Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Old Age

Aeschylus, Agamemnon 79-82 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
Beyond age, leaf
withered, man goes three footed
no stronger than a child is,
a dream that falters in daylight.

τό θ' ὑπέργηρων, φυλλάδος ἤδη
κατακαρφομένης, τρίποδας μὲν ὁδοὺς
στείχει, παιδὸς δ' οὐδὲν ἀρείων
ὄναρ ἡμερόφαντον ἀλαίνει.
David Raeburn and Oliver Thomas, The Agamemnon of Aeschylus: A Commentary for Students (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 76-77:
From 79 there is further poignant description of 'the exceedingly old thing' (neuter rather than masculine) whose 'foliage is now withering away', i.e. the man in the late autumn of his life. With his staff, he 'goes along on his three-footed ways'; ὁδούς is a cognate accusative. (Similarly in the Sphinx's famous riddle: 'What has four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening? Man.') Finally, 'no better than a child, he wanders, a dream seen in the daytime': as we would say, he is in his 'second childhood', and purposeless, insubstantial, out of place.
Gilbert Murray's version:
And the passing old, while the dead leaf blows
And the old staff gropeth his three-foot way,
Weak as a babe and alone he goes,
A dream left wandering in the day.

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