On the faults of the Spirit

Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky, "Seashore at night" (?)

1. You can persuade me into almost anything now, for I was recently persuaded to travel by water. We cast off when the sea was lazily smooth; the sky, to be sure, was heavy with nasty clouds, such as usually break into rain or squalls. Still, I thought that the few miles between Puteoli and your dear Parthenope might be run off in quick time, despite the uncertain and lowering sky. So, in order to get away more quickly, I made straight out to sea for Nesis, with the purpose of cutting across all the inlets. 2. But when we were so far out that it made little difference to me whether I returned or kept on, the calm weather, which had enticed me, came to naught. The storm had not yet begun, but the ground-swell was on, and the waves kept steadily coming faster. I began to ask the pilot to put me ashore somewhere; he replied that the coast was rough and a bad place to land, and that in a storm he feared a lee shore more than anything else. 3. But I was suffering too grievously to think of the danger, since a sluggish seasickness which brought no relief was racking me, the sort that upsets the liver without clearing it. Therefore I laid down the law to my pilot, forcing him to make for the shore, willy-nilly. When we drew near, I did not wait for things to be done in accordance with Vergil’s orders, until

Prow faced seawards

or

Anchor plunged from bow;

I remembered my profession as a veteran devotee of cold water, and, clad as I was in my cloak, let myself down into the sea, just as a cold-water bather should. 4. What do you think my feelings were, scrambling over the rocks, searching out the path, or making one for myself? l understood that sailors have good reason to fear the land. It is hard to believe what I endured when I could not endure myself; you may be sure that the reason why Ulysses was shipwrecked on every possible occasion was not so much because the sea-god was angry with him from his birth; he was simply subject to seasickness. And in the future I also, if I must go anywhere by sea, shall only reach my destination in the twentieth year.
5. When I finally calmed my stomach (for you know that one does not escape seasickness by escaping from the sea) and refreshed my body with a rubdown, I began to reflect how completely we forget or ignore our failings, even those that affect the body, which are continually reminding us of their existence, – not to mention those which are more serious in proportion as they are more hidden. 6. A slight ague deceives us; but when it has increased and a genuine fever has begun to burn, it forces even a hardy man, who can endure much suffering, to admit that he is ill. There is pain in the foot, and a tingling sensation in the joints; but we still hide the complaint and announce that we have sprained a joint, or else are tired from over-exercise. Then the ailment, uncertain at first, must be given a name; and when it begins to swell the ankles also, and has made both our feet “right” feet, we are bound to confess that we have the gout. 7. The opposite holds true of diseases of the soul; the worse one is, the less one perceives it. You need not be surprised, my beloved Lucilius. For he whose sleep is light pursues visions during slumber, and sometimes, though asleep, is conscious that he is asleep; but sound slumber annihilates our very dreams and sinks the spirit down so deep that it has no perception of self. 8. Why will no man confess his faults? Because he is still in their grasp; only he who is awake can recount his dream, and similarly a confession of sin is a proof of sound mind.
Let us, therefore, rouse ourselves, that we may be able to correct our mistakes. Philosophy, however, is the only power that can stir us, the only power that can shake off our deep slumber. Devote yourself wholly to philosophy. You are worthy of her; she is worthy of you; greet one another with a loving embrace. Say farewell to all other interests with courage and frankness. Do not study philosophy merely during your spare time.
9. If you were ill, you would stop caring for your personal concerns, and forget your business duties; you would not think highly enough of any client to take active charge of his case during a slight abatement of your sufferings. You would try your hardest to be rid of the illness as soon as possible. What, then? Shall you not do the same thing now? Throw aside all hindrances and give up your time to getting a sound mind; for no man can attain it if he is engrossed in other matters. Philosophy wields her own authority; she appoints her own time and does not allow it to be appointed for her. She is not a thing to be followed at odd times, but a subject for daily practice; she is mistress, and she commands our attendance. 10. Alexander, when a certain state promised him a part of its territory and half its entire property, replied: “I invaded Asia with the intention, not of accepting what you might give, but of allowing you to keep what I might leave.” Philosophy likewise keeps saying to all occupations: “I do not intend to accept the time which you have left over, but I shall allow you to keep what I myself shall leave.”
11. Turn to her, therefore, with all your soul, sit at her feet, cherish her; a great distance will then begin to separate you from other men. You will be far ahead of all mortals, and even the gods will not be far ahead of you. Do you ask what will be the difference between yourself and the gods? They will live longer. But, by my faith, it is the sign of a great artist to have confined a full likeness to the limits of a miniature. The wise man’s life spreads out to him over as large a surface as does all eternity to a god. There is one point in which the sage has an advantage over the god; for a god is freed from terrors by the bounty of nature, the wise man by his own bounty. 12. What a wonderful privilege, to have the weaknesses of a man and the serenity of a god! The power of philosophy to blunt the blows of chance is beyond belief. No missile can settle in her body; she is well-protected and impenetrable. She spoils the force of some missiles and wards them off with the loose folds of her gown, as if they had no power to harm; others she dashes aside, and hurls them back with such force that they recoil upon the sender. Farewell.


Seneca Lucilio suo salutem.
[1] Quid non potest mihi persuaderi, cui persuasum est ut navigarem? Solvi mari languido; erat sine dubio caelum grave sordidis nubibus, quae fere aut in aquam aut in ventum resolvuntur, sed putavi tam pauca milia a Parthenope tua usque Puteolos subripi posse, quamvis dubio et impendente caelo. Itaque quo celerius evaderem, protinus per altum ad Nesida derexi praecisurus omnes sinus. [2] Cum iam eo processissem ut mea nihil interesset utrum irem an redirem, primum aequalitas illa quae me corruperat periit; nondum erat tempestas, sed iam inclinatio maris ac subinde crebrior fluctus. Coepi gubernatorem rogare ut me in aliquo litore exponeret: aiebat ille aspera esse et importuosa nec quicquam se aeque in tempestate timere quam terram. [3] Peius autem vexabar quam ut mihi periculum succurreret; nausia enim me segnis haec et sine exitu torquebat, quae bilem movet nec effundit. Institi itaque gubernatori et illum, vellet nollet, coegi, peteret litus. Cuius ut viciniam attigimus, non exspecto ut quicquam ex praeceptis Vergilii fiat,

obvertunt pelago proras

aut

ancora de prora iacitur:

memor artificii mei vetus frigidae cultor mitto me in mare, quomodo psychrolutam decet, gausapatus. [4] Quae putas me passum dum per aspera erepo, dum viam quaero, dum facio? Intellexi non immerito nautis terram timeri. Incredibilia sunt quae tulerim, cum me ferre non possem: illud scito, Ulixem non fuisse tam irato mari natum ut ubique naufragia faceret: nausiator erat. Et ego quocumque navigare debuero vicensimo anno perveniam.
[5] Ut primum stomachum, quem scis non cum mari nausiam effugere, collegi, ut corpus unctione recreavi, hoc coepi mecum cogitare, quanta nos vitiorum nostrorum sequeretur oblivio, etiam corporalium, quae subinde admonent sui, nedum illorum quae eo magis latent quo maiora sunt. [6] Levis aliquem motiuncula decipit; sed cum crevit et vera febris exarsit, etiam duro et perpessicio confessionem exprimit. Pedes dolent, articuli punctiunculas sentiunt: adhuc dissimulamus et aut talum extorsisse dicimus nos aut in exercitatione aliqua laborasse. Dubio et incipiente morbo quaeritur nomen, qui ubi ut talaria coepit intendere et utrosque distortos pedes fecit, necesse est podagram fateri.
[7] Contra evenit in his morbis quibus afficiuntur animi: quo quis peius se habet, minus sentit. Non est quod mireris, Lucili carissime; nam qui leviter dormit, et species secundum quietem capit et aliquando dormire se dormiens cogitat: gravis sopor etiam somnia exstinguit animumque altius mergit quam ut in ullo intellectu sui sit. [8] Quare vitia sua nemo confitetur? quia etiam nunc in illis est: somnium narrare vigilantis est, et vitia sua confiteri sanitatis indicium est. Expergiscamur ergo, ut errores nostros coarguere possimus. Sola autem nos philosophia excitabit, sola somnum excutiet gravem: illi te totum dedica. Dignus illa es, illa digna te est: ite in complexum alter alterius. Omnibus aliis rebus te nega, fortiter, aperte; non est quod precario philosopheris. [9] Si aeger esses, curam intermisisses rei familiaris et forensia tibi negotia excidissent nec quemquam tanti putares cui advocatus in remissione descenderes; toto animo id ageres ut quam primum morbo liberareris. Quid ergo? non et nunc idem facies? omnia impedimenta dimitte et vaca bonae menti: nemo ad illam pervenit occupatus. Exercet philosophia regnum suum; dat tempus, non accipit; non est res subsiciva; ordinaria est, domina est, adest et iubet. [10] Alexander cuidam civitati partem agrorum et dimidium rerum omnium promittenti ‘eo’ inquit ‘proposito in Asiam veni, ut non id acciperem quod dedissetis, sed ut id haberetis quod reliquissem’. Idem philosophia rebus omnibus: ‘non sum hoc tempus acceptura quod vobis superfuerit, sed id vos habebitis quod ipsa reiecero’. [11] Totam huc converte mentem, huic asside, hanc cole: ingens intervallum inter te et ceteros fiet; omnes mortales multo antecedes, non multo te dii antecedent. Quaeris quid inter te et illos interfuturum sit? diutius erunt. At mehercules magni artificis est clusisse totum in exiguo; tantum sapienti sua quantum deo omnis aetas patet. Est aliquid quo sapiens antecedat deum: ille naturae beneficio non timet, suo sapiens. [12] Ecce res magna, habere imbecillitatem hominis, securitatem dei. Incredibilis philosophiae vis est ad omnem fortuitam vim retundendam. Nullum telum in corpore eius sedet; munita est, solida; quaedam defetigat et velut levia tela laxo sinu eludit, quaedam discutit et in eum usque qui miserat respuit. Vale.

—Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Epistulae morales ad Lucilium (LIII)

The glory of Rome

Pierre Mignard, "Clio" (1689)

19.08.14: 2000th anniversary of the death of Octavian Augustus, first Prince of the Roman Empire (63 BC – 14 AD).

“Survey,” pursued the sire, “this airy throng,
As, offer’d to thy view, they pass along.
These are th’ Italian names, which fate will join
With ours, and graff upon the Trojan line.
Observe the youth who first appears in sight,
And holds the nearest station to the light,
Already seems to snuff the vital air,
And leans just forward, on a shining spear:
Silvius is he, thy last-begotten race,
But first in order sent, to fill thy place;
An Alban name, but mix’d with Dardan blood,
Born in the covert of a shady wood:
Him fair Lavinia, thy surviving wife,
Shall breed in groves, to lead a solitary life.
In Alba he shall fix his royal seat,
And, born a king, a race of kings beget.
Then Procas, honor of the Trojan name,
Capys, and Numitor, of endless fame.
A second Silvius after these appears;
Silvius Aeneas, for thy name he bears;
For arms and justice equally renown’d,
Who, late restor’d, in Alba shall be crown’d.
How great they look! how vig’rously they wield
Their weighty lances, and sustain the shield!
But they, who crown’d with oaken wreaths appear,
Shall Gabian walls and strong Fidena rear;
Nomentum, Bola, with Pometia, found;
And raise Collatian tow’rs on rocky ground.
All these shall then be towns of mighty fame,
Tho’ now they lie obscure, and lands without a name.
See Romulus the great, born to restore
The crown that once his injur’d grandsire wore.
This prince a priestess of your blood shall bear,
And like his sire in arms he shall appear.
Two rising crests, his royal head adorn;
Born from a god, himself to godhead born:
His sire already signs him for the skies,
And marks the seat amidst the deities.
Auspicious chief! thy race, in times to come,
Shall spread the conquests of imperial Rome
Rome, whose ascending tow’rs shall heav’n invade,
Involving earth and ocean in her shade;
High as the Mother of the Gods in place,
And proud, like her, of an immortal race.
Then, when in pomp she makes the Phrygian round,
With golden turrets on her temples crown’d;
A hundred gods her sweeping train supply;
Her offspring all, and all command the sky.

“Now fix your sight, and stand intent, to see
Your Roman race, and Julian progeny.
The mighty Caesar waits his vital hour,
Impatient for the world, and grasps his promis’d pow’r.
But next behold the youth of form divine,
Ceasar himself, exalted in his line;
Augustus, promis’d oft, and long foretold,
Sent to the realm that Saturn rul’d of old;
Born to restore a better age of gold.
Afric and India shall his pow’r obey;
He shall extend his propagated sway
Beyond the solar year, without the starry way,
Where Atlas turns the rolling heav’ns around,
And his broad shoulders with their lights are crown’d.
At his foreseen approach, already quake
The Caspian kingdoms and Maeotian lake:
Their seers behold the tempest from afar,
And threat’ning oracles denounce the war.
Nile hears him knocking at his sev’nfold gates,
And seeks his hidden spring, and fears his nephew’s fates.

Nor Hercules more lands or labors knew,
Not tho’ the brazen-footed hind he slew,
Freed Erymanthus from the foaming boar,
And dipp’d his arrows in Lernaean gore;
Nor Bacchus, turning from his Indian war,
By tigers drawn triumphant in his car,
From Nisus’ top descending on the plains,
With curling vines around his purple reins.
And doubt we yet thro’ dangers to pursue
The paths of honor, and a crown in view?
But what’s the man, who from afar appears?
His head with olive crown’d, his hand a censer bears,
His hoary beard and holy vestments bring
His lost idea back: I know the Roman king.
He shall to peaceful Rome new laws ordain,
Call’d from his mean abode a scepter to sustain.
Him Tullus next in dignity succeeds,
An active prince, and prone to martial deeds.
He shall his troops for fighting fields prepare,
Disus’d to toils, and triumphs of the war.
By dint of sword his crown he shall increase,
And scour his armor from the rust of peace.
Whom Ancus follows, with a fawning air,
But vain within, and proudly popular.
Next view the Tarquin kings, th’ avenging sword
Of Brutus, justly drawn, and Rome restor’d.
He first renews the rods and ax severe,
And gives the consuls royal robes to wear.
His sons, who seek the tyrant to sustain,
And long for arbitrary lords again,
With ignominy scourg’d, in open sight,
He dooms to death deserv’d, asserting public right.
Unhappy man, to break the pious laws
Of nature, pleading in his children’s cause!
Howeer the doubtful fact is understood,
‘T is love of honor, and his country’s good:
The consul, not the father, sheds the blood.
Behold Torquatus the same track pursue;
And, next, the two devoted Decii view:
The Drusian line, Camillus loaded home
With standards well redeem’d, and foreign foes o’ercome
The pair you see in equal armor shine,
Now, friends below, in close embraces join;
But, when they leave the shady realms of night,
And, cloth’d in bodies, breathe your upper light,
With mortal hate each other shall pursue:
What wars, what wounds, what slaughter shall ensue!
From Alpine heights the father first descends;
His daughter’s husband in the plain attends:
His daughter’s husband arms his eastern friends.
Embrace again, my sons, be foes no more;
Nor stain your country with her children’s gore!
And thou, the first, lay down thy lawless claim,
Thou, of my blood, who bearist the Julian name!
Another comes, who shall in triumph ride,
And to the Capitol his chariot guide,
From conquer’d Corinth, rich with Grecian spoils.
And yet another, fam’d for warlike toils,
On Argos shall impose the Roman laws,
And on the Greeks revenge the Trojan cause;
Shall drag in chains their Achillean race;
Shall vindicate his ancestors’ disgrace,
And Pallas, for her violated place.
Great Cato there, for gravity renown’d,
And conqu’ring Cossus goes with laurels crown’d.
Who can omit the Gracchi? who declare
The Scipios’ worth, those thunderbolts of war,
The double bane of Carthage? Who can see
Without esteem for virtuous poverty,
Severe Fabricius, or can cease T’ admire
The plowman consul in his coarse attire?
Tir’d as I am, my praise the Fabii claim;
And thou, great hero, greatest of thy name,
Ordain’d in war to save the sinking state,
And, by delays, to put a stop to fate!
Let others better mold the running mass
Of metals, and inform the breathing brass,
And soften into flesh a marble face;
Plead better at the bar; describe the skies,
And when the stars descend, and when they rise.
But, Rome, ‘t is thine alone, with awful sway,
To rule mankind, and make the world obey,
Disposing peace and war by thy own majestic way;
To tame the proud, the fetter’d slave to free:
These are imperial arts, and worthy thee.

—Publius Vergilius Maro, Aeneid (VIII, 756-853)

La Tempesta

No, non turbarti, o Nice; io non ritorno
a parlarti d’amor. So che ti spiace;
basta così. Vedi che il ciel minaccia
improvvisa tempesta: alle capanne
se vuoi ridurre il gregge, io vengo solo
ad offrir l’opra mia. Che! Non paventi?
Osserva che a momenti
tutto s’oscura il ciel, che il vento in giro
la polve innalza e le cadute foglie.
Al fremer della selva, al volo incerto
degli augelli smarriti, a queste rare,
che ci cadon sul volto, umide stille,
Nice, io preveggo… Ah non tel dissi, O Nice?
ecco il lampo, ecco il tuono. Or che farai?
Vieni, senti; ove vai? Non è più tempo
di pensare alla greggia. In questo speco
riparati frattanto; io sarò teco.

Ma tu tremi, o mio tesoro!
Ma tu palpiti, cor mio!
Non temer; con te son io,
né d’amor ti parlerò.
Mentre folgori e baleni,
sarò teco, amata Nice;
quando il ciel si rassereni,
Nice ingrata, io partirò.

Siedi, sicura sei. Nel sen di questa
concava rupe in fin ad or giammai
fulmine non percosse,
lampo non penetrò. L’adombra intorno
folta selva d’allori
che prescrive del Ciel limiti all’ira.
Siedi, bell’idol mio, siedi e respira.
Ma tu pure al mio fianco timorosa ti stringi, e, come io voglia
fuggir da te, per trattenermi annodi
fra le tue la mia man? Rovini il cielo,
non dubitar, non partirò. Bramai
sempre un sì dolce istante. Ah così fosse
frutto dell’amor tuo, non del timore!
Ah lascia, o Nice, ah lascia
lusingarmene almen. Chi sa? Mi amasti
sempre forse fin or. Fu il tuo rigore
modestia, e non disprezzo; e forse questo
eccessivo spavento
è pretesto all’amor. Parla, che dici?
M’appongo al ver? Tu non rispondi? Abbassi
vergognosa lo sguardo!
Arrossisci? Sorridi? Intendo, intendo.
Non parlar, mia speranza;
quel riso, quel rossor dice abbastanza.

E pur fra le tempeste
la calma ritrovai.
Ah non ritorni mai,
mai più sereno il dì!
Questo de’ giorni miei,
questo è il più chiaro giorno
Viver così vorrei,
vorrei morir così.

—Pietro Metastasio

James Carrol Beckwith, "A Wistful Look" (?)

Haec tibi erunt artes…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 141 other followers