Half-Empty or Half-Full? Take Your Pick.

Those who found the last epigram a bit morbid may wish to skip the first of this matched pair:

“Posidippus, or Plato the Comic Poet” (A.P. 9.359):

Ποίην τις βιότοιο τάμῃ τρίβον; εἰν ἀγορῇ μὲν
    νείκεα καὶ χαλεπαὶ πρήξιες· ἐν δὲ δόμοις
φροντίδες· ἐν δ᾿ ἀγροῖς καμάτων ἅλις· ἐν δὲ θαλάσσῃ
    τάρβος· ἐπὶ ξείνης δ᾿, ἢν μὲν ἔχεις τι, δέος·
ἢν δ᾿ ἀπορῇς, ἀνιηρόν. ἔχεις γάμον; οὐκ ἀμέριμνος
    ἔσσεαι· οὐ γαμέεις; ζῇς ἔτ᾿ ἐρημότερος·
τέκνα πόνοι, πήρωσις ἄπαις βίος· αἱ νεότητες
    ἄφρονες, αἱ πολιαὶ δ᾿ ἔμπαλιν ἀδρανέες.
ἦν ἄρα τοῖν δισσοῖν ἐνὸς αἵρεσις, ἢ τὸ γενέσθαι
    μηδέποτ᾿, ἢ τὸ θανεῖν αὐτίκα τικτόμενων.

What path of life should one pursue? In the market place are broils and business difficulties, and at home are anxieties; in the country there is too much labour, and at sea there is fear. In a foreign land there is apprehension if you possess anything, and if you are ill off, life is a burden. You are married? You won’t be without cares. You are unmarried? You live a still more lonely life. Children are a trouble, and a childless life is a crippled one. Youth is foolish, and old age again is feeble. There is then, it seems, a choice between two things, either not to be born or to die at once on being born.

Metrodorus (A.P. 9.360):

Παντοίην βιότοιο τάμοις τρίβον; εἰν ἀγορῇ μὲν
    κύδεα καὶ πινυταὶ πρήξιες· ἐν δὲ δόμοις
ἄμπαυμ᾿· ἐν δ᾿ ἀγροῖς Φύσιος χάρις· ἐν δὲ θαλάσσῃ
    κέρδος. ἐπὶ ξείνης δ᾿, ἢν μὲν ἔχεις τι, κλέος·
ἢν δ᾿ ἀπορῇς, μόνος οἶδας. ἔχεις γάμον; οἶκος ἄριστος
    ἔσσεται· οὐ γαμέεις; ζῇς ἔτ᾿ ἐλαφρότερος.
τέκνα πόθος, ἄφροντις ἄπαις βίος· αἱ νεότητες
    ῥωμαλέαι, πολιαὶ δ᾿ ἔμπαλιν εὐσεβέες.
οὐκ ἄρα τῶν δισσῶν ἐνὸς αἵρεσις, ἢ τὸ γενέσθαι
    μηδέποτ᾿, ἢ τὸ θανεῖν· πάντα γὰρ ἐσθλὰ βίῳ.

Pursue every path of life. In the market place are honours and prudent dealings, at home rest; in the country the charm of nature, and at sea profit; in a foreign country, if you have any possessions, there is fame, and if you are in want no one knows it but yourself. Are you married? Your house will be the best of houses. Do you remain unmarried? Your life is yet lighter. Children are darlings; a childless life is free from care. Youth is strong, and old age again pious. Therefore there is no choice between two things, either not to be born or to die; for all in life is excellent.

(translations from W. R. Paton’s Loeb)

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