nobody’s perfect

To be a good man, without blame and without question,
foursquare founded hand and foot, mind also
faultless fashioned, is difficult.

Thus the word of Pittacus, but it does not
run right, though it was a wise man who said it:
that it is difficult to be excellent. Not difficult;
only a god could have this privilege; it is not possible
for a man not to go bad
when he has more bad luck than he can handle.
Any man is good while his luck is good,
bad when bad, and for the most part they are best
whom the gods love.

Therefore, I will not throw away my time and life
into unprofitable hope and emptiness, the search
for that object which cannot possibly be,
the Utterly Blameless Man among all of us who enjoy
man’s food on the wide earth.
But if I find one, I will let you know.
No, I admire all, am a friend of any
who of his own will does nothing shameful.
Against necessity not even the gods can fight.

I do not like to find fault.
Enough for me if one is not
bad, not too unsteady, knows
what is right and good for his city,
a sound man. I will not
look out his faults. For the generation
of fools is endless. Take anything as good
which is not soiled with shame.

Simonides

Advertisements

virtue

There is one story
that Virtue has her dwelling place above rock walls hard to climb
with a grave chorus of light-footed nymphs attendant about her
and she is not to be looked upon by the eyes of every mortal
only by one who with sweat, with clenched concentration
and courage, climbs to the peak.

Simonides

works and days

Wet your lungs with wine: the star is corning round,
the season is harsh, everything is thirsty under the heat,
the cicada sings sweetly from the leaves . . .
the artichoke is in flower;
now are women most pestilential, but men are feeble,
since Sirius parches their heads and knees . . .

Alcaeus

love’s madness

He seems as fortunate as the gods who
sits where he can look in your eyes, who listens
close to you, to hear the soft voice, its sweetness
murmur in love and

laughter, all for him. But it breaks my spirit;
sets my heart trembling in my breast.
For when I look at you for a moment, the voice dies,
I can say nothing,

but my lips are stricken to silence, underneath
my skin the tenuous flame suffuses;
nothing shows in front of my eyes, my ears are
muted in thunder.

And the sweat breaks running upon me,
a trembling seizes me all over, I am greener
than grass, and it seems to me that
I am little short of dying.

Sappho

lyric monody

In spring time the Kydonian
quinces, watered by running streams,
there where the maiden nymphs have
their secret garden, and grapes that grow
round in shade of the tendriled vine,
ripen.

Now in this season for me
there is no rest from love.
Out of the hard bright sky,
a Thracian north wind blowing
with searing rages and hurt—dark,
pitiless, sent by Aphrodite—Love
rocks and tosses my heart.

Ibycus

gnomai

Phocylides said this also: What good does it do to be well born
for those whose words bring pleasure to none,
nor their characters either?

Phocylides

the vanity oh human wishes

My child, Zeus the deep-thundering holds the ends of all
actions in his own hands, disposes as he will
of everything. We who are human have no minds,
but live, from day to day, like beasts and nothing know
of what God plans to make happen to each of us.
But hope and self-persuasion keep us all alive
in our unprofitable desires. Some watch the day
for what it brings, and some the turn of years, and none
so downcast he will not believe that time to come
will make him virtuous, rich, all his heart’s desire.
But other things begin to happen first; old age,
which no one wants, gets one before he makes his goal.
Painful diseases wear down some; others are killed in battle,
and death takes them under the dark earth.
Some, battered in the sudden hurricane on the sea,
where waves crowd big across the blue salt water, drown
and die, when all they looked for was some way to live.
Some loop (a dismal way to die) the noose around
their necks and go self-murdered from the sunlight. Thus
no evil thing is missing. In their thousands stand
bad spirits, and innumerable griefs, and pains
about our life. If men would take advice from me,
we should not long for what is really bad, nor buy
our heart’s own torment for our hard work done in vain.

Semonides