Pervigil excubiis commissi Petrus ovilis
postquam cuncta videns lustravit in ordine sanctos,
per Lyddae tulit arva gradus, ubi moenibus adstans
respicit Aeneam defunctis vivere membris,
atque anima, nodis laxata mole solutis,
non moriente mori. “surgens, paralytice,” dixit,
“vectorem compone tuum, nec reddere tardes
officium, portate diu.” quo munere vocis
stringitur in solidum qui fluxerat antea nervis.
tunc iterum formatus homo, longique cadaver
temporis exstinctos ad vitam surrigit artus,
seque levans vacui linquit monumenta cubilis,
quod misero pars mortis erat. plebs cuncta per illam
coepit stare viam, multisque supervenit ampla
unius languore salus tactoque liquore
expulit inclusi sua mox contagia morbi
fonte lavans animas alieno robore firmas.
(Arator, De Actibus Apostolorum 1.754-770)
When Peter, ever watchful on guard over his entrusted flock and seeing all, had illumined all the saints one after another, he advanced through the fields of Lydda, where, standing near the walls, he realized that Aeneas, though his limbs were defunct, was alive and that, though his soul was not dying, he was dying, his weight enfeebled by his slackened joints. ‘Get up, paralytic!’ he said. ‘Make your bed and do not be slow in rendering your duty: you have been carried long enough.’ When he had received the gift of these words, with all his strength he drew together into something solid what had previously fallen away. Then, once more made man, he who had been a corpse for such a long time raises his dried up limbs to life, and lifting himself up leaves the tomb of his empty bed, which had been an aspect of death for the wretched man. All the people began to stand along that street and from the weakness of one man there came to many an abundant salvation, which at the touch of the water soon cast out the pollution of their internal sickness and washing their souls in the spring rendered them powerful with another man’s strength. (tr. Richard Hillier)
Ideo propera, Lucili mi, vivere, et singulos dies singulas vitas puta. Qui hoc modo se aptavit, cui vita sua cotidie fuit tota, securus est; in spem viventibus proximum quodque tempus elabitur, subitque aviditas et miserrimus ac miserrima omnia efficiens metus mortis. inde illud Maecenatis turpissimum votum, quo et debilitatem non recusat et deformitatem et novissime acutam crucem, dummodo inter haec mala spiritus prorogetur:
debilem facito manu, debilem pede coxo,
tuber adstrue gibberum, lubricos quate dentes:
vita dum superest, benest. hanc mihi, vel acuta
si sedeam cruce, sustine… [Maecenas fr. 4 Courtney]
quod miserrimum erat si incidisset optatur, et tamquam vita petitur supplici mora. contemptissimum putarem, si vivere vellet usque ad crucem: ‘tu vero’ inquit ‘me debilites licet, dum spiritus in corpore fracto et inutili maneat. depraves licet, dum monstroso et distorto temporis aliquid accedat. suffigas licet et acutam sessuro crucem subdas.’ est tanti vulnus suum premere et patibulo pendere districtum, dum differat id, quod est in malis optimum, supplicii finem? est tanti habere animam, ut agam? quid huic optes nisi deos faciles? quid sibi vult ista carminis effeminati turpitudo? quid timoris dementissimi pactio? quid tam foeda vitae mendicatio?
(Seneca Minor, Ep. ad Luc. 101.10-13)
So make haste to live, my dear Lucilius and think of each single day as a single life. The man who has equipped himself like this, who has had a whole life each day, is free of care: for those who live in hope each coming instant slips away and greed advances on him with the fear of death, itself most wretched and making all things wretched. Hence that disgraceful prayer of Maecenas in which he does not jib at feebleness and ugliness and finally the sharpened stake, so long as his life is prolonged among these evils:
Make me feeble in hand, feeble with limping foot,
Impose a hunchbacked swelling, loosen my slippery teeth;
While there is life I am fine; keep it going for me
Even if I sit impaled on a sharpened stake.
He is wishing for what would be most wretched if it came upon him, and asking for a prolongation of his torment as if it were life. I would think him beneath contempt if he wanted to live on up to the moment of the stake. He says: ‘You can make me weak, so long as my breath persist in a broken and useless body; you can corrupt me, so long as some time is added to my repellent and distorted life; you may crucify me and put a sharpened stake beneath for me to sit on.’ Is it worth so much to drive in one’s own wound and hang stretched from a cross, so long as it postpones the best part of all misfortunes, the end of one’s torment? Is my living breath worth so much that I am ready to give it up? What would you wish for this fellow if not obliging gods? What is the meaning of this disgraceful and unmanly poem? What is the object bargained by this crazy fear? What the aim of such vile begging for life? (tr. Elaine Fantham)
Nothing is sweeter than love; all good things come second: even honey I spat from my mouth. Nossis says this, and whomever Cypris has not kissed does not know what roses her flowers are. (tr. William Roger Paton, revised by Michael A. Tueller)
Cras amet qui numquam amavit, quique amavit cras amet!
ver novum, ver iam canorum; vere natus orbis est,
vere concordant amores, vere nubunt alites,
et nemus comam resolvit de maritis imbribus.
cras amorum Copulatrix inter umbras arborum
implicat casas virentes de flagello myrteo;
cras Dione iura dicit fulta sublimi throno.
cras amet qui numquam amavit, quique amavit cras amet!
(Pervigilium Veneris 1-8)
Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow.
New spring, singing spring! The world is born in spring!
Loves harmonize in spring, birds marry in spring,
And the forest releases a marriage shower of leaves.
Tomorrow the union of loves among arboreal shades
interweaves lively youths in a cottage with her myrtle vine:
Tomorrow Dione, propped upon her lofty throne, declares the laws.
Let him love tomorrow who has never loved and let he who has loved love tomorrow. (tr. David Camden)
Cerberus et Furiae iam vero et lucis egestas,
Tartarus horriferos eructans faucibus aestus!
* * *
qui neque sunt usquam nec possunt esse profecto.
sed metus in vita poenarum pro male factis
est insignibus insignis, scelerisque luella,
carcer et horribilis de saxo iactu’ deorsum,
verbera carnifices robur pix lammina taedae;
quae tamen etsi absunt, at mens sibi conscia factis
praemetuens adhibet stimulos torretque flagellis,
nec videt interea qui terminus esse malorum
possit nec quae sit poenarum denique finis,
atque eadem metuit magis haec ne in morte gravescant.
hic Acherusia fit stultorum denique vita.
(Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.1011-1023)
Cerberus*, too, the Furies, the Dearth of Light,
Tartarus** retching and vomiting tides of terror
* * *
which nowhere exist, which simply cannot be.
But in life, the fear of penalty for our sins
is great in the greatest: crime and crime’s atonement,
prison, the terrible hurling from the Rock***,
the lash, the hangman, stake, pitch, iron and brand.
And take these away: the heart knows what we’ve done
and plies the goad and lash to make us cowards,
yet never sees where stands the stone that marks
the end of pain, the bounds of punishment,
but fears these may grow heavier still in death.
Hell is right here, the work of foolish men!
* The three-headed dog who guarded the entrance to the underworld. Furies: the goddesses of vengeance, who punish men for their acts of violence. Dearth of Light: the Underworld itself, which is perennially dark and shadowy.
** The Underworld, Hades. After this line, some lines have been lost. They must have embodied a connective clause of some kind,
*** The reference is to the Tarpeian Rock, a cliff at one corner of the Capitoline Hill in Rome, from which convicted traitors were hurled to their death.
‘Come closer, famous Odysseus—Achaea’s pride and glory—
moor your ship on our coast so you can hear our song!
Never has any sailor passed our shores in his black craft
until he has heard the honeyed voices pouring from our lips,
and once he hears to his heart’s content sails on, a wiser man.
We know all the pains that Achaeans and Trojans once endured
on the spreading plain of Troy when the gods willed it so—
all that comes to pass on the fertile earth, we know it all!’ (tr. Robert Fagles)
Suffering all these evils and countless others which I have omitted, he held up bravely under the horrors inflicted upon him and remained in possession of his senses. To those who poured forth one after another and struck him, he turned and said no more than “Lord, have mercy,” and “Why do you further bruise the broken reed?” Even after he was suspended by his feet, the foolish masses neither kept their hands off the much-tormented Andronikos, nor did they spare his flesh, but removing his short tunic, they assaulted his genitals. A certain ungodly man dipped his long sword into his entrails by way of the pharynx; certain members of the Latin race raised their swords with both hands above his buttocks, and, standing around him, they brought them down, making trial as to whose cut was deeper and boasting loudly as to the dexterity of their hands which resulted in such a noteworthy wound. After so much suffering, Andronikos broke the thread of life, his right arm extended in agony and brought around to his mouth so that it seemed to many that he was sucking out the still-warm blood dripping from the recent amputation. (tr. Harry J. Magoulias)