Pretiosa

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Monstrorum princeps elephans proboscide saevus
horret mole nigra, dente micat niveo.
sed vario fugienda malo cum belua gliscat,
est tamen excepti mors pretiosa feri.
nam quae conspicimus montani roboris ossa
humanis veniunt usibus apta satis.
consulibus sceptrum, mensis decus, arma tablistis,
discolor et tabulae cauculus inde datur.
haec est humanae semper mutatio sortis:
fit moriens ludus, qui fuit ante pavor.
(Anth. Lat. 187 S-B)

Prince of great animals, the elephant, savage with its trunk, terrifies with its black bulk and flashes with its white tusks. But though the beast which so bristles with danger of various kinds should be fled from, the death of a trapped animal is nevertheless worth a great deal. For those bones of mountainous strength on which we gaze come in useful for man’s purposes. From them comes the sceptre for consuls, ornament for tables, their paraphernalia for tabula players, and the differently coloured pieces for tabula. This is the eternal changeability of the human condition: in death he becomes a plaything, who was before a terror. (tr. Nigel M. Kay)

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