Many wonders, many terrors,
But none more wonderful than the human race
Or more dangerous.
This creature travels on a winter gale
Across the silver sea,
Shadowed by high-surging waves,
While on Earth, grandest of the gods,
He grinds the deathless, tireless land away,
Turning and turning the plow
From year to year, behind driven horses.

[πολλὰ τὰ δεινὰ κοὐδὲν ἀνθρώπου δεινότερον πέλει.
τοῦτο καὶ πολιοῦ πέραν πόντου χειμερίῳ νότῳ
χωρεῖ, περιβρυχίοισιν
περῶν ὑπ᾽ οἴδμασιν.
θεῶν τε τὰν ὑπερτάταν, Γᾶν
ἄφθιτον, ἀκαμάταν, ἀποτρύεται
ἰλλομένων ἀρότρων ἔτος εἰς ἔτος
ἱππείῳ γένει πολεύων.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 332ff, Stasimon 1, Strophe 1 [Chorus] (441 BC) [tr. Woodruff (2001)]

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Many the things that mighty be,
And nought is more might than -- MAN.
For he can cross the foaming ocean,
What time the stormy South is blowing,
Steering amid the mantling waves that roar around him.
And for his uses he wearieth
Earth, the highest Deity,
The immortal, the untiring one,
As year by year the ploughs are drawn
Up and down the furrow'd field,
To and fro his harness'd teams --
The seed of horses -- driving.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

Many wonders there be, but naught more wondrous than man;
Over the surging sea, with a whitening south wind wan,
Through the foam of the firth, man makes his perilous way;
And the eldest of deities Earth that knows not toil nor decay
Ever he furrows and scores, as his team, year in year out,
With breed of the yoked horse, the ploughshare turneth about.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

Many a wonder lives and moves, but the wonder of all is man,
That courseth over the grey ocean, carried of Southern gale,
Faring amidst high-swelling seas that rudely surge around,
And Earth, supreme of mighty Gods, eldest, imperishable,
Eternal, he with patient furrow wears and wears away
As year by year the plough-shares turn and turn, --
Subduing her unwearied strength with children of the steed.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man. This power spans the sea, even when it surges white before the gales of the south-wind, and makes a path under swells that threaten to engulf him. Earth, too, the eldest of the gods, the immortal, the unwearied, he wears away to his own ends, turning the soil with the offspring of horses as the plows weave to and fro year after year.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man; the power that crosses the white sea, driven by the stormy south-wind, making a path under surges that threaten to engulf him; and Earth, the eldest of the gods, the immortal, the unwearied, doth he wear, turning the soil with the offspring of horses,as the ploughs go to and fro from year to year.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

Numberless are the world’s wonders, but none
More wonderful than man; the stormgray sea
Yields to his prows, the huge crests bear him high;
Earth, holy and inexhaustible, is graven
With shining furrows where his plows have gone
Year after year, the timeless labor of stallions.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939)]

Wonders are many on earth, and the greatest of these
Is man, who rides the ocean and takes his way
Through the deeps, though wide-swept valleys of perilous seas
That surge and sway.
He is master of ageless Earth, to his own will bending
The immortal mother of gods by the sweat of his brow,
As year succeeds to year, with toil unending
Of mule and plough.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 279ff]

Many the wonders, but nothing walks stranger than man.
This thing crosses the sea in the winter's storm,
making his path through the roaring waves.
And she, the greatest of gods, the earth --
ageless she is, and unwearied -- he wars her away
as the ploughts go up and down from year to year
and his mules turn up the soil.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

Wonders are many, yet of all
Things is Man the most wonderful.
He can sail on the stormy sea
Through tempest rage, and the loud
Waves roar around, as he makes his
Path amid the towering surge.
Earth inexhaustible, ageless, he wearies, as
Backwards and forwards, from season to season, his
Ox-team drives along the ploughshare.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

Numberless wonders
terrible wonders walk the world but none the match for man --
that great wonder crossing the heaving gray sea,
driven on by the blasts of winter
on through breakers crashing left and right,
holds his steady course
and the oldest of the gods he wears away --
the Earth, the immortal, the inexhaustible --
as his plows go back and forth, year in, year out
with the breed of stallions turning up the furrows.
[tr. Fagles (1982), l. 376ff]

Many things cause terror and wonder, yet nothing
is more terrifying and wonderful than man.
This thing goes across the gray
sea on the blasts of winter
storms, passing beneath
waters towering ’round him. The Earth,
eldest of the gods,
unwithering and untiring, this thing wears down
as his plows go back and forth year after year
furrowing her with the issue of horses.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

Wonders abound in this world yet no wonder is greater than man. None!
Through the wild white of a frenzied sea and through the screaming northerlies beneath him and through all the furious storms around him, through all this, man can pass!
And Gods’ most glorious Earth, the imperishable, untiring Earth, this man works with his horses and ploughs, year in, year out.
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

There are many strange and wonderful things,
but nothing more strangely wonderful than man.
He moves across the white-capped ocean seas
blasted by winter storms, carving his way
under the surging waves engulfing him.
With his teams of horses he wears down
the unwearied and immortal earth,
the oldest of the gods, harassing her,
as year by year his ploughs move back and forth.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 388ff]

This world has many wonders, but nothing is more wondrous than humanity. It crosses even the grey sea with a stormy south wind, passing under churning waves in open water; and the oldest of the gods, immortal, inexhaustible Earth, it wears away. With ploughs it winds back and forth, year after year, turning up the soil with the offspring of horses.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]

There are many wonders and none
is more surprising than humanity.
This thing that crosses the sea
as it whorls under a stormy wind
finding a path on enveloping waves.
It wears down imperishable Earth, too,
the oldest of the gods, a tireless deity,
as the plows trace lives from year to year
drawn by the race of horses.
[tr. @sentantiq (2019)]

Added on 22-Apr-21 | Last updated 9-May-21
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