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.

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.

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.

Easier to Make Something Bad From Something Good

Theognis, Elegies 567-570

“I play, taking pleasure in youth—for I will lie
A long time under the earth once I die,
Like a voiceless stone, when I leave the sun’s lovely light.
No matter how good I was, I will see nothing again.”

ἥβῃ τερπόμενος παίζω· δηρὸν γὰρ ἔνερθεν
γῆς ὀλέσας ψυχὴν κείσομαι ὥστε λίθος
ἄφθογγος, λείψω δ᾿ ἐρατὸν φάος ἠελίοιο·
ἔμπης δ᾿ ἐσθλὸς ἐὼν ὄψομαι οὐδὲν ἔτι.

571-572

“A reputation alone is a great evil for people—an investigation is best.
Many who are unexamined have a reputation for good deeds.”

δόξα μὲν ἀνθρώποισι κακὸν μέγα, πεῖρα δ᾿ἄριστον·
πολλοὶ ἀπείρητοι δόξαν ἔχουσ᾿ ἀγαθῶν.

577-578

“It is easier to make something bad from good than good from bad.
Stop trying to teach me. I am not the right age to learn.”

“ῥήιον ἐξ ἀγαθοῦ θεῖναι κακὸν ἢ ᾿κ κακοῦ ἐσθλόν.”
—μή με δίδασκ᾿· οὔτοι τηλίκος εἰμὶ μαθεῖν.

583-584

“It is impossible to undo the things that have past
Let your worry be guarding what happens next.”

ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν προβέβηκεν, ἀμήχανόν ἐστι γενέσθαι
ἀργά· τὰ δ᾿ ἐξοπίσω, τῶν φυλακὴ μελέτω.

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.

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