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Pandora: Hesiod, Works and Days 53-105

Translation copyright 1995 Bruce MacLennan; all rights reserved.


Then Zeus who gathers clouds addressed him angrily,
"You, Iapetos' Son <1>, knowing cunning more than all,
with glee you stole the fire and deceived my mind;
for you will be great sorrow, and for future men.
As fire's price I'll give an evil thing, which all
shall cherish in their hearts, embracing their own scourge."

Thus spoke the sire of gods and men, and laughed aloud.
He bade Hephaistos, well-renowned, to wet the earth
with water speedily, to add both human voice
and strength, to make a face like deathless goddesses',
a maiden's lovely, charming shape; Athena was
to teach the crafts and weaving on the well-wrought loom;
and Aphrodite was to bathe her head with grace
and difficult desire and limb-fatiguing care;
to add a dog-like, shameless mind and thieving ways
he charged to Hermes Argeiphontes <2>, to the guide.

He spoke, and they obeyed Lord Zeus, the Son of Kronos.
Forthwith from earth the famous Doubly-lame One <3> formed
a modest maiden's shape, as Kronos' Son had planned;
Bright-eyed <4> Athene then arrayed and girded her;
The goddess Graces and august Persuasion put
the golden necklaces upon her skin; and then
the fair-tressed Hours crowned her head with spring-time flowers;
Athene draped her frame with every ornament.
The Argos-slaying guide implanted in her breast
deceits and wheedling words, the habits of a thief,
according to loud-thundering Zeus's plans. And speech
the herald of the gods put in, and named the maid
Pandora <5>, since all those who hold Olympian homes
had given gifts to her, sorrows for hard-working men.

But when the sire had made the hopeless, towering trap,
he sent the Argus-slaying, famed swift messenger
of gods to bring the gift to Epimetheus, who
forgot Prometheus told him to accept no gift
from Zeus Olympian, but to send it back in case
it be, perhaps, some evil thing for mortal men.
But when he took and kept the scourge, he understood.

At first the tribes of men had lived upon the earth
apart and free of evils and of tiresome toil
and hard diseases, which have brought to men their dooms <6>,
because by hardship mortal men are quickly aged.
But with her hands the woman raised the jar's great lid,
released all these, devising <7> grievous cares for men.
Alone there, Elpis <8>, in her indestructible home,
remained within, beneath the lip, nor by the door
escaped, because the vessel's lid had stopped her first,
by will of aegis-bearing, cloud-compelling Zeus.
Among the people wander countless miseries;
the earth is full of evils, and the sea is full;
diseases come by day to people, and by night,
spontaneous, rushing, bringing mortals evil things
in silence, since contriving Zeus removed their voice.
And thus from Zeus's mind there can be no escape.


Translator's Notes

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1 Prometheus.
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2 Argeiphontes: "Argos-slaying" or "Serpent-slaying" according to ancient etymologies.
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3 The Doubly-Lame One is Hephaistos.
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4 Conventional translation of Glaukopis; also Owl-faced.
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5 Pan-dora = All-gifts.
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6 lit. their Death Spirits (Keres). A Ker is a hostile female spirit, who brings evils of all sorts, but especially death.
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7 emesato = devised, intended, resolved, planned, contrived. Gantz (Early Greek Myth, p. 157) observes that this word suggests that "Pandora understood in advance the consequences of her action."
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8 Elpis = Hope. It seems paradoxical that all the ills are free to roam, but Hope is trapped in the jar. Gantz (Early Greek Myth, p. 157) suggests that Elpis may mean expectation ("a realistic awareness of just how bad things are and are likely to get"). By trapping Elpis Pandora saved us from true awareness of our predicament.
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