Saturday, January 14, 2006
Recipes for Happiness
One grand boulevard with treesA common way in ancient literature to express a recipe for happiness is by means of a macarism. A macarism (from Greek μακαρισμός) is just a fancy word for beatitude. It consists of an adjective meaning happy, a relative or indefinite pronoun, and whatever action or state is supposed to lead to happiness. Adjectives meaning happy include εὐδαίμων, μάκαρ, μακάριος, or ὄλβιος in Greek, beatus, felix, or fortunatus in Latin.
with one grand cafe in sun
with strong black coffee in very small cups.
One not necessarily very beautiful
man or woman who loves you.
One fine day.
Many of the following examples come from a footnote in Eduard Norden's Agnostos Theos (1913), pp. 100-101.
An early Greek macarism is found in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (lines 480-482, tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White):
Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has lot of like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom.Pindar is also talking about the Eleusinian mysteries in this macarism (fr. 137a, tr. William H. Race):
ὄλβιος, ὃς τάδ' ὄπωπεν ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων:
ὃς δ' ἀτελὴς ἱερῶν ὅς τ' ἄμμορος, οὔποθ' ὁμοίων
αἶσαν ἔχει φθίμενός περ ὑπὸ ζόφῳ ἠερόεντι.
Blessed is he who sees them and goes beneath the earth; he knows the end of life and knows its Zeus-given beginning.Similarly in Euripides, Bacchae 83-82 (tr. T.A. Buckley), it is the initiate in Dionysus' rites who is happy:
ὄλβιος ὃστις ἰδὼν κεῖν᾽ εἶσ᾽ ὑπὸ χθόν᾽·
οἶδε μὲν βίου τελευτάν,
οἶδεν δὲ διόσδοτον ἀρχάν.
Blessed is he who, being fortunate and knowing the rites of the gods, keeps his life pure and has his soul initiated into the Bacchic revels, dancing in inspired frenzy over the mountains with holy purifications, and who, revering the mysteries of great mother Kybele, brandishing the thyrsos, garlanded with ivy, serves Dionysus.As E.R. Dodds points out in his commentary, the followers of Dionysus have their happiness in this life, here and now, as opposed to the blessed afterlife promised to the initiates in the Eleusinian mysteries.
μάκαρ, ὅστις εὐδαίμων
τελετὰς θεῶν εἰδὼς
βιοτὰν ἁγιστεύει καὶ
ἐν ὄρεσσι βακχεύων
τά τε ματρὸς μεγάλας ὄρ-
για Κυβέλας θεμιτεύων,
ἀνὰ θύρσον τε τινάσσων,
κισσῷ τε στεφανωθεὶς
Sometimes the favor of the gods confers happiness, as in these macarisms:
- Homeric Hymn to Mother Earth (30.7-8, tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White): Happy is the man whom you delight to honour. (ὃ δ' ὄλβιος, ὅν κε σὺ θυμῷ / πρόφρων τιμήσῃς.)
- Hesiod, Theogony 96-97 (tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White): Happy is he whom the Muses love. (ὃ δ' ὄλβιος, ὅντινα Μοῦσαι / φίλωνται.)
That man is happy and lucky in them who knows all these things and does his work without offending the deathless gods, who discerns the omens of birds and avoids transgression.Cf. Vergil, Georgics 2.490-512 (tr. J.W. MacKail):
τάων εὐδαίμων τε καὶ ὄλβιος, ὃς τάδε πάντα
εἰδὼς ἐργάζηται ἀναίτιος ἀθανάτοισιν,
ὄρνιθας κρίνων καὶ ὑπερβασίας ἀλεείνων.
Happy he who hath availed to know the causes of things, and hath laid all fears and immitigable Fate and the roar of hungry Acheron under his feet; yet he no less is blessed, who knows the gods of the country, Pan and old Silvanus and the Nymphs' sisterhood.A country life is also at the center of this macarism from the beginning of Horace's second epode (tr. Christopher Smart):
felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas
atque metus omnis et inexorabile fatum
subiecit pedibus strepitumque Acherontis avari:
fortunatus et ille deos qui novit agrestis
Panaque Silvanumque senem Nymphasque sorores.
Happy the man, who, remote from business, after the manner of the ancient race of mortals, cultivates his paternal lands with his own oxen, disengaged from every kind of usury; he is neither alarmed by the horrible trump, as a soldier, nor dreads he the angry sea; he shuns both the bar [i.e. lawsuits] and the proud portals of citizens in power.The book of Psalms opens with a macarism (1.1):
Beatus ille qui procul negotiis,
ut prisca gens mortalium,
paterna rura bubus exercet suis
solutus omni faenore
neque excitatur classico miles truci
neque horret iratum mare
forumque vitat et superba civium
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.Other Biblical examples include:
- Psalms 32.1-2: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
- Psalms 34.8: Blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
- Psalms 40.4: Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
- Jeremiah 17.7: Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.
- Sirach 31.8: Blessed is the rich that is found without blemish, and hath not gone after gold.
- Revelation 1.3: Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Blest and thrice blest were those Danaans who fell before Troy in the cause of the sons of Atreus.In his despair, Odysseus imagines that those who died fighting at Troy are better off than he is in his interminable wanderings. Vergil imitates these lines in the first book of the Aeneid (lines 92-96, tr. Theodore C. Williams):
τρὶς μάκαρες Δαναοὶ καὶ τετράκις, οἳ τότ᾽ ὄλοντο
Τροίῃ ἐν εὐρείῃ χάριν Ἀτρεΐδῃσι φέροντες.
Straightway Aeneas, shuddering with amaze,Another macarism that starts out in a paradoxical fashion is Theognis 1013-1016 (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
groaned loud, upraised both holy hands to Heaven,
and thus did plead: "O thrice and four times blest,
ye whom your sires and whom the walls of Troy
looked on in your last hour!"
extemplo Aeneae solvuntur frigore membra:
ingemit, et duplicis tendens ad sidera palmas
talia voce refert: 'O terque quaterque beati,
quis ante ora patrum Troiae sub moenibus altis
Ah, blessed and happy and fortunate is he that goeth down into the black house of Death without knowing trouble, and ere he have bent before his foes, sinned of necessity, or tested the loyalty of his friends.From the Bible we have the following paradoxical macarisms:
Ἆ μάκαρ εὐδαίμων τε καὶ ὄλβιος, ὃστις ἄπειρος
ἄθλων είς Ἀΐδεω δῶμα μέλαν καταβῇ,
πρίν ἐχθροὺς πτῆξαι καὶ ὑπερβῆναί περ ἀναγκῃ
ἐξετάσαι τε φίλους ὅντιν᾽ ἔχουσι νόον.
- Job 5.17: Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty.
- Psalms 94.12: Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law.
- Proverbs 28.14: Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.
- 1 Peter 3.14: But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye.
- 1 Peter 4.14: If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye.
- James 1.12: Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.