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

The time is ripe for sailing the fifty days

Past solstice, summer in its closing phase,

Season of toil. You will not shipwreck then,

Nor will the sea extinguish all your men,

Unless Earth-shaker, Poseidon, is annoyed,

Or Zeus, King of the Gods, wants you destroyed:

In their hands lies fulfillment, good and ill.

While breezes are predictable, when still

The sea is harmless, then, with confidence,

You can entrust your swift ship to the winds—

Drag it to the sea, load all your freight.

But sail back home quick as you can—don’t wait

For the new wine and autumnal rain, the fast

Onset of winter, South Wind’s fearsome blast

That roils the sea, with the thick autumnal rain

Of Zeus, that makes the sea a sea of pain.

 

In spring’s another chance to sail—when figs

Put forth their new leaves from the topmost twigs,

The size of crow’s feet–that’s when first the sea

Is passable, that is spring sailing—me,

I do not recommend it. There’s no charm

In a snatched season—you’d scarce flee from harm.

Men do it though, in ignorance of mind—

Money’s the breath of life for poor mankind, *

But death at sea’s a dreadful thing. Have thought

Of all that I proclaim to you: do not

Load hollow ships with your whole livelihood.

Keep most aside, a lesser portion’s good.

It’s terrible to meet a watery fate,

Bad too if loading your cart with too much weight,

You shatter the axle, and you spoil the freight.

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