Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Wheel of Fortune
Of all creatures that breathe and walk on the earth there is nothing
more helpless than a man is, of all that the earth fosters;
for he thinks that he will never suffer misfortune in future
days, while the gods grant him courage, and his knees have spring
in them. But when the blessed gods bring sad days upon him,
against his will he must suffer it with enduring spirit.
For the mind in men upon earth goes according to the fortunes
the Father of Gods and Men, day by day, bestows upon them.
The same, tr. William Cowper:
Earth nourishes, of all that breathe or creep,
No creature weak as man; for while the Gods
Grant him prosperity and health, no fear
Hath he, or thought, that he shall ever mourn;
But when the Gods with evils unforeseen
Smite him, he bears them with a grudging mind;
For such as the complexion of his lot
By the appointment of the Sire of all,
Such is the colour of the mind of man.
The same, tr. Alexander Pope:
Of all that breathes, or grovelling creeps on earth,
Most man in vain! calamitous by birth:
To-day, with power elate, in strength he blooms;
The haughty creature on that power presumes:
Anon from Heaven a sad reverse he feels:
Untaught to bear, 'gainst Heaven the wretch rebels.
For man is changeful, as his bliss or woe!
Too high when prosperous, when distress'd too low.
The same, tr. E.V. Rieu:
Of all creatures that breathe and creep about on Mother Earth, there is none so helpless as a man. As long as heaven leaves him in prosperity and health, he never thinks hard times are on their way. Yet when the blessed gods have brought misfortune on his head, he simply has to steel himself and bear it. In fact our outlook here on earth depends entirely on the way in which Providence is treating us at the moment.
The same, tr. A.T. Murray and George E. Dimock:
Nothing feebler does earth nurture than man, of all things that on earth breathe and move. For he thinks that he will never suffer evil in time to come, so long as the gods give him success and his knees are quick; but when again the blessed gods decree him misfortune, this too he bears in sorrow with such patience as he can, for the spirit of men upon the earth is just such as the day which the father of gods and men brings upon them.
The same, tr. Samuel Butler:
Man is the vainest of all creatures that have their being upon earth. As long as heaven vouchsafes him health and strength, he thinks that he shall come to no harm hereafter, and even when the blessed gods bring sorrow upon him, he bears it as he needs must, and makes the best of it; for God Almighty gives men their daily minds day by day.
The same, tr. S.H. Butcher and A. Lang:
Nought feebler doth the earth nurture than man, of all the creatures that breathe and move upon the face of the earth. Lo, he thinks that he shall never suffer evil in time to come, while the gods give him happiness, and his limbs move lightly. But when again the blessed gods have wrought for him sorrow, even so he bears it, as he must, with a steadfast heart. For the spirit of men upon the earth is even as their day, that comes upon them from the father of gods and men.
The Greek original:
οὐδὲν ἀκιδνότερον γαῖα τρέφει ἀνθρώποιο,
πάντων ὅσσα τε γαῖαν ἔπι πνείει τε καὶ ἕρπει.
οὐ μὲν γάρ ποτέ φησι κακὸν πείσεσθαι ὀπίσσω,
ὄφρ᾽ ἀρετὴν παρέχωσι θεοὶ καὶ γούνατ᾽ ὀρώρῃ·
ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δὴ καὶ λυγρὰ θεοὶ μάκαρες τελέσωσι,
καὶ τὰ φέρει ἀεκαζόμενος τετληότι θυμῷ·
τοῖος γὰρ νόος ἐστὶν ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων
οἷον ἐπ᾽ ἦμαρ ἄγησι πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε.