Translation: Plato On Old Age and Sex

Most translators throughout history until recently have been too stuffy and uptight to honestly render this passage.


Plato On Old Age and Sex  
From The Republic [329b-c] 
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
 
And Cephalus said "Let me tell you about old age, Socrates. When we old men gather, when we old birds of wrinkly feather talk and squawk together, most of us just grumble and feel sorry for ourselves, longing for the joys of youth and yesteryear, thinking back on how fun it was to spend every night drinking, partying, whoring and whatnot. The poor men are in anguish, thinking that they've lost what really matters, that they really lived back then and that now they might as well be dead. Some of them whine about how their families and friends don't treat the elderly the way they should, and they go on bending heaven's ear with the ways in which old age is the root of all their misery. But it seems to me that their blame is misplaced, Socrates. For if old age really were responsible, my experience of aging would be the same as theirs, and so would that of all other men who've gotten to be this old. But as things stand, I've run into others who feel very differently. Take the poet Sophocles, for example. Just a while ago I was with him when somebody asked: "How's your sex-life, Sophocles? Can you still get it on with a woman?" And he said "Oh be quiet, man. Honestly, I'm pretty happy to have left all that behind. It's like I've finally made a getaway from some insane, sadistic taskmaster"

The Original:

ἐγώ σοι, ἔφη, νὴ τὸν Δία ἐρῶ, ὦ Σώκρατες, οἷόν γέ μοι φαίνεται. πολλάκις γὰρ συνερχόμεθά τινες εἰς ταὐτὸν παραπλησίαν ἡλικίαν ἔχοντες, διασῴζοντες τὴν παλαιὰν παροιμίαν: οἱ οὖν πλεῖστοι ἡμῶν ὀλοφύρονται συνιόντες, τὰς ἐν τῇ νεότητι ἡδονὰς ποθοῦντες καὶ ἀναμιμνῃσκόμενοι περί τε τἀφροδίσια καὶ περὶ πότους τε καὶ εὐωχίας καὶ ἄλλ᾽ ἄττα ἃ τῶν τοιούτων ἔχεται, καὶ ἀγανακτοῦσιν ὡς μεγάλων τινῶν ἀπεστερημένοι καὶ τότε μὲν εὖ ζῶντες, νῦν δὲ οὐδὲ ζῶντες. ἔνιοι δὲ καὶ τὰς τῶν οἰκείων προπηλακίσεις τοῦ γήρως ὀδύρονται, καὶ ἐπὶ τούτῳ δὴ τὸ γῆρας ὑμνοῦσιν ὅσων κακῶν σφίσιν αἴτιον. ἐμοὶ δὲ δοκοῦσιν, ὦ Σώκρατες, οὗτοι οὐ τὸ αἴτιον αἰτιᾶσθαι. εἰ γὰρ ἦν τοῦτ' αἴτιον, κἂν ἐγὼ τὰ αὐτὰ ταῦτα ἐπεπόνθη, ἕνεκά γε γήρως, καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι πάντες ὅσοι ἐνταῦθα ἦλθον ἡλικίας. νῦν δ' ἔγωγε ἤδη ἐντετύχηκα οὐχ οὕτως ἔχουσιν καὶ ἄλλοις, καὶ δὴ καὶ Σοφοκλεῖ ποτε τῷ ποιητῇ παρεγενόμην ἐρωτωμένῳ ὑπό τινος· “πῶς,” ἔφη, “ὦ Σοφόκλεις, ἔχεις πρὸς τἀφροδίσια; ἔτι οἷός τε εἶ γυναικὶ συγγίγνεσθαι”; καὶ ὅς, “εὐφήμει,” ἔφη, “ὦ ἄνθρωπε· ἁσμενέστατα μέντοι αὐτὸ ἀπέφυγον, ὥσπερ λυττῶντά τινα καὶ ἄγριον δεσπότην ἀποδράς.”

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this, with your translation and the origianl. This is exactly what I've been looking for. I want to make a poster of this and put it on my apartment door, so that every time I go out into the world I can remember how I'm free (ahem) from that insane taskmaster.

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