Revolandum

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Haud secus ac si olim per sudum lactea forte
lapsa columbarum nubes descendat in arvum
ruris frugiferi, laqueos ubi callidus auceps
praetendit lentoque illevit vimina visco,
sparsit et insidias siliquis vel farre doloso,
illiciunt alias fallentia grana, gulamque
innectunt avidam tortae retinacula saetae,
molle vel implicitas gluten circumligat alas,
ast aliae, quas nullus amor prolectat edendi,
gressibus innocuis sterili spatiantur in herba
suspectamque cavent oculos convertere ad escam;
mox ubi iam caelo revolandum, pars petit aethram
libera sideream plaudens super aëra pinnis,
pars captiva iacet laceris et saucia plumis
pugnat humi et volucres nequiquam suspicit auras;
sic animas caeli de fontibus unicoloras
infundit natura solo, sed suavibus istic
devinctae illecebris retinentur, et aethera paucae
conscendunt reduces, multas viscosus inescat
pastus et ad superas percurrere non sinit auras.
(Prudentius, Hamartigenia 804-823)

Just as sometimes doves in a milk-white cloud,
descending through the bright and lucid sky,
settle in a wheat field, where a clever
fowler set his snares and smeared the twigs
with sticky lime, baiting his traps with peas
and poisoned grain, and some are tempted by
the treacherous grain and caught by nets of woven
cord that choke their greedy throats, or else
soft glue traps and binds their wings: but others,
not seduced by love of eating, stroll
at ease, unharmed, about the barren grass
and take good care not to turn their eyes
toward the suspect food. Soon, when it comes
time to fly back toward the sky, some freely
seek the starry heaven and clap their wings
above the clouds, while others, taken captive,
lie wounded, struggling on the ground, their feathers
torn, looking up in vain at the passing
breezes. In just this way, nature showers
spotless souls from heaven onto earth,
but there they are retained, entrapped by sweet
delights, and very few ascend again
to heaven; the sticky food entices many
and keeps them from advancing to the upper
regions.
(tr. Martha A. Malamud)

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