Parca

salviati parcae
Francesco Salviati, Tre Parche

Laetus in praesens animus quod ultra est
oderit curare et amara lento
temperet risu; nihil est ab omni
parte beatum.

abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem,
longa Tithonum minuit senectus,
et mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit,
porriget hora.

te greges centum Siculaeque circum
mugiunt vaccae, tibi tollit hinnitum
apta quadrigis equa, te bis Afro
murice tinctae

vestiunt lanae: mihi parva rura et
spiritum Graiae tenuem Camenae
Parca non mendax dedit et malignum
spernere vulgus.

(Horace, Carm. 2.16.25-40)

The mind that is happy for the present should refuse to worry about what is further ahead; it should dilute bitter things with a mild smile. Nothing is happy in every respect. An early death overtook the famous Achilles; a protracted old age wasted Tithonus away; it may be that time will offer me what it has denied to you. All around you a hundred herds of Sicilian cattle low; you have a whinnying mare just right for the four-horse chariot; you wear woollen clothes dyed twice over in African crimson. To me the Thrifty One* that does not belie her name has given a small estate, a slight puff of inspiration from the Graeco-Roman Muse, and a scorn for the resentful mob.

* One of the Parcae, or Fates.

(tr. Niall Rudd)

 

Xunarmosas

Busto di Solone (640 a.C ca-560 a.C ca), marmo

Ἐγὼ δὲ τῶν μὲν οὕνεκα ξυνήγαγον
δῆμον, τί τούτων πρὶν τυχεῖν ἐπαυσάμην;
συμμαρτυροίη ταῦτ’ ἂν ἐν δίκῃ χρόνου
μήτηρ μεγίστη δαιμόνων Ὀλυμπίων
ἄριστα, Γῆ μέλαινα, τῆς ἐγώ ποτε
ὅρους ἀνεῖλον πολλαχῇ πεπηγότας·
πρόσθεν δὲ δουλεύουσα, νῦν ἐλευθέρη.
πολλοὺς δ’ Ἀθήνας πατρίδ’ ἐς θεόκτιτον
ἀνήγαγον πραθέντας, ἄλλον ἐκδίκως,
ἄλλον δικαίως, τοὺς δ’ ἀναγκαίης ὑπὸ
χρειοῦς φυγόντας, γλῶσσαν οὐκέτ’ Ἀττικὴν
ἱέντας, ὡς δὴ πολλαχῇ πλανωμένους·
τοὺς δ’ ἐνθάδ’ αὐτοῦ δουλίην ἀεικέα
ἔχοντας, ἤθη δεσποτέων τρομεομένους,
ἐλευθέρους ἔθηκα. ταῦτα μὲν κράτει
ὁμοῦ βίην τε καὶ δίκην ξυναρμόσας
ἔρεξα, καὶ διῆλθον ὡς ὑπεσχόμην·
θεσμοὺς δ’ ὁμοίως τῶι κακῷ τε κἀγαθῷ
εὐθεῖαν εἰς ἕκαστον ἁρμόσας δίκην
ἔγραψα. κέντρον δ’ ἄλλος ὡς ἐγὼ λαβών,
κακοφραδής τε καὶ φιλοκτήμων ἀνήρ,
οὐκ ἂν κατέσχε δῆμον· εἰ γὰρ ἤθελον
ἃ τοῖς ἐναντίοισιν ἥνδανεν τότε,
αὖτις δ’ ἃ τοῖσιν οὕτεροι φρασαίατο,
πολλῶν ἂν ἀνδρῶν ἥδ’ ἐχηρώθη πόλις.
τῶν οὕνεκ’ ἀλκὴν πάντοθεν ποιεόμενος
ὡς ἐν κυσὶν πολλῇσιν ἐστράφην λύκος.
(Solon, fr. 36)

Before achieving what of the goals for which I brought the people together* did I stop? In the verdict of time I will have as my best witness the mighty mother of the Olympian gods, dark Earth, whose boundary markers** fixed in many places I once removed; enslaved before, now she is free. And I brought back to Athens, to their homeland founded by the gods, many who had been sold, one legally another not, and those who had fled under necessity’s constraint, no longer speaking the Attic tongue, as wanderers far and winde are inclined to do. And those who suffered shameful slavery right here, trembling before the whims of their masters, I set free. These things I did by the exercise of my power, blending together force and justice, and I persevered to the end as I promised. I wrote laws for the lower and upper classes alike, providing a straight legal process for each person. If another had taken up the goad as I did, a man who gave bad counsel and was greedy, he would not have restrained the masses. For if I had been willing to do what then was pleasing to their opponents and in turn whatever the others [i.e., the masses] planned for them, this city would have been bereft of many men. For that reason I set up a defence on everyside and turned about like a wolf among a pack of dogs.

* Precise meaning disputed.
** As a sign of mortgaged land.

(tr. Douglas E. Gerber, with his notes)

Emicem

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This is part 2 of 2. Part 1 is here.

Numquid talia proderunt
carnis post obitum vel bona vel mala,
cum iam, quidquid id est, quod fueram, mors aboleverit?
dicendum mihi: “quisquis es,
mundum, quem coluit, mens tua perdidit;
non sunt illa Dei, quae studuit, cuius habeberis.”
atqui fine sub ultimo
peccatrix anima stultitiam exuat;
saltem voce Deum concelebret, si meritis nequit.
hymnis continuet dies,
nec nox ulla vacet, quin Dominum canat;
pugnet contra hereses, catholicam discutiat fidem;
conculcet sacra gentium,
labem, Roma, tuis inferat idolis;
carmen martyribus devoveat, laudet apostolos.
haec dum scribo vel eloquor,
vinclis o utinam corporis emicem
liber, quo tulerit lingua sono mobilis ultimo.
(Prudentius, Cathemerinon: Praefatio 28-45)

Will such things, good or bad, be of any profit after my flesh is dead, when death shall have wiped out all that I was? It must be said to me: “Whosoever thou art, thy soul hath lost the world it cherished; not to God, who will claim thee as His, belong the things for which it was zealous.” Yet as my last end draws near let my sinning soul put off her folly. With voice at least let her honour God, if with good deeds she cannot. With hymns let her link the days together, and no night pass without singing of her Lord. Let her fight against heresies, expound the Catholic faith, trample on the rites of the heathen, strike down thy idols, O Rome, devote song to the martyrs, and praise the apostles. And while I write or speak of these themes, O may I fly forth in freedom from the bonds of the body, to the place whither my busy tongue’s last word shall tend. (tr. Henry John Thomson)

Irrepsit

1lbeyi

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)

 

Homuncio

Altichiero,_ritratto_di_Francesco_Petrarca

Fuerit tibi forsan de me aliquid auditum—quamquam et hoc dubium sit: an exiguum et obscurum longe nomen seu locorum seu temporum perventurum sit—et illud forsitan optabis, nosse, quid hominis fuerim aut quis operum exitus meorum, eorum maxime, quorum ad te fama pervenerit vel quorum tenue nomen audieris. et de primo quidem variae erunt hominum voces: ita enim ferme quisque loquitur, ut impellit non veritas, sed voluptas; nec laudis nec infamiae modus est. fui autem vestro de grege unus, mortalis homuncio, nec magne admodum nec vilis originis, familia—ut de se ait Augustus Caesar—antiqua. honestis parentibus, florentinis origine, fortuna mediocri, et—ut verum fatear—ad inopiam vergente, sed patria pulsis Arretii in exilio natus sum, anno huius aetatis ultimae quae a Cristo incipit MCCCIV, die lunae ad auroram XIII kalendas Augusti. natura quidem non iniquo neque inverecundo animo, nisi ei consuetudo contagiosa nocuisset. adolescentia me fefellit, iuventa corripuit, senecta autem correxit experimentoque perdocuit verum illud quod diu ante perlegeram: quoniam adolescentia et voluptas vana sunt; immo etatum temporumque omnium Conditor, qui miseros mortales de nihilo tumidos aberrare sinit interdum, ut peccatorum suorum vel sero memores se se cognoscant. corpus iuveni non magnarum virium sed multe dexteritatis obtigerat. forma non glorior excellenti, sed quae placere viridioribus annis posset: colore vivido inter candidum et subnigrum, vivacibus oculis et visu per longum tempus acerrimo, qui praeter spem supra sexagesimum aetatis annum me destituit, ut indignanti mihi ad ocularium confugiendum esset auxilium. tota aetate sanissimum corpus senectus invasit, et solita morborum acie circumvenit.
(Francesco Petrarca, Rerum Senilium Libri 18.1 (= Epistola Posteritati) 1-4)

It is possible that some word of me may have come to you, though even this is doubtful, since an insignificant and obscure name will scarcely penetrate far in either time or space. If, however, you should have heard of me, you may desire to know what manner of man I was, or what was the outcome of my labors, especially those of which some description or, at any rate, the bare titles may have reached you. To begin, then, with myself. The utterances of men concerning me will differ widely, since in passing judgment almost every one is influenced not so much by truth as by preference, and good and evil report alike know no bounds. I was, in truth, a poor mortal like yourself, neither very exalted in my origin, nor, on the other hand, of the most humble birth, but belonging, as Augustus Cæsar says of himself, to an ancient family. My parents were honorable folk, Florentine in their origin, of medium fortune, or, I may as well admit it, in a condition verging upon poverty. They had been expelled from their native city, and consequently I was born in exile, at Arezzo, in the year 1304 of this latter age, which begins with Christ’s birth, July the 20th, on a Monday, at dawn. As to my disposition, I was not naturally perverse or wanting in modesty, however the contagion of evil associations may have corrupted me. My youth was gone before I realized it; I was carried away by the strength of manhood. But a riper age brought me to my senses and taught me by experience the truth I had long before read in books, that youth and pleasure are vanity—nay, that the Author of all ages and times permits us miserable mortals, puffed up with emptiness, thus to wander about, until finally, coming to a tardy consciousness of our sins, we shall learn to know ourselves. In my prime I was blessed with a quick and active body, although not exceptionally strong; and while I do not lay claim to remarkable personal beauty, I was comely enough in my best days. I was possessed of a clear complexion, between light and dark, lively eyes, and for long years a keen vision, which, however, deserted me, contrary to my hopes, after I reached my sixtieth birthday, and forced me, to my great annoyance, to resort to glasses. Although I had previously enjoyed perfect health, old age brought with it the usual array of discomforts. (tr. James Harvey Robinson)

Nemesēton

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Τεθνάμεναι γὰρ καλὸν ἐνὶ προμάχοισι πεσόντα
ἄνδρ’ ἀγαθὸν περὶ ᾗ πατρίδι μαρνάμενον,
τὴν δ’ αὐτοῦ προλιπόντα πόλιν καὶ πίονας ἀγροὺς
πτωχεύειν πάντων ἔστ’ ἀνιηρότατον,
πλαζόμενον σὺν μητρὶ φίλῃ καὶ πατρὶ γέροντι
παισί τε σὺν μικροῖς κουριδίῃ τ’ ἀλόχῳ.
ἐχθρὸς μὲν γὰρ τοῖσι μετέσσεται οὕς κεν ἵκηται,
χρησμοσύνῃ τ’ εἴκων καὶ στυγερῇ πενίῃ,
αἰσχύνει τε γένος, κατὰ δ’ ἀγλαὸν εἶδος ἐλέγχει,
πᾶσα δ’ ἀτιμίη καὶ κακότης ἕπεται.
εἰ δ’ οὕτως ἀνδρός τοι ἀλωμένου οὐδεμί’ ὤρη
γίνεται οὔτ’ αἰδὼς οὔτ’ ὀπίσω γένεος,
θυμῷ γῆς πέρι τῆσδε μαχώμεθα καὶ περὶ παίδων
θνήσκωμεν ψυχέων μηκέτι φειδόμενοι.
ὦ νέοι, ἀλλὰ μάχεσθε παρ’ ἀλλήλοισι μένοντες,
μηδὲ φυγῆς αἰσχρῆς ἄρχετε μηδὲ φόβου,
ἀλλὰ μέγαν ποιεῖσθε καὶ ἄλκιμον ἐν φρεσὶ θυμόν,
μηδὲ φιλοψυχεῖτ’ ἀνδράσι μαρνάμενοι·
τοὺς δὲ παλαιοτέρους, ὧν οὐκέτι γούνατ’ ἐλαφρά,
μὴ καταλείποντες φεύγετε, τοὺς γεραιούς.
αἰσχρὸν γὰρ δὴ τοῦτο, μετὰ προμάχοισι πεσόντα
κεῖσθαι πρόσθε νέων ἄνδρα παλαιότερον,
ἤδη λευκὸν ἔχοντα κάρη πολιόν τε γένειον,
θυμὸν ἀποπνείοντ’ ἄλκιμον ἐν κονίῃ,
αἱματόεντ’ αἰδοῖα φίλαις ἐν χερσὶν ἔχοντα—
αἰσχρὰ τά γ’ ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ νεμεσητὸν ἰδεῖν—
καὶ χρόα γυμνωθέντα· νέοισι δὲ πάντ’ ἐπέοικεν,
ὄφρ’ ἐρατῆς ἥβης ἀγλαὸν ἄνθος ἔχῃ,
ἀνδράσι μὲν θηητὸς ἰδεῖν, ἐρατὸς δὲ γυναιξὶ
ζωὸς ἐών, καλὸς δ’ ἐν προμάχοισι πεσών.
ἀλλά τις εὖ διαβὰς μενέτω ποσὶν ἀμφοτέροισι
στηριχθεὶς ἐπὶ γῆς, χεῖλος ὀδοῦσι δακών.
(Tyrtaeus, fr. 10)

It is a fine thing for a brave man to die when he has fallen among the front ranks while fighting for his homeland, and it is the most painful thing of all to leave one’s city and rich fields for a beggar’s life, wandering about with his dear mother and aged father, with small children and wedded wife. For giving way to need and hateful poverty, he will be treated with hostility by whomever he meets, he brings disgrace on his line, belies his splendid form, and every indignity and evil attend him. If then there is no regard or respect for a man wanders thus, nor yet for his family after him, let us fight with spirit for this land and let us die for our children, no longer sparing our lives. Come, you young men, stand fast at one another’s side and fight, and do not start shameful flight or panic, but make the spirit in your heart strong and valiant, and do not be in love of life when you are fighting men. Do not abandon and run away from elders, whose knees are no longer nimble, men revered. For this brings shame, when an older man lies fallen among the front ranks with the young behind him, his head already white and his beard grey, breathing out his valiant spirit in the dust, clutching in his hands his bloodied genitals—this is a shameful sight and brings indignation to behold—his body naked. But for the young everything is seemly, as long as he has the splendid prime of lovely youth; while alive, men marvel at the sight of him and women feel desire, and when he has fallen among the front ranks, he is fair. Come, let everyone stand fast, with legs set well apart and both feet fixed firmly on the ground, biting his lip with his teeth. (tr. Douglas E. Gerber)

Tyrtaeus

74340_phlx

Interea Messenii, cum virtute non possent, per insidias expugnantur. dein cum per annos octoginta gravia servitutis verbera, plerumque et vincula ceteraque captivitatis mala perpessi essent, post longam poenarum patientiam bellum restaurant. Lacedaemonii quoque eo conspiratius ad arma concurrunt, quod adversus servos dimicaturi videbantur. itaque cum hinc iniuria, inde indignitas animos acueret, Lacedaemonii de belli eventu oraculo Delphis consulto iubentur ducem belli ab Atheniensibus petere. porro Athenienses, cum responsum cognovissent, in contemptum Spartanorum Tyrtaeum, poetam claudum pede, misere, qui tribus proeliis fusos eo usque desperationis Spartanos adduxit, ut servos suos ad supplementum exercitus manumitterent hisque interfectorum matrimonia pollicerentur, ut non numero tantum amissorum civium, sed et dignitati succederent. sed reges Lacedaemoniorum, ne contra fortunam pugnando maiora detrimenta civitati infligerent, reducere exercitum voluerunt ni intervenisset Tyrtaeus, qui composita carmina exercitui pro contione recitavit, in quibus hortamenta virtutis, damnorum solacia, belli consilia conscripserat. itaque tantum ardorem militibus iniecit, ut non de salute, sed de sepultura solliciti tesseras insculptis suis et patrum nominibus dextro bracchio deligarent, ut, si omnes adversum proelium consumpsisset et temporis spatio confusa corporum liniamenta essent, ex indicio titulorum tradi sepulturae possent. cum sic animatum reges exercitum viderent, curant rem hostibus nuntiare; Messeniis autem non timorem res, sed aemulationem mutuam dedit. itaque tantis animis concursum est, ut raro umquam cruentius proelium fuerit. ad postremum tamen victoria Lacedaemoniorum fuit.
(Justinus, Epitome Pompeii Trogi 3.5)

Meantime the Messenians, who could not be conquered by valour, were reduced by stratagem. For eighty years they bore the severe afflictions of slaves, as frequent stripes, and chains, and other evils of subjugation; and then, after so long an endurance of suffering, they proceeded to resume hostilities. The Lacedaemonians, at the same time, ran to arms with the greater ardour and unanimity, because they seemed to be called upon to fight against their own slaves. While ill-treatment, therefore, on the one side, and indignation on the other, exasperated their feelings, the Lacedaemonians consulted the oracle at Delphi concerning the event of the war, and were directed to ask the Athenians for a leader to conduct it. The Athenians, learning the answer of the oracle, sent, to express their contempt of the Spartans a lame poet, named Tyrtaeus; who, being routed in three battles, reduced the Lacedaemonians to so desperate a condition, that, to recruit their army, they liberated a portion of their slaves, promising that they should marry the widows of those who were slain, and thus fill up, not merely the number of the lost citizens, but their offices. The kings of Sparta, however, lest, by contending against fortune, they should bring greater losses on their city, would have drawn off their army, had not Tyrtaeus interposed, and recited to the soldiers, in a public assembly, some verses of his own composition, in which he had comprised exhortations to courage, consolations for their losses, and counsels concerning the war. By this means he inspired the soldiers with such resolution, that, being no longer concerned for their lives, but merely for the rites of burial, they tied on their right arms tickets, inscribed with their names and those of their fathers, that if an unsuccessful battle should cut them off, and their features after a time become indistinct, they might be consigned to burial according to the indication of the inscriptions. When the kings saw the army thus animated, they took care that the state of it should be made known to the enemy; the report, however, raised in the Messenians no alarm, but a correspondent ardour. Both sides accordingly encountered with such fury, that there scarcely ever was a more bloody battle. But at last victory fell to the Lacedaemonians. (tr. John Selby Watson)