Quisquis composito serenus aevo
fatum sub pedibus egit superbum
fortunamque tuens utramque rectus
invictum potuit tenere vultum,
non illum rabies minaeque ponti
versum funditus exagitantis aestum
nec ruptis quotiens vagus caminis
torquet fumificos Vesaevus ignes
aut celsas soliti ferire turres
ardentis via fulminis movebit.
quid tantum miseri saevos tyrannos
mirantur sine viribus furentes?
nec speres aliquid nec extimescas:
exarmaveris impotentis iram;
at quisquis trepidus pavet vel optat,
quod non sit stabilis suique iuris,
abiecit clipeum locoque motus
nectit qua valeat trahi catenam.
(Boëthius, De Consolatione Philosophiae 1.4 metrum)
In tranquillity, life secure and settled,
Upright, feet on the neck of peacock Fortune,
Looking squarely at fate, benign or brutal –
He, unconquered, who kept his bearings, dreads not
The insanity of the ocean’s menace,
When it churns up the waves from depths abyssal;
Nor Vesuvius, when from fractured chimneys
Fire flies spiraling up with smoke at random;
Nor bright trails of the lightning bolts, accustomed
To demolish the lofty towers of princes.
Tell me, why are the weak in awe of tyrants,
Feral, violent, but without true power?
If you hope for and fear for nothing ever
Then you’ve broken the sword of the madman’s anger.
But a coward who dreads or longs for something,
Who cannot stand his ground upon his own rights,
Has discarded his shield; out of position,
He has fashioned the chain he’ll wear in slavery.
(tr. Joel C. Relihan)