Sed quid tam tenui prodest ratione nitentem
scrutari mundum, si mens sua cuique repugnat
spemque timor tollit prohibetque a limine caeli?
“conditur en” inquit “vasto natura recessu
mortalisque fugit visus et pectora nostra,
nec prodesse potest quod fatis cuncta reguntur,
cum fatum nulla possit ratione videri.”
quid iuvat in semet sua per convicia ferri
et fraudare bonis, quae nec deus invidet ipse,
quosque dedit natura oculos deponere mentis?
perspicimus caelum, cur non et munera caeli?
<mens humana potest propria discedere sede>
inque ipsos penitus mundi descendere census
seminibusque suis tantam componere molem
et partum caeli sua per nutricia ferre
extremumque sequi pontum terraeque subire
pendentis tractus et toto vivere in orbe
[quanta et pars superet rationem discere noctis.]
iam nusquam natura latet; pervidimus omnem
et capto potimur mundo nostrumque parentem
pars sua perspicimus genitique accedimus astris.
an dubium est habitare deum sub pectore nostro
in caelumque redire animas caeloque venire,
utque sit ex omni constructus corpore mundus
aëris atque ignis summi terraeque marisque
hospitium menti totum quae infusa gubernet,
sic esse in nobis terrenae corpora sortis
sanguineasque animas animo, qui cuncta gubernat
dispensatque hominem? quid mirum, noscere mundum
si possunt homines, quibus est et mundus in ipsis
exemplumque dei quisque est in imagine parva?
(Manilius, Astr. 4.866-895)
But what avail is it to search out the secrets of the shining firmament with such subtle reasoning, if a man’s spirit resists and fear banishes confidence and bars access to the gate of heaven ? “See,” he objects, “nature is buried in deep concealment and lies beyond our mortal gaze and ken; it cannot profit us that all is governed by fate, since the rule of fate cannot by any means be seen.” What boots it to assail oneself with self-reproach, to deprive oneself of benefits ungrudged by God himself, and to renounce that mental vision which nature has bestowed? We perceive the skies, then why not the skies’ gifts too? The mind of man has the power to leave its proper abode and penetrate to the innermost treasures of the sky; to construct the mighty universe from its component seeds; to transport the offspring of heaven about the places from which it came; to make for Ocean’s farthest horizon, descend to the inverted parts of the Earth, and inhabit the whole wide world. Now nature holds no mysteries for us; we have surveyed it in its entirety and are masters of the conquered sky; we perceive our creator, of whom we are part, and rise to the stars, whose children we are. Can one doubt that a divinity dwells within our breasts and that our souls return to the heaven whence they came? Can one doubt that, just as the world, composed of the elements of air and fire on high and earth and water, houses an intelligence which, spread throughout it, directs the whole, so too with us the bodies of our earthly condition and our life-blood house a mind which directs every part and animates the man? Why wonder that men can comprehend heaven, when heaven exists in their very beings and each one is in a smaller likeness the image of God himself? (tr. George Patrick Goold)