Exstingui

childdeath_sarco2

Quid fratres, gratasque nurus, castasque sorores,
et quos blanda tibi coniunxit gratia lecti,
iam referam? comitemque tori, dulcesque propinquos,
et quae prima tibi quondam dedit ubera nutrix,
et prima excepit gremio, carosque parentes,
iam raptos laetosque alibi, iam tristia rerum
evectos? nam posse ipsas cum corpore mentes
exstingui, res nulla docet. furor impius egit
mortales diversa sequi vestigia vero
brutorumque animis torporem affingere nostris.
ah tibi ne tam foeda, puer, persuaserit autor
imbellis, quamquam et patrias praescribat Athenas
et multam referat Romano e carmine laudem.
heu fuge crudeles scopulos et naufraga saxa.
quippe etenim, si corpus humo cum cedere iussum est,
iam nusquam est pars haec ingens qua vivimus una
omniaque in terris gerimus, iacet illicet omnis
et spes et ratio virtutum, et nomen inane
relligio cultusque Dei, quem tota vetustas
amplexa est, vitaeque olim promissa voluptas
venturae laetusque ardor, qui pectora famae
admonet instantemque docet contemnere mortem.
(Daniel Heinsius, De Contemptu Mortis 2.279-300)

Why should I mention your brothers, your charming daughters-in-law, your chaste sisters, all those who are bound to you by sweet family ties? Your spouse, your beloved relatives, the nurse who first suckled you and took you on her lap, your dear parents, already taken from you and happy elsewhere, having long escaped the sadness of things? For nothing suggests that the mind can be extinguished together with the body. A godless frenzy has driven mortal man to follow a path that diverges from the truth, and to ascribe the torpor of brute beasts to his own soul. Ah, don’t let that weak author* convince you of such awful things, boy, even if he claims that Athens is his native city and he is highly praised in a Roman poem! Ah, avoid those cruel cliffs and ship-smashing rocks. Because if, when the body has to be committed to the ground, that great part by the sole grace of which we live and do everything on earth is no longer anywhere to be found, all hope, all reason for virtue is instantly lost, and religion and the worship of God, which were embraced by all of Antiquity, are but idle words, as are the joy of a life to come once promised to us and the happy fervour which stirs the heart to praiseworthy deeds and teaches it to despise its impending death.

* Epicurus

(tr. David Bauwens)

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