Archilochus

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Archilochus [Ἀρχίλοχος] (c. 680 BC - c. 645 BC) Greek poet and mercenary; his name is also rendered as Archilochos or Arkhilokhus.

Sourced

Fragments

Fragments of Archilochus known primarily from quotations by other ancient writers

  • The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
    • Variant: The fox knows many tricks; the hedgehog one good one.
      • Variant: The fox knows many tricks; and the hedgehog only one; but that is the best one of all.
  • Nothing can be surprising any more or impossible or miraculous, now that Zeus, father of the Olympians has made night out of noonday, hiding the bright sunlight, and . . . fear has come upon mankind. After this, men can believe anything, expect anything. Don't any of you be surprised in future if land beasts change places with dolphins and go to live in their salty pastures, and get to like the sounding waves of the sea more than the land, while the dolphins prefer the mountains.
    • Variant: Zeus, the father of the Olympic Gods, turned mid-day into night, hiding the light of the dazzling Sun; and sore fear came upon men.
  • Some Saian mountaineer
    Struts today with my shield.
    I threw it down by a bush and ran
    When the fighting got hot.
    Life seemed somehow more precious.
    It was a beautiful shield.
    I know where I can buy another
    Exactly like it, just as round.
    • Variant: A Saian boasts about the shield which beside a bush
      though good armour I unwillingly left behind.
      I saved myself, so what do I care about the shield?
      To hell with it! I'll get one soon just as good.
    • Variant: I don't give a damn if some Thracian ape strut
      Proud of that first-rate shield the bushes got.
      Leaving it was hell, but in a tricky spot
      I kept my hide intact. Good shields can be bought. (as translated by Stuart Silverman)
    • Variant: Let who will boast their courage in the field,
      I find but little safety from my shield.
      Nature's, not honour's, law we must obey:
      This made me cast my useless shield away,
      And by a prudent flight and cunning save
      A life, which valour could not, from the grave.
      A better buckler I can soon regain;
      But who can get another life again?
  • These golden matters
    Of Gyges and his treasuries
    Are no concern of mine.
    Jealousy has no power over me,
    Nor do I envy a god his work,
    And I do not burn to rule.
    Such things have no
    Fascination for my eyes.
    • Variant: The affairs of gold-laden Gyges do not interest me
      zealousy of the gods has never seized me nor anger
      at their deeds. But I have no love for great tyranny
      for its deeds are very far from my eyes.

Be bold! That's one way

A fragment as translated by Guy Davenport

  • Be bold! That's one way
    Of getting through life.

    So I turn upon her
    And point out that,
    Faced with the wickedness
    Of things, she does not shiver.
  • I know how to love those
    Who love me, how to hate.
  • You whom the soldiers beat,
    You who are all but dead,
    How the gods love you
    And I, alone in the dark,
    I was promised the light.

To his soul

"Archilochos: To His Soul" : A fragment as translated from the Greek by Jon Corelis

  • Soul, my soul, don't let them break you,
    all these troubles. Never yield:
    though their force is overwhelming,
    up! attack them shield to shield...
  • Take the joy and bear the sorrow,
    looking past your hopes and fears:
    learn to recognize the measured
    dance that orders all our years.

Quotes about Archilochus

  • There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of these dark words, which may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog's one defence. But, taken figuratively, the words can be made to yield a sense in which they mark one of the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general. For there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single, universal, organizing principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance — and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory... Their thought is scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects for what they are in themselves, without, consciously or unconsciously, seeking to fit them into, or exclude them from any one unchanging, all-embracing, sometimes self-contradictory and incomplete, at times fanatical, unitary inner vision. The first kind of intellectual and artistic personality belongs to the hedgehogs, the second to the foxes; and without insisting on a rigid classification, we may, without too much fear of contradiction, say that, in this sense, Dante belongs to the first category, Shakespeare to the second. ~ Isaiah Berlin in The Hedgehog and the Fox (1957).

External links

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