Friday, September 27, 2013
A Man Should Not Write Like This of His Home
Hesiod himself had no great love for the climate of his native spot, and, as we have so far given the Greek climate high marks, it is only fair that so distinguished an authority should be heard on the other side. Hesiod disliked the sweltering heat of summer, and he hated the winter – 'the month of Lenaeon, evil days, cattle-flaying days, when the frosts that appear for men’s sorrow cover the earth as the breath of the north-easter from Thrace bloweth on the wide sea and stirreth it, and earth and wood bellow aloud. Many an oak of lofty foliage and many a stout pine in the mountain glens doth his onset bring low to the bounteous earth, and all the unnumbered forest crieth aloud, and the wild beasts shudder and set their tails between their legs, even they whose hide is covered with hair. Yea, even through these, shaggy-breasted though they are, he bloweth with chill breath. Through the hide of the ox he bloweth, and it stayeth him not, and through the thin-haired goat: but nowise through the sheep doth the might of Boreas blow, because of their abundant wool. But he maketh the old man bent.' Of the eight winds Hesiod hated four. The others 'are of the race of gods, a great boon to mortal men. But these are random winds, blowing fitfully on the sea; they fall on the misty deep, a great bane to mortal men, and rage with evil tempest. Different at different times they blow, and scatter ships and destroy sailors. And there is no defence against woe for men who meet those winds upon the deep. And those again over the infinite flowery earth destroy the pleasant works of men, filling them with dust and grievous turmoil.'1The excerpts are from Works and Days 504-518, Theogony 871-880, and Works and Days 639-640.
But Hesiod was a farmer, and a Boeotian, 'of Ascra, a sorry place near Helicon; bad in winter, hard in summer, never good' – and a man should not write like this of his home, even though his father has come there from Asia Minor, and no doubt told Hesiod times without number how much better it had been in Asia.
1. Transl. A.W. Mair.
Hat tip: Daniel Orazio.