Monday, February 15, 2016


The Grass is Greener on the Other Side of the Fence

Horace, Satires 1.1.1-22 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
How comes it, Maecenas, that no man living is content with the lot which either his choice has given him, or chance has thrown in his way, but each has praise for those who follow other paths? "O happy traders!" cries the soldier, as he feels the weight of years, his frame now shattered with hard service. On the other hand, when southern gales toss the ship, the trader cries: "A soldier's life is better. Do you ask why? There is the battle clash, and in a moment of time comes speedy death or joyous victory." One learned in law and statutes has praise for the farmer, when towards cockcrow a client comes knocking at his door. The man yonder, who has given surety and is dragged into town from the country, cries that they only are happy who live in town. The other instances of this kind—so many are they—could tire out the chatterbox Fabius. To be brief with you, hear the conclusion to which I am coming. If some god were to say: "Here I am! I will grant your prayers forthwith. You, who were but now a soldier, shall be a trader; you, but now a lawyer, shall be a farmer. Change parts; away with you—and with you! Well! Why standing still?" They would refuse. And yet 'tis in their power to be happy. What reason is there why Jove should not, quite properly, puff out both cheeks at them in anger, and say that never again will he be so easy-going as to lend ear to their prayers?

Qui fit, Maecenas, ut nemo, quam sibi sortem
seu ratio dederit seu fors obiecerit, illa
contentus vivat, laudet diversa sequentis?
"o fortunati mercatores!" gravis annis
miles ait, multo iam fractus membra labore.        5
contra mercator, navem iactantibus Austris,
"militia est potior. quid enim? concurritur: horae
momento cita mors venit aut victoria laeta."
agricolam laudat iuris legumque peritus,
sub galli cantum consultor ubi ostia pulsat.        10
ille, datis vadibus qui rure extractus in urbem est,
solos felices viventis clamat in urbe.
cetera de genere hoc, adeo sunt multa, loquacem
delassare valent Fabium. ne te morer, audi
quo rem deducam. si quis deus "en ego" dicat,        15
"iam faciam, quod voltis: eris tu, qui modo miles,
mercator; tu, consultus modo, rusticus; hinc vos,
vos hinc mutatis discedite partibus: eia!
quid statis?"—nolint. atqui licet esse beatis.
quid causae est, merito quin illis luppiter ambas        20
iratus buccas inflet neque se fore posthac
tam facilem dicat, votis ut praebeat aurem?
Maximus of Tyre, Dissertations 15.1 (tr. M.B. Trapp; I changed his habituées to habitués):
One sees the farmer voicing his envy of city-dwellers, for the elegant and luxurious lives they lead; but at the same time one also sees habitués of the Assembly and the courts, even the most distinguished among them, bemoaning their lot and longing to live with a hoe and a little plot of land. One hears the soldier's envy for the man of peace, and the admiration of the man of peace for soldiers. If one of the gods were to strip each of these men of his present life and aspect and reclothe him in those of his neighbour, like actors In a play, then once again these same people will be found longing for their previous lives and bemoaning the present. So utterly malcontent a creature is man, so querulous and so terribly peevish, with no love at all for what is his own!

καὶ ἴδοις ἂν τὸν μὲν γεωργικὸν μακαρίζοντα τοὺς ἀστικούς, ὡς συνόντας βίῳ χαρίεντι καὶ ἀνθηρῷ· τοὺς δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν καὶ τῶν δικαστηρίων, καὶ τοὺς πάνυ ἐν αὐτοῖς εὐδοκίμους, ὀδυρομένους τὰ αὑτῶν, καὶ εὐχομένους ἐπὶ σκαπάνῃ βιῶναι καὶ γηδίῳ σμικρῷ. ἀκούσῃ δὲ τοῦ μὲν στρατιωτικοῦ τὸν εἰρηνικὸν εὐδαιμονίζοντος, τοῦ δὲ ἐν εἰρήνῃ τὸν στρατιωτικὸν τεθηπότος. καὶ τὶς θεῶν, ὥσπερ ἐν δράματι ὑποκριτάς, ἀποδύσας ἕκαστον τοῦ παρόντος βίου καὶ σχήματος μεταμφιέσει τὰ τοῦ πλησίον· αὖθις αὖ οἱ αὐτοὶ ἐκεῖνοι ποθήσουσι μὲν τὰ πρότερα, ὀδυροῦνται δὲ τὰ παρόντα. οὕτω δυσάρεστόν τι ἐστὶν ὁ ἄνθρωπος κομιδῇ, καὶ φιλαίτιον, καὶ δεινῶς δύσκολον· καὶ οὐδὲν τὰ αὑτοῦ ἀσπάζεται.
Himerius, Orations 19.10 (tr. Robert J. Penella):
When we live on land, we seek the sea; conversely, when sailing, we look around for fields of grain. The seaman thinks that the farmer is lucky, and the man at the plow has the opposite view: he believes that it is the sailor who is happy.

οἰκοῦντες γῆν ζητοῦμεν θάλατταν, καὶ πλέοντες πάλιν περισκοποῦμεν τὰ λήια. ὁ πλωτὴρ μακαρίζει γηπόνον· καὶ τὸν ναυτίλον ἀρότης ἡγεῖται πάλιν εὐδαίμονα.
Pseudo-Hippocrates, Letters 17.41, my translation from Rudolf Hercher, ed., Epistolographi Graeci (Paris: Didot, 1873), p. 303:
Commanders and kings deem the private citizen happy, but the private citizen yearns for kingship. The man active in politics deems the artisan happy, as free from danger, but the artisan deems the politician happy, as having power over all.

ἡγεμόνες καὶ βασιλέες μακαρίζουσι τὸν ἰδιώτην, ὁ δὲ ἰδιώτης ὀρέγεται βασιλείης. ὁ πολιτευόμενος τὸν χειροτεχνεῦντα ὡς ἀκίνδυνον, ὁ δὲ χειροτέχνης ἐκεῖνον ὡς εὐτονεῦντα κατὰ πάντων.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?