“The sky has never gone alight with meaningless fires,
But farmers, deluded, have cursed their wasted fields
And in the infertile rows the depressed plowman
Pointlessly coaxes his mourning oxen to their yokes.
Or when a mortal spark hollows out the marrow of life
In bodies taken by heavy sickness or aged exhaustion,
And it takes a wavering people, and throughout entire cities
Shared mourning is accompanied by funereal fires.
That’s what the plague was like when it attacked Erekhtheus’ people
And carried ancient Athens out to graves in a time of peace.
One after another, slipping into sickness and cursing fate,
No kind of medical skill or prayer was helping them.
Duty itself fell to sickness, and the dead received neither
Burial nor tears. Even fire failed in its exhaustion
And the limbs of bodies were piled on burning limbs.
A people once so great could scarcely find their next of kin.
These are the horrors shining comets often proclaim.”
numquam futtilibus excanduit ignibus aether,
squalidaque elusi deplorant arva coloni,
et sterilis inter sulcos defessus arator
ad iuga maerentis cogit frustrata iuvencos.
aut gravibus morbis et lenta corpora tabe
corripit exustis letalis flamma medullis
labentisque rapit populos, totasque per urbes
publica succensis peraguntur iusta sepulcris.
qualis Erectheos pestis populata colonos
extulit antiquas per funera pacis Athenas,
alter in alterius labens cum fata ruebant,
nec locus artis erat medicae nec vota valebant;
cesserat officium morbis, et funera derant
mortibus et lacrimae; lassus defecerat ignis
et coacervatis ardebant corpora membris,
ac tanto quondam populo vix contigit heres.
talia significant lucentes saepe cometae:
“And then when they consume the flower of their age
As their limbs are laced together, just when the body senses delight
And that Venus is about to sow the furrows of the feminine field,
They press their bodies together greedily and join their wet mouths
Trying to breathe each other in as they press lips into teeth—
All pointlessly, since they can’t rub anything from there,
Nor can they truly enter each other or leave for a single body.
For this is what they often seem to want and try to do.
That’s how eagerly they cleave to Venus’s re-combinations of flesh
While their limbs become liquid under pleasure’s force.
Finally, once the lust which has amassed in their veins erupts,
Then, for a moment, there is a brief lull in the violent fire.
But soon the rabid hunger and the same madness returns,
And they quest to fulfill what they desire,
But they cannot discover any trick to overcome the pain,
And they remain uncertain, wasting away from a hidden wound.”
denique cum membris conlatis flore fruuntur
aetatis, iam cum praesagit gaudia corpus
atque in eost Venus ut muliebria conserat arva,
adfigunt avide corpus iunguntque salivas
oris et inspirant pressantes dentibus ora—
nequiquam, quoniam nil inde abradere possunt
nec penetrare et abire in corpus corpore toto;
nam facere interdum velle et certare videntur:
usque adeo cupide in Veneris compagibus haerent,
membra voluptatis dum vi labefacta liquescunt.
tandem ubi se erupit nervis conlecta cupido,
parva fit ardoris violenti pausa parumper.
inde redit rabies eadem et furor ille revisit,
cum sibi quod cupiunt ipsi contingere quaerunt,
nec reperire malum id possunt quae machina vincat:
usque adeo incerti tabescunt volnere caeco.
“Justice is a maiden who was born from Zeus.
The gods who live on Olympus honor her
and whenever someone wrongs her by bearing false witness
she sits straightaway at the feet of Zeus, Kronos’ son
and tells him the plans of unjust men so that the people
will pay the price of the wickedness of kings who make murderous plans
and twist her truth by proclaiming false judgments.
Keep these things in mind, bribe-swallowing kings:
whoever wrongs another also wrongs himself;
an evil plan is most evil for the one who makes it.
The eye of Zeus sees everything and knows everything
and even now, if he wishes, will look on us and not miss
what kind of justice the walls of our city protects.
Today, I wouldn’t wish myself to be a just man among men
nor my son, since it bad to be a just man
If anyone who is more unjust has greater rights.
But I hope that Zeus, the counselor, will not let this happen.”
Although he holds out the promise of a world governed by just and wise rulers in the Theogony, Hesiod laments the failure of those in power to uphold justice and judge those beneath them fairly in the Works and Days. Those in power or favored by power structures, it seems, have always had their own interests in mind.