A Hellenistic Lament for Odysseus

“Poor man—it would have been better for you to remain at home,
Driving oxen and keeping the working donkey
Still under the yoke alongside them.
Better to languish in your pretended madness
than to endure the limits of such great pains.”

ὦ σχέτλι’, ὥς σοι κρεῖσσον ἦν μίμνειν πάτρᾳ
βοηλατοῦντα καὶ τὸν ἐργάτην μύκλον
κάνθων’ ὑπὸ ζεύγλαισι μεσσαβοῦν ἔτι
πλασταῖσι λύσσης μηχαναῖς οἰστρημένον
ἢ τηλικῶνδε πεῖραν ὀτλῆσαι κακῶν.

Lykophron is a bit strange and quite obscure, but this bit is nice. In some traditions, Odysseus acted crazy and plowed his field in circles (until, with a threat to his infant son Telemachus, he was shown to be faking it). According to Lykophron, the odd thing is that he yoked a donkey in with the oxen. Obviously, some things get lost in the cultural translations.

Lykophron, Alexandra 815-819: A Lament for Odysseus

“Poor man—it would have been better for you to remain at home,
Driving oxen and keeping the working donkey
Still under the yoke alongside them.
Better to languish in your pretended madness
than to endure the limits of such great pains.”

ὦ σχέτλι’, ὥς σοι κρεῖσσον ἦν μίμνειν πάτρᾳ
βοηλατοῦντα καὶ τὸν ἐργάτην μύκλον
κάνθων’ ὑπὸ ζεύγλαισι μεσσαβοῦν ἔτι
πλασταῖσι λύσσης μηχαναῖς οἰστρημένον
ἢ τηλικῶνδε πεῖραν ὀτλῆσαι κακῶν.

Lykophron is a bit strange and quite obscure, but this bit is nice. In some traditions, Odysseus acted crazy and plowed his field in circles (until, with a threat to his infant son Telemachus, he was shown to be faking it). According to Lykophron, the odd thing is that he yoked a donkey in with the oxen. Obviously, some things get lost in the cultural translations.