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Homer’s Wheel. of. Fortune.

Michael Gilleland at Laudator Temporis Acti posts several translations of Homer’s meditation on the vicissitudes of life in Odyssey 18.130-137. Among other insights, we can see how true Richard Bentley’s comment on Pope’s Iliad is: “it is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer.”

Homer, Odyssey 18.130-137 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):

Of all creatures that breathe and walk on the earth there is nothing
more helpless than a man is, of all that the earth fosters;
for he thinks that he will never suffer misfortune in future
days, while the gods grant him courage, and his knees have spring
in them. But when the blessed gods bring sad days upon him,
against his will he must suffer it with enduring spirit.
For the mind in men upon earth goes according to the fortunes
the Father of Gods and Men, day by day, bestows upon them.

The same, tr. William Cowper:

Earth nourishes, of all that breathe or creep,
No creature weak as man; for while the Gods
Grant him prosperity and health, no fear
Hath he, or thought, that he shall ever mourn;
But when the Gods with evils unforeseen
Smite him, he bears them with a grudging mind;
For such as the complexion of his lot
By the appointment of the Sire of all,
Such is the colour of the mind of man.

The same, tr. Alexander Pope:

Of all that breathes, or grovelling creeps on earth,
Most man in vain! calamitous by birth:
To-day, with power elate, in strength he blooms;
The haughty creature on that power presumes:
Anon from Heaven a sad reverse he feels:
Untaught to bear, ‘gainst Heaven the wretch rebels.
For man is changeful, as his bliss or woe!
Too high when prosperous, when distress’d too low.

[more translations]

Proverbium Diurnum

Stultum facit Fortuna quem vult perdere. (Publilius Syrus, Sententia 611)

pron = STOOL-toom FAH-kit fohr-TOO-nah kwem woolt PEHR-deh-reh.

Fortune makes him foolish whom she wishes to destroy.

Comment: I have addressed the double-edged meaning of “The Fool” here before…[more]

(via Bob Patrick’s Latin Proverb of the Day)

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