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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Maxims
By Hesiod (fl. Eighth Century B.C.)
 
From the ‘Works and Days’: Translation of William Cranston Lawton

NEVER a man hath won him a nobler prize than a woman,
If she be good; but again there is naught else worse than a bad one.
 
EVEN the potter is jealous of potter, and craftsman of craftsman;
Even the beggar is grudging to beggar, and poet to poet!
 
BUT do thou store these matters away in thy memory, Perses!        5
Let not contention, the lover of mischief, withhold thee from labor,
While in the market-place thou art hearkening, eager for quarrels.
 
ONCE we our heritage shared already. Cajoling the rulers,—
Men who were greedy for bribes, and were willing to grant you the judgment,—
You then plundered and carried away far more than your portion.        10
Fools were they, unaware how the whole by a half is exceeded;
Little they know how great is the blessing with mallow and lentils.
 
TRULY, the gods keep hid from mortals the means of subsistence;
Else in a single day thou well mightst win by thy labor
What would suffice for a year, although thou idle remainest.        15
Ended then were the labors of toilsome mules and of oxen.
 
EVIL he worketh himself who worketh ill to another.
 
                BUT remembering still my injunction,
Work, O Perses sprung from the gods, that Famine may ever
Hate you, and dear may you be to Demeter of beautiful garlands,—        20
Awesome one,—and still may she fill thy garner with plenty.
 
WORK is no disgrace; but the shame is, not to be working:
If you but work, then he who works not will envy you quickly,
Seeing your wealth increase; with wealth come honor and glory.
 
SUMMON the man who loves thee to banquet; thy enemy bid not.        25
Summon him most of all who dwells most closely beside thee;
Since if aught that is strange or evil chance to befall thee,
Neighbors come ungirt, but kinsmen wait to be girded.
 
TAKE your fill when the cask is broached and when it is failing.
Midway spare; at the lees ’tis not worth while to be sparing.        30
 
CALL—with a smile—for a witness, although ’tis your brother you deal with.
 
GET thee a dwelling first, and a woman, and ox for the plowing:
Buy thou a woman, not wed her, that she may follow the oxen.
 
THIS shall the remedy be, if thou art belated in plowing:
When in the leaves of the oak is heard the voice of the cuckoo        35
First, that across the unbounded earth brings pleasure to mortals,
Three days long let Zeus pour down his rain without ceasing,
So that the ox-hoof’s print it fills, yet not overflows it:
Then may the plowman belated be equal with him who was timely.
 
PASS by the seat at the forge, and the well-warmed tavern, in winter.        40
That is the time when the man not slothful increases his substance.
 
SHUN thou seats in the shade, nor sleep till the dawn (!) in the season
When it is harvest-time, and your skin is parched in the sunshine.
 
SEEK thou a homeless thrall, and a serving-maid who is childless.
 
PRAISE thou a little vessel; bestow thy freight in a large one.        45
 
DO not stow in the hollowed vessel the whole of thy substance;
Leave thou more behind, and carry the less for a cargo.
Hateful is it to meet with a loss on the watery billows;
Hateful too if, loading excessive weight on a wagon,
Thou shouldst crush thine axle and so thy burden be wasted.        50
Keep thou due moderation; all things have a fitting occasion.
 
CLOSING LINES
DIFFERENT men praise different days: they are rare who do know them.
Often a day may prove as a stepmother, often a mother:
Blessèd and happy is he who, aware of all that concerns them,
Wisely works his task, unblamed in the sight of immortals,        55
Judging the omens aright, and succeeds in avoiding transgression.
 
 
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