Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Worldly Wisdom
By Theognis (fl. Sixth Century B.C.)
Translation of John Hookham Frere

JOIN with the world; adopt with every man
His party views, his temper, and his plan;
Strive to avoid offense, study to please,—
Like the sagacious inmate of the seas,
That an accommodating color brings,        5
Conforming to the rock to which he clings;
With every change of place changing his hue:
The model for a statesman such as you.
  Learn, Kurnus, learn to bear an easy mind:
Accommodate your humor to mankind        10
And human nature;—take it as you find!
A mixture of ingredients, good or bad,—
Such are we all, the best that can be had:
The best are found defective; and the rest,
For common use, are equal to the best.        15
Suppose it had been otherwise decreed—
How could the business of the world proceed?
  Fairly examined, truly understood,
No man is wholly bad nor wholly good,
Nor uniformly wise. In every case,        20
Habit and accident, and time and place,
Affect us. ’Tis the nature of the race.
  Entire and perfect happiness is never
Vouchsafed to man; but nobler minds endeavor
To keep their inward sorrows unrevealed.        25
With meaner spirits nothing is concealed:
Weak, and unable to conform to fortune,
With rude rejoicing or complaint importune,
They vent their exultation or distress.
Whate’er betides us, grief or happiness,        30
The brave and wise will bear with steady mind,
Th’ allotment unforeseen and undefined
Of good or evil, which the gods bestow,
Promiscuously dealt to man below.
  Learn patience, O my soul! though racked and torn        35
With deep distress—bear it!—it must be borne!
Your unavailing hopes and vain regret,
Forget them, or endeavor to forget:
Those womanish repinings, unrepressed
(Which gratify your foes), serve to molest        40
Your sympathizing friends—learn to endure!
And bear calamities you cannot cure!

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