Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Greek Tragedian

"Wisdom comes through suffering." [Aeschylus 525 BCE~456 BCE]

There were riots in more than 100 cities across America after Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, on April 4th 1968. But that night there was calm in Indianapolis, Indiana:
RFK: "My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote. '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.'"
The quotation Robert F. Kennedy used in his remarks on the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. comes from the play Agamemnon by the Greek tragedian Aeschylus [525~456 BCE].
The quotation derives from Edith Hamilton's classic study, The Greek Way. The passage has been rendered in different ways by differnet translators.
What RFK attributes to "the Greeks" at the end of his speech -- "to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world" -- has also been credited to Aeschylus but has not been found in any of his extant works.
The entire text of RFK's remarks is available here on the Kennedy Library's Website.