ArchilochusAncient Greek lyric poet
Take the joy
and bear the sorrow
looking past your hopes
learn to recognize the measureddance
that orders all our years.
Fragments of Archilochus known primarily from quotations by other ancient writers
I have saved myself - what care I for that shield? Away with it! I'll get another one no worse.
Old women should not seek to be perfumed.
πόλλ' οἶδ' ἀλώπηξ, ἐχῖνος δ'ἓν μέγα
- The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
- Variant translations:
- The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one great thing.
- The fox knows many tricks; the hedgehog one good one.
- The fox knows many tricks; and the hedgehog only one; but that is the best one of all.
θυμέ, θύμ᾽ ἀμηχάνοισι κήδεσιν κυκώμενε,
ἄνα δέ, δυσμενέων δ᾽ ἀλέξευ προσβαλὼν ἐναντίον
στέρνον, ἐν δοκοῖσιν ἐχθρῶν πλησίον κατασταθείς
ἀσφαλέως· καὶ μήτε νικῶν ἀμφαδὴν ἀγάλλεο
μηδὲ νικηθεὶς ἐν οἴκωι καταπεσὼν ὀδύρεο.
ἀλλὰ χαρτοῖσίν τε χαῖρε καὶ κακοῖσιν ἀσχάλα
μὴ λίην· γίνωσκε δ᾽ οἷος ῥυσμὸς ἀνθρώπους ἔχει.
ὦ Ζεῦ͵ πάτερ Ζεῦ͵ σὸν μὲν οὐρανοῦ κράτος͵ σὺ δ΄ ἔργ΄ ἐπ΄ ἀνθρώπων ὁρᾶις λεωργὰ καὶ θεμιστά͵ σοὶ δὲ θηρίων ὕβρις τε καὶ δίκη μέλει.
Oh Zeus, father Zeus, Yours is the Kingdom of Heaven, and you watch men's deeds, the crafty and the right, and You are who cares for beasts' transgression and justice.
Nothing can be surprising any more or impossible or miraculous, now that Zeus, father of the Olympians has made night out of noonday, hiding the bright sunlight, and . . . fear has come upon mankind. After this, men can believe anything, expect anything. Don't any of you be surprised in future if land beasts change places with dolphins and go to live in their salty pastures, and get to like the sounding waves of the sea more than the land, while the dolphins prefer the mountains.
Variant: Zeus, the father of the Olympic Gods, turned mid-day into night, hiding the light of the dazzling Sun; and sore fear came upon men.
Some Saian mountaineer
Struts today with my shield.
I threw it down by a bush and ran
When the fighting got hot.
Life seemed somehow more precious.
It was a beautiful shield.
I know where I can buy another
Exactly like it, just as round.
- Variant: A Saian boasts about the shield which beside a bush
though good armour I unwillingly left behind.
I saved myself, so what do I care about the shield?
To hell with it! I'll get one soon just as good.
- Variant: I don't give a damn if some Thracian ape strut
Proud of that first-rate shield the bushes got.
Leaving it was hell, but in a tricky spot
I kept my hide intact. Good shields can be bought. (as translated by Stuart Silverman)
- Variant: Let who will boast their courage in the field,
I find but little safety from my shield.
Nature's, not honour's, law we must obey:
This made me cast my useless shield away,
And by a prudent flight and cunning save
A life, which valour could not, from the grave.
A better buckler I can soon regain;
But who can get another life again?
These golden matters
and his treasuries
Are no concern of mine.Jealousy has no power over me,Nor do I envy a god his work,And I do not burn to rule.Such things have noFascination for my eyes.
Variant: The affairs of gold-laden Gyges do not interest me
zealousy of the gods has never seized me nor anger
at their deeds. But I have no love for great tyranny
for its deeds are very far from my eyes.
I have a high art: I hurt with cruelty those who wound me.
Be bold! That's one way
Of getting through life.
So I turn upon her
And point out that,
Faced with the wickedness
Of things, she does not shiver.
I know how to love those
Who love me, how to hate.
You whom the soldiers beat,
You who are all but dead,
How the gods love you
And I, alone in the dark,
I was promised the light.
Quotes about Archilochus
Summa in hoc vis elocutionis, cum validae tum breves vibrantesque sententiae, plurimum sanguinis atque nervorum, adeo ut videatur quibusdam quod quoquam minor est materiae esse, non ingeni vitium.
There is in him the utmost vigor of language, thoughts forcible, concise, and lively, and abundance of life and energy, insomuch that some think it owing to his subjects, not to his genius, that he is inferior to any writer whatever.
, De Institutione Oratoria
, Book X, 60; English translation of the Rev. John Selby Watson
There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of these dark words, which may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog's one defence. But, taken figuratively, the words can be made to yield a sense in which they mark one of the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general.
For there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single, universal, organizing principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance — and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory... Their thought is scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects for what they are in themselves, without, consciously or unconsciously, seeking to fit them into, or exclude them from any one unchanging, all-embracing, sometimes self-contradictory and incomplete, at times fanatical, unitary inner vision. The first kind of intellectual and artistic personality belongs to the hedgehogs, the second to the foxes; and without insisting on a rigid classification, we may, without too much fear of contradiction, say that, in this sense, Dante
belongs to the first category, Shakespeare
to the second.
Archilochos was both poet and mercenary. As a poet he was both satirist and lyricist. Iambic verse is his invention.
He wrote the first beast fable known to us. He wrote marching songs, love lyrics of frail tenderness, elegies. But most of all he was what Meleager calls him, "a thistle with graceful leaves." There is a tradition that wasps hover around his grave. To the ancients, both Greek and Roman, he was The Satirist.
We have what grammarians quote to illustrate a point of dialect or interesting use of the subjunctive; we have brief quotations by admiring critics; and we have papyrus fragments, scrap paper from the households of Alexandria, with which third-class mummies were wrapped and stuffed. All else is lost. Horace
, like all cultivated readers, had Archilochos complete in their libraries. Even in the tattered version we have of Archilochos … the extraordinary form of his mind is discernible. Not all poets can be so broken and still compel attention.
Archilochos kept his "two services" in an unlikely harmony. Ares did not complain that this ash-spear fighter wrote poems, and the Muses have heard everything and did not mind that their horsetail-helmeted servant sometimes spoke with the vocabulary of a paratrooper sergeant, though the high-minded Spartans banned Archilochos's poems for their mockery of uncritical bravery. And the people of his native Paros made it clear, when they honored him with a monument, that they thought him a great poet in spite of his nettle tongue.
Last edited on 30 March 2021, at 09:14
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