Xenophanes of Colophon
!!!Elegies (1) Now is the floor clean, and the hands and cups of all; one sets twisted garlands on our heads, another hands us fragrant ointment on a salver. The mixing bowl stands ready, full of gladness, and there is more wine at hand that promises never to leave us in the lurch, soft and smelling of flowers in the jars. In the midst the frankincense sends up its holy scent, and there is cold water, sweet and clean. Brown loaves are set before us and a lordly table laden with cheese and rich honey. The altar in the midst is clustered round with flowers; song and revel fill the halls. But first it is meet that men should hymn the god with joy, with holy tales and pure words; then after libation and prayer made that we may have strength to do right—for that is in truth the first thing to do—no sin is it to drink as much as a man can take and get home without an attendant, so he be not stricken in years. And of all men is he to be praised who after drinking gives goodly proof of himself in the trial of skill, as memory and strength will serve him. Let him not sing of Titans and Giants–those fictions of the men of old–nor of turbulent civil broils in which is no good thing at all; but to give heedful reverence to the gods is ever good. (2) What if a man win victory in swiftness of foot, or in the pentathlon, at Olympia, where is the precinct of Zeus by Pisa’s springs, or in wrestling,—what if by cruel boxing or that fearful sport men call pankration he become more glorious in the citizens’ eyes, and win a place of honor in the sight of all at the games, his food at the public cost from the State, and a gift to be an heirloom for him,-what if he conquer in the chariot-race,—he will not deserve all this for his portion so much as I do. Far better is our art than the strength of men and of horses! These are but thoughtless judgements, nor is it fitting to set strength before goodly art. Even if there arise a mighty boxer among a people, or one great in the pentathlon or at wrestling, or one excelling in swiftness of foot—and that stands in honor before all tasks of men at the games—the city would be none the better governed for that. It is but little joy a city gets of it if a man conquer at the games by Pisa’s banks; it is not this that makes fat the store-houses of a city. (3) They learned dainty and unprofitable ways from the Lydians, so long as they were free from hateful tyranny; they went to the market-place with cloaks of purple dye, not less than a thousand of them all told, vainglorious and proud of their comely tresses, reeking with fragrance from cunning salves. (4) Nor would a man mix wine in a cup by pouring out the wine first, but water first and wine on the top of it. (5) You did send the thigh-bone of a kid and get for it the fat leg of a fatted bull, a worthy reward for a man to get, whose glory is to reach every part of Hellas and never to pass away, so long as Greek songs last. (7) And now I will turn to another tale and point the way . . . . Once they say that he (Pythagoras) was passing by when a dog was being beaten and spoke this word: “Stop! don’t beat it! For it is the soul of a friend that I recognized when I heard its voice.” (8) There are by this time threescore years and seven that have tossed my careworn soul up and down the land of Hellas; and there were then five-and-twenty years from my birth, if I can say everything truly about these matters. (9) Much weaker than an aged man. Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, 3rd edition (1920). London: A & C Black Ltd.
Summary of changes
. Last changed: 2013/12/27 21:27