Ἓν δὲ τὸ κάλλιστον Χῖος ἔειπεν ἀνήρ·
‘οἵη περ φύλλων γενεή, τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν’·
παῦροί μιν θνητῶν οὔασι δεξάμενοι
στέρνοις ἐγκατέθεντο· πάρεστι γὰρ ἐλπὶς ἑκάστῳ
ἀνδρῶν, ἥ τε νέων στήθεσιν ἐμφύεται.
θνητῶν δ’ ὄφρά τις ἄνθος ἔχῃ πολυήρατον ἥβης,
κοῦφον ἔχων θυμὸν πόλλ’ ἀτέλεστα νοεῖ·
οὔτε γὰρ ἐλπίδ’ ἔχει γηρασέμεν οὔτε θανεῖσθαι,
οὐδ’, ὑγιὴς ὅταν ᾖ, φροντίδ’ ἔχει καμάτου.
νήπιοι, οἷς ταύτῃ κεῖται νόος, οὐδὲ ἴσασιν
ὡς χρόνος ἔσθ’ ἥβης καὶ βιότου ὀλίγος
θηντοῖς. ἀλλὰ σὺ ταῦτα μαθὼν βιότου ποτὶ τέρμα
ψυχῇ τῶν ἀγαθῶν τλῆθι χαριζόμενος.
(Simonides, fr. eleg. 8)
and this was the best thing the man of Chios* ever said: ‘As the generation of leaves, so is that of men’ [Il. 6.146]. Few mortals having heard it with their ears have deposited it within their breasts. For hope is present with each man, hope which grows in the hearts of the young. As long as a mortal has the lovely flower of youth, he ponders with light heart many impossibles; for he neither expects to grow old or die, nor when he is healthy does he worry about illness. Fools, to think like that and not realise that mortals’ time for youth and life is brief: you must take note of this, and since you are near the end of your life endure, indulging yourself with good things.
(tr. David A. Campbell)