Eloquium

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Homeri opera

Utque parens rerum fontes et flumina magnae
suggerit Oceanus terrae, sic omnis ab istis
docta per ora virum decurrit gratia chartis;
hinc fusa innumeris felix opulentia saeclis
ditavit mentes, tacitoque infloruit aevo.
omnia ab his et in his sunt omnia, sive beati
te decor eloquii seu rerum pondera tangunt.
nam quae tam varium Memphitis stamen harundo
separat, aut quae sic Babylonos texta potentis
sollicita pinguntur acu, quae tanta colorum
gloria, cum pinnis zephyri rorantibus adsunt!
quantus honor vocum, quam multis dives abundat
floribus, et claris augescit lingua figuris!
sive libet tenui versum deducere filo,
seu medium confine tenet, seu robore toto
fortior assurgit; seu vena paupere fertur
aridius, celeri seu se brevis incitat alveo,
gurgite seu pleno densisque opulentior undat
vorticibus, sive humentes laeto ubere ripas
daedala germinibus variat: maiore nec umquam
sermo potens meminit se maiestate loquentem.
quod si facta virum victuris condere chartis.
flectere si mavis orando et fingere mentes,
hunc optato ducem. Non causas doctius alter
personamque locumque modosque et tempus et arma
remque ipsam expediat, dum nunc iactantior exit
nunc contorta ruit nunc se facundia profert
simplicior, varia nunc floret imagine rerum:
dulcius eloquium nulli nec apertior umquam
vis fandi fuit aut quae mentibus acrior instet;
indole quemque sua pingit, sua cuique decenter
attribuit verba et mores unumque tenorem
semper amat, meminitque sui; scit et unde moveri
et quo sit prodire tenus fusumque gubernat
arte opus, et mediis prima ac postrema revincit.
nunc teneras vocat ad lacrimas, nunc igneus iram
suscitat; interdum retrahit, probat, arguit, urget;
nunc nova suspendunt avidas miracula mentes,
feta bonis, ipsum utiliter celantia verum.
(Angelus Politianus, Ambra 476-514)

And as Ocean, the parent of the elements, supplies the springs and rivers of the great earth, so from these pages every grace flowed down through the learned mouths of men; from them a fecund opulence, diffused through countless ages, has enriched minds and flowered in the silent course of history. All things derive from them and in them are all things, whether you are touched by the beauty of his rich eloquence or the gravity of the subject. For what a vari-colored warp the weaver’s reed separates at Memphis, what fabrics are embroidered by the painstaking needle of mighty Babylon, what a great riot of colors along with the zephyrs, their wings dripping with dew, are present in him! What beauty of words, what rich abundance of colors and what elegant figures adorn his style! Whether he wishes to spin his verse with a slender thread or holds to a middle style or rises more forcefully with full strength; whether he is borne along more unadorned with thinner vein, or more compressed, rushes forward in swift course, or ripples more sumptuously at full flood and in swirling eddies, or whether with Daedalian artistry and rich abundance he variegates the moist banks with flowering buds, powerful Eloquence never remembers speaking with greater majesty. But if you prefer to record the mighty feats of heroes in immortal pages or to direct and mould men’s minds by your oratory, choose him as your gide. No other can expound more learnedly the causes, the personalities, the place and the circumstances, the time, the arms and the action itself, while at one time his eloquence bursts forth more exultantly, now it rushes along with twists and turns, now it moves forward more simply, now richly ornamented, it bursts into flower with a multiplicity of images. No one possessed a sweeter eloquence; to none was ever given a more lucid power of expression; none could touch the spirit more poignantly; he depicts each one according to his true character, he attributes words and conduct proper to each, he loves to maintain an even tenor, true to himself, and he knows both from whence to begin the narrative and how far to proceed, and he controls the wide scope of his work artistically and binds the middle together with the beginning and the end. Now he incites to tender tears, now with passion he rouses to anger; at different times he holds back, approves, rebukes, urges forward; now unheard of marvels, abounding with good things hold avid minds in suspense, usefully concealing the inner truth. (tr. Charles Fantazzi)

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