Worthless Minds and Secret Thoughts: More Excerpts from Theognis

Theognis, Elegies, 69-70

“Kurnos, never place your trust in or make plans with an evil man,
whenever you want to accomplish something that matters”

μήποτε, Κύρνε, κακῷ πίσυνος βούλευε σὺν ἀνδρί,
εὖτ᾿ ἂν σπουδαῖον πρῆγμ᾿ ἐθέλῃς τελέσαι

161-164

“Many people have worthless minds but enjoy good luck
And what seems like misfortune ends up good.
And there are others of good council who have wretched luck
and success never accompanies their deeds.”

Πολλοί τοι χρῶνται δειλαῖς φρεσί, δαίμονι δ’ ἐσθλῶι,
οἷς τὸ κακὸν δοκέον γίνεται εἰς ἀγαθόν.
εἰσὶν δ’ οἳ βουλῆι τ’ ἀγαθῆι καὶ δαίμονι δειλῶι
μοχθίζουσι, τέλος δ’ ἔργμασιν οὐχ ἕπεται.

897-900

“Kurnos, if a god got angry at mortal men
Because he knew every kind of thought each one has,
The deeds conceived in the minds of both just
And unjust, there would be great suffering for mortals.”

Κύρν᾿, εἰ πάντ᾿ ἄνδρεσσι καταθνητοῖς χαλέπαινεν
γινώσκων θεὸς νοῦν οἷον ἑκαστος ἔχει
αὐτὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσι καὶ ἔργματα τῶν τε δικαίων
τῶν τ᾿ ἀδίκων, μέγα κεν πῆμα βροτοῖσιν ἐπῆν.

1151–52

“Never dismiss a present friend and seek another
Because you are persuaded by the words of cowardly people.”

μήποτε τὸν παρεόντα μεθεὶς φίλον ἄλλον ἐρεύνα
δειλῶν ἀνθρώπων ῥήμασι πειθόμενος.

Morgan Library:
MS M.43 fol. 20v

 

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.

 

I Might Have Had Too Much Wine

Theognis, 503-510

“My head is weighed down by wine, Onomakritos, and wine wrestles
Me down, and I am no longer the master of my own decision,
The house is turning around. But, come on, let me try
To stand up and check that wine doesn’t also have my feet
Or the mind in my chest. I fear I will do something stupid
All armored like I am and earn serious shame.

Wine, when drunk in massive amounts, is evil. But if someone
Drinks it with understanding, it is no evil but a good.”

Οἰνοβαρέω κεφαλήν, ᾿Ονομάκριτε, καί με βιᾶται
οἶνος, ἀτὰρ γνώμης οὐκέτ’ ἐγὼ ταμίης
ἡμετέρης, τὸ δὲ δῶμα περιτρέχει. ἀλλ’ ἄγ’ ἀναστάς
πειρηθῶ, μή πως καὶ πόδας οἶνος ἔχει
καὶ νόον ἐν στήθεσσι· δέδοικα δὲ μή τι μάταιον
ἕρξω θωρηχθεὶς καὶ μέγ’ ὄνειδος ἔχω.
οἶνος πινόμενος πουλὺς κακόν· ἢν δέ τις αὐτόν
πίνηι ἐπισταμένως, οὐ κακόν, ἀλλ’ ἀγαθόν.

Image result for medieval manuscript drunk

“Monks in a Cellar”, Joseph Haier

Fragmentary Friday: A Poem of (Life’s) Mixed Evils

Archilochus, fr. 13

 “Neither citizen nor city, Perikles, will delight in the feast
And find fault in the pain of our mourning
For the waves of the much-resounding sea consumed
Such great men, and we have lungs swollen
With pain. But the gods, dear friend, have set
Powerful endurance as our medicine for untreatable
Evils. Different people have this at different times.
Now it has fallen to us and we lament a blooded wound,
But it will go to others in turn. Now, bear up quickly
Once you have pushed away womanly grief.”

κήδεα μὲν στονόεντα Περίκλεες οὔτέ τις ἀστῶν
μεμφόμενος θαλίηις τέρψεται οὐδὲ πόλις·
τοίους γὰρ κατὰ κῦμα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης
ἔκλυσεν, οἰδαλέους δ’ ἀμφ’ ὀδύνηις ἔχομεν
πνεύμονας. ἀλλὰ θεοὶ γὰρ ἀνηκέστοισι κακοῖσιν
ὦ φίλ’ ἐπὶ κρατερὴν τλημοσύνην ἔθεσαν
φάρμακον. ἄλλοτε ἄλλος ἔχει τόδε· νῦν μὲν ἐς ἡμέας
ἐτράπεθ’, αἱματόεν δ’ ἕλκος ἀναστένομεν,
ἐξαῦτις δ’ ἑτέρους ἐπαμείψεται. ἀλλὰ τάχιστα
τλῆτε, γυναικεῖον πένθος ἀπωσάμενοι.

 

Image result for greek mourning vase

On Falling in Love in Old Age

87 Plato Parmen. 137a and Ibykos fr. 287

“And I certainly seem to be experiencing the fate of Ibykos’ horse, a prize-winner who, even though old, was about to compete in the chariot race and was trembling because of experience at what was about to happen. Ibykos compared himself to him when he said that he too was old and was being compelled to move towards lust”

καίτοι δοκῶ μοι τὸ τοῦ Ἰβυκείου ἵππου πεπονθέναι ᾧ ἐκεῖνος ἀθλητῇ ὄντι καὶ πρεσβυτέρῳ ὑφ᾿ ἅρματι μέλλοντι ἀγωνιεῖσθαι καὶ δι᾿ ἐμπειρίαν τρέμοντι τὸ μέλλον ἑαυτὸν ἀπεικάζων ἄκων ἔφη καὶ αὐτὸς οὕτω πρεσβευτὴς ὢν εἰς τὸν ἔρωτα ἀναγκάζεσθαι ἰέναι.

schol. ad loc. 

[Scholiast] Here is the saying of Ibykos the lyric poet:

τὸ τοῦ μελοποιοῦ Ἰβύκου ῥητόν·

“Love again, gazing up from under dark lashes,
Throws me down with every kind of spell
Into the Cyprian’s endless nets.
In truth, I tremble at this arrival,
Just as a prize-winning horse on the yoke in old age
Goes into the contest with his swift wheels, but not willingly.”

Ἔρος αὖτέ με κυανέοισιν ὑπὸ
βλεφάροις τακέρ᾿ ὄμμασι δερκόμενος
κηλήμασι παντοδαποῖς ἐς ἀπειρα
δίκτυα Κύπριδος ἐσβάλλει·
ἦ μὰν τρομέω νιν ἐπερχόμενον,
ὥστε φερέζυγος ἵππος ἀεθλοφόρος ποτὶ γήρᾳ
ἀέκων σὺν ὄχεσφι θοοῖς ἐς ἅμιλλαν ἔβα

Image result for ancient greek chariot horse

A force of nature

The Fruitless Toil of Worry: Two Passages on Happiness

Horace, Odes 2.16 25-32

“The spirit which is happy for a single day
Has learned not to worry about what remains
And tempers bitter tastes with a gentle smile—
Nothing is blessed through and through.

A swift death stole famed Achilles away;
Drawn-out old age wore Tithonos down.
Perhaps some hour will hand to me
Whatever it has refused to you.”

laetus in praesens animus quod ultra est
oderit curare et amara lento
temperet risu; nihil est ab omni
parte beatum.

abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem,
longa Tithonum minuit senectus,
et mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit,
porriget hora.

Bacchylides, Processionals fr. 11-12

“There is one border, a single path to happiness for mortals—
When a person is able to keep a heart free of grief
Until the end of life. Whoever keeps a ten thousand
Affairs in their thoughts
Whoever tortures their heart
Night and day over what may come,
Has toil which brings no profit.”

εἷς ὅρος, μία βροτοῖσίν ἐστιν εὐτυχίας ὁδός,
θυμὸν εἴ τις ἔχων ἀπενθῆ δύναται
διατελεῖν βίον· ὃς δὲ μυρία
μὲν ἀμφιπολεῖ φρενί,
τὸ δὲ παρ᾿ ἆμάρ τε <καὶ> νύκτα μελλόντων
χάριν αἰὲν ἰάπτεται
κέαρ, ἄκαρπον ἔχει πόνον.

Nothing Unexpected: An Ancient Poem on Solar Eclipse

Archilochus, fr. 122

“Nothing is unexpected, nothing can be sworn untrue,
and nothing amazes since father Zeus the Olympian
has veiled the light to make it night at midday
even as the sun was shining: now dread fear has overtaken men.
From this time on everything that men believe
will be doubted: may none of us who see this be surprised
when we see sylvan beasts taking turns in the salted field
with dolphins, when the echoing waves of the sea become
dearer to them than the sand, and should the dolphins love the wooded glen…”

χρημάτων ἄελπτον οὐδέν ἐστιν οὐδ’ ἀπώμοτον
οὐδὲ θαυμάσιον, ἐπειδὴ Ζεὺς πατὴρ ᾿Ολυμπίων
ἐκ μεσαμβρίης ἔθηκε νύκτ’, ἀποκρύψας φάος
ἡλίου †λάμποντος, λυγρὸν† δ’ ἦλθ’ ἐπ’ ἀνθρώπους δέος.
ἐκ δὲ τοῦ καὶ πιστὰ πάντα κἀπίελπτα γίνεται
ἀνδράσιν• μηδεὶς ἔθ’ ὑμέων εἰσορέων θαυμαζέτω
μηδ’ ἐὰν δελφῖσι θῆρες ἀνταμείψωνται νομὸν
ἐνάλιον, καί σφιν θαλάσσης ἠχέεντα κύματα
φίλτερ’ ἠπείρου γένηται, τοῖσι δ’ ὑλέειν ὄρος.

 

Related image

Blessed Weddings and Cursed Children: Pindar on Peleus and Cadmus

Pindar, Pythian 3.86–115

“Neither Aiakos’s son Peleus
Nor godlike Kadmos had a secure life
For of all mortals they are said to have
Have received the highest blessing of mortals
Since they listened to the Muses with golden-headbands
Singing on the mountain and in seven-gated Thebes
When one married ox-eyed Harmonia
And the other married Thetis, the famous child of wise-counseled Nereus.
The gods feasted with both of them
And they say the kingly sons of Kronos
On golden seats, and accepted from theme
Bride-gifts. Thanks to Zeus,
They made their hearts straight again
From their previous suffering.

In time, however, [Kadmos’] three daughters
Stripped him of his share of joy
with piercing pains—
even though father Zeus went to the desirable bed
of white-armed Thuonê.

And Peleus’s child, the only one immortal Thetis
Bore in Phthia, raised the mourning cry
From the Danaans as he was burned
On the pyre, after he lost his life
To war’s arrows.

If any mortal keeps
The road of truth in mind
He must suffer and obtain well
From the gods. But from the high winds
Different breaths blow different ways.

Human happiness does not last long
safe, when it turns after bringing great abundance.
I will be small in small times and then great
In great ones. I will work out the fate
That comes to me always in my thoughts, ministering to it with my own devices.
But if god were to grant me great wealth,
I have hope that I would find the highest fame afterwards.
Nestor and Lycian Sarpedon, we know from the stories of men
From honeyed words which skilled artisans
Fit together. Virtue grows eternal through famous songs.
But few find this easy to do.”

…. αἰὼν δ’ ἀσφαλής
οὐκ ἔγεντ’ οὔτ’ Αἰακίδᾳ παρὰ Πηλεῖ
οὔτε παρ’ ἀντιθέῳ Κάδμῳ· λέγονται γε μὰν βροτῶν
ὄλβον ὑπέρτατον οἳ σχεῖν, οἵτε καὶ χρυσαμπύκων
μελπομενᾶν ἐν ὄρει Μοισᾶν καὶ ἐν ἑπταπύλοις
ἄϊον Θήβαις, ὁπόθ’ ῾Αρμονίαν γᾶμεν βοῶπιν,
ὁ δὲ Νηρέος εὐβούλου Θέτιν παῖδα κλυτάν,
Ε′ καὶ θεοὶ δαίσαντο παρ’ ἀμφοτέροις,
καὶ Κρόνου παῖδας βασιλῆας ἴδον χρυ-
σέαις ἐν ἕδραις, ἕδνα τε
δέξαντο· Διὸς δὲ χάριν
ἐκ προτέρων μεταμειψάμενοι καμάτων
ἔστασαν ὀρθὰν καρδίαν. ἐν δ’ αὖτε χρόνῳ
τὸν μὲν ὀξείαισι θύγατρες ἐρήμωσαν πάθαις
εὐφροσύνας μέρος αἱ
τρεῖς· ἀτὰρ λευκωλένῳ γε Ζεὺς πατήρ
ἤλυθεν ἐς λέχος ἱμερτὸν Θυώνᾳ.
τοῦ δὲ παῖς, ὅνπερ μόνον ἀθανάτα
τίκτεν ἐν Φθίᾳ Θέτις, ἐν πολέμῳ τό-
ξοις ἀπὸ ψυχὰν λιπών
ὦρσεν πυρὶ καιόμενος
ἐκ Δαναῶν γόον. εἰ δὲ νόῳ τις ἔχει
θνατῶν ἀλαθείας ὁδόν, χρὴ πρὸς μακάρων
τυγχάνοντ’ εὖ πασχέμεν. ἄλλοτε δ’ ἀλλοῖαι πνοαί
ὑψιπετᾶν ἀνέμων.
ὄλβος δ’ οὐκ ἐς μακρὸν ἀνδρῶν ἔρχεται
σάος, πολὺς εὖτ’ ἂν ἐπιβρίσαις ἕπηται.
σμικρὸς ἐν σμικροῖς, μέγας ἐν μεγάλοις
ἔσσομαι, τὸν δ’ ἀμφέποντ’ αἰεὶ φρασίν
δαίμον’ ἀσκήσω κατ’ ἐμὰν θεραπεύων μαχανάν.
εἰ δέ μοι πλοῦτον θεὸς ἁβρὸν ὀρέξαι,
ἐλπίδ’ ἔχω κλέος εὑρέσθαι κεν ὑψηλὸν πρόσω.
Νέστορα καὶ Λύκιον Σαρπηδόν’, ἀνθρώπων φάτις,
ἐξ ἐπέων κελαδεννῶν, τέκτονες οἷα σοφοί
ἅρμοσαν, γινώσκομεν· ἁ δ’ ἀρετὰ κλειναῖς ἀοιδαῖς
χρονία τελέθει· παύροις δὲ πράξασθ’ εὐμαρές.

 

Keep Your War Away from My Wine: Anacreonta

From the fragmentary Anacreonta (imitations of Anacreon once thought to be real), we have another mention of Thebes and Troy together:

Anacreonta, fr. 26

“You narrate the events of Thebes;
he tells Trojan tales;
but I tell my conquests.
No horse has destroyed me,
nor foot soldier, nor ships,
nor will any other new army
hurl me from my eyes.”

Σὺ μὲν λέγεις τὰ Θήβης,
ὃ δ’ αὖ Φρυγῶν ἀυτάς,
ἐγὼ δ’ ἐμὰς ἁλώσεις.
οὐχ ἵππος ὤλεσέν με,
οὐ πεζός, οὐχὶ νῆες,
στρατὸς δὲ καινὸς ἄλλος
ἀπ’ ὀμμάτων με βάλλων.

This complaint is a generic and contextual one: the narrator doesn’t want a mixing of the themes of war with his own, which are love, drinking and the feast. Another fragment of Anacreon makes this clear:

Anacreon fr. 2

“I don’t love the man who while drinking next to a full cup
Talks about conflicts and lamentable war.
But whoever mixes the shining gifts of Aphrodite and the Muses
Let him keep in mind loving, good cheer.”

οὐ φιλέω, ὃς κρητῆρι παρὰ πλέωι οἰνοποτάζων
νείκεα καὶ πόλεμον δακρυόεντα λέγει,
ἀλλ’ ὅστις Μουσέων τε καὶ ἀγλαὰ δῶρ’ ᾿Αφροδίτης
συμμίσγων ἐρατῆς μνήσκεται εὐφροσύνης.

Such prescriptions against certain content in sympotic entertainment can be serious too. Xenophanes makes similar points, but with a less playful tone:

Krater.jpg

This is a krater for mixing wine. it has a war scene on it.

Xenophanes, fr. B1 13-24

“First, it is right for merry men to praise the god
with righteous tales and cleansing words
after they have poured libations and prayed to be able to do
what is right: in fact, these things are easier to do,
instead of sacrilege. It is right as well to drink as much as you can
and still go home without help, unless you are very old.
It is right to praise a man who shares noble ideas when drinking
so that we remember and work towards excellence.
It is not right to narrate the wars of Titans or Giants
nor again of Centaurs, the fantasies of our forebears,
Nor of destructive strife. There is nothing useful in these tales.
It is right always to keep in mind good thoughts of the gods.”

χρὴ δὲ πρῶτον μὲν θεὸν ὑμνεῖν εὔφρονας ἄνδρας
εὐφήμοις μύθοις καὶ καθαροῖσι λόγοις,
σπείσαντάς τε καὶ εὐξαμένους τὰ δίκαια δύνασθαι
πρήσσειν• ταῦτα γὰρ ὦν ἐστι προχειρότερον,
οὐχ ὕβρεις• πίνειν δ’ ὁπόσον κεν ἔχων ἀφίκοιο
οἴκαδ’ ἄνευ προπόλου μὴ πάνυ γηραλέος.
ἀνδρῶν δ’ αἰνεῖν τοῦτον ὃς ἐσθλὰ πιὼν ἀναφαίνει,
ὡς ἦι μνημοσύνη καὶ τόνος ἀμφ’ ἀρετῆς,
οὔ τι μάχας διέπειν Τιτήνων οὐδὲ Γιγάντων
οὐδὲ Κενταύρων, πλάσμα τῶν προτέρων,
ἢ στάσιας σφεδανάς• τοῖς οὐδὲν χρηστὸν ἔνεστιν•
θεῶν προμηθείην αἰὲν ἔχειν ἀγαθήν.

 

Solon Wanted Sappho To be His Final Song

Aelian, Fragment 187/190 (from Stobaeus 3.29.58)

“Solon the Athenian, the son of Eksêkestides, when his nephew sang some song of Sappho at a drinking party, took pleasure in it and asked the young man to teach it to him. When someone asked why he was eager to learn it, he responded: “So, once I learn it, I may die.”

Σόλων ὁ ᾿Αθηναῖος ᾿Εξηκεστίδου παρὰ πότον τοῦ ἀδελφιδοῦ αὐτοῦ μέλος τι Σαπφοῦς ᾄσαντος, ἥσθη τῷ μέλει καὶ προσέταξε τῷ μειρακίῳ διδάξει αὐτόν. ἐρωτήσαντος δέ τινος διὰ ποίαν αἰτίαν τοῦτο σπουδάσειεν, ὃ δὲ ἔφη ‘ἵνα μαθὼν αὐτὸ ἀποθάνω.’

And, with poems like these below, who could disagree?

 

Frag. 31 (go here for the Catullan ‘translation’)

“That man seems like the gods
To me—the one who sits facing
You and nearby listens as you
sweetly speak—

and he hears your lovely laugh—this then
makes the heart in my breast stutter,
when I glance even briefly, it is no longer possible
for me to speak—

but my tongue sticks in silence
and immediately a slender flame runs under my skin.
I cannot see with my eyes, I hear
A rush in my ears—

A cold sweat breaks over me and a tremble
Takes hold of me. Then I am paler than grass,
I think that I have died
Just a little.”

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: