Sunday, January 12, 2014


A Holiday

Alexis, fragment 222 Kassel-Austin = 219 Kock (from his play The Tarentines; tr. Charles Burton Gulick, slightly revised, with his note):
We are doing none of our neighbours any harm. Don't you know that what, to amuse ourselves, we call "life" is but a name, a coaxing flattery of our human lot? Whether anybody will say that my judgement is good or bad I cannot tell you; but this, at least, I have made up my mind to on careful study: that all the doings of men are out-and-out crazy, and that we who for the time being are alive are only getting an outing, as though let loosea from death and darkness to keep holiday, to amuse ourselves and to enjoy this light which we can see. And the man who laughs and drinks the most, and holds fast to Aphrodite, during the time he is set free, and to such gifts as Fortune offers, after he has had a most pleasant holiday can depart for home.

a i.e. set free to enjoy a vacation; ἀποδημίας and πανήγυριν suggest the practice of going abroad to attend a great national festival. What Fortune offers is a contribution to the picnic (ἔρανος).
Here is an anonymous verse rendering of the same, from "A Glance at the Noctes of Athenaeus," Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine No. CCXXVII, Vol. XXXVI (October, 1834) 431-457 (at 457):
Do you not know that by the term call'd life,
We mean to give a softer tone to ills
That man is heir to? Whether I judge right
Or wrong in this, I'll not presume to say—
Having reflected long and seriously,
To this conclusion I am brought at last,
That universal folly governs all;
For in this little life of ours, we seem
As strangers that have left their native home.
We make our first appearance from the realms
Of death and darkness, and emerge to light,
And join th' assembly of our fellow-men—
They who enjoy themselves the most, and drink,
And laugh, and banish care, or pass the day
In the soft blandishments of love, and leave
No joy untasted, no delight untried
That innocence and virtue may approve,
And this gay festival afford, depart
Cheerful, like guests contented, to their home.
The Greek:
                                                οἳ τῶν πέλας
οὐδέν᾽ ἀδικοῦμεν οὐδέν. ἆρ᾽ οὐκ οἶσθ᾽ ὅτι
τὸ καλούμενον ζῆν τοῦτο διατριβῆς χάριν
ὄνομ᾽ ἐστίν, ὑποκόρισμα τῆς ἀνθρωπίνης
μοίρας; ἐγὼ γάρ, εἰ μὲν εὖ τις ἢ κακῶς
φήσει με κρίνειν, οὐκ ἔχοιμ᾽ ἄν σοι φράσαι·
ἔγνωκα δ᾽ οὖν οὕτως ἐπισκοπούμενος
εἶναι μανιώδη πάντα τἀνθρώπων ὅλως,
ἀποδημίας δὲ τυγχάνειν ἡμᾶς ἀεὶ
τοὺς ζῶντας, ὥσπερ εἰς πανήγυρίν τινα
ἀφειμένους ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου καὶ τοῦ σκότους
εἰς τὴν διατριβὴν εἰς τὸ φῶς τε τοῦθ᾽ ὃ δὴ
ὁρῶμεν. ὃς δ᾽ ἂν πλεῖστα γελάσῃ καὶ πίῃ
καὶ τῆς Ἀφροδίτης ἀντιλάβηται τὸν χρόνον
τοῦτον ὃν ἀφεῖται, καὶ Τύχης ἐράνου τινός,
πανηγυρίσας ἥδιστ᾽ ἀπῆλθεν οἴκαδε.
I don't have access to the Greek text in Rudolf Kassel and Colin Austin, edd., Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. II (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1991), or to the notes on this fragment by W. Geoffrey Arnott in Alexis, The Fragments: A Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 624-635.

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