Any similarity in word or notion to Sophocles' great choral ode "Wondrous is man..." in the Antigone is purely foruitious and coincidental.

This writing was recently discovered in the year 2247 A.D. on an ancient writing material called 'Paper' in the detritus of a (possibly?) archaic-period American city of unknown affinities. There seems to be some relationship of this writing to certain Greek thought, but since the earlier material is well documented and the latter is right in the middle of the "New Dark Age", no scholarly connections can be definitely stated.

Since the original was in badly fragmented scraps, a certain amount of reconstruction fo tte text was necessary. But by collaboration of experts from the Global University of Lower Antarctica, it may be fairly stated that the following reconstruction is based on solid palaeographical evidence, although much of the meaning remains obscure.

Wondrous is man, indeed, even two thousand years later,
Unerring inventor of gadgets, with his nimble fingers
He has contrived vast machines to plant seed
He harvests acres upon acres of unwanted produce,
Vast is his vision, enormous his granaries,
Storehouses, while millions perish of starvation.

And he has taught himself the marvel of numbers,
Addition subtraction and the multiplication tables,
Wit beyond wisdom, and what he forgets he remembers
If he can recall which keys of the computer to press.
His mind reaches out past the stars, tying his laces.
He forgets.

And health to be grafted into a sickening body,
Transplants of heart, kidney, skin, arteries, bone,
And the skills that conspire to stretch life past sensation,
With artificial life support systems. No end, no limit
To the ineffable cleverness which brings man now
To subatomic particles, now to plastic doggie raincoats.

And the laws that govern man's temper he has taught himself,
Over and over, the League of Nations, and United Nations.
War is to be outlawed, clearly, by the next International Association.
Infinite his confidence in order, and infinite the organizations,
While Man gropes faithfully for the unerring answer.
Faith is his, and confidence, endless, undaunted ever by disaster.

Wit beyond cleverness is his, this contriver of insoluble equations,
Genealogist of his family tree where monkeys climb and a dog pisses.
Wondrous his ways, his achievements, and his capacity for failure,
From which undismayed he contrives still more organizations.
Yet from this mania of administration he has not found rest,
From him alone stems his one failure.

Sitting alone, under a bush in a radioactive atmosphere,
Begins again the cleverness of his race, counting fingers.
Again with confidence starting up the rungs of the broken ladder.
Wondrous, finally, is the strength of his thoughtless persistence.

Return to Translations index

William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College