A Note on Human Nature

In order to grasp the notion of “Human Nature”, the class paused today to discuss this extract from Sophocles.

Wonders are many and none more wonderful than man …
In the meshes of his woven nets, cunning of mind, ingenious man …
He snares the lighthearted birds and the tribes of savage beasts,
and the creatures of the deep seas …
He puts the halter round the horse’s neck
And rings the nostrils of the angry bull.
He has devised himself a shelter
against the rigors of frost and the pelting rains.
Speech and science he has taught himself,
and artfully formed laws for harmonious civic life …
Only against death he fights in vain.
But clear intelligence – a force beyond measure –
moves to work both good and ill …
When he obeys the laws and honors justice, the city stands proud …
But man swerves from side to side, and when the laws are broken,
and set at naught, he is like a person without a city,
beyond human boundary, a horror, a pollution to be avoided.

Posted by Renee Plunkett

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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