Ἴδαν ἐς πολύδενδρον ἀνὴρ ὑλητόμος ἐλθὼν,
Παπταίνει, παρέοντος ἄδην, ποθεν ἄρξεται ἔργου·
Τί πρᾶτον καταλεξῶ; ἐπεὶ πάρα μυρία ἐιπῆν.
(From Theocritus’ Idylls)
Source: To John Adams, June 27, 1813
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Some old leaders know when to give it a rest.
This is how Jefferson began the letter that was the source April 21, 2014 post, “Whose voice is most important?” The two men were rebuilding a friendship greatly damaged by political differences. Adams was far more bombastic and confrontational than the reserved Jefferson. He invited his successor’s comments and opinions on their shared experiences.
The source for this letter, Founder’s Archives, Princeton University Press, to whom credit is given, offers this translation of those words: “Now when the feller goes up to thick woody Ida / he looks about him where to begin in all that plenty; / and so I, where now shall I take up my tale.” A modern paraphrase might be that the woodcutter, standing at the edge of the huge forest, hardly knew where to begin his work. So, he didn’t begin.
Jefferson didn’t know where to begin, either, in responding to Adams’ questions. He said he would not weigh into those issues again, preferring “ease of body and tranquility of mind.” He did weigh in a little but wrote, “the renewal of these old discussions, my friend, would be equally useless and irksome.” Better just not to go there …
Jefferson and Adams could read and write in Greek, as well as other languages. What American leaders today have such abilities?
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The Moral Liberal Thomas Jefferson Editor, Patrick Lee, is a professional speaker, actor and writer. Since 1990, he has inspired, entertained and educated audiences from Maine to Hawaii with his authentic, first person leadership presentations as President Thomas Jefferson, Frontiersman Daniel Boone, and Lewis & Clark Co-Leader William Clark. He also appears as himself, The Hopeful Humorist™, with a program of motivational humor, patriotism and inspiration.