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An informal Translation of Hesiod's Theogony, or Actually Deriving Supreme Executive Power From Some Farcical Aquatic Ceremony
[Freely-available online version of H.G. Evelyn-White’s translation of Theogony available through Theoi Classical Texts Library.]
Monty Python: “Strange women lying in ponds is no basis for a system of government.”
Hesiod, anticipating this by 2675 years: “Let us begin to sing of the Muses of Helicon, who hold the great and holy mount of Helicon, and dance on tender feet round the violet spring…they picked me and gave me a staff, a branch of strong laurel, a fine one, and breathed into me a voice divine, to celebrate what will be and what was.” [Caldwell & Nelson translation, 2009.]
Theogony, Prologue (with some Works & Days thrown in for good measure)
People are always asking me, by what rights, Hesiod
are you singing about things, who died and made you God’s genealogist?
Who slipped the bass into your voice we’re supposed to shut up to, hm?
Not for nothing, but I did win a three-legged chair from Athamas’ funeral games,
No big deal, it’s just one of the hardest and most important chairs to win, and I won it with my voice alone,
which is more than my brother Perses can say, not that that stops my brother Perses from saying things,
but you shouldn’t listen to Perses, who bribes judges and doesn’t know shit about agriculture,
Get a job, Perses!
Anyways, this is why it’s time to start writing things down again. We’ve got a new alphabet again [Hold for applause], and I think we’re all sick of versions of things,
aren’t we, folks? Versions are like brothers: there are too many of them, and they’re bad.
Let’s have attribution! Let’s give consensus a shot. If not consensus, at least citation.
Linear B! Linear me! Do not listen to my brother Perses.
I am writing this down so you can show it to everybody else, even when I’m not around.
It’s not that I’m so special or anything. I’m fine, I did win that sacrificial tripod for singing at Euboea last year,
so you know I can sing poetry the old-fashioned way, at least well enough to win a sacrificial tripod,
which you may have heard about,
yes, like the Delphic Tripod, yes, that Delphic Tripod,
whereby the keen-eyed Pythia sits and delivers her oracles,
but don’t take it from me, take it from Mount Helicon —
you know, where the Muses live? Those Muses, daughters of Zeus?
Whose dancing feet are lovelier than your mother’s face on her best day?
Which is not an insult, by the way, it’s just another way of saying your mother’s not God,
Mostly the Muses take long, luxurious baths in holy water,
or dance barefoot and fragrant through various temples,
or lead the most sacred, rapid summit-hikes to the seat of the gods, concealed by night, singing of golden shoes you’ll never own,
not concerning themselves overmuch with mortal men.
But once they switched up their divine schedules to jump me —
I’m serious — they blinded me with science — Dear Penthouse,
I never thought this would happen to me,
I’m just a regular guy who herds his sheep beneath the holy mountain,
When all of a sudden, out of nowhere, nine of the most beautiful
and terrifying-looking women I’ve ever seen started kicking my ass,
Hand to Olympus, it happened just like that. I wasn’t doing anything,
wasn’t bothering anybody, just sheep and business with me,
when this storm of gorgeous descended upon me, and nine stone-cold foxes
in a tornado formation started pummeling me! Oh my God!!
And I was like, “Oh my God!” and “Oh no!” and “Somebody help!” and
“I can’t believe this is happening!” and “Please, ladies, don’t demolish me, I’m totally helpless, your arms are like the twin pythons of Delphi, you’re so strong, I can’t believe you’re having your way with me, your backs are like a barrel of snakes, oh God, I’m just your doll, we’re joking, it’s all jokes,”
and then they started humiliating me, which I just couldn’t even believe,
I was already so physically helpless — totally in their power —
all of them, blondes, redheads, brunettes, everything, the works,
and they were holding me down and restraining me with ease, and they all had these different hairstyles, and sometimes the strap of someone’s dress would slide down their shoulder because they were so focused on holding me down, and they were laughing at me and teasing me, all nine of them,
and I said, “Okay, just don’t tickle me, I would really hate it if you started tickling me while I was all trussed up and helpless like this,”
and they said that shepherds were fucks who didn’t know anything
and I said oh my God that’s so true, you’re absolutely right
and they said fuck all shepherds
and I said Oh my God same
and they said evil oafs, nothing but bellies
and I said Yeah, yeah, what else don’t you like about me? Don’t stop now, I’m a complete worm,
and then they said they could lie just as well as tell the truth and to give up now because I’d probably never figure out which was which,
and I said, “Oh my God, are you going to hypnotize me? Am I just going to be hypnotized forever, mouth hanging open, cocooned soft in a goddess hive-mind, totally subsumed by your wills?”
and they said not to interrupt, and I said, Sorry, Goddess,
and they said That’s interrupting
and then I didn’t say anything
and then they said How dare you ignore the Muses
and I said I’m sorry I’m sorry here’s my wallet
and then they laughed again
and then one of them grabbed a nearby laurel tree — easily ten feet tall —
and yanked it out of the ground like a toothpick!!!
She was so strong!!
(I did some drawings of what it looked like afterwards, they’re pretty good,
You can borrow them to look at if you want but you have to give them back later, they’re the only ones I have)
and she gave it to me and said I could keep it and I still have it
and then she breathed a God-voice into me, just breathed right into my actual mouth,
and told me my breath belonged to Them now, and I was only to sing about them first and last in all things,
which, fucking sign me up, okay, goodbye sheep, hello blessed throat bondage,
So that’s where my authority comes from, good luck beating that,
now everybody shut up and listen. Here is an eight-hour long recitation of every kind of sex the Muse’s grandparents have ever had. No requests, no refunds. Here we go.