Quicum

swamp-sparrow-clipart-birdie-17

Hei mihi quam similes ludunt per prata iuvenci,
omnes unanimi secum sibi lege sodales,
nec magis hunc alio quisquam secernit amicum
de grege, sic densi veniunt ad pabula thoës,
inque vicem hirsuti paribus iunguntur onagri;
lex eadem pelagi, deserto in littore Proteus
agmina phocarum numerat, vilisque volucrum
passer habet semper quicum sit, et omnia circum
farra libens volitet, sero sua tecta revisens,
quem si fors letho obiecit, seu milvus adunco
fata tulit rostro, seu stravit arundine fossor,
protinus ille alium socio petit inde volatu.
nos durum genus, et diris exercita fatis
gens homines aliena animis, et pectore discors,
vix sibi quisque parem de millibus invenit unum,
aut si sors dederit tandem non aspera votis,
illum inopina dies qua non speraveris hora
surripit, aeternum linquens in saecula damnum.
(John Milton, Epitaphium Damonis 94-111)

Ah, how like one another are the young bulls which gambol through the meadows! They are all friends together, all of one mind. Not one of them singles out another from the herd as his particular friend. It’s the same with wolves, they hunt their food in packs; and the shaggy wild asses mate together by turn. The law of the sea is the same: on the deserted shore Proteus counts his seals in packs. The sparrow, the humblest of birds, always has a companion with whom he flits gaily round every stack of corn, and returns late to his own nest. And if by chance death carries off his mate, if a hook-billed kite cuts short its days or a peasant brings it to earth with his arrow, he goes off and looks for another, there and then, to keep him company as he flies about. But we men are a hard race: a race harassed by cruel fates. Our minds are unfriendly, our hearts discordant. It is hard for a man to find one kindred spirit among thousands of his fellows; and if at last, softened by our prayers, fate grants one, there comes the unexpected day, the unlooked-for hour, which snatches him away, leaving an eternal emptiness. (tr. John Carey)

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