Tuesday, July 04, 2017


What Constitutes a State?

William Jones (1746-1794), "Ode in Imitation of Alcaeus," Poetical Works, Vol. I (London: Stanhope Press, 1808), pp 97-98 (Greek standardized):
οὐ λίθοι οὐδὲ ξύλα οὐδὲ
τέχνη τεκτόνων αἱ πόλεις εἶεν,
ἀλλ᾿ ὅπου ποτ᾿ ἂν ὦσιν ἄνδρες
αὑτοὺς σῴζειν εἰδότες,
ἐνταῦθα καὶ τείχη καὶ πόλεις.

                 Alc. quoted by Aristides.

    What constitutes a state?
Not high-rais'd battlement or labour'd mound,
    Thick wall or moated gate;
Not cities proud with spires and turrets crown'd;
    Nor bays and broad-arm'd ports,
Where, laughing at the storm, rich navies ride,
    Not star'd and spangled courts,
Where low-brow'd baseness wafts perfume to pride.
    NO:—Men, high-minded men,
With powers as far above dull brutes endued
    In forest, brake, or den,
As beasts excel cold rocks and brambles rude;
    Men, who their duties know,
But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain,
    Prevent the long-aim'd blow,
And crush the tyrant while they rend the chain:
    These constitute a state,
And sovereign Law, that state's collected will,
    O'er thrones and globes elate,
Sits empress, crowning good, repressing ill;
    Smit by her sacred frown
The fiend, Discretion, like a vapour sinks,
    And e'en the' all-dazzling Crown
Hides his faint rays, and at her bidding shrinks.
    Such was this heav'n-loved isle,
Than Lesbos fairer and the Cretan shore!
    No more shall freedom smile?
Shall Britons languish, and be Men no more?
    Since all must life resign,
Those sweet rewards, which decorate the brave,
    'Tis folly to decline,
And steal inglorious to the silent grave.
The Greek (Alcaeus, fragment 426) translated by David A. Campbell:
Cities are not stones or timbers or the craft of builders; but wherever there are men who know how to defend themselves, there are walls and cities.

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