Thrice Ten Thousand Spirits: On Newly Written Interfaith Prayers And Works And Days
‘On his first full day in office, President Obama is spending part of the morning at the Washington National Cathedral, placing his own stamp on the traditional National Prayer Service with a larger-than-usual group of interfaith religious leaders participating and newly written prayers meant to emphasize liberty and diversity.’
‘Obama will meet today with his top military and security advisers to attempt to devise a strategy for pulling troops out of Iraq and escalating the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan. He will be meeting with his economic team as well. He is also expected to name former senator and veteran international troubleshooter George Mitchell as Mideast envoy.’
(ll. 225-237) But they who give straight judgements to strangers and to the men of the land, and go not aside from what is just, their city flourishes, and the people prosper in it: Peace, the nurse of children, is abroad in their land, and all-seeing Zeus never decrees cruel war against them. Neither famine nor disaster ever haunt men who do true justice; but light-heartedly they tend the fields which are all their care. The earth bears them victual in plenty, and on the mountains the oak bears acorns upon the top and bees in the midst. Their woolly sheep are laden with fleeces; their women bear children like their parents. They flourish continually with good things, and do not travel on ships, for the grain-giving earth bears them fruit.
(ll. 238-247) But for those who practise violence and cruel deeds far-seeing Zeus, the son of Cronos, ordains a punishment. Often even a whole city suffers for a bad man who sins and devises presumptuous deeds, and the son of Cronos lays great trouble upon the people, famine and plague together, so that the men perish away, and their women do not bear children, and their houses become few, through the contriving of Olympian Zeus. And again, at another time, the son of Cronos either destroys their wide army, or their walls, or else makes an end of their ships on the sea.
(ll. 248-264) You princes, mark well this punishment you also; for the deathless gods are near among men and mark all those who oppress their fellows with crooked judgements, and reck not the anger of the gods. For upon the bounteous earth Zeus has thrice ten thousand spirits, watchers of mortal men, and these keep watch on judgements and deeds of wrong as they roam, clothed in mist, all over the earth. And there is virgin Justice, the daughter of Zeus, who is honoured and reverenced among the gods who dwell on Olympus, and whenever anyone hurts her with lying slander, she sits beside her father, Zeus the son of Cronos, and tells him of men's wicked heart, until the people pay for the mad folly of their princes who, evilly minded, pervert judgement and give sentence crookedly. Keep watch against this, you princes, and make straight your judgements, you who devour bribes; put crooked judgements altogether from your thoughts.
Hesiod: Works And Days
translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White
Photo credits: (c) Gerald Martineau/Washington Post 2009. Copyright controlled; (c) Joshua Roberts-Pool/Getty Images 2009. Copyright controlled.