Distant Warblings

We are happy to see the publication this week of Daryl Hines’ new and much anticipated verse translation of Hesiod’s Works and Days (Chicago, 2005). Hesiod’s erotic and mythic pastorals strike a timely balance to his more epical and well-known contemporary Homer. For an age as weary of battle as ours, Hesiod seems newly relevant. Here is the creation of Pandora, vividly rendered as a punishment to our distant patron Prometheus:

Then cloud-gathering Zeus to Prometheus said in his anger:
“Iapetus’s brat, since you’re so much smarter than anyone else, you’re
Happy to outwit me, and rejoice in the fire you have stolen—
For yourself a calamity, also for men of the future.
For I shall give them a bad thing, too, in exchange for this fire, which
Heartily all may delight in, embracing a homegrown evil.”
Speaking, the father of gods and of mankind exploded in laughter.
Then he commanded Hephaestus, the world-famed craftsman, as soon as
Possible to mix water and earth, and infuse in it human
Speech, also strength, and to make it look like a goddess, and give it
Likewise a girl-like form that was pretty and lovesome. Athena
Would instruct her in handwork and weaving of intricate fabrics;
Furthermore, gold Aphrodite should drip charm over her head to
Cause heartsore longing, emotional anguish exhausting the body.
Zeus gave instructions to Hermes, the sure guide, slayer of Argus,
To put in her the heart of a bitch and a devious nature.
Then did the famed lame god manufacture at once from the earth a
Fair simulacrum of one shy maiden, according to Zeus’s will.
Next to her skin did the godlike Graces and gracious Persuasion
Carefully place gold necklaces; round her adorable head the
Hours who are gorgeously coiffed wove garlands of beautiful spring flowers.
Hermes, our sure guide, slayer of Argus, contrived in her breast
Lies and misleadingly false words joined to a devious nature,
At the behest of the deep-voiced thunderer, Zeus; and the herald
God of the gods then gave her a voice. And he called her Pandora,
Seeing how all who inhabit lofty Olympus had given
Something to pretty Pandora, that giant bane to industrious mankind.

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