Ὦ παῖ, τέλος μὲν Ζεὺς ἔχει βαρύκτυπος
πάντων ὅσ᾽ ἐστὶ καὶ τίθησ᾽ ὅκῃ θέλει,
νοῦς δ᾽ οὐκ ἐπ᾽ ἀνθρώποισιν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐπήμεροι
ἃ δὴ βοτὰ ζώομεν, οὐδὲν εἰδότες
ὅκως ἕκαστον ἐκτελευτήσει θεός.
ἐλπὶς δὲ πάντας κἀπιπειθείη τρέφει
ἄπρηκτον ὁρμαίνοντας· οἱ μὲν ἡμέρην
μένουσιν ἐλθεῖν, οἱ δ᾽ ἐτέων περιτροπάς·
νέωτα δ᾽ οὐδεὶς ὅστις οὐ δοκεῖ βροτῶν
πλούτῳ τε κἀγαθοῖσιν ἵξεσθαι φίλος.
φθάνει δὲ τὸν μὲν γῆρας ἄζηλον λαβὸν
πρὶν τέρμ᾽ ἵκηται, τοὺς δὲ δύστηνοι βροτῶν
φθείρουσι νοῦσοι, τοὺς δ᾽ Ἄρει δεδμημένους
πέμπει μελαίνης Ἀΐδης ὑπὸ χθονός·
οἱ δ᾽ ἐν θαλάσσῃ λαίλαπι κλονεόμενοι
καὶ κύμασιν πολλοῖσι πορφυρῆς ἁλὸς
θνήσκουσιν, εὖτ᾽ ἂν μὴ δυνήσωνται ζόειν·
οἱ δ᾽ ἀγχόνην ἅψαντο δυστήνῳ μόρῳ
καὐτάγρετοι λείπουσιν ἡλίου φάος.
οὕτω κακῶν ἄπ᾽ οὐδέν, ἀλλὰ μυρίαι
βροτοῖσι κῆρες κἀνεπίφραστοι δύαι
καὶ πήματ᾽ ἐστίν. εἰ δ᾽ ἐμοὶ πιθοίατο,
οὐκ ἂν κακῶν ἐρῷμεν, οὐδ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἄλγεσιν
κακοῖς ἔχοντες θυμὸν αἰκιζοίμεθα.
(Semonides fr. 1)
Boy, loud-thundering Zeus controls the outcome of everything there is and disposes it as he wishes. There is no intelligence among men, but we live like grazing animals, subject to what the day brings, with no knowledge of how the god will bring each thing to pass. Yet hope and confidence nourish all in our eagerness for the impossible. Some wait for the morrow to come, others for the revolving seasons, and there is no one who does not expect that he will arrive at the next year as the friend of wealth and prosperity. But unenviable old age comes first and seizes one man before he reaches his goal, while the miserable illnesses that beset mortals destroy others, and Hades sends beneath the dark earth others laid low by the war god. Others die at sea tossed about by a gale and the turbulent sea’s many waves, whenever they are unable to gain a livelihood (on land), and others fasten a noose in a wretched death, leaving the sun’s light by their own choice. Thus nothing is without misery, but countless death spirits and unforeseen sorrows and disasters exist for mortals. But if they were to take my advice, we would not long for misfortune nor would we torment ourselves by having our hearts set on bitter pain. (tr. Douglas E. Gerber)