Works and Days


Pierian Muses, whose gift is fame,
Come speak of your father, whose holy name
Is Zeus: sing now his hymn. By him unknown
Or famed is every soul; to him alone
Belongs that power to leave one obscure,
One spoken of, whose memory is sure.
Whoe’er he wills, he strengthens them with ease:
The strong he humbles too if he doth please;
The crooked soul, he straightens if he chooses,
While he who’s proud, his lofty place he loses:
Overthrown by Zeus, that same soul shall fall,
As one who’s hurled from off a city wall.
The dwelling where great Zeus abides is high:
He sits aloft and thunders from the sky.
Now hearken you with both your ears and eyes,
Make judgments true and righteous without lies.
I, Perses, shall speak only what is true:
This surely is what I desire to do.
Now, there is not one Strife alone, but two,
And these are different in the works they do;
For one, when known, is worthy to be praised,
And honoured, loved, to have her name upraised:
The other one is worthy of great blame;
Her nature, vile, gives her an evil name:
She stirs men up to fight in evil war,
And no man loves her, for she wounds them sore:
But honour do men give her, it is true,
Because the gods have willed them so to do.
The other Strife is daughter of black Night
And Kronos’ son, who sits in storied height,
And dwells in aether; he set this Strife below,
In Earth, where she to men can thus bestow
Such kindness as can help the aimless soul;
For, when he sees his neighbor, then the toll
Upon his mind is great; when he can see
The rich man till his fields, and also hurry
To order the affairs of his house: then strives
The man against his neighbor, all their lives.
Each hastens after wealth, and this is good:
For then each works and labours as he should.
Potter strives with potter; the craftsman too,
And bards and beggars, each striving to outdo
His fellow workman. This is the second Strife,
Who is a blessing to every human life.
Perses, keep these things laid up in your heart,
And from the other Strife keep far apart;
For she delights in mischief, and would stay
Your heart from work, that you should while away
Your time in watching and hearing debates
In the law courts, where men settle their fates.
The man who has not victuals in store
Laid up for a year hasn’t the time for
The petty quarrels of the courts, but pain
He should rather take to reap Ceres’ grain.
Once one has store of wheat, then one can strive
His fellow man to of his goods deprive.
But dealing thus, you’ll have no second try,
No matter if one tells a cunning lie:
But let us settle here with judgement true;
To divide our shares is what we have to do.
For he that grabs the greater share and goes,
And unclean gifts on judges then bestows,
Swells up the glory of the lords who eat
Up bribes with greed and sit in judgement’s seat.
To judge this kind of cause to them is pleasure:
Their lust for gain is beyond all measure.
Oh, fools! They do not know the truth; for more
Is half than whole for all the worthy poor;
For such a better banquet can be spread
With the asphodel and the poor man’s bread.
The gods keep the method of life concealed;
For if to mankind it had been revealed,
Sufficient would be the work of one day
To keep for a year; then you’d put away
Your rudder from over the smoke. The field
Once plowed by the ox and the mule would yield
No more; for you’d let it go all to waste,
Once a bit of leisure you’d chanced to taste.
But Zeus in his heart was angry, and veiled
This knowledge and o’er his rival prevailed:
The cunning Prometheus had deceived,
And Zeus in his heart for this was sore grieved;
Against man he plotted mischief and grief:
But Iapetos’ son sought for them relief;
Though Zeus hid fire, yet Prometheus gained
The same again, and with him it remained.
He hid it within a fennel stalk: Zeus
The Thunderer, this theft didn’t deduce.
But afterwards Zeus in anger replied
To Iapetos’ son, the thief who had lied:
“Son of Iapetos, surpassing in craft,
Though in your heart you are glad and have laughed
Rejoicing because you’ve outwitted me;
You’ve stolen the fire, but yet shall it be
A plague to yourself and also mankind;
I’ll give him something, joy in it he’ll find:
He’ll bring down his ruin on his own head;
To his downfall, he will swiftly be led.”
So spoke the father of all gods and men;
He laughed and bid the famed Hephaestus then
To mix together earth and water quickly,
To give it a human voice and lovely
Maiden form, like the goddesses in face;
And Athena to teach them webs to trace
With cunning needlework; and the golden one,
Aphrodite, to shed grace matched by none,
With bitter longing and also tiring cares,
To trouble them in all of their affairs.
And lastly, Hermes, the guide who also slew
Argus, to make them shameless and untrue,
To make their nature deceitful, full of lies,
To trick and deceive, though they please the eyes.
So Zeus commanded, and they all obeyed
The king, on whom the aegis was arrayed.
The Lame God promptly took and moulded clay,
Till by his work a maid was on display,
Such as the son of Kronos had desired;
Gray-eyed Athena girded and attired
The maiden, and the Graces with Persuasion
Who was royal, decked her for the occasion
With necklaces of gold; the full haired Hours,
They made a crown for her head of flowers.
And Pallas Athena did her form adorn
With such finery as was ever worn.
And the Slayer of Argus, who is Guide,
Put in her craft, by which she’s ever lied,
And deceitful nature by the will of Zeus:
The Herald of the Gods gave for her use
The speech by which she could work her deceit.
He called her Pandora, for she was replete
With gifts; for all Olympus, by the will
Of Zeus, gave to her, to render man ill.
After Zeus had finished this hopeless snare,
He caused the Argus-slayer to repair
To Epimetheus, bearing this gift,
And the messenger of the gods was swift.
But Epimetheus, he did not think
Of what Prometheus had said, to shrink
From any gift of Olympian Zeus,
To send it back, for fear of its abuse
To man, in causing him some harm: but he
Took the gift; only later did he see
When it was too late, what was really true:
The gift was evil, but nothing could he do.
‘Fore this men had lived on Earth free from ill,
From the toils and sickness that plague them still;
These things are brought down on men by the Fates;
In misery, old age for men never waits,
But, from suffering, quickly they grow old.
Then, the woman took of the jar ahold,
Removed its lid, and scattered evil wide,
And spread sorrow and ill, from which none could hide.
But Hope remained, contained within the jar,
And flew not without to be scattered far;
For by the will of aegis bearing Zeus,
Cloud holder, she was kept from flying loose.
The lid of the jar kept her in her place:
But the other plagues flew out into space;
Amongst mankind they there wandered to cause
Earth and sea to fill with evil without pause.
On men comes continually disease,
Both day and night does mischief on men seize;
And silently it comes, for Zeus was wise:
He took away their speech. None can devise
A means by which they may escape his will:
They’re bound by this, and suffer for it still.
Now, if you will, I’ll tell another tale,
Well and skillfully, I will without fail:
So lay it up within your heart, to know,
How gods and mortals from one source did grow.
In ages past, when Kronos reigned supreme,
Then mortal men of golden race, whose gleam
Of goodness sprang from all the gods, who live
Eternal on Olympus, these did give
Their skill to make this race of men on Earth,
Who lived like gods all of their lives from birth,
Devoid of sorrow, free from toil and grief,
And free from care, they needed not relief;
And bitter age touched not these men, but strong
Were their arms and legs all of their lives long;
And free from evil feasted they, with joy.
And Death did not with tumult these destroy,
But when they died, ‘twas like they went to sleep,
And all their lives all good things did they keep;
For Earth unforced bore fruit abundantly:
They lived in ease; upon their lands was peace;
Good things they had, with great flocks rich in fleece.
Above all this, there came down from above
From all the blessed gods the gift of love.
But afterwards, when Earth had covered these
Of golden race, who did the great gods please
(They’re called pure spirits, helping mortal men,
In kindness guarding them from harm, and when
They wander over all the Earth, in mist
They’re clothed; and wealth they give out as they list;
They keep a watch for any evil deed:
To every judgement passed do they pay heed;
This right was given them to exercise),
Then did the gods upon Olympus rise
And make a second generation, less
Noble; these men they did not greatly bless:
They were of silver, unlike the golden race
In either spirit, body, or in face.
A hundred years the child lived by the side
Of his mother at home and did abide
A simpleton, an ever-playing child.
But when all of this time away they’d whiled,
And reached their prime and had become full grown,
They lived but shortly and did with sorrow moan;
They were foolish, and ever doing wrong,
And so, therefore, they did not live for long.
They would not serve th’immortal gods at all,
So, the anger of Zeus on them did fall;
The son of Kronos put these men away,
Because to the gods they would not honour pay.
But Earth covered this generation too:
Again Zeus made a generation new
(But blessed spirits are the silver called;
In the underworld, with honour they’re installed);
Of stock of bronze the Father made the third,
And upon this race, great strength he conferred;
From ash trees sprung they forth, a lesser kind,
Though they were birthed from heaven’s Father’s mind.
They loved the works of Ares, all his deeds,
The lamentations which all violence breeds;
They ate not bread, their hearts were hard as stone,
Their fearful strength in all their deeds was shown.
Their arms unvanquished, they were great in might,
Such fearful men, they never gave respite.
Of bronze were all their arms, tools, and houses made:
They had no iron. Then they were conveyed
To cold Tartarus, Hades’ home, destroyed
By their own hands, by violence they’d employed.
Though terrible in life, yet seized by Death,
They left the bright sun’s light, when ceased their breath.
But when Earth covered this generation,
The son of Kronos made a fourth creation:
Zeus made the demi-gods upon the earth,
More noble, righteous, godlike too from birth.
Throughout the earth, before us lived this race,
And dreadful war and battle did they face.
At seven gated Thebes in Cadmus fought
The demigods, and this because they sought
The flocks of Oedipus, and some at Troy,
Who came in ships by sea, for to destroy
The city for the rich haired Helen’s sake;
There death its thirst on some of them did slake.
To others, though, did father Zeus give space
To dwell away from men, to have a place;
The ends of Earth he gave for their abode,
Shores where Ocean, deep moving, long had flowed;
Untouched by sorrow, these Isles of the Blessed
With grain and fruit that’s honey sweet are dressed:
Three times a year they reap these fruits. Away
From all the deathless gods they ever stay;
The Titan Kronos over them does reign
(The sire of gods and men to him did deign
To grant him freedom from his bonds). These still
Of honour and great glory have their fill.
Far sighted Zeus then made to dwell on Earth,
Another race of men, the fifth in birth.
O, would that I of these had not been born!
Better I before had from life been torn,
Or that I was born afterwards; for then
Would I have dwelled among much better men.
A race of iron truly are men now,
Ever working with sweat upon their brow;
In sorrow daily, perishing by night.
The gods lay on them trouble as a blight.
But even these shall have of good a measure
To mix with evil, and give some pleasure.
This race will Zeus bring to an end, when gray
Haired temples do they have from their birth day.
The father with his children won’t agree:
The children shall not show civility;
Neither guest with host, nor yet friend with friend,
Nor brothers on love be able to depend.
And parents shall to old age quickly grow,
And honour on them men shall not bestow.
They’ll quarrel and they’ll chide with words that bite,
Hard hearted shall they be and full of spite;
They’ll not fear the gods, neither yet repay
The cost of nurture: might shall be their way;
And one shall sack the city of his foe.
On he that keeps his oath they’ll not bestow
Due honour, neither on the just or good
Shall these men render what by right they should:
But violent evil doers shall men praise.
And only strength shall make right in those days,
But reverence shall flee and cease to be,
And wicked men will deal hurt violently.
Falsehood shall they speak, falsely shall they swear,
With envy, wicked words, scowling everywhere.
Those who delight in evil shall attend
Such wretched men, and shall their souls defend.
Then Shame and Nemesis shall flee the Earth,
Forsaking men, who are of little worth,
And join the deathless gods, removed from wrong,
With pleasing forms and robes both white and long.
And bitter sorrows only shall be left:
Of help from evil shall men be bereft.
Now a fable for princes shall I tell,
For they whose understanding serves them well.
The hawk spoke to the speckled nightingale;
As he carried her, she did feebly wail.
Up into the clouds, in his talons, he
Flew with her, though she mourned pitifully.
With disdain he spoke to her: “Wretched beast!
Why, from all your cries, have you not yet ceased?
You’re in my grip; my strength is great: you’re bound
To go where’er I take you, though you sound
So sweet a song. I’ll eat you if I please,
Or let you go and then some other seize.
Who would resist the stronger does not well:
He triumphs not and pain his loss does spell.”
Thus spoke the hawk unto the prey he caught;
The long-winged hunter had the meal he sought.
But you, dear Perses, hearken to what’s right,
And let not violence prosper in your sight.
For violent ways, they do not serve the poor;
Much better he to all right ways restore.
The better path, by far, is to go be
With Justice on the other side, for she
Beats Outrage when arrives she at the end
Of the race. But fools, on suffering depend
To learn. For Oath keeps pace with judgements wrong,
And Justice makes for ill an awful song;
When she is dragged by those who take a gift
And bring down evil sentence fierce and swift.
Then, wrapped in mist, she haunts the city streets,
And weeping brings men mischief and defeats,
To they who dealt with crookedness and guile,
And drove her forth and made her an exile.
But they who render judgements as they should,
To citizens and strangers doing good,
With statutes just, their city flourishes,
The people prosper: judgement nourishes.
And Peace, who cares for children, roams abroad,
And Zeus the Father, the all-seeing god,
He never sends against them bitter war,
Nor famine or disease to plague them sore;
By Justice do they tend their fields with care,
With joyful hearts. And Earth does not then spare
To yield its fruits in plenty; on the top
Of oaks are acorns yielded as its crop:
Upon the mountains are these seen, and bees
Are in the midst. Their women on their knees
Nurse children, as their mothers did before;
Of good they could not ever wish for more.
Their sheep are laden with much wool, and they
Sail not in ships; at home they ever stay:
For Earth, it bears them fruits, life-giving grain,
And in due season, the much needed rain.
But Zeus, the son of Kronos, metes to those
Who practice violence and cruel blows
His punishments; a city for the deeds
Of one evil man, the god much trouble breeds:
Both plague and famine Zeus sends on them all;
Women do not bear, men perish and fall;
Houses then are few by the will of Zeus:
To nothing in due time he does reduce
Their army, or their walls, or on the sea
He destroys their ships, and brings poverty.
Take heed, you princes, of this punishment;
The deathless gods are near, and they are sent
Against those men who render judgements wrong,
Oppressing others, for the gods ere long
Show forth their anger; and Zeus has in place
Thirty thousand spirits to watch and trace
Those mortal men whose deeds are wrong; these roam
Over Earth in mist, under heaven’s dome.
And there is Justice, virgin child of Zeus,
And whenever one hurts her with abuse,
With lies and slander, then she sits beside
Her father Zeus, for she does e’er abide
Upon Olympus; the gods honour her,
And due reverence upon her head confer.
When she speaks to Zeus of men’s wicked hearts,
Then punishment for folly he imparts;
Their evil-minded princes then must pay
For the evil which they held not at bay.
Keep faithful watch, then princes, and make straight
Your judgements and receive a better fate:
Who takes a bribe, then put away from you
All crooked judgements, everything untrue.
The mischief maker makes mischief also for
Himself; evil plans also have a store
Of evil for the one who plots such things:
Upon the evil, evil also springs.
The great all-seeing and all-knowing eye
Of Zeus beholds all these things from on high;
If he so wills, he notes the justice kept.
In righteousness, let me be not adept,
Nor yet my son, if evil has the right,
And righteousness is bad: but in the sight
Of Zeus, this is not true; for he’s all wise,
And evil shall not stand before his eyes.
But Perses, you, lay up within your heart,
These things, and hear you what right shall impart;
And violent thoughts do wholly put away,
And let the law of Zeus be all your stay.
For he ordained that fowl, fish, and beast
Should devour each other, each as their feast:
But mankind gave he right to be their stay;
By far this is the best in every way.
For he that knows the right and speaks it too,
Him Zeus makes prosperous, but who’s untrue
And lies when he gives his testimony,
And wounds Justice, leaves a patrimony
Obscure; his generation cannot stand,
But he that speaks the truth leaves in the land
A seed that prospers better than before;
Successful are they, known after in lore.
Now hearken, foolish Perses, and I’ll teach
Good sense; there’s wisdom for you in my speech.
Cheaply and in droves is evil gotten,
Easy roads are filled with all that’s rotten.
And near to us such evil lives. But let
One seek for Good, the gods shall make them sweat;
A long and trying path they’ll find, and rough:
But when they’ve reached the summit, sure enough
It’s easy, though ‘twas difficult at first.
That man does well who thinks of best and worst,
Considering the end; and he is good
Who hearkens to advisors that he should:
But he who listens not when others speak
Nor thinks himself is poor, and also weak.
But think you, noble Perses, take you heed
To what I say, and work, and so you’ll feed
Yourself; and you, shall Hunger surely hate,
And bountiful Demeter, she shall sate
You; loving you, she’ll fill your barns with wheat:
And with the slothful, Hunger, as is meet,
Shall keep his company. But, they whose days
Are passed in idleness and slothful ways,
With them shall gods and men be angry; like
The drones that have no stingers, who can’t strike,
Who eat, but work not, wasting what the bees
Have laboured for while they sat at their ease.
But take you care to order work aright,
That all your barns may be filled in your sight.
Through work do men see their flocks multiply,
And all their substance, and the gods on high,
They love them; for work never brings men shame,
But idleness brings men an evil name.
The idle, rather, envy those work,
For they grow rich, while these their duties shirk;
On they who earn their wealth fame duly waits,
And work is best, whatever are the states
Of man. So turn your mind to what is good,
And do your work: tend your own livelihood,
And leave to others what is theirs. The shame
Of poverty brings men an evil name:
Contrariwise, does wealth bring confidence,
Which is received as labour’s recompense.
Wealth should not be taken by robbery,
Lest he who takes it fall to misery;
For what is given by the gods is sure,
Unstained with blood, secure, holy, and pure:
But what is gained by violence or deceit,
Is lost again from he who in conceit
Thought he could steal, and flaunt the gods’ commands;
He loses all his house and former lands.
And he who wrongs suppliants; he who lies
Down with his brother’s wife; and he who cries
Against his agèd father, waxing bold,
To vex him when he stands at the threshold
Of old age, which is bitter; he who hates
The fatherless children, for him awaits
The wrath of Zeus, who at the last shall strike
These wicked souls, both rich and poor, alike.
But, turn away from any wicked deed,
And offer sacrifice, as is decreed,
To all the gods eternal, they who live
Forever, to them your pure offerings give:
Offer meats to them, pour out libations,
Burn incense, and make your supplications;
When you go to bed, and when you arise,
When the sacred light again strikes your eyes,
Then sacrifice to them, they who uplift
Both heart and spirit, by their holy gift:
So you may buy another’s property,
And not they yours for your impurity.
Invite your friend unto your feast, but leave
Your enemy, lest he cause you to grieve;
But most of all call he who lives nearby,
For if wickedness arise by and by,
The neighbors, though unarmed, come out in haste,
Before the trouble can lay you to waste;
While family is slow because they arm
Themselves before they heed to the alarm.
The evil neighbor is a pestilence:
But the good one is a blessed defence.
The ox by accident would never die,
But for bad neighbors who will let them lie,
Or even be misfortune’s source and cause,
Working mischief and flouting all the laws.
Receive what’s fair from neighbors, and repay
Him justly: if you need him, then you may
So find him friendly, for within his sight,
You’ve paid him justly, working what was right.
Avoid all unjust profit; evil gain
Brings only ruin, misery, and pain.
To who is kindly, be kind in return;
Visit he who visits. This wisdom discern:
Give to they who give, but close up your fist
To them that give not, lest your goods be missed.
A man should give to one with open hands,
But to the tight fisted, good sense demands
That one give not to such a soul; for Give
Is a lovely girl: but you will not live
With Take, for she brings death where’er she goes,
Destroying they that she gets in her throes.
Though the gift be large, the willing heart is glad:
But who by shamefulness is driven mad
And takes, he’ll find his heart shall turn to ice;
Greed shall eat him up: nothing shall suffice.
The man who adds to what he has shall keep
At bay the fire-eyed Famine. Soon a heap
He’ll have, by building bit by bit his stores;
Soon what was little overflows his floors.
The things a man keeps with him, by his side,
Within his house, these shall secure abide;
Better are the goods kept at home; without
Is trouble; what’s abroad, it stands in doubt.
To draw on what you’ve saved is good, but grief
Weighs the heart that has no source of relief;
To have not when you’re in the hour of need
Is bitter, so I bid you to take heed.
Now, when the cask is opened, drink your fill;
And when it’s almost gone, if that’s your will:
But when it’s halfway, then be moderate.
The dregs are not worth saving: so don’t glut.
Fix the wages you’ve promised to a friend;
With brothers smile: but still you must depend
Upon a witness; for both truth and guile
Can ruin men and their friendships defile.
Let not a brazen woman with her smiles
Deceive you; for she seeks your barn by wiles.
The man that trusts a woman is unwise:
Deceivers all, they’re always speaking lies.
It’s good to have an only son to feed
His father’s house; their wealth shall grow: but need
Dictates that if you have a second son,
You should not die until old age is won.
But yet, can Zeus give wealth if there are more.
For, work is increased by more hands; the store
Of wealth is increased by more work. Behold,
If wealth is what your heart desires, be bold
To work with work on work, and you will find
You’ll have it, once to this you’ve put your mind.
Begin your planting when the Pleiades rise,
And plough when they do set in autumn skies.
They hide themselves for forty days and nights,
Then as the year goes round, reappear these lights;
When sickles first are sharpened. Now, behold,
The law of plains and rich countries I’ll unfold,
And also they who live close by the sea,
And in the valleys, heed this law duly:
Strip you naked and sow and plow and reap,
And do not slack, nor give your eyes to sleep,
If you desire to bring Demeter’s grains
Into your barns in season for your gains;
And every kind shall grow when it is due,
Lest, afterwards, you be in want and rue
Your state, and go and beg from door to door,
And this because you’ve nothing held in store.
But this will not avail: I won’t supply
A measure more, though you should beg or cry.
O, foolish Perses! Work the work decreed
By all the gods, lest you should, with your seed
And wife, be driven to look in bitterness
Amongst your neighbors, and beg them to bless
You. For, they will not hearken to your word –
Though two or three times will your voice be heard,
And they shall help; but more, you’ll vex them sore,
And they’ll refuse to help you one whit more.
Then, all your words will help you not. So, pay
Your debts; stave off cruel hunger some way.
First, get a house, an ox, and a woman
(A slave, not a wife) to follow the oxen.
And at your house, make ready everything,
Lest in season your work come to nothing,
Because you lack, and had to ask for aid,
And your neighbor balked, leaving you dismayed.
Put not off your work for a future day,
For this is but the slothful worker’s way.
The tireless man makes all his work go well,
But idleness does always ruin spell.
And when the sun’s scorching heat begins to fade,
And men rest easy, no more seeking shade,
When autumn rains are sent by Zeus, then far
Above there passes Sirius, the star,
Over the heads of men, who, ever born
To misery, must live their lives forlorn
(By day it travels less, by night the more).
Then when the leaves fall to the forest floor,
And trees no longer send out shoots, the wood
You cut is likely free of worms and good.
Remember then, this is the time to hew
Your lumber and to fill your stores anew.
Make your grinding mortar two cubits wide,
And be careful to measure well each side;
The pestle three, the shaft three quarters and four
Will serve you well, but if you make it more,
If its cubits are one half and five, a head
You can make for your mallet; when you tread
The earth it will break up the clods, and you
Shall have your work go well, if it’s seen through.
A wagon of ten palms’ width should receive
Wheels that are three spans across. When you heave
And hew your timber, a plough tree bring home,
And when in mountains or in fields you roam
And see a holm-oak, bring it; it is strong;
The ox shall pull it; it will serve you long,
Once Athena’s craftsman has fixed the stock,
And made the dowels to serve as its lock,
So that it’s fastened to the pole. It’s good
To have two ready ploughs, for if one should
Be broken then the oxen can be switched
From the bad and to the second one be hitched.
Now, let the ploughs you make in fashion be:
Those poles of elm and laurel are most free
From worm-holes, and let share-beams be of oak,
Your plough of holm; then bulls of nine years yolk,
For in their prime, they’re at the peak of strength;
In all their work, they yet can go the length.
They will not bicker, nor break up the plough,
And leave unfinished work. And, do allow
A lively man, full forty years of age
Go after; such will with his work engage.
A quartered loaf – eight slices every day
Should be his ration. Past the age of play
Is such a one; he’ll work with ready mind,
And time for social cares he will not find.
At sowing seed a younger man will not
Do better; he won’t double sow the plot.
Unstable men are by friends distracted,
When from work to games they are attracted.
Take heed and hearken when you hear the crane
Calling from the clouds, heralding the rain
Of winter, for the time to plough is then;
Unhappy is he who has no oxen.
Fatten up the ox in the barn with feed;
And when your neighbour comes in time of need
And says “Give me two oxen and a plough,”
Say “I’ve work for them: I can’t loan them now.”
When he asks it will be easy to rebuff;
For your needs you will surely have enough.
The man who thinks the wagon in his mind
Is built already – Fool! – will folly find.
He’s reckoned not one hundred boards his need
For every wagon, but the wise takes heed
And lays them up within his home before;
Thus, when he needs them, he has them in store.
As soon as it is time to plough, with speed
You and your slaves, though wet or dry, take heed
And plough, and rise up early in the morn,
That in due time your fields be full of corn.
In springtime plough, but if you break the earth
Up in the summer, your work will be worth
Much, for you’ll reap and see your hopes fulfilled.
And while it’s light, let fallow land be tilled,
For it is your defense from ill and harm,
And serves to soothe the children with its charm.
Pray to Zeus of the Earth, and to the pure
Demeter to make the grain weighty and sure.
At the time when you begin your ploughing,
In the season that’s proper for sowing,
And hold the plough handles and strike the backs
Of your oxen with straps, if one of them slacks.
And have a slave to follow in their wake,
And cover the seed with a stick to make
The birds to fail to steal away the seed.
Good practice is the thing a man should heed,
But a practice, bad, is the worst of foes.
By this a man will have from grain he sows,
Full ears that bow to ground, if he shall get
A good reward from Zeus. Then, nothing let
Remain of all the cobwebs in your bins;
The happy man does put there all he wins.
You will be happy to draw on this store;
Till springtime you’ll have plenty on your floor.
Of gifts from men, you’ll have no need to seek;
They’ll ask from you, but you will not be weak.
Should you, until the winter solstice, wait
To plough your fields, your harvest won’t be great;
A small crop you’ll bring, binding clumsily
Your sheaves, covered in dust, and not gladly
Reaping, but a single basket bringing
Home; your admirers will be few. But, still
Zeus, who bears the aegis, differs in his will
From time to time; it’s hard for men to tell
Whether the work they do shall turn out well.
For, if you wait to plough until it’s late,
You may receive a blessing at the date
When first up in the oaks the cuckoo sings
And makes men glad with tidings that he brings.
For if three days thence Zeus sends out a rain,
Until it rises up above the plain,
Not higher than an ox’s hoof, nor yet
Much lower, then he who ploughed late shall get
A crop to rival he who ploughed his share
In proper time and with the utmost care.
Be mindful of this; mark the grey spring well,
The rainy season which the time does spell.
Walk past the blacksmith when the bitter frost
Of winter keeps indoors those whom it accosts.
This is the time when busyness does well,
Lest helplessness for you should winter spell.
Why should you rub your swollen feet with hands
Now shrunken? He who’s idle finds he stands
On empty hopes, and lacking sustenance,
To roguery he turns, beyond remonstrance.
For goodly hopes are found not when a man
Sits idly down and talks whene’er he can.
In midsummer, command your slaves, and say
‘Build the barns: summer soon will haste away.’
Shun the month Lenaeon, whose evil days
Can crack the ox’s hide, and frost displays
Its cold cruelty when Boreas blows
Across the earth. In Thrace where they breed
The horses, each a swift and mighty steed,
He blows, and makes the seas tumultuous,
Roaring o’er the earth, in woods clamorous.
In mountain valleys, many oaks he brings
To ground with pines: then all the forest rings,
And all the beasts, they cower with their tails
Between their legs, when winter’s cold assails,
Though they’re clothed with fur; for the bitter bite
Of his wind, it still pierces them in spite
Of their long hair, going even through the skin
Of oxen; and his biting, whistling din,
It blows through all the hair of goats. The sheep,
Are different, though, to them wind cannot seep;
Their wool is thick: Boreas cannot pierce,
But old men stoop because the wind is fierce.
It does not blow through maidens, who, secure
Remain indoors with mothers, bodies pure;
They know not works of golden Aphrodite,
But wash themselves, anointing their frailty
With oil, and in an inner chamber lay
Within the house on a cold winter’s day,
When the Boneless One gnaws his foot, devoid
Of fire; his woeful home can’t be enjoyed.
The sun departs for southern climes to shine
On darker men, but Hellenes by design
See but his laggard side. Then they that dwell
In woodlands, horned and unhorned, fear that fell
And dreadful cold; with chattering teeth they flee
Through woods and fields, seeking security
In cover dense, or in a hollow rock.
Then, like the Three Legged One, the old man
With a walking stick, he seeks how he can
Escape the snow; and his back is broken,
Whose head looks down to see what might betoken
This escape: so these others also seek
Shelter from the snow’s cold that makes them weak.
So clothe yourself: your body needs shelter
A coat of fleece and tunic to cover
You to your feet with a woof that’s thicker
Than the warp, so that you do not shiver;
For, your body’s hair shall lie flat and still,
And shall not stand on end against your will.
Bind to your feet close fitting ox-hide shoes,
Thickly lined with wool; and when frost is due,
Then hides of firstling kids together sew
With ox sinews; this cloak o’er which will flow
The rain, and you will keep it off your back.
And on your head, make sure you do not lack
A fitted cap of felt to keep your ears
Dry; Dawn is chill once Boreas appears
And mounts attack. At Dawn upon the fields
Of blessed men, the starry heaven yields
A fruitful mist, drawn from e’er flowing streams,
And raised up high by stormy wind that teems
Above the Earth; at times it turns to rain,
When Thracian Boreas stirs his train
Of thickened clouds, he raises wind most stern.
Then, finish work, and to your home return
Ahead of him. Let not his darkling cloud
From heaven swallow you within its shroud,
And make you wet, and drench all your attire.
From this misfortune, make haste and retire;
This is the hardest month, stormy, bitter:
Difficult for sheep and men is winter.
In this season, reduce your oxen’s feed
By half: but all your men have greater need;
So give them more: for long are winter nights.
Observe this till the Earth bears her delights,
Her varied fruits, when equal are the days
And nights; until this time maintain these ways.
When after the solstice Zeus has finished
Sixty days, and winter is diminished,
Then Arcturus leaves Ocean’s holy stream,
And in the twilight gives a brilliant gleam.
Pandion’s daughter comes forth after him,
The swallow, mourning and forever grim,
When spring is just beginning. Trim your vines;
It’s best to do this when you see these signs.
But when the one whose house is on his back,
Climbs up plants from Earth, then it’s time to slack
From digging vineyards; when the snail gets free
From Pleiades, it’s time to reap your bounty.
Sharpen your sickle, and stir up your slaves.
Sit not in shady places; slumber not
Till Dawn in harvest time: the sun is hot,
And it will burn your body. So, arise,
Bring home your harvest; early get your prize.
For Dawn destroys your labour by a third;
Man’s travels and his work by Dawn are spurred
Onward, and her light shows to men the road,
By her the yokes on oxen are bestowed.
But when artichoke flowers bloom, and in
The trees cicadas sit and make a din
Of shrill, unceasing songs under their wings,
Summer has come with all the heat it brings.
Goats are fattest, and the wine is sweetest;
Women are lustful, but men are weakest
Then; their head and limbs has Sirius dried.
Their skin is parched, by awful heat they’re tried.
But at this time I love a shady rock,
And wine of Biblis let me have a stock,
With clotted cheese and goat’s milk, and the meat
Of heifers fed in woodlands let me eat.
One that’s never calved should be the heifer,
With first-born kids, for an ample dinner.
I’ll drink the shiny wine, and I’ll repose
In shade, heart full from food. When Zephyr blows,
I’ll turn to face him; from the flowing spring
That runs unfouled, I’ll give an offering,
Three libations of water from my store;
Of wine a fourth libation shall I pour.
Then on a threshing floor where wind does blow,
Demeter’s holy grain make your slaves winnow.
Then measure and store it in jars indoors,
Then put out your slave; get a girl for chores:
But only one that doesn’t have a child,
Lest by troubles your house should be defiled;
For slaves with children bring no other such
But heaps of troubles and griefs overmuch.
Care for your dog, whose teeth are sharp; and feed
Him well, lest Day Sleeping thiefs in their greed
Take all your property. And bring indoors
For your oxen and mules sufficient stores
Of feed and hay. And then, unto your men
Give rest, and unyoke your pair of oxen.
But when Orion goes with Sirius
To mid-heaven, and Dawn sees Arcturus,
Cut off your grapevine’s clusters, and go home,
And set them out under the heaven’s dome,
And show them to the sun ten days and nights,
Cover for five, on the sixth delights
Of Dionysus pour into your jars.
But when the time comes that these groups of stars,
Pleiades, Hyades, and Orion,
Begin to set, then it is the season
To plough. The year ends; they sink beneath the earth:
A new yearly cycle is brought to birth.
But if your heart desires to sail the seas,
Then when Pleiades from Orion flees
And dives into the foamy ocean’s deep,
Great gales across the heaving main shall sweep.
Then stay no more at sea; go till the soil
As I have counselled: this is safer toil.
Bring your ship to land, and hedge it around
With stones that block wet winds which seek to pound
It; also, draw the bilge-plug out, that rot
Caused by the rain of Zeus destroy it not.
And stow away the tackle, tools, and fold
The ship’s wings; of the rudder take a hold
And hang it up above the smoke. Delay
Until it’s sailing season, then you may
Take down your ship unto the sea, and lay
Foolish Perses, a good cargo in it,
In order that you may get a profit,
Just as our father did, who used to sail,
Lacking other means by which he could avail
Himself to make his needful livelihood.
And on a day he anchored at this place,
After he had crossed the sea a mighty space;
He fled not gold and substance; rather lack
And poverty Zeus lays on men to wrack
Them; from Aeolian Cyme he fled
To Ascra near Helicon to be fed,
Which, bad in winter, in summer sweltering,
Is never good, but is always trying.
But, Perses, hold these works in memory,
Each in season, sailing especially.
Think well of small ships, but put your cargo
In a great one; the more will be your gain,
Only if the winds hurt not as they’re fain.
If you find your heart misguided and you turn
To trade in order to your living earn,
And seek to flee from debt and hunger’s grip,
By putting out to sea within a ship,
I’ll teach you of the loud sea without fail;
Though I know naught of ships, nor how to sail.
I’ve never sailed across the ocean’s deep
But to the land I’ve always sought to keep;
Only from Euboea to Aulis I went
Once over the sea, where the Achaeans spent
Some time and anchored all along that coast,
Waiting out a storm, with all of the host
They’d mustered, from divine Hellas to sail
To Troy, a land from which fair women hail.
Then to the games in Chalcis did I go,
Those held by the wise, great-hearted hero
Amphidamus, whose sons proclaimed each victor
And gave prizes. Now, I’ll be a boaster;
For there my song won me the victory;
The tripod that I won did I carry
Away, and to the Muses dedicate
(Only whom they love can such songs create),
In the place where they first blessed me with song.
That’s all I know of ships, so I’ll move along
And tell you of the will of Zeus who bears
The aegis, for I’ve learnt to sing on airs.
Fifty days past the solstice, when the heat
Is ended with the summer, then it’s meet
For me to sail. For then your ship won’t sink,
Nor sailors drown, unless Poseidon think
To set himself against you, or if Zeus,
The king of all the gods, should seek to loose
His wrath and slay them; for these two possess
Both good and evil, wherewith they curse or bless.
This season’s winds are steady, and the sea
Is safe, and you can sail confidently.
Trust the winds, and stow all your goods on board,
And you shall have good profit for reward.
But hurry home and tarry not until
New wine and rain; then Notus isn’t still;
He follows after autumn rain from Zeus,
Stirs up the deep, and fearsome gales lets loose.
In spring, when upper fig tree shoots in size
Are like cow hooves, then sailors should arise:
The springtime sailing season then is come;
The sea allows a passage through to some.
But still I like the ocean not at all,
Nor praise it, for it yet may blow a squall.
Much mischief is but barely kept at bay,
Yet men in ignorance cleave to this way;
To mortal souls beset with poverty,
Their wealth is life, though drowning is misery.
Consider what I say within your heart.
Put not all your goods in ships: leave a part,
And greater should it be than what you take,
And thus, the need for luck you will forsake.
For shipwreck on the sea is bad enough,
And there’s no need to lose all of your stuff.
The same thing happens if you overload
Your wagon: all your goods spill on the road,
Because the axle breaks: therefore, take heed,
Due measure prospers more than grasping greed.
Do know the time for marriage when it nears,
Bring home a wife when you’ve reached thirty years.
Five years after maturity your wife
Is grown up enough for the married life.
Marry a maiden; teach her goodly ways,
And make sure that she lives not many days
Away from you, but take heed that you’re not
A joke to all your neighbors; for a blot
Upon your name is marriage ill conceived.
Good wives are best, but bad ones leave man grieved.
The greedy wives will roast their men alive;
Though he be strong, to sore old age she’ll drive
Him, but the one who gets a noble wife
Shall live in peace and have a goodly life.
Take care to anger not the gods who live
Forever. Neither be the first to give
An insult to a friend, nor should you make
Him equal to a brother; a mistake
Is this, and also do not lie to please.
But if he wrongs you first, then do you seize
The chance and pay him double for his deed,
Or word; the wronged man of revenge has need.
But, if he seeks again to be your friend,
And renders what he owes, I recommend
You welcome him again. No good is he
Who is first to one, then another friendly.
But suffer not your face to shame your heart,
Nor get yourself a name, or take the part
Of one who’s decadent or rude in tongue,
Nor make of knaves your company when young.
And good men slander not, nor dare to mock
The man accursed by poverty. This shock
Comes from th’eternal gods. Now, do what’s best
And cease from talking: make your tongue to rest;
For little speech is good, its pleasure great:
But if your speech is evil, men will hate
You, speaking badly of you in their turn;
Their malice towards you will not cease to burn.
And at the public feasts, do not be rude,
When you’re a guest with a great multitude:
There joy is great, and the expense is small.
But never let shining libations fall
To Zeus upon the ground after daybreak
Unless your hands are washed, and neither make
One to the other eternal gods: commit
This ill, and your prayers back at you they’ll spit.
And when you piss, stand not before the Sun,
But do it when his daily course has run,
And when his time to rise is drawing near.
And on or off the road, do not appear
And make your water, nor uncovered stand:
The night also the blessed Gods command.
The wise man rather squats down to the ground,
Or does it in a place that walls surround.
Uncover not yourself, with filth defiled,
Beside your hearth. Beget you not a child
After an inauspicious funeral:
But do it after a god’s festival.
Cross not afoot the flowing river’s stream,
Until you’ve gazed into the water’s gleam,
And prayed, and washed your hands in the clear flood:
Who crosses unwashed brings down on his blood
The anger of the Gods, and trouble much.
At a festival of the gods, don’t touch
The withered nail to cut it with your steel
Down to its quick, and the ladle don’t stick
Upon the bowl of wine: ill fortune this.
A house left rough-hewn, you may find amiss:
A crow may settle upon it and cry.
From pots unblessed, taken nothing by and by;
In them is evil. Do not let a boy
Sit on what is sacred, lest you destroy
His manliness, whether in months or years
His age be twelve: the same effect appears.
The waters in which women bathe should not
Be used by men for washing, lest a blot
They get; for waters such as these remain
Contaminated some time with mischief’s stain.
Disdain not burning sacrifices, nor
Despise the mysteries, lest Heaven war
Against you, angry at impiety.
In river mouths that run down to the sea,
Relieve not yourself; neither in a spring,
Make water, for such acts will trouble bring.
This do: avoid men’s talk; for Speech is light,
Easily called, but a mischievous sprite.
She’s hard to bear, and will not go when bid.
When many speak, you can’t of Speech be rid.
She is partly divine, in spite of all,
Though many troubles from her on men fall.
Mark duly all the days that Zeus bestows,
And make sure that every slave you have knows.
The thirtieth day of the month is best
To check all work and deal goods as you’ve been blest.
From Zeus, who has all wisdom do these days
Come forth, when proper judgment man displays.
The first and fourth are holy days: revere
Them with the seventh, which we should hold dear;
For it was then that Leto bore her son,
Apollo (with a golden blade ‘twas done).
The eighth and ninth days of the waxing moon
Are good for work, and bring to men a boon.
The eleventh and twelfth are wonderful
For reaping your plants that have been fruitful
And shearing sheep; the twelfth is better, though;
For then, under the Sun’s great daytime glow,
The spider spins its web, and there arise
Great heaps built up by ants, who are called Wise.
On the twelfth, the woman should make a start
Upon her loom with diligence of heart.
The thirteenth day of the waxing moon do not
Sow, but rather set in a goodly spot
Your plants. The sixth day of mid-month is bad
For plants, but good to give birth to a lad:
But it’s not a good time for girls to be
Born or married, nor is it good to see
A girl born on the first sixth day, but well
Is it for gelding goats and sheep, and swell
Is it for fencing in your sheep; and boys
Born this day will be full of cunning ploys,
Of lies and wily speech, and stealthy words.
On the eighth day of the month, geld your herds
Of bulls and singulars of boars, but wait
Until the twelfth for mules, whose standout trait
Is diligence. In daylight should the man
Be born on the twentieth, whose wisdom can
Be trusted, and whose wits are sure and sound.
Now, on the tenth good fortune can be found
For boys to be born, but for girls, I say
The fourth of mid-month is a better day.
And that’s the time that’s good to tame your sheep,
Along with oxen and the mules you keep,
And your sharp-toothed dogs to the human hand
You can teach to hearken to your command.
But shun those troubles which devour the heart,
The first fourth and the last: they have a part
From Fate, from which they can’t be torn away.
Bring home your bride upon the month’s fourth day,
But close attention to the omens pay.
Fifth days avoid: their cruelty is great,
For on a fifth did Strife bear in her hate
Her son, whose name is Oath, and help she had
From all the Furies, who desired to vex
The forsworn, for to plague them and perplex.
The midmonth’s seventh day is when the chore
Of tossing Demeter’s grain on the floor
For threshing is come; so take careful heed.
Then, on the fourth perform what is decreed
And start to build slim ships. Let loggers hew
Beams both for ships and houses, not a few.
The ninth of midmonth, when its evening time,
Improves, but the first ninth is all sublime,
Good for boy and girls to be begotten
Or born. This day is never wholly rotten.
It is not widely known that it is best
For oxen, mules, and horses to be dressed
With yokes on their necks, and wine jars to ope,
And to haul your speedy ship down the slope
Unto the sea. Few call this what they should.
To open a jar on the fourth is good.
The midmonth fourth is the most holy day,
And you will bear this truth in mind, I pray.
But few men know it’s better in the morn
On the twentieth: but evening I warn
May not be fair. These days that I have said
Are all auspicious, but the rest bring dread;
Uncertainty, ill-fortune do they bring,
But of blessings they will give you nothing.
And praises for the different days are raised
But their true fortunes have few souls appraised.
While some are like stepmothers, and a curse,
Some like mothers their children gently nurse.
A man is joyful, blest by Fortune too,
If all these things he knows and holds as true,
And does his work, transgressing not against
The Gods, lest his ill deeds be recompensed,
And who divines the omens of the birds,
Avoiding evil in his deeds and words.