οὐδὲ θεοὺς οὐδεὶς ἅζεται ἀθανάτους.
εὐσεβέων δ’ ἀνδρῶν γένος ἔφθιτο, οὐδὲ θέμιστας
οὐκέτι γινώσκουσ’ οὐδὲ μὲν εὐσεβίας.
ἀλλ’ ὄφρα τις ζώει καὶ ὁρᾶι φῶς ἠελίοιο,
εὐσεβέων περὶ θεοὺς ᾿Ελπίδα προσμενέτω·
εὐχέσθω δὲ θεοῖσι, καὶ ἀγλαὰ μηρία καίων
᾿Ελπίδι τε πρώτηι καὶ πυμάτηι θυέτω.
φραζέσθω δ’ ἀδίκων ἀνδρῶν σκολιὸν λόγον αἰεί,
οἳ θεῶν ἀθανάτων οὐδὲν ὀπιζόμενοι
αἰὲν ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις κτεάνοισ’ ἐπέχουσι νόημα,
αἰσχρὰ κακοῖσ’ ἔργοις σύμβολα θηκάμενοι.

 

Not Exactly the Serenity Prayer…

Solon, Fr. 13. 1–8

“Glorious children of Olympian Zeus and Memory
Pierian Muses, hear me as I pray.
Grant me happiness from the blessed gods and possession
Of a good reputation among all people forever.
In this may I be sweet to my friends and bitter to my enemies,
Revered by the former and terrible for the latter to see.
I long to have money, but I do not want to obtain it
Unjustly—punishment inevitably comes later.

Μνημοσύνης καὶ Ζηνὸς ᾿Ολυμπίου ἀγλαὰ τέκνα,
Μοῦσαι Πιερίδες, κλῦτέ μοι εὐχομένωι·
ὄλβον μοι πρὸς θεῶν μακάρων δότε, καὶ πρὸς ἁπάντων
ἀνθρώπων αἰεὶ δόξαν ἔχειν ἀγαθήν·
εἶναι δὲ γλυκὺν ὧδε φίλοις, ἐχθροῖσι δὲ πικρόν,
τοῖσι μὲν αἰδοῖον, τοῖσι δὲ δεινὸν ἰδεῖν.
χρήματα δ’ ἱμείρω μὲν ἔχειν, ἀδίκως δὲ πεπᾶσθαι
οὐκ ἐθέλω· πάντως ὕστερον ἦλθε δίκη.

Forging His Own Chains

Theognis, 429-38

“It is easier to conceive and feed a mortal than put
Decent thoughts in his head. No one has figured out a way
To make a fool wise or a bad man good.”

φῦσαι καὶ θρέψαι ῥᾷον βροτὸν ἢ φρένας ἐσθλὰς
ἐνθέμεν· οὐδείς πω τοῦτό γ᾿ ἐπεφράσατο,
ᾧ τις σώφρον᾿ ἔθηκε τὸν ἄφρονα κἀκ κακοῦ ἐσθλόν.

539-540

“That man, dear Kurnos, is making his own chains,
Unless the gods are ruining my judgment.”

οὗτος ἀνήρ, φίλε Κύρνε, πέδας χαλκεύεται αὑτῷ,
εἰ μὴ ἐμὴν γνώμην ἐξαπατῶσι θεοί.

541-542

“I fear that arrogance will destroy this state, Polypaides,
Just as it destroyed the raw-meat-eating Kentaurs.”

δειμαίνω μὴ τήνδε πόλιν, Πολυπαΐδη, ὕβρις
ἥ περ Κενταύρους ὠμοφάγους ὀλέσῃ.

561-562

“I wish I could have some of my enemies’ money for me
But give most of it to all my friends to keep”

εἴη μοι τὰ μὲν αὐτὸν ἔχειν, τὰ δὲ πόλλ᾿ ἐπιδοῦναι
χρήματα τῶν ἐχθρῶν τοῖσι φίλοισιν ἔχειν.

Fragmentary Friday Finale: Theognis on the Evil Man’s Justice

Theognis, 279-282

“It is fitting that an evil man have an evil understanding of justice
And no concern for any criticism to come.
For a wicked man many crimes are ready,
And he thinks that everything he does is good.”

εἰκὸς τὸν κακὸν ἄνδρα κακῶς τὰ δίκαια νομίζειν,
μηδεμίαν κατόπισθ᾿ ἁζόμενον νέμεσιν·
δειλῷ γάρ τ᾿ ἀπάλαμνα βροτῷ πάρα πόλλ᾿ἀνελέσθαι
πὰρ ποδός, ἡγεῖσθαί θ᾿ ὡς καλὰ πάντα τιθεῖ.

Theognis, 319-322

“Kurnos, a good man’s judgment is always firm
And he is constant in both bad times and good ones.
But if a god grants life and wealth to a wicked man,
He cannot refrain from evil because of his stupidity.”

Κύρν᾿, ἀγαθὸς μὲν ἀνὴρ γνώμην ἔχει ἔμπεδον αἰεί,
τολμᾷ δ᾿ ἔν τε κακοῖς κείμενος ἔν τ᾿ ἀγαθοῖς·
εἰ δὲ θεὸς κακῷ ἀνδρὶ βίον καὶ πλοῦτον ὀπάσσῃ,
ἀφραίνων κακίην οὐ δύναται κατέχειν.

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