Xenophanes on a good banquet

Xenophanes Elegy Fragment 1 Ath. 11462c

Translated by Steven Willett

 

Note: Xenophanes of Colophon c. 570~478BC was a philosopher and poet critical of polytheism.

 

For now the floor is spotless and spotless all our hands

   and drinking cups; one crowns us with plaited wreathes,

another hands round a saucer of sweet-smelling perfume;

   the mixing-bowl stands full of festivity;

still more wine is waiting, and says it won’t desert us,

   mellow in earthen jars, redolent of flowers;

frankincense throws out, amid all this, its pure, holy aroma

   and the water’s sweet and unsullied;

beside us golden loaves have been set and stately tables

   sagging beneath heaped cheese and thick honey;

a central altar has vanished under thickening flowers,

   and music and revelry hold sway about the room.

Men of good cheer should first should hymn the god

   with auspicious tales and immaculate words,

after pouring libations and praying for the ability

   to achieve just behavior—for this is more obvious,

not hubris—. Drink as much as you can sustain going

   home without an attendant unless you’re very old;

and praise that man after drinking shows noble thoughts,

   so that there’s memory of and straining for virtue;

it's worthless to marshal the wars of Titans or Giants

and Centaurs, affectations of our predecessors,

or furious factions—with them nothing useful exists—.

   It is good to always hold regard for the gods.

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6 Responses to Xenophanes on a good banquet

  1. Avatar turcopolier says:

    mark
    I think someone had too much time on his hands.

  2. Avatar Deap says:

    21st century version: Party on, Wayne.

  3. Just the title alone sent me back to my little book of Latin poetry. I remembered a fragment by Catullus introduced in my little book as “An invitation to (bring) a good dinner Catullus XIII, 1-8.” It still has my scribbled translation between the lines.
    Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud me
    paucis si tibi di favent, diebus –
    si tecum attuleris bonam atque magnam
    cenum non sine candida puella
    et vino et sale et omnibus cachinnis.
    Haec si, inquam attuleris, venuste noster,
    cenabus bene: nam tui Catulli
    plenus sacculis est aranearum.
    I quess you can roughly translate it as “Come over to my place for a party. Don’t forget the wine, food, hot chick and entertainment. Should be great.”
    My little book also has a response by Catullus to a letter from Caesar quite different from his normal light hearted fare.
    Nil minium studeo, Caesar, tibi velle placere,
    hec scire utrum sis albus an ater homo.
    Pretty ballsy for a young poet. He tells Caesar that he doesn’t give a rat’s ass who he is or what he thinks.
    Thanks for these passages of translated poetry, Steven Willet. Translating poetry from a different language, different culture and different time into something that reads well to a modern reader requires great skill and literary ability. It’s far beyond anything I could muster. I’m more comfortable with Robert Service or perhaps Robert Frost if I’m feeling more contemplative.

  4. Avatar anon says:

    I am a gambling man
    going down to new orleans
    thats the plan
    follow my dreams.
    An old man who rolls the dice
    on congo square
    said you have to pay the price
    to go from here to there.
    Took out my spinning dollar
    it had two tales
    one man wore a white collar
    the other had lived in jails.
    I flipped the coin into the air
    saw it fall to the ground
    it landed on its edge square
    with a ringing sound.
    Folliw your destiny
    your path lies elsewhere
    the old man said carefully
    and pointed to a tree there.
    I walked on over
    a heavy weight on my soul
    Time became slower
    In the distance a bell began to toll
    I stood before a weeping willow
    I heard voices singing out loud
    With anger and sorrow
    Still defiant and proud
    Sometimes when you hear the beat of a drum
    from far away
    or an old guitar strum
    you might hear the blues play.

  5. Avatar mcohen says:

    the final version.
    hear the blues play
    I am a gambling man
    going down to new orleans
    thats the plan
    follow my dreams.
    There’s old woman who rolls the dice
    on congo square
    she said you have to pay the price
    to go from here to there.
    Took out my spinning dollar
    it had two tales
    one man wore a white collar
    the other had lived in jails.
    I flipped the coin into the air
    saw it fall to the ground
    it landed on its edge square
    with a ringing sound.
    Follow your destiny
    let the coin roll
    said the old woman softly
    fill your empty bowl
    I walked on over
    a heavy weight on my soul
    Time became slower
    In the distance a bell began to toll
    I stood before a weeping willow
    I heard voices singing out loud
    With anger and sorrow
    Still defiant and proud
    Sometimes when you hear the beat of a drum
    from far away
    or an old guitar strum
    you might hear the blues play.

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