Widely considered the first poet in the Western tradition to address the matter of his own experience, Hesiod occupies a seminal position in literary history. The Theogony brings together and formalizes many of the Greek myth narratives, detailing the genealogy of the Greek gods and their violent struggles for power. Works and Days seems on its face to be a compendium of advice about managing a farm, but it ranges far beyond this scope to meditate on the virtues of a good life, morality, justice, and the place of humans in the universe.
Considered foundational texts of Western literature, these poems are concerned with orderliness and organization, and they proclaim those ideals from small scale to vast, from the legibility of a handful of seeds to the story of the cosmos. Presented here in a bilingual edition, Johnson's translation takes care to preserve Hesiod's expression of his themes in the structure of his lines and sentences, achieving a sonic and rhythmic balance that enables us to hear his music across the millennia.
Hesiod is believed to have lived in the eighth century B.C. Works and Days and Theogony are ascribed to him, though it isn't certain that the same poet wrote both. He is the first poet in Western literatuare to have written about himself, in this respect distinct from Homer.
Kimberly Johnson is associate professor in the Department of English at Brigham Young University.
Suggestions for Further Reading
Works and Days: Introduction
Works and Days Notes
Wonderfully sensitive to the musicality and order of Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days, Kimberly Johnson's deft translation restores attention to the complex poetic dimensions of these texts. With lyrical precision, Johnson illuminates the vast range of form and figure Hesiod employs to evoke the genealogy of gods and the labor of quotidian agricultural life. At the same time, this translation vividly captures the humor, restlessness, and forceful assertion that distinguishes Hesiod's oeuvre. Johnson's translation should be an essential text not only for readers of classical poetry, but for those interested in the long history of environmental literature." - Margaret Ronda, author of Personification
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