10. Works and days, by Hesiod c.700 BC


Plot: Mostly a string of advice from the Poet to his wastrel brother Perses, on the ethical and practical benefits of hard work and honesty, in various spheres of life, including city life, farming, seamanship, marriage and social behaviour.

My thoughts : Apart from some mythological examples near the beginning, the bulk of the poem is a list of advice which became as tedious to me as it must have to Perses, who probably ignored the lot.

Like Homer, there is some doubt over whether Hesiod was the author of both The Theogony and Works and Days. While they are different in style and content, they do share some similarities, notably the poor opinion of women, sent as a curse by Zeus to punish Prometheus. This doesn’t stop the Poet from recommending marriage towards the end of the poem. Actually, if I was to have an opinion on authorship, I would be tempted to say that the first half of Works and Days could have been written by Hesiod, but the latter half is not as engaging and could have been tacked on from another author.

Favourite lines/passages

“By day, men work and grieve unceasingly; by night, they waste away and die”

but more cheeringly,

“Exhausting summertime has come, The goats are very fat, and wine is very good.

Women are full of lust, but men are weak, …. But at this time I love a shady rock, and Bibline wine,

a cake of cheese and goat’s milk, and some meat of heifers pastured in the wood …

Then may I sit in shade and drink the shining wine, and eat my fill, and turn my face to meet the fresh West Wind… “

Diversions/digressions : The brief mythological stories at the beginning mention Pandora as the woman who curses mankind by releasing all the troubles, worries and diseases. My children and I were very fond of the Japanese anime Cardcaptor Sakura which was a magical girl story loosely based on the Pandora myth. Mmmm, maybe I should have done an animation blog instead! 🙂


Personal rating : 2/10

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