Si possent homines, proinde ac sentire videntur
pondus inesse animo quod se gravitate fatiget,
e quibus id fiat causis quoque noscere et unde
tanta mali tamquam moles in pectore constet,
haud ita vitam agerent, ut nunc plerumque videmus
quid sibi quisque velit nescire et quaerere semper
commutare locum, quasi onus deponere possit.
exit saepe foras magnis ex aedibus ille,
esse domi quem pertaesumst, subitoque revertit,
quippe foris nilo melius qui sentiat esse.
currit agens mannos ad villam praecipitanter,
auxilium tectis quasi ferre ardentibus instans;
oscitat extemplo, tetigit cum limina villae,
aut abit in somnum gravis atque oblivia quaerit,
aut etiam properans urbem petit atque revisit.
hoc se quisque modo fugit, at quem scilicet, ut fit,
effugere haud potis est, ingratis haeret et odit,
propterea morbi quia causam non tenet aeger;
quam bene si videat, iam rebus quisque relictis
naturam primum studeat cognoscere rerum,
temporis aeterni quoniam, non unius horae,
ambigitur status, in quo sit mortalibus omnis
aetas, post mortem quae restat cumque, manenda.
(Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.1053-1075)
If men, who clearly sense the weight that rests
upon their souls and drags them weary down,
could also know what causes this, and whence
this pain that lies like lead upon their hearts,
they would not live as commonly now we see them,
not knowing what they want, in endless quest
of change, as if by this to slough their burden.
Day after day, the great man leaves his palace,
bored sick with home, yet comes right back again
because he finds no better world outside.
He drives his nags top-speed out to his villa,
as if it were burning, and he to put out the fire;
he’s yawning before his foot has passed the door;
in weary search for oblivion, he sleeps,
or turns and gallops away to town again.
Thus each man runs from himself—the self, of course,
he can’t escape but must hold close; he hates it
because, being sick, he can’t know why he’s sick.
If he could see this clear, he’d drop all else
and plunge into learning the nature of the world,
for through eternity, not one hour, extends
the state we’re questioning in which all men,
once they have died, must be, time without end.
(tr. Frank O. Copley)