Few match their fathers. Any tongue can tell
The more are worse: yea, almost none their sires excel.
[παῦροι γάρ τοι παῖδες ὁμοῖοι πατρὶ πέλονται,
οἱ πλέονες κακίους, παῦροι δέ τε πατρὸς ἀρείους.]
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 2, l. 276ff (2.276) [Athena to Telemachus] (c. 700 BC) [tr. Worsley (1861), st. 37]
(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:
For few, that rightly bred on both sides stand,
Are like their parents, many that are worse,
And most few better. Those then that the nurse
Or mother call true-born yet are not so,
Like worthy sires much less are like to grow.
[tr. Chapman (1616)]
Few sons exceed or reach their father’s might,
But commonly inferior they are.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 257ff]
Few sons attain the praise
Of their great sires, and most their sires disgrace.
[tr. Pope (1725)]
Few sons their fathers equal; most appear
Degenerate; but we find, though rare, sometimes
A son superior even to his Sire.
[tr. Cowper (1792)]
Few be the children equal to their father:
The most be worse: and few be better men.
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]
For few children, truly, are like their father; lo, the more part are worse, yet a few are better than the sire.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]
Though not oft is the son meseemeth e'en such an one as his sire.
Worser they be for the more part, and a few may be better forsooth.
[tr. Morris (1887)]
Few sons are like their fathers; most are worse, few better than the father.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]
Sons are seldom as good men as their fathers; they are generally worse, not better.
[tr. Butler (1898)]
Few sons indeed are like their fathers; most are worse, few better than their fathers.
[tr. Murray (1919)]
Few are the sons who attain their fathers' stature: and very few surpass them. Most fall short in merit.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]
Few sons, indeed, are like their fathers. Generally they are worse; but just a few are better.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]
The son is rare who measures with his father,
and one in a thousand is a better man.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]
For few are the children who turn out to be equals of their fathers,
and the greater number are worse; few are better than their father is.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]
Few sons are the equals of their fathers;
most fall short, all too few surpass them.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]
You know, few sons turn out to be like their fathers;
Most turn out worse, a few better.
[tr. Lombardo (2000), ll. 300-301]
It is a truth that few sons are the equal of their fathers; most are inferior to their father, and few surpass them.
[tr. Verity (2016), l. 276]
And it is rare for sons to be like fathers;
only a few are better, most are worse.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]
It’s true few men
are like their fathers. Most of them are worse.
Only very few of them are better.
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 373ff]
Added on 10-Nov-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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