Friday, August 19, 2011


Two Prayers of Socrates

Plato, Phaedrus 279b8-c3 (tr. R. Hackforth):
Dear Pan, and all ye other gods that dwell in this place, grant that I may become fair within, and that such outward things as I have may not war against the spirit within me. May I count him rich who is wise, and as for gold, may I possess so much of it as a temperate man might bear and carry with him.

ὦ φίλε Πάν τε καὶ ἄλλοι ὅσοι τῇδε θεοί, δοίητέ μοι καλῷ γενέσθαι τἄνδοθεν: ἔξωθεν δὲ ὅσα ἔχω, τοῖς ἐντὸς εἶναί μοι φίλια. πλούσιον δὲ νομίζοιμι τὸν σοφόν: τὸ δὲ χρυσοῦ πλῆθος εἴη μοι ὅσον μήτε φέρειν μήτε ἄγειν δύναιτο ἄλλος ἢ ὁ σώφρων.
Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.3.2 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
And again, when he prayed he asked simply for good gifts, "for the gods know best what things are good." To pray for gold or silver or sovereignty or any other such thing, was just like praying for a gamble or a fight or anything of which the result is obviously uncertain.

καὶ ηὔχετο δὲ πρὸς τοὺς θεοὺς ἁπλῶς τἀγαθὰ διδόναι, ὡς τοὺς θεοὺς κάλλιστα εἰδότας ὁποῖα ἀγαθά ἐστι: τοὺς δ᾽ εὐχομένους χρυσίον ἢ ἀργύριον ἢ τυραννίδα ἢ ἄλλο τι τῶν τοιούτων οὐδὲν διάφορον ἐνόμιζεν εὔχεσθαι ἢ εἰ κυβείαν ἢ μάχην ἢ ἄλλο τι εὔχοιντο τῶν φανερῶς ἀδήλων ὅπως ἀποβήσοιτο.
John Stuart Blackie, Messis Vitae: Gleanings of Song from a Happy Life (London: Macmillan and Co., 1886), p. 70, quotes part of the passage from Xenophon and paraphrases as follows, under the title The Prayer of Socrates:
Grant, O Olympian Jove supreme,
Not my wish, and not my dream;
Grant me neither gold that shines,
Nor ruddy copper in the mines,
Nor power to wield the tyrant's rod,
And be a fool, and seem a god,
Nor precious robe with jewelled fringe
Splendid with sea-born purple tinge,
Nor silken vest on downy pillow,
Nor hammock hard on heaving billow;
But give all goodly things that be
Good for the whole and best for me.
My thoughts are foolish, blind, and crude;
Thou only knowest what is good.

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