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poached| Aeschylus on Grief 17 April 2007

Posted by EDITOR in Poetry, Spirituality.
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He who learns must suffer.
And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
and in our own despite, against our will,
comes wisdom to us
by the awful grace of God.

Source: Aeschylus. Agamemnon (The Oresteia), 458 BCE

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Comments»

1. Bint-eh Adam - 17 April 2007

Thank you.
That’s really to the point.

2. The Turk - 17 April 2007

So true.
And so sad.
From first to last prophet.
Everyone did suffer
some way or another
That’s our humanity and curse.

3. Irving - 18 April 2007

Knowledge comes in blows, I read somewhere. That hard won wisdom is part of being human, alas.

Ya Haqq!

4. Zobaria - 20 April 2007

Isn’t it quoted at the beginning of William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist”. Thought it was beautiful then and it’s beautiful still,

Regards.

5. dms - 23 April 2007

I believe there’s an error in this quote/translation. Here is an oft-used version that translates well (and accurately) for the modern ear. It’s also the one which the American politician, Robert F. Kennedy, used to eulogize civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

(BTW, RFK rediscovered Aeschylus when searching for his own consolation after the death of his brother, American president John F. Kennedy)

Peace to all who enter here * DMS

6. ABD - 23 April 2007

i actually looked this up, dms. turns out that RFK misquoted aeschylus in his eulogy. if you hear the clip, he even hesitates at “despite” and then says “despair” (http://www.morec.com/rfk.htm). and it’s a passage from a greek tragedy, so a number of different translations have been made.

i’d have to see the exorcist to say for sure, zobaria. but it’s a famous passage and i wouldn’t be surprised. kind of like the “valley of the shadow of death” passage from the bible that shows up a lot in popular culture…

7. Jim C - 4 October 2007

ABD correctly notes the RFK mistranslation of it ot being despair. I believe the first sentance was also ommitted, which is key to understanding Aeschyleu’ struggle to reconcile the existence of God in a world filled with suffering. I believe the quote is commonly accepted to be translated as follows:

God whose law is it that he who learns must suffer.
And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
and in our own despite, against our will,
comes wisdom to us
by the awful grace of God.

8. abird - 28 November 2007

Thanks for the translation. I’ve skimmed through the Oresteia Trilogy and haven’t found it. Does anyone know where this line is written, or what the context might be?

9. EDITOR - 29 November 2007

sure, abird.

it’s fairly early in the trilogy, in lines 179-183 of the Agamemnon. the lines are by the first chorus, talking about Agamemnon’s fateful trip to Troy, including the sacrifice of his own daughter. in my quick read, they seem to foreshadow the end of the play.


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