And (as with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey) the prevailing point of debate is that a different man was responsible for each poem.
“The hidden boy stretched forth his left hand; in his right he took the great long jagged sickle; eagerly he harvested his father’s genitals and threw them off behind”.
It should be stressed that the caveats above do not hope to diminish just how different Works and Days is from Theogony.
The former poem is a treatise on mythology, ethics, sailing, home-spun wisdom, superstition and, above all, farming.
- Puritanical and joyless: “your wife should have matured four years before, and marry in the fifth year. She should be a virgin; you must teach her sober ways”.
- Misogynistic: “Hermes the messenger put in [woman’s] breast lies and persuasive words and cunning ways”.
- Sanctimonious: “Oh foolish Perses, sailing in a ship because he longed for great prosperity”.
He’s also distrustful of city-folk, pleasure-seekers and dishonesty. But above all we recognise his industriousness, simplicity and innocence.
He is naïve, rural and quaint, bordering on twee.
If this really were a letter to an errant sibling, then one could imagine the response consisting of only two words; the second being ‘off’.
That said, there are undeniable crossovers between the works.
The Muses of Mount Helicon are invoked at the beginning of Theogony and again in Works and Days. Even supporters of the ‘two-poets’ argument admit that this is no coincidence. However, the best argument justifying this is that Helicon was some sort of literary pilgrimage site; an artistic Lourdes.
Suffice to say this ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ idea holds about as much water as Tantalus drinks in a month.
Certainly such thinking, had it even been contemplated, would have been dismissed out of hand by the ancients. They didn’t merely think, but assumed both texts were the work of one man.