Works and Days

by Hesiod

Translated by Charles Abraham Elton (1815)

The Argument

The poem comprehends the general œconomy of industry and morals. In the first division of the subject, the state of the world, past and present, is described; for the purpose of exemplifying the condition of human nature: which entails on man the necessity of exertion to preserve the goods of life; and leaves him no alternative but honest industry or unjust violence; of which the good and evil consequences are respectively illustrated. Two Strifes are said to have been sent into the world, the one promoting dissension, the other emulation. Perses is exhorted to abjure the former and embrace the latter; and an apposite allusion is made to the circumstance of his litigiously disputing the patrimonial estate, of which, through the corruption of the judges, he obtained the larger proportion. The judges are rebuked, and cheap contentment is apostrophized as the true secret of happiness. Such is stated to have been the original sense of mankind before the necessity of labour existed. The origin of labour is deduced from the resentment of Jupiter against Prometheus; which resentment led to the formation of Pandora: or Woman: who is described with her attributes, and is represented as bringing with her into the world a casket of diseases. The degeneracy of man is then traced through successive ages. The three first ages are severally distinguished as the golden, the silver, and the brazen. The fourth has no metallic distinction, but is described as the heroic age, and as embracing the æra of the Trojan war. The fifth is styled the iron age, and, according to the Poet, is that in which he lives. The general corruption of mankind in this age is detailed, and Modesty and Justice are represented taking their flight to heaven. A pointed allusion to the corrupt administration of the laws, in his own particular instance, is introduced in a fable, typical of oppression. Justice is described as invisibly following those who violate her decrees with avenging power, and as lamenting in their streets the wickedness of a corrupted people. The temporal blessings of an upright nation are contrasted with the temporal evils which a wicked nation draws down from an angry Providence. Holy Dæmons are represented as hovering about the earth, and keeping watch over the actions of men. Justice is again introduced, carrying her complaints to the feet of Jupiter, and obtaining that the crimes of rulers be visited on their people. A pathetic appeal is then made to these rulers in their judicial capacity, urging them to renounce injustice. After some further exhortations to virtue and industry, and a number of unconnected precepts, the Poet enters on the Georgical part of his subject: which contains the prognostics of the seasons of agricultural labour, and rules appertaining to wood-felling, carpentry, ploughing, sowing, reaping, threshing, vine-dressing, and the vintage. This division of the subject includes a description of winter and of a repast in summer. He then treats of navigation: and concludes with some desultory precepts of religion, moral decorum, and superstition: and lastly, with a specification of Days: which are divided into holy, auspicious, and inauspicious: mixed and intermediary: or such as are entitled to no remarkable observance.



Come, Muses! ye, that from Pieria raise
The song of glory, sing your father's praise.
By Jove's high will th' unknown and known of fame
Exist, the nameless and the fair of name.
'Tis He with ease the bowed feeble rears,
And casts the mighty from their highest spheres:
With ease of human grandeur shrouds the ray:
With ease on abject darkness pours the day:
Straightens the crooked: grinds to dust the proud;
Thunderer on high, whose dwelling is the cloud.
Now bend thine eyes from heaven: behold and hear:
Rule thou the laws in righteousness and fear:
While I to Perses' heart would fain convey
The truths of knowledge which inspire my lay.
Two Strifes on earth of soul divided rove:
The wise will this condemn and that approve:
Accursed the one spreads misery from afar,
And stirs up discord and pernicious war:
Men love not this: yet heaven-enforced maintain
The strife abhorr'd, but still abhorr'd in vain.
The other elder rose from darksome night:
The God high-throned, who dwells in ether's light,
Fix'd deep in earth, and centred midst mankind
This better strife, which fires the slothful mind.
The needy idler sees the rich, and hastes
Himself to guide the plough, and plant the wastes:
Ordering his household: thus the neighbour's eyes
Mark emulous the wealthy neighbour rise:
Beneficent this strife's incensing zeal:
The potters angry turn the forming wheel:
Smiths beat their anvils; almsmen zealous throng,
And minstrels kindle with the minstrel's song.
  Oh Perses! thou within thy secret breast
Repose the maxims by my care imprest;
Nor ever let that evil-joying strife
Have power to wean thee from the toils of life;
The whilst thy prying eyes the forum draws,
Thine ears the process, and the din of laws.
Small care be his of wrangling and debate
For whose ungather'd food the garners wait;
Who wants within the summer's plenty stored,
Earth's kindly fruits, and Ceres' yearly hoard.
With these replenish'd, at the brawling bar
For others' wealth go instigate the war.
But this thou mays't no more: let justice guide,
Best boon of heaven, and future strife decide.
Not so we shared the patrimonial land
When greedy pillage fill'd thy grasping hand:
The bribe-devouring Judges lull'd by thee
The sentence gave and stamp'd the false decree:
Oh fools! who know not in their selfish soul
How far the half is better than the whole:
The good which asphodel and mallows yield,
The feast of herbs, the dainties of the field!
The food of man in deep concealment lies:
The angry gods have hid it from our eyes.
Else had one day bestow'd sufficient cheer,
And, though inactive, fed thee through the year.
Then might thy hand have laid the rudder by,
In blackening smoke for ever hung on high;
Then had the labouring ox foregone the soil,
And patient mules had found reprieve from toil.
But Jove conceal'd our food: incensed at heart,
Since mock'd by wise Prometheus' wily art.
Sore ills to man devised the heavenly Sire,
And hid the shining element of fire.
Prometheus then, benevolent of soul,
In hollow reed the spark recovering stole;
Cheering to man; and mock'd the god, whose gaze
Serene rejoices in the lightning's blaze.
“Oh son of Japhet!” with indignant heart,
Spake the Cloud-gatherer: “oh, unmatch'd in art!
Exultest thou in this the flame retrieved,
And dost thou triumph in the god deceived?
But thou, with the posterity of man,
Shalt rue the fraud whence mightier ills began:
I will send evil for thy stealthy fire,
An ill which all shall love, and all desire.
  The Sire who rules the earth and sways the pole
Had said, and laughter fill'd his secret soul:
He bade famed Vulcan with the speed of thought
Mould plastic clay with tempering waters wrought:
Inform with voice of man the murmuring tongue;
The limbs with man's elastic vigour strung;
The aspect fair as goddesses above,
A virgin's likeness with the brows of love.
He bade Minerva teach the skill, that sheds
A thousand colours in the gliding threads:
Bade lovely Venus breathe around her face
The charm of air, the witchery of grace:
Infuse corroding pangs of keen desire,
And cares that trick the form with prank'd attire:
Bade Hermes last implant the craft refined
Of thievish manners and a shameless mind.
  He gives command; th' inferior powers obey:
The crippled artist moulds the temper'd clay:
By Jove's design a maid's coy image rose:
The zone, the dress, Minerva's hands dispose:
Adored Persuasion, and the Graces young,
With chains of gold her shapely person hung:
Round her smooth brow the beauteous-tressed Hours
A garland twined of spring's purpureal flowers:
The whole, Minerva with adjusting art
Forms to her shape and fits to every part.
Last by the counsels of deep-thundering Jove,
The Argicide, his herald from above,
Adds thievish manners, adds insidious lies,
And prattled speech of sprightly railleries:
Then by the wise interpreter of heaven
The name Pandora to the maid was given:
Since all in heaven conferr'd their gifts to charm,
For man's inventive race, this beauteous harm.
  When now the Sire had form'd this mischief fair,
He bade heaven's messenger convey through air
To Epimetheus' hands th' inextricable snare:
Nor he recall'd within his heedless thought
The warning lesson by Prometheus taught:
That he disclaim each present from the skies,
And straight restore, lest ill to man arise:
But he received; and conscious knew too late
Th' insidious gift, and felt the curse of fate.
  On earth of yore the sons of men abode,
From evil free and labour's galling load:
Free from diseases that with racking rage
Precipitate the pale decline of age.
Now swift the days of manhood haste away,
And misery's pressure turns the temples gray.
The woman's hands an ample casket bear;
She lifts the lid; she scatters ills in air.
Within th' unbroken vase Hope sole remained,
Beneath the vessel's rim from flight detained:
The maid, by counsels of cloud-gathering Jove,
The coffer seal'd and dropp'd the lid above.
Issued the rest in quick dispersion hurl'd,
And woes innumerous roam'd the breathing world:
With ills the land is rife, with ills the sea,
Diseases haunt our frail humanity:
Through noon, through night on casual wing they glide,
Silent, a voice the Power all-wise denied.
  Thus mayst thou not elude th' omniscient mind:
Now if thy thoughts be to my speech inclin'd,
I in brief phrase would other lore impart
Wisely and well: thou, grave it on thy heart.
  When gods alike and mortals rose to birth,
A golden race th' immortals form'd on earth
Of many-languaged men: they lived of old
When Saturn reign'd in heaven, an age of gold.
Like gods they lived, with calm untroubled mind;
Free from the toils and anguish of our kind:
Nor e'er decrepid age mishaped their frame,
The hand's, the foot's proportions still the same.
Strangers to ill, their lives in feasts flow'd by:
Wealthy in flocks; dear to the blest on high:
Dying they sank in sleep, nor seem'd to die.
Theirs was each good; the life-sustaining soil
Yielded its copious fruits, unbribed by toil:
They with abundant goods midst quiet lands
All willing shared the gatherings of their hands.
  When earth's dark womb had closed this race around,
High Jove as dæmons raised them from the ground.
Earth-wandering spirits they their charge began,
The ministers of good, and guards of man.
Mantled with mist of darkling air they glide,
And compass earth, and pass on every side:
And mark with earnest vigilance of eyes
Where just deeds live, or crooked wrongs arise:
Their kingly state; and, delegate from heaven,
By their vicarious hands the wealth of fields is given.
  The gods then form'd a second race of man,
Degenerate far; and silver years began.
Unlike the mortals of a golden kind:
Unlike in frame of limbs and mould of mind.
Yet still a hundred years beheld the boy
Beneath the mother's roof, her infant joy;
All tender and unform'd: but when the flower
Of manhood bloom'd, it wither'd in an hour.
Their frantic follies wrought them pain and woe:
Nor mutual outrage could their hands forego:
Nor would they serve the gods: nor altars raise
That in just cities shed their holy blaze.
Them angry Jove ingulf'd; who dared refuse
The gods their glory and their sacred dues:
Yet named the second-blest in earth they lie,
And second honours grace their memory.
  The Sire of heaven and earth created then
A race, the third of many-languaged men.
Unlike the silver they: of brazen mould:
With ashen war-spears terrible and bold:
Their thoughts were bent on violence alone,
The deeds of battle and the dying groan.
Bloody their feasts, with wheaten food unblest:
Of adamant was each unyielding breast.
Huge, nerved with strength each hardy giant stands,
And mocks approach with unresisted hands:
Their mansions, implements, and armour shine
In brass; dark iron slept within the mine.
They by each other's hands inglorious fell,
In freezing darkness plunged, the house of hell:
Fierce though they were, their mortal course was run;
Death gloomy seized, and snatch'd them from the sun.
  Them when th' abyss had cover'd from the skies,
Lo! the fourth age on nurturing earth arise:
Jove form'd the race a better, juster line;
A race of heroes and of stamp divine:
Lights of the age that rose before our own;
As demi-gods o'er earth's wide regions known.
Yet these dread battle hurried to their end:
Some where the seven-fold gates of Thebes ascend:
The Cadmian realm: where they with fatal might
Strove for the flocks of Œdipus in fight.
Some war in navies led to Troy's far shore;
O'er the great space of sea their course they bore;
For sake of Helen with the beauteous hair:
And death for Helen' sake o'erwhelm'd them there.
Them on earth's utmost verge the god assign'd
A life, a seat, distinct from human kind:
Beside the deepening whirlpools of the main,
In those blest isles where Saturn holds his reign,
Apart from heaven's immortals: calm they share
A rest unsullied by the clouds of care:
And yearly thrice with sweet luxuriance crown'd
Springs the ripe harvest from the teeming ground.
  Oh would that Nature had denied me birth
Midst this fifth race; this iron age of earth:
That long before within the grave I lay,
Or long hereafter could behold the day!
Corrupt the race, with toils and griefs opprest,
Nor day nor night can yield a pause of rest.
Still do the gods a weight of care bestow,
Though still some good is mingled with the woe.
Jove on this race of many-languaged man,
Speeds the swift ruin which but slow began:
For scarcely spring they to the light of day
Ere age untimely strews their temples gray.
No fathers in the sons their features trace:
The sons reflect no more the father's face:
The host with kindness greets his guest no more,
And friends and brethren love not as of yore.
Reckless of heaven's revenge, the sons behold
The hoary parents wax too swiftly old:
And impious point the keen dishonouring tongue
With hard reproofs and bitter mockeries hung:
Nor grateful in declining age repay
The nurturing fondness of their better day.
Now man's right hand is law: for spoil they wait,
And lay their mutual cities desolate:
Unhonour'd he, by whom his oath is fear'd,
Nor are the good beloved, the just revered.
With favour graced the evil-doer stands,
Nor curbs with shame nor equity his hands:
With crooked slanders wounds the virtuous man,
And stamps with perjury what hate began.
Lo! ill-rejoicing Envy, wing'd with lies,
Scattering calumnious rumours as she flies,
The steps of miserable men pursue
With haggard aspect, blasting to the view.
Till those fair forms in snowy raiment bright
Leave the broad earth and heaven-ward soar from sight:
Justice and Modesty from mortals driven,
Rise to th' immortal family of heaven:
Dread sorrows to forsaken man remain;
No cure of ills: no remedy of pain.
Now unto kings I frame the fabling song,
However wisdom unto kings belong.
A stooping hawk, crook-talon'd, from the vale
Bore in his pounce a neck-streak'd nightingale,
And snatch'd among the clouds: beneath the stroke
This piteous shriek'd, and that imperious spoke:
“Wretch! why these screams? a stronger holds thee now:
Where'er I shape my course a captive thou,
Maugre thy song, must company my way:
I rend my banquet or I loose my prey.
Senseless is he who dares with power contend:
Defeat, rebuke, despair shall be his end.”
  The swift hawk spake, with wings spread wide in air;
But thou to justice cleave, and wrong forbear.
Wrong, if he yield to its abhorr'd controul,
Shall pierce like iron in the poor man's soul:
Wrong weighs the rich man's conscience to the dust,
When his foot stumbles on the way unjust:
Far diff'rent is the path; a path of light,
That guides the feet to equitable right.
The end of righteousness, enduring long,
Exceeds the short prosperity of wrong.
The fool by suffering his experience buys;
The penalty of folly makes him wise.
  With crooked judgments, lo! the oath's dread God
Avenging runs, and tracks them where they trod:
Rough are the ways of Justice as the sea;
Dragg'd to and fro by men's corrupt decree:
Bribe-pamper'd men! whose hands perverting draw
The right aside, and warp the wrested law.
Though, while corruption on their sentence waits,
They thrust pale Justice from their haughty gates;
Invisible their steps the virgin treads,
And musters evils o'er their sinful heads.
She with the dark of air her form arrays
And walks in awful grief the city-ways:
Her wail is heard, her tear upbraiding falls
O'er their stain'd manners, their devoted walls.
  But they who never from the right have stray'd,
Who as the citizen the stranger aid;
They and their cities flourish: genial Peace
Dwells in their borders, and their youth increase:
Nor Jove, whose radiant eyes behold afar,
Hangs forth in heaven the signs of grievous war.
Nor scathe nor famine on the righteous prey;
Feasts, strewn by earth, employ their easy day:
Rich are their mountain oaks: the topmost trees
With clustering acorns full, the trunks with hiving bees.
Burthen'd with fleece their panting flocks: the race
Of woman soft reflects the father's face:
Still flourish they, nor tempt with ships the main;
The fruits of earth are pour'd from every plain.
  But o'er the wicked race, to whom belong
The thought of evil, and the deed of wrong,
Saturnian Jove of wide-beholding eyes
Bids the dark signs of retribution rise:
And oft the crimes of one destructive fall:
The crimes of one are visited on all.
The god sends down his angry plagues from high,
Famine and pestilence: in heaps they die.
He smites with barrenness the marriage-bed,
And generations moulder with the dead:
Again in vengeance of his wrath he falls
On their great hosts, and breaks their tottering walls:
Arrests their navies on the ocean's plain,
And whelms their strength with mountains of the main.
  Ponder, oh judges! in your inmost thought
The retribution by his vengeance wrought.
Invisible, the gods are ever nigh,
Pass through the midst, and bend th' all-seeing eye:
The men who grind the poor, who wrest the right,
Awless of heaven's revenge, stand naked to their sight.
For thrice ten thousand holy demons rove
This breathing world, the delegates of Jove.
Guardians of man, their glance alike surveys
The upright judgments and th' unrighteous ways.
A virgin pure is Justice: and her birth,
August, from him who rules the heavens and earth:
A creature glorious to the gods on high,
Whose mansion is yon everlasting sky.
Driven by despiteful wrong she takes her seat
In lowly grief at Jove's eternal feet.
There of the soul unjust her plaints ascend:
So rue the nations when their kings offend:
When uttering wiles and brooding thoughts of ill,
They bend the laws and wrest them to their will.
Oh gorged with gold! ye kingly judges hear!
Make straight your paths: your crooked judgments fear:
That the foul record may no more be seen,
Erased, forgotten, as it ne'er had been!
  He wounds himself that aims another's wound:
His evil counsels on himself rebound.
Jove at his awful pleasure looks from high
With all-discerning and all-knowing eye;
Nor hidden from its ken what injured right
Within the city-walls eludes the light.
Or oh! if evil wait the righteous deed,
If thus the wicked gain the righteous meed,
Then may not I, nor yet my son remain
In this our generation just in vain!
But sure my hope, not this doth Heaven approve,
Not this the work of thunder-darting Jove.
  Deep let my words, oh Perses! graven be:
Hear Justice, and renounce th' oppressor's plea:
This law the wisdom of the god assign'd
To human race and to the bestial kind:
To birds of air and fishes of the wave,
And beasts of earth, devouring instinct gave
In them no justice lives: he bade be known
This better sense to reasoning man alone.
Who from the seat of judgment shall impart
The truths of knowledge utter'd from his heart;
On him the god of all-discerning eye
Pours down the treasures of felicity.
Who sins against the right, his wilful tongue
With perjuries of lying witness hung;
Lo! he is hurt beyond the hope of cure:
Dark is his race, nor shall his name endure.
Who fears his oath shall leave a name to shine
With brightening lustre through his latest line.
  Most foolish Perses! let the truths I tell,
Which spring from knowledge, in thy bosom dwell:
Lo! wickednesses rife in troops appear;
Smooth is the track of vice, the mansion near:
On virtue's path delays and perils grow:
The gods have placed before the sweat that bathes the brow:
And ere the foot can reach her high abode,
Long, rugged, steep th' ascent, and rough the road.
The ridge once gain'd, the path so rude of late
Runs easy on, and level to the gate.
  Far best is he whom conscious wisdom guides;
Who first and last the right and fit decides:
He too is good, that to the wiser friend
His docile reason can submissive bend:
But worthless he that reason's voice defies,
Nor wise himself, nor duteous to the wise.
  But thou, oh Perses! what my words impart
Let mem'ry bind for ever on thy heart.
Oh son of Dios! labour evermore,
That hunger turn abhorrent from thy door;
That Ceres blest, with spiky garland crown'd,
Greet thee with love and bid thy barns abound.
Still on the sluggard hungry want attends,
The scorn of man, the hate of heaven impends:
While he, averse from labour, drags his days,
Yet greedy on the gain of others preys:
Even as the stingless drones devouring seize
With glutted sloth the harvest of the bees.
  Love ev'ry seemly toil, that so the store
Of foodful seasons heap thy garner's floor.
From labour men returns of wealth behold;
Flocks in their fields and in their coffers gold:
From labour shalt thou with the love be blest
Of men and gods; the slothful they detest.
Not toil, but sloth shall ignominious be;
Toil, and the slothful man shall envy thee;
Shall view thy growing wealth with alter'd sense,
For glory, virtue walk with opulence.
Thou, like a god, since labour still is found
The better part, shalt live belov'd, renown'd;
If, as I counsel, thou thy witless mind,
Though weak and empty as the veering wind,
From others' coveted possessions turn'd,
To thrift compel, and food by labour earn'd.
Shame, which our aid or injury we find,
Shame to the needy clings of evil kind;
Shame to low indigence declining tends:
Bold zeal to wealth's proud pinnacle ascends.
But shun extorted riches; oh far best
The heaven-sent wealth without reproach possest.
Whoe'er shall mines of hoarded gold command,
By fraudful tongue or by rapacious hand;
As oft betides when lucre lights the flame,
And shamelessness expels the better shame;
Him shall the god cast down, in darkness hurl'd,
His name, his offspring wasted from the world:
The goods for which he pawn'd his soul decay,
The breath and shining bubble of a day.
  Alike the man of sin is he confest,
Who spurns the suppliant and who wrongs the guest;
Who climbs, by lure of stolen embraces led,
With ill-timed act, a brother's marriage bed;
Who dares by crafty wickedness abuse
His trust, and robs the orphans of their dues;
Who, on the threshold of afflictive age,
His hoary parent stings with taunting rage:
On him shall Jove in anger look from high,
And deep requite the dark iniquity:
But wholly thou from these refrain thy mind,
Weak as it is, and wavering as the wind.
  With thy best means perform the ritual part,
Outwardly pure and spotless at the heart,
And on thy altar let unblemish'd thighs
In fragrant savour to th' immortals rise.
Or thou in other sort may'st well dispense
Wine-offerings and the smoke of frankincense,
Ere on the nightly couch thy limbs be laid;
Or when the stars from sacred sun-rise fade.
So shall thy piety accepted move
Their heavenly natures to propitious love:
Ne'er shall thy heritage divided be,
But others part their heritage to thee.
  Let friends oft bidden to thy feast repair;
Let not a foe the social moment share.
Chief to thy open board the neighbour call:
When, unforeseen, domestic troubles fall,
The neighbour runs ungirded; kinsmen wait,
And, lingering for their raiment, hasten late.
As the good neighbour is our prop and stay,
So is the bad a pit-fall in our way.
Thus blest or curs'd, we this or that obtain,
The first a blessing and the last a bane.
How should thine ox by chance untimely die?
The evil neighbour looks and passes by.
If aught thou borrowest, well the measure weigh;
The same good measure to thy friend repay,
Or more, if more thou canst, unask'd concede,
So shall he prompt supply thy future need.
Usurious gains avoid; usurious gain,
Equivalent to loss, will prove thy bane.
Who loves thee, love; him woo that friendly wooes:
Give to the giver, but to him refuse
That giveth not; their gifts the generous earn;
But none bestows where never is return.
Munificence is blest: by heaven accurst
Extortion, of death-dealing plagues the worst.
Who bounteous gives though large his bounty flow,
Shall feel his heart with inward rapture glow:
Th' extortioner of bold unblushing sin,
Though small the plunder, feels a thorn within.
  If with a little thou a little blend
Continual, mighty shall the heap ascend.
Who bids his gather'd substance gradual grow
Shall see not livid hunger's face of woe.
No bosom-pang attends the home-laid store,
But rife with loss the food without thy door:
'Tis good to take from hoards, and pain to need
What is far from thee: give the precept heed.
  When broach'd or at the lees, no care be thine
To save the cask, but spare the middle wine.
  To him the friend that serves thee glad dispense
With bounteous hand the meed of recompense.
  Not on a brother's plighted word rely,
But, as in laughter, set a witness by;
Mistrust destroys us and credulity.
  Let no fair woman tempt thy sliding mind
With garment gather'd in a knot behind;
She prattling with gay speech inquires thy home;
But trust a woman, and a thief is come.
  One only son his father's house may tend,
And e'en with one domestic hoards ascend:
Then mayst thou leave a second son behind:
For many sons from heaven shall wealth obtain;
The care is greater, greater is the gain.
  Do thus: if riches be thy soul's desire,
By toils on toils to this thy hope aspire.


  When, Atlas-born, the Pleiad stars arise
Before the sun above the dawning skies,
'Tis time to reap; and when they sink below
The morn-illumined west, 'tis time to sow.
Know too they set, immerged into the sun,
While forty days entire their circle run;
And with the lapse of the revolving year,
When sharpen'd is the sickle, re-appear.
Law of the fields, and known to every swain
Who turns the fallow soil beside the main;
Or who, remote from billowy ocean's gales,
Tills the rich glebe of inland-winding vales.
Plough naked still, and naked sow the soil,
And naked reap; if kindly to thy toil
Thou hope to gather all that Ceres yields,
And view thy crops in season crown the fields;
Lest thou to strangers' gates penurious rove,
And every needy effort fruitless prove:
E'en as to me thou cam'st; but hope no more
That I shall give or lend thee of my store.
Oh foolish Perses! be the labours thine
Which the good gods to earthly man assign;
Lest with thy spouse, thy babes, thou vagrant ply,
And sorrowing crave those alms which all deny.
Twice may thy plaints benignant favour gain,
And haply thrice may not be pour'd in vain;
If still persisting plead thy wearying prayer,
Thy words are nought, thy eloquence is air.
Did exhortation move, the thought should be,
From debt releasement, days from hunger free.
  A house, a woman, and a steer provide,
Thy slave to tend the cows, but not thy bride.
Within let all fit implements abound,
Lest with refused entreaty wandering round,
Thy wants still press, the season glide away,
And thou with scanted labour mourn the day.
Thy task defer not till the morn arise,
Or the third sun th' unfinish'd work surprise.
The idler never shall his garners fill,
Nor he that still defers and lingers still.
Lo! diligence can prosper every toil;
The loiterer strives with loss and execrates the soil.
  When rests the keen strength of th' o'erpowering sun
From heat that made the pores in rivers run;
When rushes in fresh rains autumnal Jove,
And man's unburthen'd limbs now lightlier move;
For now the star of day with transient light
Rolls o'er our heads and joys in longer night;
When from the worm the forest boles are sound,
Trees bud no more, but earthward cast around
Their withering foliage, then remember well
The timely labour, and thy timber fell.
  Hew from the wood a mortar of three feet;
Three cubits may the pestle's length complete:
Seven feet the fittest axle-tree extends;
If eight the log, the eighth a mallet lends.
Cleave many curved blocks thy wheel to round,
And let three spans its outmost orbit bound;
Whereon slow-rolling thy suspended wain,
Ten spans in breadth, may traverse firm the plain.
  If hill or field supply a holm-oak bough
Of bending figure like the downward plough,
Bear it away: this durable remains
While the strong steers in ridges cleave the plains:
If with firm nails thy artist join the whole,
Affix the share-beam, and adapt the pole.
  Two ploughs provide, on household works intent,
This art-compacted, that of native bent:
A prudent fore-thought: one may crashing fail,
The other, instant yoked, shall prompt avail.
Of elm or bay the draught-pole firm endures,
The plough-tail holm, the share-beam oak secures.
  Two males procure: be nine their sum of years:
Then hale and strong for toil the sturdy steers:
Nor shall they headstrong-struggling spurn the soil,
And snap the plough and mar th' unfinish'd toil.
In forty's prime thy ploughman: one with bread
Of four-squared loaf in double portions fed.
He steadily shall cut the furrow true,
Nor towards his fellows glance a rambling view:
Still on his task intent: a stripling throws
Heedless the seed, and in one furrow strows
The lavish handful twice: while wistful stray
His longing thoughts to comrades far away.
  Mark yearly when among the clouds on high
Thou hear'st the shrill crane's migratory cry,
Of ploughing-time the sign and wintry rains:
Care gnaws his heart who destitute remains
Of the fit yoke: for then the season falls
To feed thy horned steers within their stalls.
Easy to speak the word, “beseech thee friend!
Thy waggon and thy yoke of oxen lend:”
Easy the prompt refusal; “nay, but I
Have need of oxen, and their work is nigh.”
Rich in his own conceit, he then too late
May think to rear the waggon's timber'd weight:
Fool! nor yet knows the complicated frame
A hundred season'd blocks may fitly claim:
These let thy timely care provide before,
And pile beneath thy roof the ready store.
  Improve the season: to the plough apply
Both thou and thine; and toil in wet and dry:
Haste to the field with break of glimmering morn,
That so thy grounds may wave with thickening corn.
  In spring upturn the glebe: and break again
With summer tilth the iterated plain,
It shall not mock thy hopes: be last thy toil,
Raised in light ridge, to sow the fallow'd soil:
The fallow'd soil bids execration fly,
And brightens with content the infant's eye.
Jove subterrene, chaste Ceres claim thy vow,
When grasping first the handle of the plough,
O'er thy broad oxen's backs thy quickening hand
With lifted stroke lets fall the goading wand;
Whilst yoked and harness'd by the fastening thong,
They slowly drag the draught-pole's length along.
So shall the sacred gifts of earth appear,
And ripe luxuriance clothe the plenteous ear.
  A boy should tread thy steps: with rake o'erlay
The buried seed, and scare the birds away:
(Good is the apt œconomy of things
While evil management its mischief brings:)
Thus, if aërial Jove thy cares befriend,
And crown thy tillage with a prosperous end,
Shall the rich ear in fulness of its grain
Nod on the stalk and bend it to the plain.
So shalt thou sweep the spider's films away,
That round thy hollow bins lie hid from day:
I ween, rejoicing in the foodful stores
Obtain'd at length, and laid within thy doors:
For plenteousness shall glad thee through the year
Till the white blossoms of the spring appear:
Nor thou on others' heaps a gazer be,
But others owe their borrow'd store to thee.
  If, ill-advised, thou turn the genial plains
His wintry tropic when the sun attains;
Thou, then, may'st reap, and idle sit between:
Mocking thy gripe the meagre stalks are seen:
Whilst, little joyful, gather'st thou in bands
The corn whose chaffy dust bestrews thy hands.
In one scant basket shall thy harvest lie,
And few shall pass thee, then, with honouring eye.
Now thus, now otherwise is Jove's design;
To men inscrutable the ways divine:
But if thou late upturn the furrow'd field,
One happy chance a remedy may yield.
O'er the wide earth when men the cuckoo hear
From spreading oak-leaves first delight their ear,
Three days and nights let heaven in ceaseless rains
Deep as thy ox's hoof o'erflow the plains;
So shall an equal crop thy time repair
With his who earlier launch'd the shining share.
Lay all to heart: nor let the blossom'd hours
Of spring escape thee; nor the timely showers.
  Pass by the brazier's forge where loiterers meet,
Nor saunter in the portico's throng'd heat;
When in the wintry season rigid cold
Invades the limbs and binds them in its hold.
Lo! then th' industrious man with thriving store
Improves his household management the more:
And this do thou: lest intricate distress
Of winter seize, and needy cares oppress:
Lest, famine-smitten, thou, at length, be seen
To gripe thy tumid foot with hand from hunger lean.
Pampering his empty hopes, yet needing food,
On ill designs behold the idler brood:
Sit in the crowded portico and feed
On that ill hope, while starving with his need.
Thou in mid-summer to thy labourers cry,
“Make now your nests,” for summer hours will fly.
  Beware the January month: beware
Those hurtful days, that keenly piercing air
Which flays the herds; those frosts that bitter sheathe
The nipping air and glaze the ground beneath.
From Thracia, nurse of steeds, comes rushing forth,
O'er the broad sea, the whirlwind of the north,
And moves it with his breath: then howl the shores
Of earth, and long and loud the forest roars.
He lays the oaks of lofty foliage low,
Tears the thick pine-trees from the mountains brow
And strews the vallies with their overthrow.
He stoops to earth; shrill swells the storm around,
And all the vast wood rolls a deeper roar of sound.
The beasts their cowering tails with trembling fold,
And shrink and shudder at the gusty cold.
Thick is the hairy coat, the shaggy skin,
But that all-chilling breath shall pierce within.
Not his rough hide can then the ox avail:
The long-hair'd goat defenceless feels the gale:
Yet vain the north-wind's rushing strength to wound
The flock, with thickening fleeces fenced around.
He bows the old man, crook'd beneath the storm;
But spares the smooth-skin'd virgin's tender form.
Yet from bland Venus' mystic rites aloof,
She safe abides beneath her mother's roof:
The suppling waters of the bath she swims,
With shining ointment sleeks her dainty limbs:
In her soft chamber pillow'd to repose,
While through the wintry nights the tempest blows.
Now gnaws the boneless polypus his feet;
Starved midst bleak rocks, his desolate retreat:
For now no more the sun with gleaming ray
Through seas transparent lights him to his prey.
O'er the swarth Æthiop rolls his bright career,
And slowly gilds the Grecian hemisphere.
And now the horned and unhorned kind
Whose lair is in the wood, sore-famish'd grind
Their sounding jaws, and froz'n and quaking fly
Where oaks the mountain dells imbranch on high:
They seek to couch in thickets of the glen,
Or lurk deep-shelter'd in the rocky den.
Like aged men who, prop'd on crutches, tread
Tottering with broken strength and stooping head,
So move the beasts of earth; and creeping low
Shun the white flakes and dread the drifting snow.
  I warn thee, now, around thy body cast,
A thick defence, and covering from the blast:
Let the soft cloak its woolly warmth bestow:
The under-tunic to thy ankle flow:
On a scant warp a woof abundant weave;
Thus warmly wov'n the mantling cloak receive:
Nor shall thy limbs beneath its ample fold
With bristling hairs start shivering to the cold.
Shoes from the hide of a strong-dying ox
Bind round thy feet; lined thick with woollen socks:
And kid-skins 'gainst the rigid season sew
With sinew of the bull, and sheltering throw
Athwart thy shoulders when the rains impend;
And let a well-wrought cap thy head defend,
And screen thine ears, while drenching showers descend.
  Bleak is the morn, when blows the north from high;
Oft when the dawnlight paints the starry sky,
A misty cloud suspended hovers o'er
Heaven's blessed earth with fertilizing store
Drain'd from the living streams: aloft in air
The whirling winds the buoyant vapour bear,
Resolved at eve in rain or gusty cold,
As by the north the troubled rack is roll'd.
Preventing this, the labour of the day
Accomplish'd, homeward bend thy hastening way:
Lest the dark cloud, with whelming rush deprest,
Drench thy cold limbs and soak thy dripping vest.
  This winter-month with prudent caution fear:
Severe to flocks, nor less to men severe:
Feed thy keen husbandman with larger bread:
With half their provender thy steers be fed:
Them rest assists: the night's protracted length
Recruits their vigour and supplies their strength.
This rule observe, while still the various earth
Gives every fruit and kindly seedling birth:
Still to the toil proportionate the cheer,
The day to night, and equalize the year.
  When from the wintry tropic of the sun
Full sixty days their finish'd round have run,
Lo! then the sacred deep Arcturus leave,
First whole-apparent on the verge of eve.
Through the grey dawn the swallow lifts her wing,
Morn-plaining bird, the harbinger of spring.
  Anticipate the time: the care be thine
An earlier day to prune the shooting vine.
When the house-bearing snail is slowly found
To shun the Pleiad heats that scorch the ground,
And climb the plant's tall stem, insist no more
To dress the vine, but give the vineyard o'er.
Whet the keen sickle, hasten every swain,
From shady booths, from morning sleep refrain;
Now, in the fervour of the harvest-day,
When the strong sun dissolves the frame away:
Now haste a-field: now bind thy sheafy corn,
And earn thy food by rising with the morn.
Lo! the third portion of thy labour's cares
The early morn anticipating shares:
In early morn the labour swiftly wastes:
In early morn the speeded journey hastes;
The time when many a traveller tracks the plain,
And the yoked oxen bend them to the wain.
When the green artichoke ascending flowers,
When, in the sultry season's toilsome hours,
Perch'd on a branch, beneath his veiling wings
The loud cicada shrill and frequent sings:
Then the plump goat a savoury food bestows,
The poignant wine in mellowest flavour flows:
Wanton the blood then bounds in woman's veins,
But weak of man the heat-enfeebled reins:
Full on his brain descends the solar flame
Unnerves the languid knees, and all the frame
Exhaustive dries away: oh then be thine
To sit in shade of rocks; with Byblian wine,
And goat's milk, stinted from the kid, to slake
Thy thirst, and eat the shepherd's creamy cake;
The flesh of new-dropt kids and youngling cows,
That, never teeming, cropp'd the forest browse.
With dainty food so saturate thy soul,
And drink the wine dark-mantling in the bowl:
While in the cool and breezy gloom reclined
Thy face is turn'd to catch the breathing wind;
And feel the freshening brook, whose living stream
Glides at thy foot with clear and sparkling gleam:
Three parts its waters in thy cup should flow,
The fourth with brimming wine may mingled glow.
  When first Orion's beamy strength is born,
Let then thy labourers thresh the sacred corn:
Smooth be the level floor, on gusty ground,
Where winnowing gales may sweep in eddies round.
Hoard in thy ample bins the meted grain:
And now, as I advise, thy hireling swain
From forth thy house dismiss, when all the store
Of kindly food is laid within thy door:
And to thy service let a female come;
But childless, for a child were burthensome.
Keep, too, a sharp-tooth'd dog, nor thrifty spare
To feed his fierceness high with generous fare:
Lest the day-slumbering thief thy nightly door
Wakeful besiege, and pilfer from thy store.
For ox and mule the yearly fodder lay
Within thy loft; the heapy straw and hay:
This care dispatch'd, refresh the bending knees
Of thy tired hinds, and give thy unyoked oxen ease.
  When Sirius and Orion the mid-sky
Ascend, and on Arcturus looks from high
The rosy-finger'd morn, the vintage calls:
Then bear the gather'd grapes within thy walls.
Ten days and nights exposed the clusters lay
Bask'd in the lustre of each mellowing day:
Let five their circling round successive run,
Whilst lie thy frails o'ershaded from the sun:
The sixth in vats the gifts of Bacchus press;
Of Bacchus gladdening earth with store of pleasantness.
  But when beneath the skies on morning's brink
The Pleiads, Hyads, and Orion sink;
Know then the ploughing and the seed-time near:
Thus well-disposed shall glide thy rustic year.
  But if thy breast with nautical desire
The perilous deep's uncertain gains inspire,
When chased by strong Orion down the heaven
Sink the seven stars in gloomy ocean driven;
Then varying winds in gustful eddies roar:
Then to black ocean trust thy ships no more:
But heedful care to this my caution yield,
And, as I bid thee, labour safe the field.
Hale on firm land the ship: with stones made fast
Against the staggering force of humid-blowing blast:
Draw from its keel the peg, lest rotting rain
Suck'd in the hollow of the hold remain:
Within thy house the tackling order'd be.
And furl thy vessel's wings that skimm'd the sea:
The well-framed rudder in the smoke suspend,
And calm and navigable seas attend.
Then launch the rapid bark: fit cargo load,
And freighted rich repass the liquid road.
Oh witness Perses! thus for honest gain,
Thus did our mutual father plough the main.
Erst, from Æolian Cuma's distant shore,
Hither in sable ship his course he bore;
Through the wide seas his venturous way he took;
No rich revenues; prosperous ease forsook:
His wandering course from poverty began,
The visitation sent from heaven to man:
Ascra's sad hamlet he his dwelling chose
Where nigh impending Helicon arose:
In summer irksome and in winter drear,
Nor ever genial through the joyless year.
  Each labour, Perses! let the seasons guide:
But o'er thy navigation chief preside:
Decline a slender bark: intrust thy freight
To the strong vessel of a larger rate:
The larger cargo doubles every gain,
Let but the winds their adverse blasts restrain.
If thy rash thoughts on merchandise be placed,
Lest debts ensnare or joyless hunger waste,
Learn now the courses of the roaring sea,
Though ships and voyages are strange to me.
Ne'er o'er the sea's broad way my course I bore
Save once from Aulis to th' Eubœan shore:
From Aulis, where the Greeks in days of yore,
The winds awaiting, kept the harbouring shore:
From sacred Greece a mighty army there
Lay bound for Troy, wide famed for women fair.
I pass'd to Chalcis, where around the grave
Of king Amphidamus, in combat brave,
His valiant sons had solemn games decreed,
And heralds loud proclaim'd full many a meed:
There, let me boast, that victor in the lay
I bore a tripod ear'd, my prize, away:
This to the maids of Helicon I vow'd
Where first their tuneful inspiration flow'd.
Thus far in ships does my experience rise;
Yet bold I speak the wisdom of the skies;
Th' inspiring Muses to my lips have given
The lore of song, and strains that breathe of heaven.
When from the summer-tropic fifty days
Have roll'd, when summer's time of toil decays:
Then is the season fair to spread the sail:
Nor then thy ship shall founder in the gale
And seas o'erwhelm the crew: unless the Power,
Who shakes the shores with waves, have will'd their mortal hour:
Or he th' immortals' king require their breath,
Whose hands the issues hold of life and death
For good and evil men: but now the seas
Are dangerless, and clear the calmy breeze.
Then trust the winds, and let thy vessel sweep
With all her freight the level of the deep.
But rapidly retrace thy homeward way
Nor till the season of new wine delay:
Late autumn's torrent showers: bleak winter's sweep:
The south-blast ruffling strong the tossing deep:
When air comes rushing in autumnal rain,
And curls with many a ridge the troubled main.
Men, too, may sail in spring: when first the crow
Imprinting with light steps the sands below,
As many thinly-scatter'd leaves are seen
To clothe the fig-tree's top with tender green.
This vernal voyage practicable seems,
And pervious are the boundless ocean-streams:
I praise it not: for thou with anxious mind
Must hasty snatch th' occasion of the wind.
The drear event may baffle all thy care;
Yet thus, even thus, will human folly dare.
Of wretched mortals lo! the soul is gain:
But death is dreadful midst the whelming main.
These counsels lay to heart; and, warn'd by me,
Trust not thy whole precarious wealth to sea,
Tost in the hollow keel: a portion send;
Thy larger substance let the shore defend.
Wretched the losses of the ocean fall,
When on a fragile plank embark'd thy all:
And wretched when thy sheaves o'erload the wain,
And the crash'd axle spoils the scatter'd grain.
The golden mean of conduct should confine
Our every aim; be moderation thine.
  Take to thy house a woman for thy bride
When in the ripeness of thy manhood's pride:
Thrice ten thy sum of years; the nuptial prime;
Nor fall far short, nor far exceed the time.
Four years the ripening virgin should consume,
And wed the fifth of her expanded bloom.
A virgin choose: and mould her manners chaste:
Chief be some neighbouring maid by thee embraced:
Look circumspect and long: lest thou be found
The merry mock of all the dwellers round.
No better lot has Providence assign'd
Than a fair woman with a virtuous mind:
Nor can a worse befall, then when thy fate
Allots a worthless, feast-contriving mate:
She, with no torch of mere material flame,
Shall burn to tinder thy care-wasted frame:
Shall send a fire thy vigorous bones within,
And age unripe in bloom of years begin.
  Th' unsleeping vengeance heed of heaven on high.—
None as a friend should with a brother vie:
But if like him thou hold another dear,
Let no offences on thy side appear:
Nor lie with idle tongue: if he begin
Offence of word and deed, chastise his sin
Once for each act and word; but if he grieve,
And make atonement, straight his love receive:
Wretched! his friends who changes to and fro!
Let not thy face thy mind's deep secrets show.
Be not the host of many nor of none:
The good revile not, and the wicked shun.
Rebuke not want, that wastes the spirit dry;
It is the gift of blessed gods on high.
Lo! the best treasure is a frugal tongue:
The lips of moderate speech with grace are hung:
The evil-speaker shall perpetual fear
Return of evil ringing in his ear.
When many guests combine in common fare
Be not morose nor grudge thy liberal share:
When all contributing the feast unite,
Great is the pleasure and the cost is light.
  When the libation of the morn demands
The sable wine, forbear with unwash'd hands
To lift the cup: with ear averted Jove
Shall spurn thy prayer, and every god above.
  Forbear to let your water flow away
Turn'd upright tow'rds the sun's all-seeing ray:
E'en when his splendour sets, till morn has glow'd
Take heed; nor sprinkle, as you walk, the road,
Nor the road-side; nor bare affront the sight;
For there are gods who watch and guard the night.
The holy man discreet sits decently,
And to some sheep-fold's fenced wall draws nigh.
  From rites of love unclean the hearth forbear,
Nor sit beside ungirt, for household gods are there.
  Leave not the funeral feast to sow thy race;
From the gods' banquet seek thy bride's embrace.
  Whene'er thy feet the river-ford essay,
Whose flowing current winds its limpid way,
Thy hands amidst the pleasant waters lave,
And lowly gazing on the beauteous wave
Appease the river-god: if thou perverse
Pass with unsprinkled hands, a heavy curse
Shall rest upon thee from th' observant skies,
And after-woes retributive arise.
  When in the fane the feast of gods is laid,
Ne'er to thy five-branch'd hand apply the blade
Of sable iron; from the fresh forbear
The dry excrescence at the board to pare.
  Ne'er let thy hand the wine-filled flaggon rest
Upon the goblet's edge; th' unwary guest
May from thy fault his own disaster drink,
For evil omens lurk around the brink.
  Ne'er in the midst th' unfinished house forego,
Lest there perch'd lonely croak the garrulous crow.
  Ne'er from unhallow'd vessels hasty feed,
Nor lave therein; for thou mayst rue the deed.
  Set not a twelve-day or a twelve-month boy
On moveless stones; they shall his strength destroy.
  Ne'er in the female baths thy limbs immerse;
In its own time the guilt shall bring the curse.
  Ne'er let the mystic sacrifices move
Deriding scorn; but dread indignant Jove.
  Ne'er with unseemly deeds the fountains stain,
Or limpid rivers flowing to the main.
  Do thus: and still with all thy dint of mind
Avoid that evil rumour of mankind;
Easy the burthen at the first to bear,
And light when lifted as impassive air;
But scarce can human strength the load convey,
Or shake th' intolerable weight away.
Swift rumour hastes nor ever wholly dies,
But borne on nations' tongues a very goddess flies.


  Thy household teach a decent heed to pay,
And well observe each Jove-appointed day.
The thirtieth of the moon inspect with care
Thy servants' tasks and all their rations share;
What time the people to the courts repair.
These days obey the all-wise Jove's behest:
The first new moon, the fourth, the seventh is blest:
Phœbus, on this, from mild Latona born,
The golden-sworded god, beheld the morn.
The eighth, nor less the ninth, with favouring skies,
Speeds of th' increasing month each rustic enterprise;
And on th' eleventh let thy flocks be shorn,
And on the twelfth be reap'd thy laughing corn:
Both days are good: yet is the twelfth confest
More fortunate, with fairer omen blest.
On this the air-suspended spider treads
In the full noon his fine and self-spun threads;
And the wise emmet, tracking dark the plain,
Heaps provident the store of gather'd grain.
On this let careful woman's nimble hand
Throw first the shuttle and the web expand.
  On the thirteenth forbear to sow the grain;
But then the plant shall not be set in vain.
The sixteenth profitless to plants is deem'd
Auspicious to the birth of men esteem'd;
But to the virgin shall unprosperous prove,
Then born to light or join'd in wedded love.
  So to the birth of girls with adverse ray
The sixth appears, an unpropitious day:
But then the swain may fence his wattled fold,
And cut his kids and rams; male births shall then be bold.
This day is fond of biting gibes and lies,
And jocund tales and whisper'd sorceries.
  Cut on the eighth the goat and lowing steer
And hardy mule; and when the noon shines clear,
Seek on the twenty-ninth to sow thy race,
For wise shall be the fruit of thy embrace.
  The tenth propitious lends its natal ray
To men, to gentle maids the fourteenth day:
Tame too thy sheep on this auspicious morn,
And steers of flexile hoof and wreathed horn,
And labour-patient mules; and mild command
Thy sharp-tooth'd dog with smoothly flattering hand.
  The fourth and twenty-fourth no grief should prey
Within thy breast, for holy either day.
  Fourth of the moon lead home thy blooming bride,
And be the fittest auguries descried.
Beware the fifth, with horror fraught and wo:
'Tis said the furies walk their round below
Avenging the dread oath; whose awful birth
From discord rose, to scourge the perjured earth.
  On the smooth threshing-floor, the seventeenth morn,
Observant throw the sheaves of sacred corn:
For chamber furniture the timber hew,
And blocks for ships with shaping axe subdue.
  The fourth upon the stocks thy vessel lay,
Soon with light keel to skim the watery way.
  The nineteenth mark among the better days
When past the fervour of the noon-tide blaze.
  Harmless the ninth: 'tis good to plant the earth,
And fortunate each male and female birth.
  Few know the twenty-ninth, nor heed the rules
To broach their casks, and yoke their steers and mules,
And fleet-hoof'd steeds; and on dark ocean's way
Launch the oar'd galley; few will trust the day.
  Pierce on the fourth thy cask; the fourteenth prize
As holy; and when morning paints the skies
The twenty-fourth is best; (few this have known;)
But worst of days when noon has fainter grown.
  These are the days of which the careful heed
Each human enterprise will favouring speed:
Others there are, which intermediate fall,
Mark'd with no auspice and unomen'd all:
And these will some, and those will others praise,
But few are versed in mysteries of days.
In this a step-mother's stern hate we prove,
In that the mildness of a mother's love.
  Oh fortunate the man! oh blest is he,
Who skill'd in these fulfils his ministry:
He to whose note the auguries are given,
No rite transgress'd, and void of blame to heav'n.

Monadnock Valley Press > Hesiod