`Till May be out, ne’er cast a clout,’
`A rainbow in the morning Is the Shepherd’s warning.’
Secondly and thirdly we may ascribe the rise of the new epic to the nature of the Boeotian people and, as already remarked, to a spirit of revolt against the old epic. The Boeotians, people of the class of which Hesiod represents himself to be the type, were essentially unromantic; their daily needs marked the general limit of their ideals, and, as a class, they cared little for works of fancy, for pathos, or for fine thought as such. To a people of this nature the Homeric epos would be inacceptable, and the post-Homeric epic, with its conventional atmosphere, its trite and hackneyed diction, and its insincere sentiment, would be anathema. We can imagine, therefore, that among such folk a settler, of Aeolic origin like Hesiod, who clearly was well acquainted with the Ionian epos, would naturally see that the only outlet for his gifts lay in applying epic poetry to new themes acceptable to his hearers.
Though the poems of the Boeotian school (2) were unanimously assigned to Hesiod down to the age of Alexandrian criticism, they were clearly neither the work of one man nor even of one period: some, doubtless, were fraudulently fathered on him in order to gain currency; but it is probable that most came to be regarded as his partly because of their general character, and partly because the names of their real authors were lost. One fact in this attribution is remarkable — the veneration paid to Hesiod.
Our information respecting Hesiod is derived in the main from notices and allusions in the works attributed to him, and to these must be added traditions concerning his death and burial gathered from later writers.
Hesiod’s father (whose name, by a perversion of “Works and Days”, 299 Perse Dion GENOS to perse, Dion GENOS, was thought to have been Dius) was a native of Cyme in Aeolis, where he was a seafaring trader and, perhaps, also a farmer. He was forced by poverty to leave his native place, and returned to continental Greece, where he settled at Ascra near Thespiae in Boeotia ("Works and Days”, 636 ff.). Either in Cyme or Ascra, two sons, Hesiod and Perses, were born to the settler, and these, after his death, divided the farm between them. Perses, however, who is represented as an idler and spendthrift, obtained and kept the larger share by bribing the corrupt `lords’ who ruled from Thespiae ("Works and Days”, 37-39). While his brother wasted his patrimony and ultimately came to want ("Works and Days”, 34 ff.), Hesiod lived a farmer’s life until, according to the very early tradition preserved by the author of the “Theogony” (22-23), the Muses met him as he was tending sheep on Mt. Helicon and `taught him a glorious song’ — doubtless the “Works and Days”. The only other personal reference is to his victory in a poetical contest at the funeral games of Amphidamas at Chalcis in Euboea, where he won the prize, a tripod, which he dedicated to the Muses of Helicon ("Works and Days”, 651-9).