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)
Quisquis volet perennem
cautus ponere sedem
stabilisque, nec sonori
sterni flatibus Euri,
et fluctibus minantem
curat spernere pontem:
montis cacumen alti,
bibulas vitet harenas.
illud protervus Auster
totis viribus urget,
hae pendulum solutae
pondus ferre recusant.
sortem sedis amoenae
humili domum memento
certus figere saxo.
quamvis tonet ruinis
miscens aequore ventus,
tu conditus quieti
felix robore valli,
duces serenus aevum,
ridens aetheris iras.
(Boëthius, De Consolatione Philosophiae 2.4 metrum)
Who wants to build in prudence
Sure-footed, not to be leveled
By the loud-moaning East Wind;
Who longs to scorn the deep sea,
Waves that threaten disaster –
He must reject the summits
And the parched sands of the seashore.
The one the brawling South Wind
Smashes with all its forces;
The other, noncohesive,
Won’t bear settling structures.
Run away from all these dangers,
Fatal, pleasant locations;
On humble rock, remember,
Build your home in complete trust.
Though winds may roil the oceans,
Thunder, rain down destruction –
Still you, concealed in silence,
Blessed with powerful ramparts,
Will pass a tranquil lifetime,
Will deride the air’s anger.
(tr. Joel C. Relihan)
Quisquis composito serenus aevo
fatum sub pedibus egit superbum
fortunamque tuens utramque rectus
invictum potuit tenere vultum,
non illum rabies minaeque ponti
versum funditus exagitantis aestum
nec ruptis quotiens vagus caminis
torquet fumificos Vesaevus ignes
aut celsas soliti ferire turres
ardentis via fulminis movebit.
quid tantum miseri saevos tyrannos
mirantur sine viribus furentes?
nec speres aliquid nec extimescas:
exarmaveris impotentis iram;
at quisquis trepidus pavet vel optat,
quod non sit stabilis suique iuris,
abiecit clipeum locoque motus
nectit qua valeat trahi catenam.
(Boëthius, De Consolatione Philosophiae 1.4 metrum)
In tranquillity, life secure and settled,
Upright, feet on the neck of peacock Fortune,
Looking squarely at fate, benign or brutal –
He, unconquered, who kept his bearings, dreads not
The insanity of the ocean’s menace,
When it churns up the waves from depths abyssal;
Nor Vesuvius, when from fractured chimneys
Fire flies spiraling up with smoke at random;
Nor bright trails of the lightning bolts, accustomed
To demolish the lofty towers of princes.
Tell me, why are the weak in awe of tyrants,
Feral, violent, but without true power?
If you hope for and fear for nothing ever
Then you’ve broken the sword of the madman’s anger.
But a coward who dreads or longs for something,
Who cannot stand his ground upon his own rights,
Has discarded his shield; out of position,
He has fashioned the chain he’ll wear in slavery.
(tr. Joel C. Relihan)