Sors

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Quid tam sollicitis vitam consumimus annis
torquemurque metu caecaque cupidine rerum
aeternisque senes curis, dum quaerimus, aevum
perdimus et nullo votorum fine beati
victuros agimus semper nec vivimus umquam,
pauperiorque bonis quisque est, quia plura requirit
nec quod habet numerat, tantum quod non habet optat,
cumque sibi parvos usus natura reposcat
materiam struimus magnae per vota ruinae
luxuriamque lucris emimus luxuque rapinas,
et summum census pretium est effundere censum?
solvite, mortales, animos curasque levate
totque supervacuis vitam deplete querellis.
fata regunt orbem, certa stant omnia lege
longaque per certos signantur tempora casus.
nascentes morimur, finisque ab origine pendet.
hinc et opes et regna fluunt et, saepius orta,
paupertas, artesque datae moresque creatis
et vitia et laudes, damna et compendia rerum.
nemo carere dato poterit nec habere negatum
fortunamve suis invitam prendere votis
aut fugere instantem: sors est sua cuique ferenda.
(Manilius, Astr. 4.1-22)

Oh, why do we spend the years of our lives in worry, tormenting ourselves with fears and senseless desires; grown old before our time with anxieties which never end; forfeiting length of days by our very quest for it; setting no limit to our wishes, so that their fulfilment leaves us still unblest, but ever playing the part of men who mean to live but never do? Everyone is the poorer for his possessions because he looks for more: none counts his blessings, but only lusts for what he lacks. Though nature needs only modest requirements, we build higher and higher the peak from which to fall, and purchase luxury with our gains, and with love of luxury the fear of dispossession, until the greatest boon that wealth can confer is the squandering of itself. So set free your minds, o mortals, and rid your lives of all this vain complaint! Fate rules the world, all things stand fixed by its immutable laws, and the long ages are assigned a predestined course of events. At birth our death is sealed, and our end is consequent upon our beginning. Fate is the source of riches and kingdoms and the more frequent poverty; by fate are men at birth given their skills and characters, their merits and defects, their losses and gains. None can renounce what is bestowed or possess what is denied; no man by prayer may seize fortune if it demur, or escape if it draw nigh: each one must bear his appointed lot. (tr. George Patrick Goold)

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