Sunday, January 20, 2013


The Need for Laughter

Greek Anthology 10.87 (Palladas, tr. W.R. Paton):
If we do not laugh at life the runaway, and Fortune the strumpet shifting with the current, we cause ourselves constant pain seeing the unworthy luckier than ourselves.

Ἂν μὴ γελῶμεν τὸν βίον τὸν δραπέτην,
Τύχην τε πόρνην ῥεύμασιν κινουμένην,
ὀδύνην ἑαυτοῖς προξενοῦμεν πάντοτε,
ἀναξίους ὁρῶντες εὐτυχεστέρους.
The same, tr. W.L. Grant:
Our life's a slave that runs away,
And Fortune but a courtesan;
We needs must laugh to see them play,
Or else must weep to mark alway
The worthless is the happier man.
A Latin translation by Eilhard Lubin (1565-1621):
Nisi rideamus vitam fugacem,
Et fortunam meretricis fluctibus motam,
Dolorem nobis ipsis conciliamus undique,
Indignos videntes feliciores.
A Latin translation by Hugo Grotius (1583-1645):
Ni rideamus alitis vitae fugam,
Scortique semper more fortunam levem,
Semper dolore nosmet excruciabimus,
Dignos minus florere cernentes magis.
C.M. Bowra, "Palladas on Tyche," Classical Quarterly (1960) 118-128 (at 120):
In this poem Tyche is called a harlot because the unworthy prosper. The ῥεύματα of Tyche are in their favour, and she deserves the name of πόρνη because of the inconstancy with which she bestows her graces and her preference for rich suitors. How outrageous the word would seem to a Greek public may be deduced from the fact that when the poem appears on the wall of a latrine at Ephesus, the second line has been changed to
πινῶντες ἢ τρυφῶντες ἢ λελουμένοι.1
If even in this humble setting Palladas' words were thought to be excessive, we can gauge how strong they were, and how little respect he had for conventions when he wrote them.

E. Kalinka, Wien. Stud. xxiv (1902), 292-5.
Alan Cameron, "Notes on Palladas," Classical Quarterly 15 (1965) 215-229 (at 226-229), argues that Palladas' epigram is an adaptation of the poem in the latrine, and not vice versa.

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