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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Fragments from Lost Plays

By Euripides (c. 480–406 B.C.)

Translation of John Addington Symonds

Professional Athletics

OF all the thousand ills that prey on Hellas,

Not one is greater than the tribe of athletes;

For, first, they never learn how to live well,—

Nor indeed could they; seeing that a man

Slave to his jaws and belly, cannot hope

To heap up wealth superior to his sire’s.

How to be poor and row in fortune’s boat

They know no better; for they have not learned

Manners that make men proof against ill luck.

Lustrous in youth, they lounge like living statues

Decking the streets; but when sad old age comes,

They fall and perish like a threadbare coat.

I’ve often blamed the customs of us Hellenes,

Who for the sake of such men meet together

To honor idle sport and feed our fill;

For who, I pray you, by his skill in wrestling,

Swiftness of foot, good boxing, strength at quoits,

Has served his city by the crown he gains?

Will they meet men in fight with quoits in hand,

Or in the press of shields drive forth the foeman

By force of fisticuffs from hearth and home?

Such follies are forgotten face to face

With steel. We therefore ought to crown with wreaths

Men wise and good, and him who guides the State,

A man well-tempered, just, and sound in counsel,

Or one who by his words averts ill deeds,

Warding off strife and warfare; for such things

Bring honor on the city and all Hellenes.

Children a Blessing

LADY, the sun’s light to our eyes is dear,

And fair the tranquil reaches of the sea,

And flowery earth in May, and bounding waters;

And so right many fair things I might praise;

Yet nothing is so radiant and so fair

As for souls childless, with desire sore smitten,

To see the light of babes about the house.


THINK’ST thou that Death will heed thy tears at all,

Or send thy son back if thou wilt but groan?

Nay, cease; and gazing at thy neighbor’s grief,

Grow calm—if thou wilt take the pains to reckon

How many have toiled out their lives in bonds,

How many wear to old age, robbed of children,

And all who from the tyrant’s height of glory

Have sunk to nothing. These things shouldst thou heed.

No man was ever born who did not suffer:

He buries children, then begets new sons,

Then dies himself; and men forsooth are grieved,

Consigning dust to dust. Yet needs must be

Lives should be garnered like ripe harvest sheaves,

And one man live, another perish. Why

Mourn over that which nature puts upon us?

Naught that must be is terrible to mortals.

“Captive Good Attending Captain Ill”

DOTH some one say that there be gods above?

There are not; no, there are not. Let no fool,

Led by the old false fable, thus deceive you.

Look at the facts themselves, yielding my words

No undue credence; for I say that kings

Kill, rob, break oaths, lay cities waste by fraud,

And doing thus are happier than those

Who live calm pious lives day after day.

How many little States that serve the gods

Are subject to the godless but more strong,

Made slaves by might of a superior army!