An excerpt from Hesiod’s Works and Days, translated by A. E. Stallings

An excerpt from Hesiod’s Works and Days, translated by A. E. Stallings

So Perses, you be heedful of what’s right;

Don’t nurture Arrogance—she’s a disaster

For lowly mortals; she will overmaster

Even noble men and crush them with her load

Once they encounter troubles. The better road

Is the one bypassing Arrogance to wend

To Justice; Justice triumphs in the end.

The fool learns this the hard way, for Oath hunts

Down crooked verdicts, dogging them at once,

And when Justice is dragged away to court

By swallowers of bribes, who make a sport

Of judgments, there’s an outcry. Then she’ll hide

Herself in mist, and roam where men abide,

Weeping through the city, and bringing trouble

To those who drove her out and who deal double.

But when men deal in justice straight and fair

Alike to citizen and foreigner

And do not overstep law or presume,

Their city flourishes, their people bloom,

Then Peace, who rears young men, on earth holds sway,

And Zeus, far-seer, keeps cruel War at bay.

Famine and folly pass the righteous by:

The just feast on what well-worked fields supply.

The earth abounds for them: the mountain oak

Is acorn-crowned, and bee-filled, for such folk.

Their sheep are heavy-laden with wool. Their wives

Bear children that favor fathers. Throughout their lives

They bloom with blessings. They need never sail:

The land provides for them and does not fail.

 

But Zeus marks evil-doers, who sow seeds

Of pride, and punishes their wicked deeds.

And often a whole city pays the price

For one bad man’s outrageousness and vice.

Zeus son of Kronos rains down woe like weather

Out of the sky, hunger and plague together.

Men die. Wives don’t give birth. Households reduce

According to the will of Olympian Zeus.

At other times, he mows broad armies down,

Or levels walls, or makes armadas drown.

So Judges, mind this judgment: understand

The deathless ones are always close at hand

Marking those crooked judges who have trod

On others, heedless men who fear no god.

Thrice myriad, the watchers over men

Who keep our courts and crimes within their ken,

This deathless host that wander everywhere

Over the earth, invisible as air.

 

There is a maiden, Justice, child of Zeus,

Revered by the gods. When men play fast and loose

With her good name, then straightaway she flies

To Daddy’s side and tells Him of their lies, 260

Until the city’s people make amends

For those who twisted justice to their ends,

Heedlessly. Therefore, bribe-eating judges,

Beware. Judge rightly, and forget your grudges.

He harms himself who harms another man;

The plotter is the worst hurt by the plan.

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