Sophocles (trans. Richard Emil Braun)
Many marvels walk through the world,
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—
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—
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
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.