Works And Days
Translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914
(ll. 1-10) Muses of Pieria who give glory through song, come hither,
tell of Zeus your father and chant his praise. Through him mortal men
are famed or un-famed, sung or unsung alike, as great Zeus wills. For
easily he makes strong, and easily he brings the strong man low; easily
he humbles the proud and raises the obscure, and easily he straightens
the crooked and blasts the proud, -- Zeus who thunders aloft and has his
dwelling most high.
Attend thou with eye and ear, and make judgements straight with
righteousness. And I, Perses, would tell of true things.
(ll. 11-24) So, after all, there was not one kind of Strife alone,
but all over the earth there are two. As for the one, a man would praise
her when he came to understand her; but the other is blameworthy: and
they are wholly different in nature. For one fosters evil war and
battle, being cruel: her no man loves; but perforce, through the will of
the deathless gods, men pay harsh Strife her honour due. But the other
is the elder daughter of dark Night, and the son of Cronos who sits
above and dwells in the aether, set her in the roots of the earth: and
she is far kinder to men. She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a
man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbour, a rich man who
hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and
neighbour vies with is neighbour as he hurries after wealth. This Strife
is wholesome for men. And potter is angry with potter, and craftsman
with craftsman, and beggar is jealous of beggar, and minstrel of
(ll. 25-41) Perses, lay up these things in your heart, and do not let
that Strife who delights in mischief hold your heart back from work,
while you peep and peer and listen to the wrangles of the court-house.
Little concern has he with quarrels and courts who has not a year's
victuals laid up betimes, even that which the earth bears, Demeter's
grain. When you have got plenty of that, you can raise disputes and
strive to get another's goods. But you shall have no second chance to
deal so again: nay, let us settle our dispute here with true judgement
which is of Zeus and is perfect. For we had already divided our
inheritance, but you seized the greater share and carried it off,
greatly swelling the glory of our bribe-swallowing lords who love to
judge such a cause as this. Fools! They know not how much more the half
is than the whole, nor what great advantage there is in mallow and
(ll. 42-53) For the gods keep hidden from men the means of life. Else
you would easily do work enough in a day to supply you for a full year
even without working; soon would you put away your rudder over the
smoke, and the fields worked by ox and sturdy mule would run to waste.
But Zeus in the anger of his heart hid it, because Prometheus the crafty
deceived him; therefore he planned sorrow and mischief against men. He
hid fire; but that the noble son of Iapetus stole again for men from
Zeus the counsellor in a hollow fennel-stalk, so that Zeus who delights
in thunder did not see it. But afterwards Zeus who gathers the clouds
said to him in anger:
(ll. 54-59) `Son of Iapetus, surpassing all in cunning, you are glad
that you have outwitted me and stolen fire -- a great plague to you
yourself and to men that shall be. But I will give men as the price for
fire an evil thing in which they may all be glad of heart while they
embrace their own destruction.'
(ll. 60-68) So said the father of men and gods, and laughed aloud.
And he bade famous Hephaestus make haste and mix earth with water and to
put in it the voice and strength of human kind, and fashion a sweet,
lovely maiden-shape, like to the immortal goddesses in face; and Athene
to teach her needlework and the weaving of the varied web; and golden
Aphrodite to shed grace upon her head and cruel longing and cares that
weary the limbs. And he charged Hermes the guide, the Slayer of Argus,
to put in her a shameless mind and a deceitful nature.
(ll. 69-82) So he ordered. And they obeyed the lord Zeus the son of
Cronos. Forthwith the famous Lame God moulded clay in the likeness of a
modest maid, as the son of Cronos purposed. And the goddess bright-eyed
Athene girded and clothed her, and the divine Graces and queenly
Persuasion put necklaces of gold upon her, and the rich-haired Hours
crowned her head with spring flowers. And Pallas Athene bedecked her
form with all manners of finery. Also the Guide, the Slayer of Argus,
contrived within her lies and crafty words and a deceitful nature at the
will of loud thundering Zeus, and the Herald of the gods put speech in
her. And he called this woman Pandora (2), because all they who dwelt on
Olympus gave each a gift, a plague to men who eat bread.
(ll. 83-89) But when he had finished the sheer, hopeless snare, the
Father sent glorious Argus-Slayer, the swift messenger of the gods, to
take it to Epimetheus as a gift. And Epimetheus did not think on what
Prometheus had said to him, bidding him never take a gift of Olympian
Zeus, but to send it back for fear it might prove to be something
harmful to men. But he took the gift, and afterwards, when the evil
thing was already his, he understood.
(ll. 90-105) For ere this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and
free from ills and hard toil and heavy sickness which bring the Fates
upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly. But the woman took off the
great lid of the jar (3) with her hands and scattered all these and her
thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. Only Hope remained there in
an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not
fly out at the door; for ere that, the lid of the jar stopped her, by
the will of Aegis-holding Zeus who gathers the clouds. But the rest,
countless plagues, wander amongst men; for earth is full of evils and
the sea is full. Of themselves diseases come upon men continually by day
and by night, bringing mischief to mortals silently; for wise Zeus took
away speech from them. So is there no way to escape the will of Zeus.
(ll. 106-108) Or if you will, I will sum you up another tale well and
skilfully -- and do you lay it up in your heart, -- how the gods and
mortal men sprang from one source.
(ll. 109-120) First of all the deathless gods who dwell on Olympus
made a golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Cronos when he
was reigning in heaven. And they lived like gods without sorrow of
heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on
them; but with legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting
beyond the reach of all evils. When they died, it was as though they
were overcome with sleep, and they had all good things; for the fruitful
earth unforced bare them fruit abundantly and without stint. They dwelt
in ease and peace upon their lands with many good things, rich in flocks
and loved by the blessed gods.
(ll. 121-139) But after earth had covered this generation -- they are
called pure spirits dwelling on the earth, and are kindly, delivering
from harm, and guardians of mortal men; for they roam everywhere over
the earth, clothed in mist and keep watch on judgements and cruel deeds,
givers of wealth; for this royal right also they received; -- then they
who dwell on Olympus made a second generation which was of silver and
less noble by far. It was like the golden race neither in body nor in
spirit. A child was brought up at his good mother's side an hundred
years, an utter simpleton, playing childishly in his own home. But when
they were full grown and were come to the full measure of their prime,
they lived only a little time in sorrow because of their foolishness,
for they could not keep from sinning and from wronging one another, nor
would they serve the immortals, nor sacrifice on the holy altars of the
blessed ones as it is right for men to do wherever they dwell. Then Zeus
the son of Cronos was angry and put them away, because they would not
give honour to the blessed gods who live on Olympus.
(ll. 140-155) But when earth had covered this generation also -- they
are called blessed spirits of the underworld by men, and, though they
are of second order, yet honour attends them also -- Zeus the Father
made a third generation of mortal men, a brazen race, sprung from
ash-trees (4); and it was in no way equal to the silver age, but was
terrible and strong. They loved the lamentable works of Ares and deeds
of violence; they ate no bread, but were hard of heart like adamant,
fearful men. Great was their strength and unconquerable the arms which
grew from their shoulders on their strong limbs. Their armour was of
bronze, and their houses of bronze, and of bronze were their implements:
there was no black iron. These were destroyed by their own hands and
passed to the dank house of chill Hades, and left no name: terrible
though they were, black Death seized them, and they left the bright
light of the sun.
(ll. 156-169b) But when earth had covered this generation also, Zeus
the son of Cronos made yet another, the fourth, upon the fruitful earth,
which was nobler and more righteous, a god-like race of hero-men who are
called demi-gods, the race before our own, throughout the boundless
earth. Grim war and dread battle destroyed a part of them, some in the
land of Cadmus at seven- gated Thebe when they fought for the flocks of
Oedipus, and some, when it had brought them in ships over the great sea
gulf to Troy for rich-haired Helen's sake: there death's end enshrouded
a part of them. But to the others father Zeus the son of Cronos gave a
living and an abode apart from men, and made them dwell at the ends of
earth. And they live untouched by sorrow in the islands of the blessed
along the shore of deep swirling Ocean, happy heroes for whom the
grain-giving earth bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing thrice a year,
far from the deathless gods, and Cronos rules over them (5); for the
father of men and gods released him from his bonds. And these last
equally have honour and glory.
(ll. 169c-169d) And again far-seeing Zeus made yet another
generation, the fifth, of men who are upon the bounteous earth.
(ll. 170-201) Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the
fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards.
For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labour and
sorrow by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore
trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good
mingled with their evils. And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men
also when they come to have grey hair on the temples at their birth (6).
The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their
father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will
brother be dear to brother as aforetime. Men will dishonour their
parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them
with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods.
They will not repay their aged parents the cost their nurture, for might
shall be their right: and one man will sack another's city. There will
be no favour for the man who keeps his oath or for the just or for the
good; but rather men will praise the evil-doer and his violent dealing.
Strength will be right and reverence will cease to be; and the wicked
will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will
swear an oath upon them. Envy, foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with
scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all. And then
Aidos and Nemesis (7), with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes,
will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to join the
company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows will be left for
mortal men, and there will be no help against evil.
(ll. 202-211) And now I will tell a fable for princes who themselves
understand. Thus said the hawk to the nightingale with speckled neck,
while he carried her high up among the clouds, gripped fast in his
talons, and she, pierced by his crooked talons, cried pitifully. To her
he spoke disdainfully: `Miserable thing, why do you cry out? One far
stronger than you now holds you fast, and you must go wherever I take
you, songstress as you are. And if I please I will make my meal of you,
or let you go. He is a fool who tries to withstand the stronger, for he
does not get the mastery and suffers pain besides his shame.' So said
the swiftly flying hawk, the long- winged bird.
(ll. 212-224) But you, Perses, listen to right and do not foster
violence; for violence is bad for a poor man. Even the prosperous cannot
easily bear its burden, but is weighed down under it when he has fallen
into delusion. The better path is to go by on the other side towards
justice; for Justice beats Outrage when she comes at length to the end
of the race. But only when he has suffered does the fool learn this. For
Oath keeps pace with wrong judgements. There is a noise when Justice is
being dragged in the way where those who devour bribes and give sentence
with crooked judgements, take her. And she, wrapped in mist, follows to
the city and haunts of the people, weeping, and bringing mischief to
men, even to such as have driven her forth in that they did not deal
straightly with her.
(ll. 225-237) But they who give straight judgements to strangers and
to the men of the land, and go not aside from what is just, their city
flourishes, and the people prosper in it: Peace, the nurse of children,
is abroad in their land, and all-seeing Zeus never decrees cruel war
against them. Neither famine nor disaster ever haunt men who do true
justice; but light-heartedly they tend the fields which are all their
care. The earth bears them victual in plenty, and on the mountains the
oak bears acorns upon the top and bees in the midst. Their woolly sheep
are laden with fleeces; their women bear children like their parents.
They flourish continually with good things, and do not travel on ships,
for the grain-giving earth bears them fruit.
(ll. 238-247) But for those who practise violence and cruel deeds
far-seeing Zeus, the son of Cronos, ordains a punishment. Often even a
whole city suffers for a bad man who sins and devises presumptuous
deeds, and the son of Cronos lays great trouble upon the people, famine
and plague together, so that the men perish away, and their women do not
bear children, and their houses become few, through the contriving of
Olympian Zeus. And again, at another time, the son of Cronos either
destroys their wide army, or their walls, or else makes an end of their
ships on the sea.
(ll. 248-264) You princes, mark well this punishment you also; for
the deathless gods are near among men and mark all those who oppress
their fellows with crooked judgements, and reck not the anger of the
gods. For upon the bounteous earth Zeus has thrice ten thousand spirits,
watchers of mortal men, and these keep watch on judgements and deeds of
wrong as they roam, clothed in mist, all over the earth. And there is
virgin Justice, the daughter of Zeus, who is honoured and reverenced
among the gods who dwell on Olympus, and whenever anyone hurts her with
lying slander, she sits beside her father, Zeus the son of Cronos, and
tells him of men's wicked heart, until the people pay for the mad folly
of their princes who, evilly minded, pervert judgement and give sentence
crookedly. Keep watch against this, you princes, and make straight your
judgements, you who devour bribes; put crooked judgements altogether
from your thoughts.
(ll. 265-266) He does mischief to himself who does mischief to
another, and evil planned harms the plotter most.
(ll. 267-273) The eye of Zeus, seeing all and understanding all,
beholds these things too, if so he will, and fails not to mark what sort
of justice is this that the city keeps within it. Now, therefore, may
neither I myself be righteous among men, nor my son -- for then it is a
bad thing to be righteous -- if indeed the unrighteous shall have the
greater right. But I think that all-wise Zeus will not yet bring that to
(ll. 274-285) But you, Perses, lay up these things within you heart
and listen now to right, ceasing altogether to think of violence. For
the son of Cronos has ordained this law for men, that fishes and beasts
and winged fowls should devour one another, for right is not in them;
but to mankind he gave right which proves far the best. For whoever
knows the right and is ready to speak it, far-seeing Zeus gives him
prosperity; but whoever deliberately lies in his witness and forswears
himself, and so hurts Justice and sins beyond repair, that man's
generation is left obscure thereafter. But the generation of the man who
swears truly is better thenceforward.
(ll. 286-292) To you, foolish Perses, I will speak good sense.
Badness can be got easily and in shoals: the road to her is smooth, and
she lives very near us. But between us and Goodness the gods have placed
the sweat of our brows: long and steep is the path that leads to her,
and it is rough at the first; but when a man has reached the top, then
is she easy to reach, though before that she was hard.
(ll. 293-319) That man is altogether best who considers all things
himself and marks what will be better afterwards and at the end; and he,
again, is good who listens to a good adviser; but whoever neither thinks
for himself nor keeps in mind what another tells him, he is an
unprofitable man. But do you at any rate, always remembering my charge,
work, high-born Perses, that Hunger may hate you, and venerable Demeter
richly crowned may love you and fill your barn with food; for Hunger is
altogether a meet comrade for the sluggard. Both gods and men are angry
with a man who lives idle, for in nature he is like the stingless drones
who waste the labour of the bees, eating without working; but let it be
your care to order your work properly, that in the right season your
barns may be full of victual. Through work men grow rich in flocks and
substance, and working they are much better loved by the immortals (8).
Work is no disgrace: it is idleness which is a disgrace. But if you
work, the idle will soon envy you as you grow rich, for fame and renown
attend on wealth. And whatever be your lot, work is best for you, if you
turn your misguided mind away from other men's property to your work and
attend to your livelihood as I bid you. An evil shame is the needy man's
companion, shame which both greatly harms and prospers men: shame is
with poverty, but confidence with wealth.
(ll. 320-341) Wealth should not be seized: god-given wealth is much
better; for it a man take great wealth violently and perforce, or if he
steal it through his tongue, as often happens when gain deceives men's
sense and dishonour tramples down honour, the gods soon blot him out and
make that man's house low, and wealth attends him only for a little
time. Alike with him who does wrong to a suppliant or a guest, or who
goes up to his brother's bed and commits unnatural sin in lying with his
wife, or who infatuately offends against fatherless children, or who
abuses his old father at the cheerless threshold of old age and attacks
him with harsh words, truly Zeus himself is angry, and at the last lays
on him a heavy requittal for his evil doing. But do you turn your
foolish heart altogether away from these things, and, as far as you are
able, sacrifice to the deathless gods purely and cleanly, and burn rich
meats also, and at other times propitiate them with libations and
incense, both when you go to bed and when the holy light has come back,
that they may be gracious to you in heart and spirit, and so you may buy
another's holding and not another yours.
(ll. 342-351) Call your friend to a feast; but leave your enemy
alone; and especially call him who lives near you: for if any mischief
happen in the place, neighbours come ungirt, but kinsmen stay to gird
themselves (9). A bad neighbour is as great a plague as a good one is a
great blessing; he who enjoys a good neighbour has a precious
possession. Not even an ox would die but for a bad neighbour. Take fair
measure from your neighbour and pay him back fairly with the same
measure, or better, if you can; so that if you are in need afterwards,
you may find him sure.
(ll. 352-369) Do not get base gain: base gain is as bad as ruin. Be
friends with the friendly, and visit him who visits you. Give to one who
gives, but do not give to one who does not give. A man gives to the
free-handed, but no one gives to the close- fisted. Give is a good girl,
but Take is bad and she brings death. For the man who gives willingly,
even though he gives a great thing, rejoices in his gift and is glad in
heart; but whoever gives way to shamelessness and takes something
himself, even though it be a small thing, it freezes his heart. He who
adds to what he has, will keep off bright-eyed hunger; for it you add
only a little to a little and do this often, soon that little will
become great. What a man has by him at home does not trouble him: it is
better to have your stuff at home, for whatever is abroad may mean loss.
It is a good thing to draw on what you have; but it grieves your heart
to need something and not to have it, and I bid you mark this. Take your
fill when the cask is first opened and when it is nearly spent, but
midways be sparing: it is poor saving when you come to the lees.
(ll. 370-372) Let the wage promised to a friend be fixed; even with
your brother smile -- and get a witness; for trust and mistrust, alike
(ll. 373-375) Do not let a flaunting woman coax and cozen and deceive
you: she is after your barn. The man who trusts womankind trust
(ll. 376-380) There should be an only son, to feed his father's
house, for so wealth will increase in the home; but if you leave a
second son you should die old. Yet Zeus can easily give great wealth to
a greater number. More hands mean more work and more increase.
(ll. 381-382) If your heart within you desires wealth, do these
things and work with work upon work.
(ll. 383-404) When the Pleiades, daughters of Atlas, are rising (10),
begin your harvest, and your ploughing when they are going to set (11).
Forty nights and days they are hidden and appear again as the year moves
round, when first you sharpen your sickle. This is the law of the
plains, and of those who live near the sea, and who inhabit rich
country, the glens and dingles far from the tossing sea, -- strip to sow
and strip to plough and strip to reap, if you wish to get in all
Demeter's fruits in due season, and that each kind may grow in its
season. Else, afterwards, you may chance to be in want, and go begging
to other men's houses, but without avail; as you have already come to
me. But I will give you no more nor give you further measure. Foolish
Perses! Work the work which the gods ordained for men, lest in bitter
anguish of spirit you with your wife and children seek your livelihood
amongst your neighbours, and they do not heed you. Two or three times,
may be, you will succeed, but if you trouble them further, it will not
avail you, and all your talk will be in vain, and your word-play
unprofitable. Nay, I bid you find a way to pay your debts and avoid
(ll. 405-413) First of all, get a house, and a woman and an ox for
the plough -- a slave woman and not a wife, to follow the oxen as well
-- and make everything ready at home, so that you may not have to ask of
another, and he refuses you, and so, because you are in lack, the season
pass by and your work come to nothing. Do not put your work off till
to-morrow and the day after; for a sluggish worker does not fill his
barn, nor one who puts off his work: industry makes work go well, but a
man who putts off work is always at hand-grips with ruin.
(ll. 414-447) When the piercing power and sultry heat of the sun
abate, and almighty Zeus sends the autumn rains (12), and men's flesh
comes to feel far easier, -- for then the star Sirius passes over the
heads of men, who are born to misery, only a little while by day and
takes greater share of night, -- then, when it showers its leaves to the
ground and stops sprouting, the wood you cut with your axe is least
liable to worm. Then remember to hew your timber: it is the season for
that work. Cut a mortar (13) three feet wide and a pestle three cubits
long, and an axle of seven feet, for it will do very well so; but if you
make it eight feet long, you can cut a beetle (14) from it as well. Cut
a felloe three spans across for a waggon of ten palms' width. Hew also
many bent timbers, and bring home a plough-tree when you have found it,
and look out on the mountain or in the field for one of holm-oak; for
this is the strongest for oxen to plough with when one of Athena's
handmen has fixed in the share-beam and fastened it to the pole with
dowels. Get two ploughs ready work on them at home, one all of a piece,
and the other jointed. It is far better to do this, for if you should
break one of them, you can put the oxen to the other. Poles of laurel or
elm are most free from worms, and a share-beam of oak and a plough-tree
of holm-oak. Get two oxen, bulls of nine years; for their strength is
unspent and they are in the prime of their age: they are best for work.
They will not fight in the furrow and break the plough and then leave
the work undone. Let a brisk fellow of forty years follow them, with a
loaf of four quarters (15) and eight slices (16) for his dinner, one who
will attend to his work and drive a straight furrow and is past the age
for gaping after his fellows, but will keep his mind on his work. No
younger man will be better than he at scattering the seed and avoiding
double-sowing; for a man less staid gets disturbed, hankering after his
(ll. 448-457) Mark, when you hear the voice of the crane (17) who
cries year by year from the clouds above, for she give the signal for
ploughing and shows the season of rainy winter; but she vexes the heart
of the man who has no oxen. Then is the time to feed up your horned oxen
in the byre; for it is easy to say: `Give me a yoke of oxen and a
waggon,' and it is easy to refuse: `I have work for my oxen.' The man
who is rich in fancy thinks his waggon as good as built already -- the
fool! He does not know that there are a hundred timbers to a waggon.
Take care to lay these up beforehand at home.
(ll. 458-464) So soon as the time for ploughing is proclaimed to men,
then make haste, you and your slaves alike, in wet and in dry, to plough
in the season for ploughing, and bestir yourself early in the morning so
that your fields may be full. Plough in the spring; but fallow broken up
in the summer will not belie your hopes. Sow fallow land when the soil
is still getting light: fallow land is a defender from harm and a
soother of children.
(ll. 465-478) Pray to Zeus of the Earth and to pure Demeter to make
Demeter's holy grain sound and heavy, when first you begin ploughing,
when you hold in your hand the end of the plough-tail and bring down
your stick on the backs of the oxen as they draw on the pole-bar by the
yoke-straps. Let a slave follow a little behind with a mattock and make
trouble for the birds by hiding the seed; for good management is the
best for mortal men as bad management is the worst. In this way your
corn-ears will bow to the ground with fullness if the Olympian himself
gives a good result at the last, and you will sweep the cobwebs from
your bins and you will be glad, I ween, as you take of your garnered
substance. And so you will have plenty till you come to grey (18)
springtime, and will not look wistfully to others, but another shall be
in need of your help.
(ll. 479-492) But if you plough the good ground at the solstice (19),
you will reap sitting, grasping a thin crop in your hand, binding the
sheaves awry, dust-covered, not glad at all; so you will bring all home
in a basket and not many will admire you. Yet the will of Zeus who holds
the aegis is different at different times; and it is hard for mortal men
to tell it; for if you should plough late, you may find this remedy --
when the cuckoo first calls (20) in the leaves of the oak and makes men
glad all over the boundless earth, if Zeus should send rain on the third
day and not cease until it rises neither above an ox's hoof nor falls
short of it, then the late-plougher will vie with the early. Keep all
this well in mind, and fail not to mark grey spring as it comes and the
season of rain.
(ll 493-501) Pass by the smithy and its crowded lounge in winter time
when the cold keeps men from field work, -- for then an industrious man
can greatly prosper his house -- lest bitter winter catch you helpless
and poor and you chafe a swollen foot with a shrunk hand. The idle man
who waits on empty hope, lacking a livelihood, lays to heart
mischief-making; it is not an wholesome hope that accompanies a need man
who lolls at ease while he has no sure livelihood.
(ll. 502-503) While it is yet midsummer command your slaves: `It will
not always be summer, build barns.'
(ll. 504-535) Avoid the month Lenaeon (21), wretched days, all of
them fit to skin an ox, and the frosts which are cruel when Boreas blows
over the earth. He blows across horse-breeding Thrace upon the wide sea
and stirs it up, while earth and the forest howl. On many a high-leafed
oak and thick pine he falls and brings them to the bounteous earth in
mountain glens: then all the immense wood roars and the beasts shudder
and put their tails between their legs, even those whose hide is covered
with fur; for with his bitter blast he blows even through them although
they are shaggy-breasted. He goes even through an ox's hide; it does not
stop him. Also he blows through the goat's fine hair. But through the
fleeces of sheep, because their wool is abundant, the keen wind Boreas
pierces not at all; but it makes the old man curved as a wheel. And it
does not blow through the tender maiden who stays indoors with her dear
mother, unlearned as yet in the works of golden Aphrodite, and who
washes her soft body and anoints herself with oil and lies down in an
inner room within the house, on a winter's day when the Boneless One
(22) gnaws his foot in his fireless house and wretched home; for the sun
shows him no pastures to make for, but goes to and fro over the land and
city of dusky men (23), and shines more sluggishly upon the whole race
of the Hellenes. Then the horned and unhorned denizens of the wood, with
teeth chattering pitifully, flee through the copses and glades, and all,
as they seek shelter, have this one care, to gain thick coverts or some
hollow rock. Then, like the Three-legged One (24) whose back is broken
and whose head looks down upon the ground, like him, I say, they wander
to escape the white snow.
(ll. 536-563) Then put on, as I bid you, a soft coat and a tunic to
the feet to shield your body, -- and you should weave thick woof on thin
warp. In this clothe yourself so that your hair may keep still and not
bristle and stand upon end all over your body.
Lace on your feet close-fitting boots of the hide of a slaughtered
ox, thickly lined with felt inside. And when the season of frost comes
on, stitch together skins of firstling kids with ox-sinew, to put over
your back and to keep off the rain. On your head above wear a shaped cap
of felt to keep your ears from getting wet, for the dawn is chill when
Boreas has once made his onslaught, and at dawn a fruitful mist is
spread over the earth from starry heaven upon the fields of blessed men:
it is drawn from the ever flowing rivers and is raised high above the
earth by windstorm, and sometimes it turns to rain towards evening, and
sometimes to wind when Thracian Boreas huddles the thick clouds. Finish
your work and return home ahead of him, and do not let the dark cloud
from heaven wrap round you and make your body clammy and soak your
clothes. Avoid it; for this is the hardest month, wintry, hard for sheep
and hard for men. In this season let your oxen have half their usual
food, but let your man have more; for the helpful nights are long.
Observe all this until the year is ended and you have nights and days of
equal length, and Earth, the mother of all, bears again her various
(ll. 564-570) When Zeus has finished sixty wintry days after the
solstice, then the star Arcturus (25) leaves the holy stream of Ocean
and first rises brilliant at dusk. After him the shrilly wailing
daughter of Pandion, the swallow, appears to men when spring is just
beginning. Before she comes, prune the vines, for it is best so.
(ll. 571-581) But when the House-carrier (26) climbs up the plants
from the earth to escape the Pleiades, then it is no longer the season
for digging vineyards, but to whet your sickles and rouse up your
slaves. Avoid shady seats and sleeping until dawn in the harvest season,
when the sun scorches the body. Then be busy, and bring home your
fruits, getting up early to make your livelihood sure. For dawn takes
away a third part of your work, dawn advances a man on his journey and
advances him in his work, -- dawn which appears and sets many men on
their road, and puts yokes on many oxen.
(ll. 582-596) But when the artichoke flowers (27), and the chirping
grass-hopper sits in a tree and pours down his shrill song continually
from under his wings in the season of wearisome heat, then goats are
plumpest and wine sweetest; women are most wanton, but men are feeblest,
because Sirius parches head and knees and the skin is dry through heat.
But at that time let me have a shady rock and wine of Biblis, a clot of
curds and milk of drained goats with the flesh of an heifer fed in the
woods, that has never calved, and of firstling kids; then also let me
drink bright wine, sitting in the shade, when my heart is satisfied with
food, and so, turning my head to face the fresh Zephyr, from the
everflowing spring which pours down unfouled thrice pour an offering of
water, but make a fourth libation of wine.
(ll. 597-608) Set your slaves to winnow Demeter's holy grain, when
strong Orion (28) first appears, on a smooth threshing-floor in an airy
place. Then measure it and store it in jars. And so soon as you have
safely stored all your stuff indoors, I bid you put your bondman out of
doors and look out for a servant-girl with no children; -- for a servant
with a child to nurse is troublesome. And look after the dog with jagged
teeth; do not grudge him his food, or some time the Day-sleeper (29) may
take your stuff. Bring in fodder and litter so as to have enough for
your oxen and mules. After that, let your men rest their poor knees and
unyoke your pair of oxen.
(ll. 609-617) But when Orion and Sirius are come into mid-heaven, and
rosy-fingered Dawn sees Arcturus (30), then cut off all the
grape-clusters, Perses, and bring them home. Show them to the sun ten
days and ten nights: then cover them over for five, and on the sixth day
draw off into vessels the gifts of joyful Dionysus. But when the
Pleiades and Hyades and strong Orion begin to set (31), then remember to
plough in season: and so the completed year (32) will fitly pass beneath
(ll. 618-640) But if desire for uncomfortable sea-faring seize you;
when the Pleiades plunge into the misty sea (33) to escape Orion's rude
strength, then truly gales of all kinds rage. Then keep ships no longer
on the sparkling sea, but bethink you to till the land as I bid you.
Haul up your ship upon the land and pack it closely with stones all
round to keep off the power of the winds which blow damply, and draw out
the bilge-plug so that the rain of heaven may not rot it. Put away all
the tackle and fittings in your house, and stow the wings of the
sea-going ship neatly, and hang up the well-shaped rudder over the
smoke. You yourself wait until the season for sailing is come, and then
haul your swift ship down to the sea and stow a convenient cargo in it,
so that you may bring home profit, even as your father and mine, foolish
Perses, used to sail on shipboard because he lacked sufficient
livelihood. And one day he came to this very place crossing over a great
stretch of sea; he left Aeolian Cyme and fled, not from riches and
substance, but from wretched poverty which Zeus lays upon men, and he
settled near Helicon in a miserable hamlet, Ascra, which is bad in
winter, sultry in summer, and good at no time.
(ll. 641-645) But you, Perses, remember all works in their season but
sailing especially. Admire a small ship, but put your freight in a large
one; for the greater the lading, the greater will be your piled gain, if
only the winds will keep back their harmful gales.
(ll. 646-662) If ever you turn your misguided heart to trading and
with to escape from debt and joyless hunger, I will show you the
measures of the loud-roaring sea, though I have no skill in sea-faring
nor in ships; for never yet have I sailed by ship over the wide sea, but
only to Euboea from Aulis where the Achaeans once stayed through much
storm when they had gathered a great host from divine Hellas for Troy,
the land of fair women. Then I crossed over to Chalcis, to the games of
wise Amphidamas where the sons of the great-hearted hero proclaimed and
appointed prizes. And there I boast that I gained the victory with a
song and carried off an handled tripod which I dedicated to the Muses of
Helicon, in the place where they first set me in the way of clear song.
Such is all my experience of many-pegged ships; nevertheless I will tell
you the will of Zeus who holds the aegis; for the Muses have taught me
to sing in marvellous song.
(ll. 663-677) Fifty days after the solstice (34), when the season of
wearisome heat is come to an end, is the right time for me to go
sailing. Then you will not wreck your ship, nor will the sea destroy the
sailors, unless Poseidon the Earth-Shaker be set upon it, or Zeus, the
king of the deathless gods, wish to slay them; for the issues of good
and evil alike are with them. At that time the winds are steady, and the
sea is harmless. Then trust in the winds without care, and haul your
swift ship down to the sea and put all the freight no board; but make
all haste you can to return home again and do not wait till the time of
the new wine and autumn rain and oncoming storms with the fierce gales
of Notus who accompanies the heavy autumn rain of Zeus and stirs up the
sea and makes the deep dangerous.
(ll. 678-694) Another time for men to go sailing is in spring when a
man first sees leaves on the topmost shoot of a fig-tree as large as the
foot-print that a cow makes; then the sea is passable, and this is the
spring sailing time. For my part I do not praise it, for my heart does
not like it. Such a sailing is snatched, and you will hardly avoid
mischief. Yet in their ignorance men do even this, for wealth means life
to poor mortals; but it is fearful to die among the waves. But I bid you
consider all these things in your heart as I say. Do not put all your
goods in hallow ships; leave the greater part behind, and put the lesser
part on board; for it is a bad business to meet with disaster among the
waves of the sea, as it is bad if you put too great a load on your
waggon and break the axle, and your goods are spoiled. Observe due
measure: and proportion is best in all things.
(ll. 695-705) Bring home a wife to your house when you are of the
right age, while you are not far short of thirty years nor much above;
this is the right age for marriage. Let your wife have been grown up
four years, and marry her in the fifth. Marry a maiden, so that you can
teach her careful ways, and especially marry one who lives near you, but
look well about you and see that your marriage will not be a joke to
your neighbours. For a man wins nothing better than a good wife, and,
again, nothing worse than a bad one, a greedy soul who roasts her man
without fire, strong though he may be, and brings him to a raw (35) old
(ll. 706-714) Be careful to avoid the anger of the deathless gods. Do
not make a friend equal to a brother; but if you do, do not wrong him
first, and do not lie to please the tongue. But if he wrongs you first,
offending either in word or in deed, remember to repay him double; but
if he ask you to be his friend again and be ready to give you
satisfaction, welcome him. He is a worthless man who makes now one and
now another his friend; but as for you, do not let your face put your
heart to shame (36).
(ll. 715-716) Do not get a name either as lavish or as churlish; as a
friend of rogues or as a slanderer of good men.
(ll. 717-721) Never dare to taunt a man with deadly poverty which
eats out the heart; it is sent by the deathless gods. The best treasure
a man can have is a sparing tongue, and the greatest pleasure, one that
moves orderly; for if you speak evil, you yourself will soon be worse
(ll. 722-723) Do not be boorish at a common feast where there are
many guests; the pleasure is greatest and the expense is least (37).
(ll. 724-726) Never pour a libation of sparkling wine to Zeus after
dawn with unwashen hands, nor to others of the deathless gods; else they
do not hear your prayers but spit them back.
(ll. 727-732) Do not stand upright facing the sun when you make
water, but remember to do this when he has set towards his rising. And
do not make water as you go, whether on the road or off the road, and do
not uncover yourself: the nights belong to the blessed gods. A
scrupulous man who has a wise heart sits down or goes to the wall of an
(ll. 733-736) Do not expose yourself befouled by the fireside in your
house, but avoid this. Do not beget children when you are come back from
ill-omened burial, but after a festival of the gods.
(ll. 737-741) Never cross the sweet-flowing water of ever-rolling
rivers afoot until you have prayed, gazing into the soft flood, and
washed your hands in the clear, lovely water. Whoever crosses a river
with hands unwashed of wickedness, the gods are angry with him and bring
trouble upon him afterwards.
(ll. 742-743) At a cheerful festival of the gods do not cut the
withered from the quick upon that which has five branches (38) with
(ll. 744-745) Never put the ladle upon the mixing-bowl at a wine
party, for malignant ill-luck is attached to that.
(ll. 746-747) When you are building a house, do not leave it
rough-hewn, or a cawing crow may settle on it and croak.
(ll. 748-749) Take nothing to eat or to wash with from uncharmed
pots, for in them there is mischief.
(ll. 750-759) Do not let a boy of twelve years sit on things which
may not be moved (39), for that is bad, and makes a man unmanly; nor yet
a child of twelve months, for that has the same effect. A man should not
clean his body with water in which a woman has washed, for there is
bitter mischief in that also for a time. When you come upon a burning
sacrifice, do not make a mock of mysteries, for Heaven is angry at this
also. Never make water in the mouths of rivers which flow to the sea,
nor yet in springs; but be careful to avoid this. And do not ease
yourself in them: it is not well to do this.
(ll. 760-763) So do: and avoid the talk of men. For Talk is
mischievous, light, and easily raised, but hard to bear and difficult to
be rid of. Talk never wholly dies away when many people voice her: even
Talk is in some ways divine.
(ll. 765-767) Mark the days which come from Zeus, duly telling your
slaves of them, and that the thirtieth day of the month is best for one
to look over the work and to deal out supplies.
(ll. 769-768) (40) For these are days which come from Zeus the
all-wise, when men discern aright.
(ll. 770-779) To begin with, the first, the fourth, and the seventh
-- on which Leto bare Apollo with the blade of gold -- each is a holy
day. The eighth and the ninth, two days at least of the waxing month
(41), are specially good for the works of man. Also the eleventh and
twelfth are both excellent, alike for shearing sheep and for reaping the
kindly fruits; but the twelfth is much better than the eleventh, for on
it the airy-swinging spider spins its web in full day, and then the Wise
One (42), gathers her pile. On that day woman should set up her loom and
get forward with her work.
(ll. 780-781) Avoid the thirteenth of the waxing month for beginning
to sow: yet it is the best day for setting plants.
(ll. 782-789) The sixth of the mid-month is very unfavourable for
plants, but is good for the birth of males, though unfavourable for a
girl either to be born at all or to be married. Nor is the first sixth a
fit day for a girl to be born, but a kindly for gelding kids and sheep
and for fencing in a sheep-cote. It is favourable for the birth of a
boy, but such will be fond of sharp speech, lies, and cunning words, and
(ll. 790-791) On the eighth of the month geld the boar and loud-
bellowing bull, but hard-working mules on the twelfth.
(ll. 792-799) On the great twentieth, in full day, a wise man should
be born. Such an one is very sound-witted. The tenth is favourable for a
male to be born; but, for a girl, the fourth day of the mid-month. On
that day tame sheep and shambling, horned oxen, and the sharp-fanged dog
and hardy mules to the touch of the hand. But take care to avoid
troubles which eat out the heart on the fourth of the beginning and
ending of the month; it is a day very fraught with fate.
(ll. 800-801) On the fourth of the month bring home your bride, but
choose the omens which are best for this business.
(ll. 802-804) Avoid fifth days: they are unkindly and terrible. On a
fifth day, they say, the Erinyes assisted at the birth of Horcus (Oath)
whom Eris (Strife) bare to trouble the forsworn.
(ll. 805-809) Look about you very carefully and throw out Demeter's
holy grain upon the well-rolled (43) threshing floor on the seventh of
the mid-month. Let the woodman cut beams for house building and plenty
of ships' timbers, such as are suitable for ships. On the fourth day
begin to build narrow ships.
(ll. 810-813) The ninth of the mid-month improves towards evening;
but the first ninth of all is quite harmless for men. It is a good day
on which to beget or to be born both for a male and a female: it is
never an wholly evil day.
(ll. 814-818) Again, few know that the twenty-seventh of the month is
best for opening a wine-jar, and putting yokes on the necks of oxen and
mules and swift-footed horses, and for hauling a swift ship of many
thwarts down to the sparkling sea; few call it by its right name.
(ll. 819-821) On the fourth day open a jar. The fourth of the
mid-month is a day holy above all. And again, few men know that the
fourth day after the twentieth is best while it is morning: towards
evening it is less good.
(ll. 822-828) These days are a great blessing to men on earth; but
the rest are changeable, luckless, and bring nothing. Everyone praises a
different day but few know their nature. Sometimes a day is a
stepmother, sometimes a mother. That man is happy and lucky in them who
knows all these things and does his work without offending the deathless
gods, who discerns the omens of birds and avoids transgressions.
(1) That is, the poor man's fare, like `bread and cheese'.
(2) The All-endowed.
(3) The jar or casket contained the gifts of the gods mentioned in l.82.
(4) Eustathius refers to Hesiod as stating that men sprung `from oaks
and stones and ashtrees'. Proclus believed that the Nymphs called Meliae
("Theogony", 187) are intended. Goettling would render: `A race terrible
because of their (ashen) spears.'
(5) Preserved only by Proclus, from whom some inferior MSS. have copied
the verse. The four following lines occur only in Geneva Papyri No. 94.
For the restoration of ll. 169b-c see "Class. Quart." vii. 219-220.
(NOTE: Mr. Evelyn-White means that the version quoted by Proclus stops
at this point, then picks up at l. 170. -- DBK).
(6) i.e. the race will so degenerate that at the last even a new-born
child will show the marks of old age.
(7) Aidos, as a quality, is that feeling of reverence or shame which
restrains men from wrong: Nemesis is the feeling of righteous
indignation aroused especially by the sight of the wicked in undeserved
prosperity (cf. "Psalms", lxxii. 1-19).
(8) The alternative version is: `and, working, you will be much better
loved both by gods and men; for they greatly dislike the idle.'
(9) i.e. neighbours come at once and without making preparations, but
kinsmen by marriage (who live at a distance) have to prepare, and so are
long in coming.
(10) Early in May.
(11) In November.
(12) In October.
(13) For pounding corn.
(14) A mallet for breaking clods after ploughing.
(15) The loaf is a flattish cake with two intersecting lines scored on
its upper surface which divide it into four equal parts.
(16) The meaning is obscure. A scholiast renders `giving eight
mouthfulls'; but the elder Philostratus uses the word in contrast to
(17) About the middle of November.
(18) Spring is so described because the buds have not yet cast their
(19) In December.
(20) In March.
(21) The latter part of January and earlier part of February.
(22) i.e. the octopus or cuttle.
(23) i.e. the darker-skinned people of Africa, the Egyptians or
(24) i.e. an old man walking with a staff (the `third leg' -- as in the
riddle of the Sphinx).
(25) February to March.
(26) i.e. the snail. The season is the middle of May.
(27) In June.
(29) i.e. a robber.
(31) The end of October.
(32) That is, the succession of stars which make up the full year.
(33) The end of October or beginning of November.
(35) i.e. untimely, premature. Juvenal similarly speaks of `cruda
senectus' (caused by gluttony).
(36) The thought is parallel to that of `O, what a goodly outside
(37) The `common feast' is one to which all present subscribe. Theognis
(line 495) says that one of the chief pleasures of a banquet is the
general conversation. Hence the present passage means that such a feast
naturally costs little, while the many present will make pleasurable
(38) i.e. `do not cut your finger-nails'.
(39) i.e. things which it would be sacrilege to disturb, such as tombs.
(40) H.G. Evelyn-White prefers to switch ll. 768 and 769, reading l. 769
first then l. 768. -- DBK
(41) The month is divided into three periods, the waxing, the mid-month,
and the waning, which answer to the phases of the moon.
(42) i.e. the ant.
(43) Such seems to be the meaning here, though the epithet is otherwise
rendered `well-rounded'. Corn was threshed by means of a sleigh with two
runners having three or four rollers between them, like the modern