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

 

Youth, Wine, and Good Judgment

Theognis, 877–878

“Dear heart of mine, be young—for some other people will have their turn soon
And I will be black earth when I die.”

ἥβα μοι, φίλε θυμέ· τάχ᾿ αὖ τινες ἄλλοι ἔσονται
ἄνδρες, ἐγὼ δὲ θανὼν γαῖα μέλαιν᾿ ἔσομαι.

873-876

“Wine, I praise you for some things and blame you for others
I can’t ever manage to hate you or love you completely.
You are bad and good. What person with a measure of wisdom
Would be able to blame you or praise you?”

οἶνε, τὰ μέν σ᾿ αἰνῶ, τὰ δὲ μέμφομαι· οὐδέ σε πάμπαν
οὔτε ποτ᾿ ἐχθαίρειν οὔτε φιλεῖν δύναμαι.
ἐσθλὸν καὶ κακόν ἐσσι. τίς ἂν σέ γε μωμήσαιτο,
τίς δ᾿ ἂν ἐπαινήσαι μέτρον ἔχων σοφίης;

895-896

“Kurnos: a man possesses nothing better than good judgment
And nothing more grievous than not having it.”

γνώμης δ᾿ οὐδὲν ἄμεινον ἀνὴρ ἔχει αὐτὸς ἐν αὐτῷ,
οὐδ᾿ ἀγνωμοσύνης, Κύρν᾿ , ὀδυνηρότερον.

971-972

“What’s the virtue in winning a prize for drinking wine?
For a bad man certainly beats a good man at this frequently”

τίς δ᾿ ἀρετὴ πίνοντ᾿ ἐπιοίνιον ἆθλον ἑλέσθαι;
πολλάκι τοι νικᾷ καὶ κακὸς ἄνδρ᾿ ἀγαθόν.

Wine making. detail. calendar September. England 1310-20. BL by tony harrison, via Flickr
Image taken from here

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.

“The Lion Sleeps With His Eyes Open”

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.

Image result for medieval manuscript odysseus
From John Lydgate’s “Troy Book”

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.

Image found here

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.

Image taken from here