Monday, August 29, 2016


Self-Inflicted Woes

Menander, fragment 844 Kassel-Austin (Poetae Comici Graeci VI.2, p. 400; tr. Maurice Balme):
All living animals are happier
And have more sense than man, far more.
Consider first this donkey here; he's an
Unhappy creature, all agree. But he
Brings none of his misfortunes on himself;
He only has the troubles nature gave.
But we, apart from those we can't avoid,
Provide ourselves with others self-imposed;
We're pained if someone sneezes, angry if
Abused; we see a dream—we're terrified,
And if an owl shrieks loud, we shake with fear.
Our worries, fancies, our ambitions, laws,
These are all evils added to nature's gifts.

ἅπαντα τὰ ζῷ' ἐστὶ μακαριώτερα
καὶ νοῦν ἔχοντα μᾶλλον ἀνθρώπου πολύ.
τὸν ὄνον ὁρᾶν ἔξεστι πρῶτα τουτονί,
οὗτος κακοδαίμων ἐστὶν ὁμολογουμένως.
τούτῳ κακὸν δι' αὑτὸν οὐδὲν γίνεται,        5
ἃ δ' ἡ φύσις δέδωκεν αὐτὰ ταῦτ' ἔχει.
ἡμεῖς δὲ χωρὶς τῶν ἀναγκαίων κακῶν
αὐτοὶ παρ' αὑτῶν ἕτερα προσπορίζομεν.
λυπούμεθ', ἂν πτάρῃ τις· ἂν εἴπῃ κακῶς,
ὀργιζόμεθ'· ἂν ἴδη τις ἐνύπνιον, σφόδρα        10
φοβούμεθ'· ἂν γλαὺξ ἀνακράγῃ, δεδοίκαμεν.
ἀγωνίαι, δόξαι, φιλοτιμίαι, νόμοι,
ἅπαντα ταῦτ' ἐπίθετα τῇ φύσει κακά.
The same, tr. J.M. Edmonds:
All animals are happier than we,
And far more sensible. This you can see
By the donkey here. He's wretched, I admit,
But nature, not himself, 's the cause of it.
We're not content with necessary ill,
But needs must add to it because we will.
Sneezes upset us, insults we repay,
Dreams told alarm us, hooting owls dismay;
Rivalries, reputations, laws, ambitions,
All these are quite gratuitous additions.
Kassel and Austin:

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