Senectus

senectus

Carmina qui quondam studio florente peregi,
flebilis heu maestos cogor inire modos.
ecce mihi lacerae dictant scribenda Camenae
et veris elegi fletibus ora rigant.
has saltem nullus potuit pervincere terror,
ne nostrum comites prosequerentur iter.
gloria felicis olim viridisque iuuentae,
solantur maesti nunc mea fata senis.
venit enim properata malis inopina senectus
et dolor aetatem iussit inesse suam.
intempestivi funduntur vertice cani
et tremit effeto corpore laxa cutis.
mors hominum felix, quae se nec dulcibus annis
inserit et maestis saepe vocata venit.
eheu, quam surda miseros avertitur aure
et flentes oculos claudere saeva negat!
dum levibus male fida bonis fortuna faveret
paene caput tristis merserat hora meum.
nunc quia fallacem mutavit nubila vultum
protrahit ingratas impia vita moras.
quid me felicem totiens iactastis, amici?
qui cecidit, stabili non erat ille gradu.
(Boëthius, De Consolatione Philosophiae 1.1 metrum)

I who was once at the height of my powers a master of versecraft—
Woe is me!—weeping, coerced, enter the grief-ridden mode.
Lo! Their cheeks harrowed, the Muses come tell me the words I must take down,
And they now dampen my face with lachrymose elegy’s truth.
Them, and them only, no panic could vanquish or frighten from coming
As my companions alone over the path I must tread.
They who were once the delight of a youth that was prosperous and happy
In my misfortunes console me, now a grieving old man.
For now has arrived, unexpected and hastened by evils, my old age—
Pain gave the order; its years now must be be added to mine.
Now from the top of my head flows down snow-white hair, quite out of season;
Barren, my body is sheathed, in shivering, limp, nerveless skin.
Happy the death of a man that would thrust itself not in the sweet years!
But, when incessantly called, comes to those stricken with grief.
Woe is them! With a deaf ear she rejects all pleas of the wretched—
Merciless, she will not close eyes that are brimming with tears.
While faithless Fortune was partial to me with ephemeral favors,
A single, deplorable hour nearly plunged me in my grave.
Now that she’s darkly transformed her appearances, ever deceitful,
Must then my unholy life drag out this ghastly delay?
Tell me, my friends, why you boasted so often that I was so blessèd—
Soldiers who fell never had stable ground on which to stand.
(tr. Joel C. Relihan)

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