This is part 1 of 2. Part 2 is here.
Per quinquennia iam decem,
ni fallor, fuimus; septimus insuper
annum cardo rotat, dum fruimur sole volubili.
instat terminus et diem
vicinum senio iam Deus applicat:
quid nos utile tanti spatio temporis egimus?
aetas prima crepantibus
flevit sub ferulis; mox docuit toga
infectum vitiis falsa loqui, non sine crimine.
tum lasciva protervitas,
et luxus petulans (heu pudet ac piget!)
foedavit iuvenem nequitiae sordibus ac luto.
exim iurgia turbidos
armarunt animos et male pertinax
vincendi studium subiacuit casibus asperis.
bis legum moderamine
frenos nobilium reximus urbium:
ius civile bonis reddidimus, terruimus reos.
tandem militiae gradu
evectum pietas principis extulit,
adsumptum propius stare iubens ordine proximo.
haec dum vita volans agit,
irrepsit subito canities seni,
oblitum veteris me Saliae consulis arguens,
sub quo prima dies mihi.
quam multas hiemes volverit et rosas
pratis post glaciem reddiderit, nix capitis probat.
(Prudentius, Cathemerinon: Praefatio 1-27)
Full fifty years, if I err not, have I lived, and beyond that it is the seventh time that the heaven is wheeling the year and I have the benefit of the circling sun. The end is close upon me, and by now what God is adding to my days is on the border of old age. What profitable thing have I done in all this length of time? My first years wept under the crack of the rod; after that the toga corrupted me and taught me to utter sinful falsehoods*; then lewd sauciness and wanton indulgence, to my shame and sorrow now, marred my youth with the filthy dirt of wickedness. Next disputings armed my vehement spirit, and a perversely stubborn passion for victory laid itself open to cruel falls. Twice with the law’s controlling curb I governed famed cities, rendering civil justice to good men and striking terror into evil-doers. Finally His Grace the Emperor advanced me in his service and raised me up, attaching me closer to him and bidding me stand in the nearest rank.* While fleeting life thus busied itself, of a sudden the hoar of age has stolen upon me, convicting me of having forgotten Salia’s consulship of long ago. Under him my time began, and how many winters it has seen roll on, how often seen the roses given back to the meadows after the frost, the snow on my head proves.
* I.e. after assuming the toga virilis he attended a school of rhetoric, where he would practise the art of making the best of a case.
(tr. Henry John Thomson, with his note)
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