An excerpt from

Hesiod's Works and Days

translated by Daryl Hine

from Works of Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns

Come, you Pierian Muses, who give us the glory of music,
Tell me of Zeus, your progenitor, make praise-songs in his honor;
Through him, moreover, are humankind undistinguished or famous,
They are sung or unsung by the will of omnipotent great Zeus.
Easily making a man strong, easily he overthrows him,
Easily humbles the proud as he lifts up high the obscure, and
Easily straightens the crooked as well as deflating the puffed-up—
Zeus, who is deathless and thunders aloft and dwells in the highest.
Listen to me and behold, make straight your decisions with justice.
I would be happy to speak true facts to you, Perses, my brother.

There is not only one Discord, for on earth she is twofold:
One of them nobody would find fault with on closer acquaintance;
One you would deprecate, for they have totally different natures.
Wickedly, one promotes all the evils of warfare and slaughter;
No one of humankind likes her; out of necessity, at the
Will of the blessed immortals, they treat grim Discord with honor.
There is, moreover, another, the firstborn daughter of dark Night.
Her did the high-throned scion of Cronus whose home is in heaven
Place at the roots of the earth; she is certainly better for mankind.
This is that Discord that stirs up even the helpless to hard work,
Seeing a man gets eager to work on beholding a neighbor
Who is exceedingly wealthy and makes haste plowing and sowing,
Putting his household in order; so neighbor competing with neighbor
Runs after riches, and therefore this Discord benefits mankind.
Every potter begrudges another, and artists do likewise;
Every beggarman envies a beggar, and poets are rivals.

Perses, be sure you deposit these things in your heart and your spirit,
Lest Discord, which is given to mischief, distract you from work and
You begin sneaking about, eavesdropping on feuds in the forum.
You have no business getting in fights and disputing in public,
Not if you haven't sufficient for life laid up in your storeroom,
Seasonal fruits of the earth, ripe grain of abundant Demeter.
When you have plenty of that, turn freely to fierce competition
For the possessions of others; no second chance will be yours to
Do so. Let us however decide our disputes by means of impartial
Judgments, for justice derives from Zeus and is bound to be perfect.
When we had split our inheritance, you grabbed most of it, making
Off with it, to enhance the repute of our bribe-hungry royal
Masters, who love to adjudge such cases as ours in their courtrooms.
Idiots! They don't know how much more is the half than the whole, nor
What is the use of a diet of mallow and asphodel, Perses?

Plainly the gods keep secret from humankind the means of survival;
Otherwise, you in a day could easily do enough work to
Last you a whole year long, and without any further exertion.
Soon, very soon you would hang up over the fireplace your rudder;
Then would be finished the labors of oxen and hard-working donkeys.
No, Zeus kept it a secret because in his heart he was angry,
Seeing how devious-minded Prometheus once had fooled him;
Therefore did almighty Zeus plot sorrows and troubles for humankind.
He hid fire, which, however, then Iapetus's great-hearted son, to
Benefit humankind, pilfered from Zeus, the purveyor of counsel,
Hid in a hollowed-out stalk to baffle the lover of thunder.

Then cloud-gathering Zeus to Prometheus said in his anger:
"Iapetus's brat, since you're so much smarter than anyone else, you're
Happy to outwit me, and rejoice in the fire you have stolen—
For yourself a calamity, also for men of the future.
For I shall give them a bad thing, too, in exchange for this fire, which
Heartily all may delight in, embracing a homegrown evil."
Speaking, the father of gods and of mankind exploded in laughter.
Then he commanded Hephaestus, the world-famed craftsman, as soon as
Possible to mix water and earth, and infuse in it human
Speech, also strength, and to make it look like a goddess, and give it
Likewise a girl-like form that was pretty and lovesome. Athena
Would instruct her in handwork and weaving of intricate fabrics;
Furthermore, gold Aphrodite should drip charm over her head to
Cause heartsore longing, emotional anguish exhausting the body.
Zeus gave instructions to Hermes, the sure guide, slayer of Argus,
To put in her the heart of a bitch and a devious nature.
Then did the famed lame god manufacture at once from the earth a
Fair simulacrum of one shy maiden, according to Zeus's will.
Next to her skin did the godlike Graces and gracious Persuasion
Carefully place gold necklaces; round her adorable head the
Hours who are gorgeously coiffed wove garlands of beautiful spring flowers.
Hermes, our sure guide, slayer of Argus, contrived in her breast
Lies and misleadingly false words joined to a devious nature,
At the behest of the deep-voiced thunderer, Zeus; and the herald
God of the gods then gave her a voice. And he called her Pandora,
Seeing how all who inhabit lofty Olympus had given
Something to pretty Pandora, that giant bane to industrious mankind.

When he had finished this downright desperate piece of deception,
To Epimetheus Zeus then dispatched the slayer of Argus,
Famed swift messenger of the immortals, with her as a present.
But Epimetheus had forgotten Prometheus's warning,
Not to accept anything from Olympian Zeus, but to send it
Back where it came from, lest it become a disaster for mortals.
Once he'd accepted it, he, possessing the bane, recognized it.

Formerly dwelt on earth all the various tribes of the human
Race, on their own and remote from evils and difficult labor
And from distressing diseases that bring doom closer to each one.
[For in misfortune do humans age rapidly, quicker than ever.]
Using her fingers, the maid pried open the lid of the great jar,
Sprinkling its contents; her purpose, to bring sad hardships to mankind.
Nothing but Hope stayed there in her stout, irrefrangible dwelling,
Under the lip of the jar, inside, and she never would venture
Outdoors, having the lid of the vessel itself to prevent her,
Willed there by Zeus, who arranges the storm clouds and carries the aegis.
Otherwise, myriad miseries flit round miserable mortals;
Furthermore, full is the earth of much mischief, the deep sea also.
Illnesses visiting humans daily and nightly at all hours
All by themselves bring terrible troubles aplenty to mortals
Silently, seeing their power of speech was suppressed by all-wise Zeus.
There is no way of escaping from Zeus's implacable mind-set.

If you prefer, an alternate story I'll summarize also
Well and expertly, and lay it up in your mind and preserve it—
Namely, the common origin shared by immortals and mortals.
First, the immortals who dwell high up on the top of Olympus
Fashioned the firstborn race of articulate men, which was golden,
And it is said that they lived when Cronus was ruling in heaven.
Godlike, they lived like gods, and their hearts were entirely carefree,
Distant strangers to labor and suffering; neither did wretched
Age overtake them; instead, their members intact and unchanged, they
Took much pleasure in banquets and parties, apart from all evils
Till they died as if sleep overcame them. And everything worthwhile
Came to their hand, as the grain-growing earth bore fruit without tilling,
Plenty of good food crops unbegrudged; so they lived at their pleasure,
Peacefully minding their own business, amid numerous good things.
Wealthy in flocks were they and beloved of the blessed immortals.
After this whole first gold generation was finally buried,
Even today they are called pure spirits inhabiting earth and
Noble protectors of mankind, warding off evils from mortals,
Givers of wealth, which royal prerogative still is their business.

Afterward, those that inhabit Olympus fashioned a second,
Silver race, which was very inferior, worse than the first one,
For they did neither in growth nor intellect equal the golden.
Children were then brought up by their diligent mothers a hundred
Years and engaged in sheer infantile child's play there in their own homes.
But when maturing at last they came to the measure of manhood
They lived only the tiniest time, and moreover they suffered
Much in their folly; they could not keep themselves back from their wicked
Violence on one another; nor were they willing to serve the immortals
Or make sacrifice using the Blessed Ones' sacrosanct altars,
As it is lawful for humans to do and according to custom.
Thereupon, Zeus, son of Cronus, suppressed them all in his anger,
Seeing they did not worship the gods who inhabit Olympus.
And when this generation of silver in turn was interred
Under the earth, they were termed blessed spirits although they were mortal,
Second in time, yet everywhere honor is also their portion.

Zeus manufactured a new third race of articulate mankind,
But this bronze generation in no way equaled the silver,
For they were offspring of ash trees, mighty and frightful, and Ares'
Noisy employment concerned them and violent deeds. They ate no
Bread and appeared tough-minded as adamant, wholly unpolished;
All too great was their strength and their hands were invincible, growing
Out of their mighty shoulders to hang at the end of their stout limbs.
Bronze was their armor and brazen their arms, brass-bound were their dwellings;
Bronze were the tools which they worked with, as iron had not been invented.
Dying by each other's hands, they went down to the underworld's cold rot,
Leaving no names to posterity. Black death took them despite their
Physical strength, and they quit altogether the luminous sunlight.
But when this bronze generation, however, was finally buried,
Zeus, son of Cronus, created a whole new fourth generation
Here on the fertile earth who were better and fonder of justice;
This was a godlike race of heroical men who were known as
Demigods, last generation before our own on the broad earth.
Horrible war with its frightening war cries wholly destroyed them,
Some who fought in the kingdom of Cadmus below seven-gated
Thebes where they strove in vain with each other for Oedipus's rich flocks,
Others transported across the immense deep gulf of the sea on
Shipboard to Troy after well-coiffed Helen, the fairest of women.
Some of them there death's ending completely enveloped in darkness.
Others, however, the son of Cronus decided to grant a
Dwelling place far from men at the furthermost ends of the earth, and
There they continue to live, their consciousness perfectly carefree,
There in the Isles of the Blessed, beside deep-eddying Ocean,
[Distant from the immortals; and Cronus was king of that kingdom
After the father of gods and of men freed him from his bondage;
Now from those heroes he gets high honor as is most befitting.]
Fortunate heroes! Their plowlands are so fertile they yield a
Crop more delicious than honey that flourishes three times yearly.
Zeus then created a fifth and last generation of mankind
Such as to this day also inhabit the bountiful green earth.
How I would wish to have never been one of this fifth generation!
Whether I'd died in the past or came to be born in the future.
Truly of iron is this generation, and never by day will
They intermit hard labor and woe; in the night they will also
Suffer distress, for the gods will give them unbearable troubles.
Nevertheless, there will always be good mixed in with the evil.
Zeus will destroy this race of articulate mankind, however,
When they have come to exhibit at birth gray hairs at their temples
And when fathers will differ from children and children from fathers,
Guests with their hosts will differ and comrades will differ with comrades.
And no more will a brother, as previously, be beloved.
When they grow old, people will show no respect to their elders;
Harshly upbraiding them, they use words that are horribly cruel,
Wretches who don't acknowledge the face of the gods and who will not
Pay back ever the cost of their upbringing to their old parents,
Thinking that might means right; and they devastate each other's cities.
There will be nothing like gratitude for oath-keepers and just men,
Nor for the good man; rather, they'll only respect evildoers,
Monsters of violence. Might will be right, all shame will be lost and
All inhibition. The wicked will try to ruin the good man,
Shamelessly uttering falsehoods, wickedly bearing false witness.
Noisy, discordant Envy, malicious, delighting in mischief,
Hateful-faced will accompany all us unfortunate humans.
Self-respect and upright Indignation will go on their way to Olympus,
Quitting the broadly trod earth and concealing their beautiful forms in
Mantles of white, preferring the company of the immortals,
Wholly abandoning mankind, leaving them sorrow and grievous
Pain for the human condition, till there's no ward against evil.
Now I shall tell you a fable for kings who have understanding.
A hawk spoke to a speckle-necked nightingale cruelly, as he
Lifted her up to the clouds while gripping her tight in his talons.
Piteously she, transfixed by his crooked claws, was lamenting
When the imperious hawk addressed her in arrogant parlance,
"Why, little lady, such shrieks? One stronger than you now has got you;
Where you are going, I'll take you myself, though you are a songstress,
For as I please I'll make you my dinner or give you your freedom.
Witless is one who attempts to strive against those who are stronger.
When he is stripped of the prize it is injury added to insult."
Thus said the fast-flying hawk, that bird with the generous wingspan.
Pay more attention to Justice and curb high-handedness, Perses;
Violence ill suits men who are lowly; not even the noble
Man can lightly endure it; it weighs on a person who's fallen
Into affliction. It's better to take your way on the other
Road which conduces to right. For outrage surrenders to justice
When they arrive at discrete ends. Fools understand this the hard way.
Oath every step of the way keeps up with dishonest misjudgments.
There is a tumult when Justice is dragged where men who are venal
Hijack her, those who impose false judgments with crooked injustice.
Weeping, she visits a city and seeks out haunts of the people,
Dimly enveloped in mist, she's bringing misfortune to humans.
Those who have driven her out do not behave to her rightly.
Others deliver correct just judgments to stranger and fellow
Countryman, never transgressing a bit the way of the righteous;
Theirs is a stalwart city and flourishing people within it.
Peace that cherishes children is over the land, and all-seeing
Zeus never ever allots them cruel and terrible warfare.
Neither disasters nor famines befall men just in their dealings;
At their convivial banquets they eat the fruits of their labors.
Earth bears plentiful food for them; plenty of oaks on the mountains
Bear on their summit plentiful acorns, and bees in their center.
Beautifully woolly their sheep are, fraught with luxuriant fleece. Their
Women at term give birth to fine children resembling their fathers.
Always they flourish with all good things, but they never on shipboard
Venture; the grain-growing plowland provides them produce in plenty.

Copyright notice: Excerpt from pages 3-11 of Works of Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns translated by Daryl Hine, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2004 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press.

Works of Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns
[Works and Days, Theogony, The Homeric Hymns, The Battle of the Frogs and Mice]
Edited and translated by Daryl Hine
©2004, 228 pages, 2 maps
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-32965-9
Paper $20.00 ISBN: 978-0-226-32966-6

For information on purchasing the book—from bookstores or here online—please go to the webpage for Works of Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns.

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