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Meaning of “A Sisyphean Task” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

A Sisyphean Task

With many a weary step and many a groan,

Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone;

The huge round, stone returning with a bound,

Thunders impetuous down, and smokes along the ground.

-HOMER: Odyssey (Pope’s translation).

The phrase “a Sisyphean task” is generally intended to signify an almost fruitless effort, to make which requires an almost superhuman ordeal.

Sydney Smith once said of a man that he had spent all his We in lowering buckets into empty wells and was frittering away his old age in trying to draw them up again. That, in a nutshell, is the story of Sisyphos, who was a king of Corinth and famous for his brigandage and cruelties He was condemned by Zeus, after death, to roll a huge boulder up a high mountain; but every time he reached the summit the boulder fell back again to the bottom.

Lord Lytton, in his Tales of Miletus, says that Orpheus twitted Sisyphos about his task, though he sympathetically asked him if he did not consider his labours useless; to which Sisyphos answered that he believed that finally he would succeed. When Orpheus protested emphatically that such a task could never be fulfilled, Sisyphos quietly replied that his toil had at least one merit: that of everlasting hope.

The story of Sisyphos serves to characterise any arduous toil which, because never-ending, is apparently hopeless; yet, though it seems of no avail, one repeatedly pursues it in the overwhelming belief in a final achievement.

Say not the struggle naught availeth

The labour and the wounds are vain;

The enemy faints not nor faileth,

And as things have been, they remain;

If hopes were dupe t, may be liars;

It may be in you smoke concealed,

The enemy chase e’en now the fliers,

And, but for you, posses the field.



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