Tag Archives: Sophocles

‘Many marvels walk through the world’

Antigone and Polynice. Benjamin Constant.
Antigone and Polynice. Benjamin Constant.

 

Sophocles (trans. Richard Emil Braun)

 

Chorus:

Many marvels walk through the world,

terrible, wonderful,

but none more than humanity,

which makes a way under winter rain,

over the gray deep of the sea,

proceeds where it swells and swallows;

that grinds at the Earth—

undwindling, unwearied, first of the gods—

to its own purpose,

as the plow is driven, turning year into year,

through generations as colt follows mare.

 

Weaves and braids the meshes to hurl—

circumspect man—

and to drive lightheaded tribes of birds his prisoners,

and the animals,

nations in fields, race of the salty ocean;

and fools and conquers the monsters

whose roads and houses are hills,

the shaggy-necked horse that he holds subject,

and the mountain oxen that he yokes under beams,

bowing their heads,

his unwearying team.

 

The breath of his life he has taught to be

language, be the spirit of thought;

griefs, to give laws to nations;

fears, to dodge weapons

of rains and winds and the homeless cold—

always clever,

he never fails to find ways

for whatever future;

manages cures for the hardest maladies;

from death alone he has secured no refuge.

 

With learning and with ingenuity

over his horizon of faith

mankind crawls

now to failure, now to worth.

And when he has bound the laws of this earth

beside Justice pledged to the gods,

he rules his homeland;

but he has no home

who recklessly marries an illegitimate cause.

Fend this stranger from my mind’s home and home’s hearth.