Translated by Steven Willett
Note: Melos is on the southwest edge of the Cyclades, beyond which is open sea.
If I had possessions, Simonides, such as I once had,
I wouldn’t be grieved associating with noble men,
but now I’m aware they pass me by, and I’m voiceless
with want, though recognizing better than many
that we’re now being carried with white sails lowered
beyond the Melian sea through the murky night,
not willing to bail the ship, though the sea washes over
both sides. It’s extremely difficult for anyone
to escape, such as they act; they’ve deposed the helmsman,
a noble man, who skillfully had kept watch;
they seize possessions by force, discipline is destroyed,
and there’s no equal sharing in common interest;
the merchantmen rule, and the base stand over the noble.
I fear that a wave will swallow the ship.
Let these be my allusive words hidden for the noble.
But anyone can see misfortune, if he’s skilled.