Daily Words of Wisdom #3

Any proverb of uncertain nature will be attributed to Mark Twain. Translated by an anonymous person.

“Numquam conare docere porcum saltare, tantum nam aetatem tuam comsumeres et porcum vexabis.”

“Never try to teach a pig to dance. You’ll only waste your time and irritate the pig.”

Advertisements

Daily Words of Wisdom #2

Today’s words of wisdom are brought to you by Homer from Iliad 24.

δοιοὶ γάρ τε πίθοι κατακείαται ἐν Διὸς οὔδει
δώρων οἷα δίδωσι κακῶν, ἕτερος δὲ ἑάων:
 μέν κ᾽ ἀμμίξας δώῃ Ζεὺς τερπικέραυνος,
530ἄλλοτε μέν τε κακῷ  γε κύρεται, ἄλλοτε δ᾽ ἐσθλῷ:
 δέ κε τῶν λυγρῶν δώῃ, λωβητὸν ἔθηκε,
καί  κακὴ βούβρωστις ἐπὶ χθόνα δῖαν ἐλαύνει,
φοιτᾷ δ᾽ οὔτε θεοῖσι τετιμένος οὔτε βροτοῖσιν.
ὣς μὲν καὶ Πηλῆϊ θεοὶ δόσαν ἀγλαὰ δῶρα
535ἐκ γενετῆς: πάντας γὰρ ἐπ᾽ ἀνθρώπους ἐκέκαστο
ὄλβῳ τε πλούτῳ τε, ἄνασσε δὲ Μυρμιδόνεσσι,
καί οἱ θνητῷ ἐόντι θεὰν ποίησαν ἄκοιτιν.
ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ καὶ τῷ θῆκε θεὸς κακόν, ὅττί οἱ οὔ τι
παίδων ἐν μεγάροισι γονὴ γένετο κρειόντων,
540ἀλλ᾽ ἕνα παῖδα τέκεν παναώριον: οὐδέ νυ τόν γε
γηράσκοντα κομίζω, ἐπεὶ μάλα τηλόθι πάτρης
ἧμαι ἐνὶ Τροίῃ, σέ τε κήδων ἠδὲ σὰ τέκνα.

“For there are two urns that sit on the floor of Zeus’ abode,
one with good gifts, the other with evil ones.
Lightning-loving Zeus allots them to everyone, having mingled them,
and to whomever he gives sorrows, he makes him wretched,
and he roams wildly about, dishonored among men and gods.
Even so, the gods gave to Peleus great gifts from his birth,
He excelled all men in wealth and happiness,
and he was king over the Myrmidons,
and the gods gave to him, a mortal, an immortal wife.
But even for him the god allotted evil, such that for him,
no offspring of stronger children arose in his household,
but he fathered only one son doomed to an untimely end.
Nor may I tend him as he grows older, since I am far from my father
here in Troy, where I am vexing you and your children.”

The message here is that fate is indiscriminate, and not even someone as great or famous as Achilles can trust his own fortune. Hence, we of lesser fortune have less cause for boasting and more cause for fear.
Everyone gets at least a mixture of good and bad from those two urns; and though it is impossible to receive all good, one can still receive all evil. It is all up to capricious fate and the will of Zeus.

My Translation of Horace Ode 11

I had translated this a while ago, and recently exhumed it from my Facebook timeline. Reposted here by popular request (you know who you are). Some poetic liberties were taken, be ye warned.

Don’t ask, don’t seek, don’t long to view
What end for me, what end for you
that deathless gods decreed shall be.
Do not think or wish to try
Babylon’s numbers oft-awry.
Better it is and ever may be
To now endure whatever shall be,
Winters many or never again,
Should Jupiter command the end
That now rubs down Tyrrhenian shores
On the looming pumice stones so coarse.
I say, be wise and strain the wine,
Cut off this hope like a too-long vine,
For while we speak, jealous time will have gone.
Seize the day! Distrusting tomorrow, let us live on.

Greek of the Week

According to my own arbitrary and capricious judgment, I will select a long-dead ancient Greek for the honor of Greek of the Week. And the winner for the week of April 27 is………….

Aeschylus the Tragedian.

I’ve had Aeschylus on the brain for most of this semester, so in his honor, I’ve decided to make him the first Greek to be Greek of the Week.

c. 525-24 BC – c. 456-55 BC. Known as the “Father of Tragedy,” he is estimated to have written 70-90 plays, of which only seven survive: The Oresteia, Prometheus Bound, Seven Against Thebes, The Persians, and The Suppliants are the plays that survive. This is some debate about whether he actually wrote Prometheus Bound, but that’s a debate for another time.

Aeschylus was born a few miles north of Athens, in a town called Eleusis (location of the Eleusinian Mysteries, into which Aeschylus was initiated). He was born into a wealthy family that claimed lineage from the most ancient, noble Attic family. Apparently, (according to a geographer named Pausanias from the 2nd century AD) when he was very young he was visited by Dionysus in a dream, who told him to write a tragedy. Shortly thereafter, he began to write tragedies and win Athenian contests.

A few years later, he experienced the politic tumult of the reign of Cleisthenes in Athens, and also went on to fight in the Persian Wars. He and his brother both fought at Marathon, where the Greeks emerged victorious. His involvement in that war would affect his later work.

He died in Sicily, allegedly killed by a falling object. His epitaph, curiously, makes no mention of his career and fame as a tragedian but reveals that he prized his military achievements far more.

His plays, according to Aristotle and others, were quite innovative. He introduced more conflict onto the stage, where actors contended with each other rather than just the chorus. His

I honed my Greek skills on his Eumenides this semester, which is the third play in the trilogy of the Oresteia. It was quite an undertaking, and very daunting at first. The language is very archaic at times, and supposedly hearkens to the Homeric vocabulary, though I personally believe that it does not imitate a Homeric style. It was very difficult to read, but also very rewarding. Half of the difficulty came from the fact that much of the text is corrupt. Many lines are missing and many of the words are simply educated guesses from long-dead scholars. Hence, much of my time was spent deciding on my best guess.

Although it is called a tragedy, the Oresteia has a happy ending.
In the course of the play, Orestes (the son of Agamemnon, who had been fighting the Trojan War for the last ten years), first appears with the Furies surrounding him. The Furies are trying to punish him for the murder of his mother, whom Orestes murdered in recompense for the murder of his father. The Furies insist that he is guilty and must be punished. The god Apollo insists that Orestes is not responsible, and the goddess Athena intervenes and calls a tribunal to decide the case. A vote is taken and Orestes is declared innocent. The Furies are not happy with this outcome, but Athena eventually persuades them to accept cult honors in the fledgling city of Athens, which they accept.

There are many ways of reading the play, though perhaps the most basic reading is that Aeschylus is depicting the historical, political progression of justice. It passes from the original system of retributive justice to the ordered court of law, which develops an impersonal method of judging murder cases, while still retaining proper reverence towards the gods. I wrote an essay on this reading, though it incorporated more intimate details from the text into its conclusion, which is a bit more sophisticated than I have laid it out here, but I still agree with the basic reading.

On the whole, Aeschylus is a very rewarding author. I read the rest of the Oresteia and Prometheus Bound this semester as well and enjoyed them very much.

Daily Words of Wisdom #1

I’m starting a new project of posting daily words of wisdom from the ancients, as well as a couple of other new ideas which will be unveiled at a later time.

Today’s words of wisdom are brought to you by the incomparable Horace: sapias, vina liques et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.

Be wise, drink wine and cut back your long hope to a short space.
While we speak the envious age will have fled away:
Seize the day, trusting tomorrow as little as possible.

Tempus Fugit

…said the classics major once with a smug, self-satisfied expression, which soon disappeared when realization hit.

But unlike most proverbial phrases, this one loses its triteness and becomes terrifying as you slowly realize that it is true. When you’re a child, time goes so slowly that it seems like you’ll be a child forever. I remember being 6 years old and thinking the age of 10 was a ripe age I wouldn’t reach anytime soon. As I get older, the faster time goes. I can barely even remember being 10 years old, it went by so quickly.

Maybe this perception is a function of being insanely busy for most of my life. Maybe it’s an issue with my mindset; maybe I’m just not considering it in the right way.

Or maybe our lives really are that short.

I just realized that I am less than halfway to 40, and that time went by so quickly that it’s terrifying. I’m confronted with a thousand disheartening thoughts every day as I contemplate this, wondering how or if I’m going to leave any kind of legacy. I have begun wondering what I want to leave behind, besides a notebook full of quotations and a few scribbled translations. What will I be remembered for, if anything?

Never before did the Bard strike the core of my being so deeply:

“When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held…” (Sonnet II).

Someday, I may be old and obsolete. And for some strange reason, all I can think about is the future. I haven’t been enjoying this time as much as I ought, especially considering the truth of the words quoted above.

It is now that I realize the importance of making the most of every moment, even when things aren’t going my way. I tend to obsess about the future, rather than enjoy the moment I’m in. Unfortunately, college life tends to engender that sort of mindset, since in theory we’re all here as a means of securing our futures. I’ve gotten very fixated on the future and have forgotten how to live “in the moment” so to speak.

If my homeschool background gave me anything, it was the ability to enjoy every passing minute, without reference to how such-and-such was going to affect my future. I grew up largely without having to contemplate the future very much. I didn’t have school and peers to pressure me into obsessing about the future. Now that I’ve been in the college mindset for 3 years, I feel as if I have lost that ability to the point where I can’t simply enjoy a moment.

I have a lot to enjoy. I attend one of the best colleges in the country, and have great friends. I am majoring in a subject I am passionate about, and have been offered many great opportunities. I spend all my time reading, and reading literature that I mostly enjoy. I get to learn a lot of great things. And I forget all of that partly because I’m a selfish human that tends to take things for granted, but also because the futurity mindset has set in and taken away my enjoyment and appreciation of those things.

Therefore, I am going to make a concerted effort to live in each moment.

I also realized that upon considering my “life goals,” it all boils down to basically this: when I reach the end of my life, first and foremost I want to look back and honestly be able to say that I have lived well and fully, in accordance with my Christian principles. It doesn’t matter what I ultimately end up doing with my career, though I still have many ambitions. What is more important is that I have lived well, even if my career plans don’t fit my current ideals.

After all, Socrates’ main goal was simply to live well. He didn’t live to be the best, or wisest, or most learned. He asked questions so that he could learn what it meant to truly live well. He had a point.