Friday, March 29, 2019


Most Painful

Tyrtaeus, fragment 10, lines 1-14 (tr. M.L. West):
For it is fine to die in the front line,
   a brave man fighting for his fatherland,
and the most painful fate's to leave one's town
   and fertile farmlands for a beggar's life,
roaming with mother dear and aged father,        5
   with little children and with wedded wife.
He'll not be welcome anywhere he goes,
   bowing to need and horrid poverty,
his line disgraced, his handsome face belied;
   every humiliation dogs his steps.        10
This is the truth: the vagrant is ignored
   and slighted, and his children after him.
So let us fight with spirit for our land,
   die for our sons, and spare our lives no more.

τεθνάμεναι γὰρ καλὸν ἐνὶ προμάχοισι πεσόντα
   ἄνδρ᾽ ἀγαθὸν περὶ ᾗ πατρίδι μαρνάμενον,
τὴν δ᾽ αὐτοῦ προλιπόντα πόλιν καὶ πίονας ἀγροὺς
   πτωχεύειν πάντων ἔστ᾽ ἀνιηρότατον,
πλαζόμενον σὺν μητρὶ φίλῃ καὶ πατρὶ γέροντι        5
   παισί τε σὺν μικροῖς κουριδίῃ τ' ἀλόχῳ.
ἐχθρὸς μὲν γὰρ τοῖσι μετέσσεται, οὕς κεν ἵκηται
   χρησμοσύνῃ τ᾽ εἴκων καὶ στυγερῇ πενίῃ,
αἰσχύνει τε γένος, κατὰ δ᾽ ἀγλαὸν εἶδος ἐλέγχει,
   πᾶσα δ᾽ ἀτιμίη καὶ κακότης ἕπεται.        10
εἰ δ' οὕτως ἀνδρός τοι ἀλωμένου οὐδεμί' ὤρη
   γίνεται οὔτ' αἰδὼς, οὐδ' ὀπίσω γένεος,
θυμῷ γῆς πέρι τῆσδε μαχώμεθα καὶ περὶ παίδων
   θνήσκωμεν ψυχέων μηκέτι φειδόμενοι.
See W.J. Verdenius, "Tyrtaeus 6-7 D: A Commentary," Mnemosyne 22.4 (1969) 337-355 (at 337-345).

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