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De Senectute

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Marcus Tullius Cicero

De Senectute/On Senility

English translation by Lamberto Bozzi (2015)

Marci Tullii Ciceronis

Cato Maior de Senectute

I

“O Titus, if I help you uproot
The heavy grief that lies deep in your breast
Will that call for some sort of tribute?”
I give you Atticus a salute
Couched in the very verses Ennius, somewhat poor
But whose friendship was sensitive and pure,
To Titus Quintus Flaminius once addressed.
Though I don’t think your mind is the prey
Of fretful thoughts by night and by day.
Balanced and just in fact is the frame
Of your mind and I’m fully aware
Greek wisdom and culture are a pair
You brought home with your Athenian nickname.
And yet I think our hearts in step beat
Whenever the same hardships we meet
Whose consolation, I am afraid,
To another time is to be delayed.
I’ve resolved to let you know as I see
At this point the state of senility,

O Tite, si quid ego adiuero curamve levasso,
Quae nunc te coquit et versat in pectore fixa,
Ecquid erit praemi?

Licet enim mihi versibus eisdem adfari te, Attice, quibus adfatur Flamininum

Ille vir haud magna cum re, sed plenus fidei;

quamquam certo scio non, ut Flamininum,

Sollicitari te, Tite, sic noctesque diesque;

novi enim moderationem animi tui et aequitatem, teque non cognomen solum Athenis deportasse, sed humanitatem et prudentiam intellego. Et tamen te suspicor eisdem rebus quibus me ipsum interdum gravius commoveri, quarum consolatio et maior est et in aliud tempus differenda. Nunc autem visum est mihi de senectute aliquid ad te conscribere.

Old age that is, which is already in sight,
And which makes us feel its unpleasant bite.
A bite and something else, I know for sure,
You can and will moderately endure.
But as soon as I was inclined
To write about senility
It was you who came to my mind
As worthy of a gratuity,
A gift we might well take as an excuse
To be converted to our mutual use.
Indeed the composition of this book
Was for me a pleasant task that took
Away not only age’s seamy side,
But helped me take senility in stride.
Philosophy can never get its due share
Of laudation since following its way
A man can go through life free from care.

Hoc enim onere, quod mihi commune tecum est, aut iam urgentis aut certe adventantis senectutis et te et me etiam ipsum levari volo; etsi te quidem id modice ac sapienter, sicut omnia, et ferre et laturum esse certo scio. Sed mihi, cum de senectute vellem aliquid scribere, tu occurrebas dignus eo munere, quo uterque nostrum communiter uteretur. Mihi quidem ita iucunda huius libri confecto fuit, ut non modo omnis absterserit senectutis molestias, sed effecerit mollem etiam et iucundam senectutem. Numquam igitur satis digne laudari philosophia poterit, cui qui pareat, omne tempus aetatis sine molestia possit degere.

This much I said and more I’ll have to say.
You are on the dedication page
Of this book I wrote about old age.
I didn’t single out Tithonius as the source,
As Aristo of Chius did, of my discourse
As frail is the authority of a tale,
But chose old Marcus Cato who, no doubt,
Will add to my own words a lot more clout.
Laelius and Scipio I both represent
In Marcus Cato’s own residence
Expressing surprise and wonderment
At his flippant rebuff of senescence,
And in case it happens that the extent
Of his discourse exceeds in erudition
What his written works usually express,
That is due to the great inclination
For Greek literature in his oldness.
In Cato’s words you will clearly see
My own viewpoint on senility.

Sed de ceteris et diximus multa et saepe dicemus; hunc librum ad te de senectute misimus. Omnem autem sermonem tribuimus non Tithono, ut Aristo Cius, (parum enim esset auctoritatis in fabula), sed M. Catoni seni, quo maiorem auctoritatem haberet oratio; apud quem Laelium et Scipionem facimus admirantis quod is tam facile senectutem ferat, eisque eum respondentem. Qui si eruditius videbitur disputare quam consuevit ipse in suis libris, attribuito litteris Graecis, quarum constat eum perstudiosum fuisse in senectute. Sed quid opus est plura? Iam enim ipsius Catonis sermo explicabit nostram omnem de senectute sententiam.

II

Scipio:
Cato, to Laelius I often express
My great admiration for the perfect
And extraordinary judiciousness
You show in every single life’s aspect,
But above all because I’ve realized
You never find fault with elderliness
By most old people much despised
And declared to be heavier alas
Than all Mount Etna’s enormous mass.
Cato:
Scipio et Laelius, it seems to me that
Not strange at all is what you marvel at.
They find every age oppressive, of course,
Who in their inner selves have no resource
To live an easy life in happiness,
But they who in themselves only find
Their own contentment and peace of mind
See no harm in nature’s due process
Whose termination inevitably
May lead to that state of senility
To which they keenly lay claim,
But once attained rather foolishly,
With malice and incongruity,
Promptly find reasons to blame.
Faster than they thought, they say,
Senility worms its way
Into them but who obliged them to
Hold such an imaginary view?
But how much faster in truth
Does old age encroach on youth
Than youth itself upon infancy?
And again how overbearing would old age be
Were one eight hundred years old rather than eighty?
Indeed no past life could, as a rule,
Soothe and cheer the old age of a fool.

Scipio. Saepe numero admirari soleo cum hoc C. Laelio cum ceterarum rerum tuam excellentem, M. Cato, perfectamque sapientiam, tum vel maxime quod numquam tibi senectutem gravem esse senserim, quae plerisque senibus sic odiosa est, ut onus se Aetna gravius dicant sustinere. Cato. Rem haud sane difficilem, Scipio et Laeli, admirari videmini. Quibus enim nihil est in ipsis opis ad bene beateque vivendum, eis omnis aetas gravis est; qui autem omnia bona a se ipsi petunt, eis nihil malum potest videri quod naturae necessitas adferat. Quo in genere est in primis senectus, quam ut adipiscantur omnes optant, eandem accusant adeptam; tanta est stultitiae inconstantia atque perversitas. Obrepere aiunt eam citius, quam putassent. Primum quis coegit eos falsum putare? Qui enim citius adulescentiae senectus quam pueritiae adulescentia obrepit? Deinde qui minus gravis esset eis senectus, si octingentesimum annum agerent quam si octogesimum? Praeterita enim aetas quamvis longa cum effluxisset, nulla consolatio permulcere posset stultam senectutem.

Therefore if you are generally bent
On admiring my wisdom and nickname,
Both god willing worthy of your judgment,
This is the kind of wisdom which I claim:
To regard nature as a great guideline
And to obey it as if it were divine.
But it’s not possible that on nature’s stage
Life’s final part, the exit or old age,
Reveals an unseasoned poet’s careless hand.
A final scene is needed where the land
After ripeness shrinks into decay.
How could this state a wise man gainsay,
What else would rebelling at nature be,
But a giants’ fight against infinity?

Quocirca si sapientiam meam admirari soletis (quae utinam digna esset opinione vestra nostroque cognomine!), in hoc sumus sapientes, quod naturam optimam ducem tamquam deum sequimur eique paremus; a qua non veri simile est, cum ceterae partes aetatis bene descriptae sint, extremum actum tamquam ab inerti poeta esse neglectum. Sed tamen necesse fuit esse aliquid extremum et, tamquam in arborum bacis terraeque fructibus maturitate tempestiva quasi vietum et caducum, quod ferundum est molliter sapienti. Quid est enim aliud Gigantum modo bellare cum dis nisi naturae repugnare?

Laelius:
Well Cato, you will please us no end,
I speak also for Scipio my friend,
As we both hope and also wish for
Old age, if you’ll teach us long before
It reaches us the best way we can
Bear the last years burdensome to man.
Cato:
I’ll do so Laelius, especially
If you both take it cordially.
Laelius:
We would really like to know Cato,
if you don’t mind, the position you
have reached in your lengthy progress
which is ours too nevertheless.

Laelius. Atqui, Cato, gratissimum nobis, ut etiam pro Scipione pollicear, feceris, si, quoniam speramus, volumus quidem certe senes fieri, multo ante a te didicerimus, quibus facillime rationibus ingravescentem aetatem ferre possimus. Cato. Faciam vero, Laeli, praesertim si utrique vestrum, ut dicis, gratum futurum est. Laelius. Volumus sane, nisi molestum est, Cato, tamquam longam aliquam viam confeceris, quam nobis quoque ingrediundum sit, istuc, quo pervenisti videre quale sit.

III

Cato:
Laelius, I’ll do my best. Time and again
I’ve heard my contemporaries complain
That birds of a feather together flock.
Albinus and Salinator each ex-consul
Used to regret their senses were dull
Without which life was no life at all
And said they were also the laughing-stock
Of those they had formerly seen crawl.
But they were quite wrong, it seemed to me,
To lay the blame on senility.
If old age were indeed to blame for it
I and other old men would have been hit,
And some of my acquaintances, it appears,
Spend free from passions their remaining years,
Never the object of scornful words and sneers,
But at the bottom of such complaints
Lurks not the age but the character’s taints.
Virtuous old men, neither rude nor cranky,
Spend their senior years easy and free.
Rough manners and a bad disposition
To every age bring only tribulation.

Cato. Faciam, ut potero, Laeli. Saepe enim interfui querellis aequalium meorum -- pares autem, vetere proverbio, cum paribus facillime congregantur--quae C. Salinator, quae Sp. Albinus, homines consulares nostri fere aequales, deplorare solebant, tum quod voluptatibus carerent sine quibus vitam nullam putarent, tum quod spernerentur ab eis, a quibus essent coli soliti. Qui mihi non id videbantur accusare, quod esset accusandum. Nam si id culpa senectutis accideret, eadem mihi usu venirent reliquisque omnibus maioribus natu, quorum ego multorum cognovi senectutem sine querella, qui se et libidinum vinculis laxatos esse non moleste ferrent nec a suis despicerentur. Sed omnium istius modi querellarum in moribus est culpa, non in aetate. Moderati enim et nec difficiles nec inhumani senes tolerabilem senectutem agunt; importunitas autem et inhumanitas omni aetati molesta est.

Laelius:
You’re right Cato, but you see perhaps
The majority of the common chaps
might think you regard senility
A lot more tolerable, no doubt,
thanks to your riches, rank, dignity,
influence and political clout.
Cato:
Laelius, there’s something in what you
Say that’s only partially true.
Lo! Temistocles once had a showdown
With a Seriphian who was sure his fame
More than to him was due to his hometown.
“By Hercules,” was Tem’s answer “my name
Were I from Seriphius would be obscure
Like yours, were you from Athens, I am sure.”
The story of Temistocles applies
Well indeed to senility.
Old age in extreme poverty
Is unendurable to the wise,
And to the unwise senescence
Is oppressive even in opulence.

Laelius. Est, ut dicis, Cato; sed fortasse dixerit quispiam tibi propter opes et copias et dignitatem tuam tolerabiliorem senectutem videri, id autem non posse multis contingere. Cato. Est istuc quidem, Laeli, aliquid, sed nequaquam in isto sunt omnia. Ut Themistocles fertur Seriphio cuidam in iurgio respondisse, cum ille dixisset non eum sua, sed patriae gloria splendorem adsecutum: 'Nec hercule,' inquit, 'si ego Seriphius essem, nec tu, si Atheniensis clarus umquam fuisses.' Quod eodem modo de senectute dici potest. Nec enim in summa inopia levis esse senectus potest ne sapienti quidem, nec insipienti etiam in summa copia non gravis.

So the most suitable arms old age,
O Scipio and Laelius, can engage
Are culture and the practice of virtues.
If maintained throughout life such values
Will bring out a wonderful harvest
Of the good deeds that make a conscience
Delightful in the days of senescence.

Aptissima omnino sunt, Scipio et Laeli, arma senectutis artes exercitationesque virtutum, quae in omni aetate cultae, cum diu multumque vixeris, mirificos ecferunt fructus, non solum quia numquam deserunt, ne extremo quidem tempore aetatis (quamquam id quidem maximum est), verum etiam quia conscientia bene actae vitae multorumque bene factorum recordatio iucundissima est.

IV

Old Quintus Maximus dearest
To me in my youth like a companion,
He who recaptured Tarentum, really
Old age had not changed his disposition
In which dignity and goodwill were one.
Old enough but not too old was he
When I looked up to him in veneration.
He first reached the consulship, you see,
The year after my birth and was consul again
For the fourth time and I served under him when
We marched on Capua and in the column,
Five years later, heading for Tarentum.
Under Tuditanus and Cethegus I was,
after four years, indeed a quaestor.
He, a dotard, stood for the Cincian laws
on gifts and rewards and also waged war
like a young man keeping Hannibal’s
mettle in check with battles mixed with lulls.
With his delaying tactics he managed to lick
The enemy and saved the Roman republic.
Quintus spoke little and was pragmatic.
After that his glory gained in brightness,

Ego Q. Maximum, eum qui Tarentum recepit, senem adulescens ita dilexi, ut aequalem; erat enim in illo viro comitate condita gravitas, nec senectus mores mutaverat. Quamquam eum colere coepi non admodum grandem natu, sed tamen iam aetate provectum. Anno enim post consul primum fuerat quam ego natus sum, cumque eo quartum consule adulescentulus miles ad Capuam profectus sum quintoque anno post ad Tarentum. Quaestor deinde quadriennio post factus sum, quem magistratum gessi consulibus Tuditano et Cethego, cum quidem ille admodum senex suasor legis Cinciae de donis et muneribus fuit. Hic et bella gerebat ut adulescens, cum plane grandis esset, et Hannibalem iuveniliter exsultantem patientia sua molliebat; de quo praeclare familiaris noster Ennius:

Unus homo nobis cunctando restituit rem,
Noenum rumores ponebat ante salutem:
Ergo plusque magisque viri nunc gloria claret.

And what about the adroitness
Of Tarentum’s recapture with a plan
Worthy of a great military man?
With my very ears I heard his repost
To Marcus Salinator, who had lost
Tarentum but saved its citadel,
And yet boasted he had been crucial
In its recapture on Quintus’ behalf.
“True had you not, Sal, lost it
I’d never have retaken it.”
No braver was he in war than in peace.
Indeed during his second consulate,
With Spurius Carvilius in the coulisse,
He thwarted as long as he could
Caius Flaminius, the Tribune
Of the Populace, who stood,
Against the precise will of the Senate,
For granting to each citizen, for free,
The Picene and Gallic territory.

Tarentum vero qua vigilantia, quo consilio recepit! cum quidem me audiente Salinatori, qui amisso oppido fugerat in arcem, glorianti atque ita dicenti; 'Mea opera, Q. Fabi, Tarentum recepisti,' 'Certe,' inquit ridens, 'nam nisi tu amisisses numquam recepissem.' Nec vero in armis praestantior quam in toga; qui consul iterum Sp. Carvilio conlega quiescente C. Flaminio tribuno plebis, quoad potuit, restitit agrum Picentem et Gallicum viritim contra senatus auctoritatem dividenti; augurque cum esset, dicere ausus est optimis auspiciis ea geri, quae pro rei publicae salute gererentur, quae contra rem publicam ferrentur, contra auspicia ferri.

Many an admirable accomplishment
I saw in that man, but none so excellent
As the way he bore the brunt of the demise
Of his distinguished son with consular ties.
When we read his funeral oration,
Well known thanks to its broad circulation,
Each philosopher we realize,
No matter who, is cut down to size.
Great indeed in public life was he,
But greater within his family.
What speeches maxims and erudition
In things past with a knowledge, on the side,
Of the augurs’ rights along with a wide
Un-romanlike literary vision.
All history was at his fingertips,
Both civil and foreign relationships.
His conversation pleased me no end,
As if I could by then portend
That after the death of such a friend
The loss I’d rue of my last mentor too.

Multa in eo viro praeclara cognovi; sed nihil admirabilius, quam quo modo ille mortem fili tulit clari viri et consularis. Est in manibus laudatio, quam cum legimus, quem philosophum non contemnimus? Nec vero ille in luce modo atque in oculis civium magnus, sed intus domique praestantior. Qui sermo, quae praecepta, quanta notitia antiquitatis, scientia iuris auguri! Multae etiam, ut in homine Romano, litterae. Omnia memoria tenebat, non domestica solum, sed etiam externa bella. Cuius sermone ita tum cupide fruebar, quasi iam divinarem id quod evenit, illo exstincto, fore, unde discerem, neminem.

V

Why such a big fuss about Maximus?
As you clearly see it’d be malign
To call sad the time of his decline.
His fate and that of Maximus is not
Exactly the common citizen’s lot
Whose memories cannot dwell upon
Sieges, land and sea battles foregone,
Feats and wars waged and triumphs too.
The end of a life calm and true
Spent in spiritual joys can be as sage
And placid as was Plato’s senior age.
Eighty-one was he when Death’s Angel
Struck him as he was holding a pencil,
Or as that of Isocrates who penned
The Panegyric at ninety-four,
A quinquennium before his long life’s end.
His master Gorgia Leontinus four score
And twenty-seven years roamed the field
Of letters and when he was asked why
He gladly watched his long life go by
“For me old age has no blame,” he revealed,
A sort of clear philosopher’s retort.

Quorsus igitur haec tam multa de Maximo? Quia profecto videtis nefas esse dictu miseram fuisse talem senectutem. Nec tamen omnes possunt esse Scipiones aut Maximi, ut urbium expugnationes, ut pedestres navalesve pugnas, ut bella a se gesta, ut triumphos recordentur. Est etiam quiete et pure atque eleganter actae aetatis placida ac lenis senectus, qualem accepimus Platonis, qui uno et octogesimo anno scribens est mortuus, qualem Isocratis, qui eum librum, qui Panathenaicus inscribitur, quarto et nonagesimo anno scripsisse se dicit, vixitque quinquennium postea; cuius magister Leontinus Gorgias centum et septem complevit annos neque umquam in suo studio atque opere cessavit. Qui, cum ex eo quaereretur, cur tam diu vellet esse in vita, 'Nihil habeo,' inquit, 'quod accusem senectutem.' Praeclarum responsum et docto homine dignum.

It’s indeed only the fools who impute
Their own shortcomings and negligence
To the condition of senescence
Unlike Ennius, who just got my tribute,
who compares his old age to a horse’s,
A fiery one and king of the racecourses:
“As a steed that oft reached the Olympic scope
And now rests drained at the end of his rope.”
And T. Flaminius, you can recollect,
Was with M. Acilius Consul elect
Nineteen years after his death, and he died
Under Caepio’s and Philip’s second ride
As Consuls when I was sixty-five, and
For the Voconian law took a strong stand.
But after Ennius turned seventy,
Which was but his allotted life span,
He undeniably seemed to bear,
In a way so to speak debonair,
The sharpest pangs of life’s caravan,
Old age that is, and poverty.

Sua enim vitia insipientes et suam culpam in senectutem conferunt, quod non faciebat is, cuius modo mentionem feci, Ennius:

Sicut fortis equus, spatio qui saepe supremo
Vicit Olympia, nunc senio confectus quiescit.

Equi fortis et victoris senectuti comparat suam. Quem quidem probe meminisse potestis; anno enim undevicesimo post eius mortem hi consules T. Flamininus et M'. Acilius facti sunt; ille autem Caepione et Philippo iterum consulibus mortuus est, cum ego quinque et sexaginta annos natus legem Voconiam magna voce et bonis lateribus suasissem. Annos septuaginta natus (tot enim vixit Ennius) ita ferebat duo, quae maxima putantur onera, paupertatem et senectutem, ut eis paene delectari videretur.

And when I think about it I find
Four reasons for old age’s wretchedness:
A) it snuffs out man’s political breath
B) it commits the body to weakness
C) it leaves all carnal pleasures behind
D) it is not too far away from death
Let’s check each of these reasons, I pray you,
And see how important they are and true.

Etenim, cum complector animo, quattuor reperio causas, cur senectus misera videatur: unam, quod avocet a rebus gerendis; alteram, quod corpus faciat infirmius; tertiam, quod privet fere omnibus voluptatibus; quartam, quod haud procul absit a morte. Earum, si placet, causarum quanta quamque sit iusta una quaeque, videamus.

VI

Old age draws man away from deeds of the sort
Calling for a vigorous and youthful effort.
Aren’t there then feats which old men can control
with a weak body but a steady soul?
So Quintus Maximus, together
With Lucius Paulus your father
And father in law of my delicious
Son, did nothing at all when,
Along with all the other old men,
Curius Coruncanius and Fabricius,
With their authoritative counselling,
Stood up in defence of the Public Thing?

A rebus gerendis senectus abstrahit. Quibus? An eis, quae iuventute geruntur et viribus? Nullaene igitur res sunt seniles quae, vel infirmis corporibus, animo tamen administrentur? Nihil ergo agebat Q. Maximus, nihil L. Paulus, pater tuus, socer optimi viri, fili mei? Ceteri senes, Fabricii, Curii, Coruncanii, cum rem publicam consilio et auctoritate defendebant, nihil agebant?

Appius Claudius’s oldness
Was compounded by blindness.
He said words with great terseness,
which then Ennius versified,
When the Senate was inclined
To take King Pyrrhus’s side:
“How on earth could your mind
Once upright and dignified
Take a downturn and backslide?”
And on and on he went causing such a stir!
The speech of Appius is likewise with us.
It was made seventeen years after
His second consulship and, in between,
Ten years had gone by as a routine.
Censor before being consul he had been,
And his long past career accounts for
His great age before the Pyrrhic war.

Ad Appi Claudi senectutem accedebat etiam, ut caecus esset; tamen is, cum sententia senatus inclinaret ad placem cum Pyrrho foedusque faciendum, non dubitavit dicere illa, quae versibus persecutus est Ennius:

Quo vobis mentes, rectae quae stare solebant
Antehac, dementis sese flexere viai?

ceteraque gravissime; notum enim vobis carmen est; et tamen ipsius Appi exstat oratio. Atque haec ille egit septimo decimo anno post alterum consulatum, cum inter duos consulatus anni decem interfuissent, censorque ante superiorem consulatum fuisset; ex quo intellegitur Pyrrhi bello grandem sane fuisse; et tamen sic a patribus accepimus.

They don’t exactly know what they mean
Who then maintain old age has no say
In active life and falsely portray
A helmsman as sitting down serene
Doing nothing while the rest of the crew
Scurry around mast, bilge and gangway.
He does much more and much better too.
It’s not strength, dispatch or agility,
But speech, common sense and authority
That lead to great accomplishments.
Old age has indeed no scarcity,
But plenty of such endowments

Nihil igitur adferunt qui in re gerenda versari senectutem negant, similesque sunt ut si qui gubernatorem in navigando nihil agere dicant, cum alii malos scandant, alii per foros cursent, alii sentinam exhauriant, ille autem clavum tenens quietus sedeat in puppi, non faciat ea quae iuvenes. At vero multo maiora et meliora facit. Non viribus aut velocitate aut celeritate corporum res magnae geruntur, sed consilio, auctoritate, sententia; quibus non modo non orbari, sed etiam augeri senectus solet.

Unless you happen to be inclined
To figure that I am sitting quiet,
Having left my warlike years behind,
I once soldier, consul, tribune and legate
Engaged in various kinds of warfare
Am now trying to recommend to the Senate
What wars to wage and when and where.
So I indeed declare war first of all
To that Carthage long bent on our downfall,
And I’ll never stop worrying till I’ve found
That it has been duly razed to the ground.

Nisi forte ego vobis, qui et miles et tribunus et legatus et consul versatus sum in vario genere bellorum, cessare nunc videor, cum bella non gero. At senatui, quae sint gerenda, praescribo et quo modo; Karthagini male iam diu cogitanti bellum multo ante denuntio; de qua vereri non ante desinam quam illam excisam esse cognovero.

And may the immortal gods wish
To reserve for you, Scipio, the victory,
Allowing you to accomplish
The work your forefather didn’t finish.
The future will forever his memory,
He died thirty-three years ago, cherish.
He passed away just the year before
My censorship, nine years not one more
After my consulship and was remade
Consul while I was still holding that grade.
Had he lived to a hundred years of age
Would that possibly have filled him with rage?
Of course he couldn’t, he was advanced in years,
Have attacked, fought, jumped or thrown spears,
But he could have used the arms of senescence:
Counsel, that is, and reason and eloquence.
If seniors were short of such endowment
Our forefathers would not have called Senate
The supreme council of the government,

Quam palmam utinam di immortales, Scipio, tibi reservent, ut avi reliquias persequare! cuius a morte tertius hic et tricesimus annus est, sed memoriam illius viri omnes excipient anni consequentes. Anno ante me censorem mortuus est, novem annis post meum consulatum, cum consul iterum me consule creatus esset. Num igitur, si ad centesimum annum vixisset, senectutis eum suae paeniteret? Nec enim excursione nec saltu nec eminus hastis aut comminus gladiis uteretur, sed consilio, ratione, sententia; quae nisi essent in senibus, non summum consilium maiores nostri appellassent senatum.

And the Spartans consider it appropriate
For an old man to be a top magistrate.
If you care to read or consult
The other peoples’ histories
You’ll find the big states’ ruin was the result
Of young men’s inefficiencies
That old men then redressed and restored.
But come now, how could you devastate
So soon your Republic once so great?
That is the question in “Ludo,” the play
By poet Nevius, who wrote her decay
Was due to orators, out of the blue,
Stupid and green and the saying is true
“Old age is prudent but youth goes astray!”

Apud Lacedaemonios quidem ei, qui amplissimum magistratum gerunt, ut sunt, sic etiam nominantur senes. Quod si legere aut audire voletis externa, maximas res publicas ab adulescentibus labefactatas, a senibus sustentatas et restitutas reperietis.

Cedo, qui vestram rem publicam tantam amisistis tam cito?

Sic enim percontantur in Naevi poetae Ludo. Respondentur et alia et hoc in primis:

Proveniebant oratores novi, stulti adulescentuli.

Temeritas est videlicet florentis aetatis, prudentia senescentis.

VII

But I suppose memory may wane
Unless one exercises one’s brain,
Or if one is by nature a little slow.
Themistocles knew every single joe
Among his fellow citizens although
It’s hard to think he used to, old as he was,
Mistake Aristides for Lysimachus,
And to the former casually say hello,
And I for my part not only know
Those who are still alive, but also
Their fathers and ancestors, and am free
From fearing the words on their headstones,
And from losing, as they say, my memory.
When I read the wording I can see
Coming to life all those dear dead bones.
I’ve never heard of a dotard who forgot
his treasure and the place where
It lay. Old people grow forgetful but not
About matters for which they really care:
Deposit money, and the identity
Of debtors and creditors respectively.

At memoria minuitur. Credo, nisi eam exerceas, aut etiam si sis natura tardior. Themistocles omnium civium perceperat nomina; num igitur censetis eum, cum aetate processisset, qui Aristides esset, Lysimachum salutare solitum? Equidem non modo eos novi, qui sunt, sed eorum patres etiam et avos, nec sepulcra legens vereor, quod aiunt, ne memoriam perdam; his enim ipsis legendis in memoriam redeo mortuorum. Nec vero quemquam senem audivi oblitum, quo loco thesaurum obruisset; omnia, quae curant, meminerunt; vadimonia constituta, quis sibi, cui ipsi debeant.

What about venerable lawyers,
Pontiffs, augurs and philosophers,
How many things do they recollect?
For old people retain their intellect,
Provided application and diligence
Are kept alive during senescence.
This holds true for those in high positions,
And for quiet men with coy dispositions.
Up to his years of decrepitude,
Sophocles felt himself in the mood
Of composing tragical pieces
Wasting, it seemed, his own resources.
So his children brought him to court
Using our own legislation to thwart
His presumed forays among the dunces,
And put him in supervisory fetters
To stop him from spoiling family matters.
The old man, as it is known to us,
To the judges then and there outlined
His new play “Oedipus Coloneus,”
And asked them whether they opined
It was the work of an enfeebled mind.
The reading gave the judges the evidence
Of the venerable playwright’s innocence.

Quid iuris consulti, quid pontifices, quid augures, quid philosophi senes, quam multa meminerunt! Manent ingenia senibus, modo permaneat studium et industria, neque ea solum in claris et honoratis viris, sed in vita etiam privata et quieta. Sophocles ad summam senectutem tragoedias fecit; quod propter studium cum rem neglegere familiarem videretur, a filiis in iudicium vocatus est, ut, quem ad modum nostro more male rem gerentibus patribus bonis interdici solet, sic illum quasi desipientem a re familiari removerent iudices. Tum senex dicitur eam fabulam, quam in manibus habebat et proxime scripserat, Oedipum Coloneum, recitasse iudicibus quaesisseque, num illud carmen desipientis videretur. Quo recitato sententiis iudicum est liberatus.

Did old age perhaps force him to desist
From his studies with all those in this list?:
Homer, Esiod, Simonides,
Stesichorus and Isocrates,
With Gorgia, mentioned previously,
The two princes of philosophy
Pythagoras and Democritus,
And Zeno and Xenocrates,
And, successively, Cleanthes
And Diogenes the Stoic, you
Had a chance to see in Rome too.
Or didn’t these old men spend all their lives
In their learned and divine occupation?

Num igitur hunc, num Homerum, Hesiodum, Simonidem, Stesichorum, num, quos ante dixi, Isocraten, Gorgian, num philosophorum principes, Pythagoram, Democritum, num Platonem, num Xenocraten, num postea Zenonem, Cleanthem, aut eum, quem vos etiam vidistis Romae, Diogenem Stoicum, coegit in suis studiis obmutescere senectus? An in omnibus studiorum agitatio vitae aequalis fuit?

Some rustic Sabine Romans I could mention,
My neighbours, friends and farmers in earnest,
Without whom nothing gets done or thrives.
They sow, they reap and they store the harvest.
Their efforts cause no wonder, all told,
And none of them is actually so old
Not to think he can live one year more.
Their work is seemingly profitless,
They toil to no avail and therefore,
Like our Statius says in his “Synephebis,”
“They plant trees for another generation.”

Age, ut ista divina studia omittamus, possum nominare ex agro Sabino rusticos Romanos, vicinos et familiares meos, quibus absentibus numquam fere ulla in agro maiora opera fiunt, non serendis, non percipiendis, non condendis fructibus. Quamquam in aliis minus hoc mirum est; nemo enim est tam senex qui se annum non putet posse vivere: sed idem in eis elaborant quae sciunt nihil ad se omnino pertinere.

Serit arbores, quae alteri saeclo prosint,

ut ait Statius noster in Synephebis.

If ‘who do you sow for?’ is the question
Any old farmer would answer with lauds
“To the grace of the immortal gods
Who permitted the fields to be passed on
From forefather to father and son.”

Nec vero dubitat agricola, quamvis sit senex, quaerenti, cui serat respondere: 'Dis immortalibus, qui me non accipere modo haec a maioribus voluerunt, sed etiam posteris prodere.'

VIII

And as regards what had said and done
The old man about the next generation,
The same Caecilius Statius records
Another thought couched in better words
“By Pollux when you arrive o senescence,
Even if you brought no other inconvenience,
One and one alone is enough, certainly,
That a long life, that is, makes one see
Many things one would like to eschew,
And makes one miss many good things too.”
But young people often also fall
Into traps they do not like at all,
And yet Cecilius reached a new low
When he wrote “I think the worst of woe
Is old people have the sensation
To be a cause of aggravation.”
But Caecilius is quite wrong here though,
Welcome not aggravating should instead
Be called the sensation aforesaid,

Et melius Caecilius de sene alteri saeclo prospiciente quam illud idem:

Edepol, senectus, si nil quicquam aliud viti
Adportes tecum, cum advenis, unum id sat est,
Quod diu vivendo multa, quae non volt, videt.

Et multa fortasse, quae volt; atque in ea, quae non volt, saepe etiam adulescentia incurrit. Illud vero idem Caecilius vitiosius:

Tum equidem in senecta hoc deputo miserrimum,
Sentire ea aetate eumpse esse odiosum alteri.

And as wise men like to entertain
Young people with a good-natured strain,
Lighter becomes old age among
Those honoured and esteemed by the young,
Ready to gladly hear their seniors who
Instruct them on the study of virtue.
As far as I’m concerned I can see
I’m just as dear to you as you to me.
Now you perceive how elderliness
Is not inactive and indolent,
But on the contrary diligent,
And incessantly in readiness
To do with the same dedication
One’s active life’s main occupation.
What about those who still learn something new?
For instance in his verses, Solon too
Boasts that while his hair was turning grey
He picked up something new every day.
I did the same to improve my culture
When as an old man I avidly
Took up the study of Greek literature,
As if trying a prolonged thirst to efface,
And put those same things in the picture
You see me using when I state my case.
On hearing what Socrates did to acquire
As an old man the mastery of the lyre,
One of those musical instruments
So fashionable with the ancients,
I really would have liked to take it up myself,
But fondly stuck to my literary shelf.

Iucundum potius quam odiosum. Ut enim adulescentibus bona indole praeditis sapientes senes delectantur, leviorque fit senectus eorum qui a iuventute coluntur et diliguntur, sic adulescentes senum praeceptis gaudent, quibus ad virtutum studia ducuntur; nec minus intellego me vobis quam mihi vos esse iucundos. Sed videtis, ut senectus non modo languida atque iners non sit, verum etiam sit operosa et semper agens aliquid et moliens, tale scilicet quale cuiusque studium in superiore vita fuit. Quid qui etiam addiscunt aliquid? ut et Solonem versibus gloriantem videmus, qui se cotidie aliquid addiscentem dicit senem fieri, et ego feci qui litteras Graecas senex didici; quas quidem sic avide arripui quasi diuturnam sitim explere cupiens, ut ea ipsa mihi nota essent quibus me nunc exemplis uti videtis. Quod cum fecisse Socratem in fidibus audirem, vellem equidem etiam illud (discebant enim fidibus antiqui), sed in litteris certe elaboravi.

IX

And yet I surely do not regret
A young man’s muscles and mettle.
This was the second point for me to settle
About old age’s frailty and weakness.
As a young man I never was in need
Of an elephant’s or a bull’s stoutness.
You see, It’s a lot better to proceed
With your own strength and anything you do
According to your strength you should pursue,
As what utterance could indeed be
More despicable than that of Milo
Of Croton who, already elderly,
Seeing the athletes training in the meadow
Compared their strong muscles with his
And cried “helas mine have no fizz!”
Nothing’s the matter with them really
It is you who are washed out, you silly!
Nothing of the sort said Sextus Aelius,
Or long before him Ti. Coruncanius,
And nothing of recent years P. Crassus.
To their very last breath they gave wisely
Legal advice to the citizenry.

Ne nunc quidem vires desidero adulescentis (is enim erat locus alter de vitiis senectutis), non plus quam adulescens tauri aut elephanti desiderabam. Quod est, eo decet uti et, quicquid agas, agere pro viribus. Quae enim vox potest esse contemptior quam Milonis Crotoniatae? qui, cum iam senex esset athletasque se exercentes in curriculo videret, aspexisse lacertos suos dicitur inlacrimansque dixisse: 'At hi quidem mortui iam sunt.' Non vero tam isti quam tu ipse, nugator; neque enim ex te umquam es nobilitatus, sed ex lateribus et lacertis tuis. Nihil Sex. Aelius tale, nihil multis annis ante Ti. Coruncanius, nihil modo P. Crassus, a quibus iura civibus praescribebantur, quorum usque ad extremum spiritum est provecta prudentia.

It’s weakened, I fear, by elderliness
An orator whose skills are in need,
Not only of judgment, but indeed
Of robust lungs and physical prowess.
The voice acquires a kind of resonance,
I don’t know how, also in senescence
I haven’t lost it, it stays with me
And yet my age is here for all to see,
And the prose too, serene and steady,
The tranquil and soothing eloquence
Of an old man does reach his audience,
And were that kind of speech out of your reach,
You could of course yourself very well teach
A Scipio or a Laelius, for what’s dearer in truth
Than old age surrounded by attentive youth?

Orator metuo ne languescat senectute; est enim munus eius non ingeni solum, sed laterum etiam et virium. Omnino canorum illud in voce splendescit etiam nescio quo pacto in senectute, quod equidem adhuc non amisi, et videtis annos. Sed tamen est decorus seni sermo quietus et remissus, factique per se ipsa sibi audientiam diserti senis composita et mitis oratio. Quam si ipse exsequi nequeas, possis tamen Scipioni praecipere et Laelio. Quid enim est iucundius senectute stipata studiis iuventutis?

Or aren’t we going to leave senescence
The strength to instruct, teach, educate,
In the line of duty, adolescence?
One couldn’t think of a happier state.
As for me I thought Gnaeus, Publius
Scipio and your ancestors Lucius
Aemilius and Publius Africanus
Seemed to be happy in the company
Of a lot of young men of quality.
No teacher of the liberal arts is
Ever to be deemed sad even if his
Strength is no longer what it used to be,
Though this very strength decrease may be due
To the flaws of youth and not to old age.
For young years spent on the sexual rampage
Pass on to old age a body with no value.

An ne illas quidem vires senectuti relinquemus, ut adulescentis doceat, instituat, ad omne offici munus instruat? Quo quidem opere quid potest esse praeclarius? Mihi vero et Cn. et P. Scipiones et avi tui duo, L. Aemilius et P. Africanus, comitatu nobilium iuvenum fortunati videbantur nec ulli bonarum artium magistri non beati putandi, quamvis consenuerint vires atque defecerint. Etsi ipsa ista defectio virium adulescentiae vitiis efficitur saepius quam senectutis; libidinosa enim et intemperans adulescentia effetum corpus tradit senectuti.

As is reported, too, by Xenophon
The dying Cyrus in a speech maintained,
Old as he was, he’d never realized
His sunset had grown weaker than his dawn.
As a boy, I remember Lucius Metellus
Who was appointed Pontifex Maximus
Four years after his second consulate
And spent twenty-two years as a prelate.
He was full of beans up to his last day
And never missed his youth, come what may.
Nothing about myself I need to say,
Though old men seem to have the privilege
To grace the picture with their own image.

Cyrus quidem apud Xenophontem eo sermone, quem moriens habuit, cum admodum senex esset, negat se umquam sensisse senectutem suam imbecilliorem factam, quam adulescentia fuisset. Ego L. Metellum memini puer, qui cum quadriennio post alterum consulatum pontifex maximus factus esset viginti et duos annos ei sacerdotio praefuit, ita bonis esse viribus extremo tempore aetatis, ut adulescentiam non requireret. Nihil necesse est mihi de me ipso dicere, quamquam est id quidem senile aetatique nostrae conceditur.

X

Haven’t you noticed the way Homer values
Nestor who often vaunts his own virtues?
He had then seen the third generation
Of men, and for him there was no question
Of sounding chatty and cavalier
As he was personally sincere.
For as Homer says “sweeter than honey
Words flowed from his mouth” whose suavity
Rendered superfluous muscle and brawn.
Yet never the great Agamennon
Wishes he had ten Ajax-like men,
But prays for as many Nestors as then
The city of Troy could certainly be won.

Videtisne, ut apud Homerum saepissime Nestor de virtutibus suis praedicet? Tertiam iam enim aetatem hominum videbat, nec erat ei verendum ne vera praedicans de se nimis videretur aut insolens aut loquax. Etenim, ut ait Homerus, 'ex eius lingua melle dulcior fluebat oratio,' quam ad suavitatem nullis egebat corporis viribus. Et tamen dux ille Graeciae nusquam optat, ut Aiacis similis habeat decem, sed ut Nestoris; quod si sibi acciderit, non dubitat, quin brevi sit Troia peritura.

But it’s about myself I want to
Talk again: I’m eighty-four now,
And certainly could brag about too
The way Cyrus does, but I avow
That I’m no longer as strong, it’s true,
As I was as a private soldier or
As a quaestor during the same Punic war
Or as a consul in Spain or
As tribune in an army corps,
Four years later, active in combat,
Under Marius Acilius Glabrio at
Thermopylae, but as you can see
Old age hasn’t quite weakened and wasted me.
My lack of strength has left unimpressed
Senate, orator, client, friend and guest.
Indeed the old famed proverb is not for me
That says “get old soon to stay old long,”
But I think the proverb must be wrong,
And I’d rather abide by its contrary.
Thus far therefore I have never been so busy
As to turn away those who fancied to see me,

Sed redeo ad me. Quartum ago annum et octogesimum; vellem equidem idem possem gloriari quod Cyrus, sed tamen hoc queo dicere, non me quidem eis esse viribus, quibus aut miles bello Punico aut quaestor eodem bello aut consul in Hispania fuerim aut quadriennio post, cum tribunus militaris depugnavi apud Thermopylas M'. Glabrione consule; sed tamen, ut vos videtis, non plane me enervavit, non adflixit senectus, non curia vires meas desiderat, non rostra, non amici, non clientes, non hospites. Nec enim umquam sum adsensus veteri illi laudatoque proverbio, quod monet 'mature fieri senem, si diu velis senex esse.' Ego vero me minus diu senem esse mallem quam esse senem, ante quam essem. Itaque nemo adhuc convenire me voluit, cui fuerim occupatus.

But if one voices the objection
I’m weaker than either of you,
In that case it’s equally true
You are both weaker than Centurion
Titus Pontius, and one may argue
Strength makes him better than you.
One needs only moderation,
And restraining one’s exertion
Helps suffer the loss of force.
Milo entered the racecourse
In Olympia with an ox smack,
As people report, on his back.
Would you rather have a Pythagorean brain
Or a body that can take a lot of strain?
So to put it in a nutshell
Use your own strength and use it well
As long as it lasts and when it is spent
Just forget it unless you should
Think that boyhood regrets childhood
Or that manhood may its decline lament.
Life and nature have but one direction
Easy to take, without correction.
Each of life’s rite of passage dates
Has its own distinguishing traits:
A child’s weakness
A youth’s boldness
An adult’s authority
An old man’s maturity
And each with a certain natural zest
To be reaped when it’s time for its harvest.
Scipio you’ve heard of Masinissa’s feats,
Your grandfather’s ninety years old guest.
Whenever he’s willing to walk the streets
He absolutely refuses to mount,
And whenever he rides his own horse
There’s absolutely no way to force
Him to change his mind and dismount.
No rain or cold can induce him to don
A hat, his body is the image of brawn.
In his duties every inch a king.
By temperance and exertion
A man may keep fit while ageing.

At minus habeo virium quam vestrum utervis. Ne vos quidem T. Ponti centurionis vires habetis; num idcirco est ille praestantior? Moderatio modo virium adsit, et tantum quantum potest quisque nitatur, ne ille non magno desiderio tenebitur virium. Olympiae per stadium ingressus esse Milo dicitur, cum umeris sustineret bovem. Utrum igitur has corporis an Pythagorae tibi malis vires ingeni dari? Denique isto bono utare, dum adsit, cum absit, ne requiras, nisi forte adulescentes pueritiam, paululum aetate progressi adulescentiam debent requirere. Cursus est certus aetatis et una via naturae, eaque simplex, suaque cuique parti aetatis tempestivitas est data, ut et infirmitas puerorum, et ferocitas iuvenum et gravitas iam constantis aetatis et senectutis maturitas naturale quiddam habeat, quod suo tempore percipi debeat.

XI

Old age has no strength let’s admit it
But then no strength is required from old age.
Therefore according to our laws and usage
Senior citizens are released, being unfit,
From performing all those duties whose call
Is based on strength, real and physical.
Therefore we seniors aren’t forced to do
Both what we can’t and what we can too,

Audire te arbitror, Scipio, hospes tuus avitus Masinissa quae faciat hodie nonaginta natus annos; cum ingressus iter pedibus sit, in equum omnino non ascendere; cum autem equo, ex equo non descendere; nullo imbri, nullo frigore adduci ut capite operto sit, summam esse in eo siccitatem corporis, itaque omnia exsequi regis officia et munera. Potest igitur exercitatio et temperantia etiam in senectute conservare aliquid pristini roboris. XI. Non sunt in senectute vires. Ne postulantur quidem vires a senectute. Ergo et legibus et institutis vacat aetas nostra muneribus eis, quae non possunt sine viribus sustineri. Itaque non modo, quod non possumus, sed ne quantum possumus quidem cogimur.

But a lot of old citizens are so frail
As to be ill-suited for any travail.
Indeed this isn’t one of the defects
Common to the state of elderliness,
But only one of poor health’s aspects.
You’ve surely noticed the weakness
Of Publius Africanus’s son
Your father, that is, by adoption.
His health was poor or rather less
Than poor, and but for that impediment
He might have been the state’s twin ornament.
For to his inherited father’s greatness
Was to be added a broader learnedness.
So why is it strange that seniors are sometimes weak
When even juniors can’t avoid a sickly streak?
O Laelius and Scipio, we must tolerate
Old age and prudently compensate
For its flaws and fight it so as to redress
The course of an ungovernable illness.

At multi ita sunt imbecilli senes, ut nullum offici aut omnino vitae munus exsequi possint. At id quidem non proprium senectutis vitium est, sed commune valetudinis. Quam fuit imbecillus P. Africani filius, is qui te adoptavit, quam tenui aut nulla potius valetudine! Quod ni ita fuisset, alterum illud exstitisset lumen civitatis; ad paternam enim magnitudinem animi doctrina uberior accesserat. Quid mirium igitur in senibus si infirmi sint aliquando, cum id ne adulescentes quidem effugere possint? Resistendum, Laeli et Scipio, senectuti est, eiusque vitia diligentia compensanda sunt, pugnandum tamquam contra morbum sic contra senectutem;

Health and gentle exercise are good allies,
And moderation with food and potation
Can restore strength without oppression.
Besides the body is not this life’s only goal,
and in fact a lot more attention
Is to be given both to the mind and the soul.
Like a lamp they head toward extinction
Without oil and die out of old age
While exercise can the soul assuage.
Indeed when Caecilius Statius speaks
Of those “old comic fools of the stage”
It is quite evident that he seeks
To point out the dupes, the rakes. the dullards
Whose defects aren’t common to dotards,
But to dotards with dull, slack, idle streaks.
Just as to lust and wantonness incline
More often the young than the senile,
But only those naturally vile
So that silliness or dotage is a sign
Attached to old people with a feeble mind.

habenda ratio valetudinis, utendum exercitationibus modicis, tantum cibi et potionis adhibendum ut reficiantur vires, non opprimantur. Nec vero corpori solum subveniendum est, sed menti atque animo multo magis; nam haec quoque, nisi tamquam lumini oleum instilles, exstinguuntur senectute. Et corpora quidem exercitationum defatigatione ingravescunt, animi autem exercendo levantur. Nam quos ait Caecilius

--comicos stultos senes,

hos significat credulos, obliviosos, dissolutos, quae vitia sunt non senectutis, sed inertis, ignavae, somniculosae senectutis. Ut petulantia, ut libido magis est adulescentium quam senum, nec tamen omnium adulescentium, sed non proborum, sic ista senilis stultitia, quae deliratio appellari solet, senum levium est, non omnium.

Although Appius Claudius was old and blind
He ran a big house in which he let thrive
His four vigorous sons and also five
Daughters and a number of clients.
As taut as a bow was his soul, and though
On the downward path to senescence
His own forceful word was the law.
He was also treated with reverence,
His slaves feared him, his servants were in awe,
But well then, everybody loved him so.
His home was dominated by the twin
Values: ancestral customs and discipline.

Quattuor robustos filios, quinque filias, tantam domum, tantas clientelas Appius regebat et caecus et senex, intentum enim animum tamquam arcum habebat nec languescens succumbebat senectuti. Tenebat non modo auctoritatem, sed etiam imperium in suos: metuebant servi, verebantur liberi, carum omnes habebant; vigebat in illa domo mos patrius et disciplina.

Old age can keep its dignity on the whole
Only defending itself and its rights.
Certainly suffering nobody’s slights
And having its domain under control.
I approve of elderly seriousness
In the young, and also pleases me
An old man with a touch of youthfulness.
He who sticks to this rule may be
Old in the body, but green in the soul.
I have the seventh “Book of Origins” here
In my hand where I collect the memories
Of antiquity, and I’m adding to these
All the cases I defended, to me dear,
Of augural, pontifical, and civil law.
I write treatises and seriously explore
Greek literature, and eventide I chart
What I did or heard each single day,
And then I carefully learn it by heart
In the time-honoured Pythagorean way.
These are the exercises of talent,
This is the academy of the mind,
While I sweat and toil on them I find
No regret if my physical strength is absent.
I help my friends and often visit
The Senate where I propose my bills,
Long and carefully pondered, with no frills,
And only based on the strength of my spirit.
If these consolations were barred from me
I would always enjoy my little bed
And meditate on the same things instead,
By now completely beyond my pale,
But my past public life’s busy trail
Indeed nullifies all these possibilities.
He who lives amid labours and activities
Can’t easily perceive the appearance
Of a creeping unobtrusive senescence
Which will gently, as the years go by,
All his mental powers stultify.

Ita enim senectus honesta est, si se ipsa defendit, si ius suum retinet, si nemini emancipata est, si usque ad ultimum spiritum dominatur in suos. Ut enim adulescentem in quo est senile aliquid, sic senem in quo est aliquid adulescentis probo; quod qui sequitur, corpore senex esse poterit, animo numquam erit. Septimus mihi liber Originum est in manibus; omnia antiquitatis monumenta colligo; causarum inlustrium quascumque defendi nunc cum maxime conficio orationes; ius augurium, pontificium, civile tracto; multum etiam Graecis litteris utor, Pythagoreorumque more exercendae memoriae gratia, quid quoque die dixerim, audierim, egerim, commemoro vesperi. Hae sunt exercitationes ingeni, haec curricula mentis, in his desudans atque elaborans corporis vires non magno opere desidero. Adsum amicis, venio in senatum frequens ultroque adfero res multum et diu cogitatas, easque tueor animi, non corporis viribus. Quas si exsequi nequirem, tamen me lectulus meus oblectaret ea ipsa cogitantem, quae iam agere non possem; sed ut possim, facit acta vita. Semper enim in his studiis laboribusque viventi non intellegitur quando obrepat senectus. Ita sensim sine sensu aetas senescit nec subito frangitur, sed diuturnitate exstinguitur.

XII

Again old age is given a third censure.
It is devoid, they say, of sensual pleasure,
But that’s also a wonderful gift without price
Taking from us youth’s most wicked vice!
Listen, my good lads, to the time-honoured advice
Of Archytas from Tarentum, great and blessed,
Who in my young days his thoughts expressed,
While I was in Tarentum with Q. Maximus:
No evildoing can be worse than the voluptuous
Pleasure of the senses was his complaint
Which makes men blind and act with no restraint.

Sequitur tertia vituperatio senectutis, quod eam carere dicunt voluptatibus. O praeclarum munus aetatis, siquidem id aufert a nobis, quod est in adulescentia vitiosissimum! Accipite enim, optimi adulescentes, veterem orationem Archytae Tarentini, magni in primis et praeclari viri, quae mihi tradita est cum essem adulescens Tarenti cum Q. Maximo. Nullam capitaliorem pestem quam voluptatem corporis hominibus dicebat a natura datam, cuius voluptatis avidae libidines temere et ecfrenate ad potiendum incitarentur.

From it descend treason, revolution and
Pacts with the enemies of the Fatherland.
All evil actions and crimes combined
Have an urge for lust not far behind,
And then adultery and lewdness
Are set on fire by voluptuousness.
There must have been some god who gave mankind,
Or maybe it wasn’t a god but nature,
The divine privilege of the mind
Which is the enemy of pleasure.

Hinc patriae proditiones, hinc rerum publicarum eversiones, hinc cum hostibus clandestina colloquia nasci; nullum denique scelus, nullum malum facinus esse, ad quod suscipiendum non libido voluptatis impelleret; stupra vero et adulteria et omne tale flagitium nullis excitari aliis inlecebris nisi voluptatis; cumque homini sive natura sive quis deus nihil mente praestabilius dedisset, huic divino muneri ac dono nihil tam esse inimicum quam voluptatem;

Indeed under the rule of passion
Temperance has no place at all,
And virtue can be kept in thrall
By sensuality’s enticing coils.
Archytas to better stress this concept
Made the example of someone swept
By the full frenzy of carnal toils.
How could he, in the heat of passion,
Have time for objective meditation,
And also for rational reflection?
That is why nothing on the whole
Is so grim and dire, he thought, as pleasure
Since its heightened and protracted pressure
Puts out all the light of the soul.
Nearchus Tarentinus, our host,
A man of principle who could boast
The closest and truest links of friendship to
The Roman people, had heard his elders claim
Archytas made this point with a Samnite,
To be precise Caius Pontius by name,
The very father of that Pontius who
At the Caudine Forks routed the two
Consuls: Spurius Postumius
And Titus Veturius.
He added that Plato, the Athenian, too
Was there when Archytas spoke
And actually that revered bloke
Came to Tarentum under Lucius
Camillus and Appius Claudius.

nec enim libidine dominante temperantiae locum esse, neque omnino in voluptatis regno virtutem posse consistere. Quod quo magis intellegi posset, fingere animo iubebat tanta incitatum aliquem voluptate corporis, quanta percipi posset maxima; nemini censebat fore dubium, quin tam diu, dum ita gauderet, nihil agitare mente, nihil ratione, nihil cogitatione consequi posset. Quocirca nihil esse tam detestabile tamque pestiferum quam voluptatem, siquidem ea, cum maior esset atque longinquior, omne animi lumen exstingueret. Haec cum C. Pontio Samnite, patre eius, a quo Caudino proelio Sp. Postumius, T. Veturius consules superati sunt, locutum Archytam Nearchus Tarentinus, hospes noster, qui in amicitia populi Romani permanserat, se a maioribus natu accepisse dicebat, cum quidem ei sermoni interfuisset Plato Atheniensis, quem Tarentum venisse L. Camillo Ap. Claudio consulibus reperio.

But then why did I report to you
Archytas’s individual view?
I did that to make you realize
That even though we couldn’t despise
Pleasure, according to our judgment,
We should be grateful to the senescent
Who are all inclined to stigmatize Any unseemly indecorous thing.
Pleasure is indeed against reasoning
Has no relation at all with virtue,
And, so to speak, blindfolds the mind too.
Against my will I managed to force out
Of the senate Lucius Flaminius whose
Good brother Titus had a lot of clout.
Seven years after his consulship,
I had to blame his practice of abuse.
He personally managed to snip
Off the head of one whose fate was doomed,
During a banquet, only to support
The evil counsel of some cheap escort.
Lucius got off scot-free, it was assumed,
Under the censorship of Titus,
His brother and my predecessor,
But surely neither I nor Flaccus
Would have permitted him to err
In such an abject way, and depreciate
His honour and the honour of the State.

Quorsus hoc? Ut intellegeretis, si voluptatem aspernari ratione et sapientia non possemus, magnam habendam esse senectuti gratiam, quae efficeret, ut id non liberet, quod non operteret. Impedit enim consilium voluptas, rationi inimica est, mentis, ut ita dicam, praestringit oculos, nec habet ullum cum virtute commercium. Invitus feci, ut fortissimi viri T. Flaminini fratrem L. Flamininum e senatu eicerem septem annis post quam consul fuisset, sed notandam putavi libidinem. Ille enim, cum esset consul in Gallia, exoratus in convivio a scorto est, ut securi feriret aliquem eorum, qui in vinculis essent, damnati rei capitalis. Hic Tito fratre suo censore, qui proximus ante me fuerat, elapsus est; mihi vero et Flacco neutiquam probari potuit tam flagitiosa et tam perdita libido, quae cum probro privato coniungeret imperi dedecus.

XIII

I oft heard from my elders who
In their young days had heard it, too,
Right from their own elders that Caius
Fabricius, the legate to King Pirrhus,
Used to be really surprised to hear
A man from Thessaly, named Cynea,
Narrate of a guy in Athens whom he
Knew as one well versed in philosophy.
“In all that we do,” this guy dared claim
“Pleasure must be mankind’s only aim.”
On hearing what he said, Manius Curius
And also Tiberius Coruncanius
Hoped that among the Samnites his principles
Would find indeed a slew of disciples,
Pyrrhus included, so that pleasure’s tricks
Might sap their strength and leave them in a fix.
Manius Curius had a five-year long relationship
With Publius Decius, who before his consulship,
With a feat both extreme and sublime
Had given up his life for the Fatherland
When he was consul for the fourth time.
Fabricius was familiar with him, and
Corucanius, too, knew him well that’s why,
In view of Decius’s death, grand and fulgent
And of their own lives, they could not deny
There must be something noble and excellent
Which is sought after, to get life’s true measure,
By all good men who then look down on pleasure.

Saepe audivi ex maioribus natu, qui se porro pueros a senibus audisse dicebant, mirari solitum C. Fabricium, quod, cum apud regem Pyrrhum legatus esset, audisset a Thessalo Cinea esse quendam Athenis, qui se sapientem profiteretur, eumque dicere omnia, quae faceremus, ad voluptatem esse referenda. Quod ex eo audientis M'. Curium et Ti. Coruncanium optare solitos, ut id Samnitibus ipsique Pyrrho persuaderetur, quo facilius vinci possent, cum se voluptatibus dedissent. Vixerat M'. Curius cum P. Decio, qui quinquennio ante eum consulem se pro re publica quarto consulatu devoverat; norat eundem Fabricius, norat Coruncanius; qui cum ex sua vita, tum ex eius, quem dico, Deci, facto iudicabant esse profecto aliquid natura pulchrum atque praeclarum, quod sua sponte peteretur, quodque spreta et contempta voluptate optimus quisque sequeretur.

So why do I tarry on pleasure’s enticement?
The fact that old age has no longing for it
Not only can’t be taken as a demerit,
But on the contrary is the best of credits.
Freedom from decked tables, from banquets
And also from frequent potations
Means freedom from drunkenness,
From insomnia and indigestions.
But we’re bound to make some concessions
To better resist pleasure’s alluring snares
Which Plato calls the bait of transgressions,
By which like fish men are caught unawares.
Although old age sumptuous banquets must shun
In light repasts it finds indeed some fun.
As a boy I used to see the old
Gaius Duellius, Marcus’s son,
And the first Roman who rolled
Over and put right out of action
The mighty Carthaginian fleet, on
His way home, very late at night
From supper, attended by a long train
Of flutists playing under the light
Of wax torches to his great delight.
He had hired those people to entertain
Himself, as his having been so valiant
Allowed him a privilege so blatant.

Quorsus igitur tam multa de voluptate? Quia non modo vituperatio nulla, sed etiam summa laus senectutis est, quod ea voluptates nullas magno opere desiderat. Caret epulis extructisque mensis et frequentibus poculis; caret ergo etiam vinulentia et cruditate et insomniis. Sed si aliquid dandum est voluptati, quoniam eius blanditiis non facile obsistimus, --divine enim Plato 'escam malorum' appellat voluptatam, quod ea videlicet homines capiantur ut pisces, --quamquam immoderatis epulis caret senectus, modicis tamen coviviis delectari potest. C. Duellium M. f., qui Poenos classe primus devicerat, redeuntem a cena senem saepe videbam puer; delectabatur cereo funali et tibicine, quae sibi nullo exemplo privatus sumpserat; tantum licentiae dabat gloria.

I’ll now revert only to myself,
And put all the others on the shelf.
To start with I’ve always had partners
Who also belonged to some fellowship
Founded during my own questorship.
After the launch of the Great Mother’s
Worship on Mount Ida, one fine day,
I was dining with friends in a small way,
But with that particular youth’s ardour
Which, as one gets on, loses its vigour.
Indeed it wasn’t the culinary pleasure,
But the company and the conversation
Of friends which could give me the exact measure
Of a delightful convivial refection.
Our forefathers called appropriately
Eating together conviviality.
The Greeks instead call it “compotation,”
Or, on occasion, also “concenation.”
Drinking and eating together respectively.
They seem to appreciate less I think
The company than good food and drink.

Sed quid ego alios? Ad me ipsum iam revertar. Primum habui semper sodalis. Sodalitates autem me quaestore constitutae sunt sacris Idaeis Magnae Matris acceptis. Epulabar igitur cum sodalibus omnino modice, sed erat quidam fervor aetatis; qua progrediente omnia fiunt in dies mitiora. Neque enim ipsorum conviviorum delectationem voluptatibus corporis magis quam coetu amicorum et sermonibus metiebar. Bene enim maiores accubitionem epularem amicorum, quia vitae coniunctionem haberet, convivium nominaverunt, melius quam Graeci, qui hoc idem tum compotationem, tum concenationem vocant, ut, quod in eo genere minimum est, id maxime probare videantur.

XIV

Instead I enjoy conversation
So much that I find delectation
Even in those long untimely banquets
Which start and end beyond the usual limits.
I don’t like to mix only with my peers
Of whom very few are left, it appears,
And also like, you see, to engage
In conversation with those of your age,
And in particular with you.
I’m indebted to old age, too,
That has heightened my inclination
For conversation, and has cut back on
that for victuals and potation.
So if some consider food a treasure,
I say this to prove I wage no war on pleasure
Whose bounds are to a point bounded by nature.
These bounds make up a pleasure gauge
Convenient also to old age.
It is really most gratifying for me
To act as that sort of banquet Emcee
Instituted by our forefathers
To direct the talk between bumpers,
Starting from the personality
Heading the drinking conviviality.
I like the glasses small and dewy,
I like cool places in the Summer,
I like heated rooms in the Winter.
Such are the days in my Sabine estate
Where in my good neighbours’ company
We have a good time talking pleasantly,
And regularly stay up very late.

Ego vero propter sermonis delectationem tempestivis quoque conviviis delector, nec cum aequalibus solum, qui pauci admodum restant, sed cum vestra etiam aetate atque vobiscum, habeoque senectuti magnam gratiam, quae mihi sermonis aviditatem auxit, potionis et cibi sustulit. Quod si quem etiam ista delectant, (ne omnino bellum indixisse videar voluptati, cuius est fortasse quidam naturalis modus), non intellego ne in istis quidem ipsis voluptatibus carere sensu senectutem. Me vero et magisteria delectant a maioribus instituta et is sermo, qui more maiorum a summo adhibetur in poculo, et pocula, sicut in Symposio Xenophontis est, minuta atque rorantia, et refrigeratio aestate et vicissim aut sol aut ignis hibernus; quae quidem etiam in Sabinis persequi soleo, conviviumque vicinorum cotidie compleo, quod ad multam noctem quam maxime possumus vario sermone producimus.

It may be objected an elderly person
Is less sensitive to the tickling of passion,
That’s true, but an old man’s carnal call
Being very feeble isn’t molest at all.
How fitly Sophocles in his fading years
Replied to somebody’s direct question
Whether he was still in Venus’s thrall.
“God forbid! I keep away from her leers,”
He said “those are the pleasures of the lewd
For whom their absence is harsher than it should.”
But lack of pleasure is very much appreciated
By those who instead are already sated.

At non est voluptatum tanta quasi titillatio in senibus. Credo, sed ne desideratio quidem; nihil autem est molestum, quod non desideres. Bene Sophocles, cum ex eo quidem iam adfecto aetate quaereret, utereturne rebus veneriis, 'Di meliora!' inquit; ' libenter vero istinc sicut ab domino agresti ac furioso profugi.' Cupidis enim rerum talium odiosum fortasse et molestum est carere, satiatis vero et expletis iucundius est carere quam frui. Quamquam non caret is, qui non desiderat; ergo hoc non desiderare dico esse iucundius.

As a matter of fact though
One doesn’t miss what one doesn’t know.
So I think one finds more satisfaction
In the lack of libido,
And if youth seeks the exposure
To that kind of pleasure,
First it will only find delectation
In things really unimportant whose absence
Is also never complete in senescence.
Just as in Ambivius Turpio’s plays, more fun
Has the spectator who sits in row one,
But also gets some fun and applauds
He who sits in the back or in the gods,
So youth luxuriates in pleasure’s highlights,
But old age too gets its share of delights.
How precious are instead those other things

Quod si istis ipsis voluptatibus bona aetas fruitur libentius, primum parvulis fruitur rebus, ut diximus, deinde eis, quibus senectus, etiamsi non abunde potitur, non omnino caret. Ut Turpione Ambivio magis delectatur, qui in prima cavea spectat, delectatur tamen etiam, qui in ultima, sic adulescentia voluptates propter intuens magis fortasse laetatur, sed delectatur etiam senectus procul eas spectans tantum quantum sat est.

For a soul that after a life of flings,
Ambitions, efforts, enmities and all
Passions, at last resolves to heed the call
Of his interior life and conscience.
If he also finds spiritual nutriment
In academic improvement
Nothing can beat a quiet senescence.
Scipio we used to see Caius Gallus, a friend
Of your father’s, almost surveying the trend
Of the sky and the earth until break of day.
How often did he day and night expend
Drawing an astronomical array.
How glad was he to give us early tips
Of a solar or a lunar eclipse!

At illa quanti sunt, animum, tamquam emeritis stipendiis libidinis, ambitionis, contentionis, inimicitiarum cupiditatum omnium, secum esse secumque, ut dicitur, vivere! Si vero habet aliquod tamquam pabulum studi atque doctrinae, nihil est otiosa senectute iucundius. Videbamus in studio dimetiendi paene caeli atque terrae C. Galum, familiarem patris tui, Scipio. Quotiens illum lux noctu aliquid describere ingressum, quotiens nox oppressit, cum mane coepisset! Quam delectabat eum defectiones solis et lunae multo ante nobis praedicere!

And what about those studies whose credits,
Though a notch under, demand ready wits.
How proud did the Punic War rendered Nevius!
How proud then made Plautus his “Truculentus”
And his comedy entitled “Pseudulus”!
I saw Livius as an old man. Six years before
My birth, he had put on the stage, for sure,
One of his many meritorious plays,
Under the consuls Centus and Tuditanus.
He went on living through all my young days.
Shall I mention the legal studies, too,
Of Publius Licinius Crassus who
Prized the civil and Pontifical ways,
Or what about the work of Publius
Scipio who, as I write, is still with us,
And was elected Pontifex Maximus?
Well, we have seen all these men I mentioned
Spend their old age in such impassioned
Studies like that Marcus Cethegus
Whom, though elderly, the poet Ennius
Called the marrow of persuasion,
And how does indeed the delectation
Of banquets, courtesans and shows
Compare with this kind of gratification?
Indeed wise and refined men engage
In this search for learning with a devotion
Which progressively grows with age.
Solon magnificently maintains,
In a verse quoted above, that his brains
Improve by learning something new every day.
No better pleasure can be attained, come what may.

Quid in levioribus studiis, sed tamen acutis? Quam gaudebat bello suo Punico Naevius! quam Truculento Plautus, quam Pseudolo! Vidi etiam senem Livium; qui, cum sex aniis ante quam ego natus sum fabulam docuisset Centone Tuditanoque consulibus, usque ad adulescentiam meam processit aetate. Quid de P. Licini Crassi et pontifici et civilis iuris studio loquar aut de huius P. Scipionis qui his paucis diebus pontifex maximus factus est? Atque eos omnis, quos commemoravi, his studiis flagrantis senes vidimus. M. vero Cethegum, quem recte 'Suadae medullam' dixit Ennius, quanto studio exerceri in dicendo videbamus etiam senem! Quae sunt igitur epularum aut ludorum aut scortorum voluptates cum his voluptatibus comparandae? Atque haec quidem studia doctrinae, quae quidem prudentibus et bene institutis pariter cum aetate crescunt, ut honestum illud Solonis sit, quod ait versiculo quodam, ut ante dixi, senescere se multa in dies addiscentem, qua voluptate animi nulla certe potest esse maior.

XV

Now I come to the farmers’pleasures,
For myself incredible treasures
Which in old age find no impediment.
These pleasures are a wise man’s life hallmark.
The Earth is like the farmers’ matriarch
Never refusing their government,
Ready to take and make repayments too,
But always letting interests accrue.
Yet it’s not only the Earth’s fruits I enjoy
But also the natural strength she can deploy.
When a seed gets into her soft loose womb
It lies there as if buried in a tomb,
Hence harrowing, or ‘occatio,’ is described
With a word stemming from the verb to hide.
The Earth by her warmth and compression
Opens it up and brings out a green sprout
Which resting on the roots’ filaments
Develops with gradual progression,
Standing on a strong stalk in full gear
All enclosed, so to speak, in a sheet.
When it comes out, the fruit is made to appear
In the plain form of an ear of wheat
Whose strongly built palisade of awns seeks
To protect it from the lesser birds’ beaks.

Venio nunc ad voluptates agricolarum, quibus ego incredibiliter delector; quae nec ulla impediuntur senectute et mihi ad sapientis vitam proxime videntur accedere. Habent enim rationem cum terra, quae numquam recusat imperium nec umquam sine usura reddit, quod accepit, sed alias minore, plerumque maiore cum faenore. Quamquam me quidem non fructus modo, sed etiam ipsius terrae vis ac natura delectat. Quae cum gremio mollito ac subacto sparsum semen excepit, primum id occaecatum cohibet, ex quo occatio, quae hoc efficit, nominata est, deinde tepefactum vapore et compressu suo diffundit et elicit herbescentem ex eo viriditatem, quae nixa fibris stirpium sensim adulescit culmoque erecta geniculato vaginis iam quasi pubescens includitur; ex quibus cum emersit, fundit frugem spici ordine structam et fcontra avium minorum morsus munitur vallo aristarum.

Why should I remember the vine,
Its planting and cultivation?
The insatiable delectation
Which I get from it can define
My old age’s quiet recreation.
I naturally will not adduce
The inner strength of the Earth’s produce
Which from the seeds of a fig or a grape
Or other plants, so small as to escape
Our sight, can turn into a trunk or a bough “this big”
Or a hammer shoot or a cutting graft plant
Or a vine layer slip or a simple brushwood twig
whose green power is to delight and enchant.
It’s in the nature of the vine,
If not supported, to recline
Until it falls plump to the ground,
But then its tendrils get around
Like the wayward crawling of a snake,
So the farmer’s skill acts as a brake,
Stopping its shoots from going wild and rambling,

Quid ego vitium ortus, satus, incrementa commemorem? Satiari delectatione non possum, ut meae senectutis requiem oblectamentumque noscatis. Omitto enim vim ipsam omnium, quae generantur e terra; quae ex fici tantulo grano aut ex acini vinaceo aut ex ceterarum frugum aut stirpium minutissimis seminibus tantos truncos ramosque procreet. Malleoli, plantae, sarmenta, viviradices, propagines, nonne efficiunt, ut quemvis cum admiratione delectent? Vitis quidem, quae natura caduca est et, nisi fulta est, fertur ad terram, eadem, ut se erigat claviculis suis quasi manibus quicquid est nacta, complectitur; quam serpentem multiplici lapsu et erratico ferro amputans coercet ars agricolarum, ne silvescat sarmentis et in omnis partis nimia fundatur.

And suddenly at the onset of Spring
Near the joints of the tendril there’s this thing
Slowly coming out, a so called bud, which shapes
the structure of a rising bunch of grapes.
And indeed not only pleases me,
As I said, the vine’s utility
But also its culture,
And its very nature.
The rows of props
Hitched at the tops,
The vine extensions and binding,
The above mentioned shoot pruning
To facilitate the growing,
And what about the watering,
And the ditching and harrowing
Which give the soil value,
What about the manuring, too,

Itaque ineunte vere in eis, quae relicta sunt, exsistit tamquam ad articulos sarmentorum ea, quae gemma dicitur, a qua oriens uva se ostendit, quae et suco terrae et calore solis augescens primo est peracerba gustatu, deinde maturata dulcescit, vestitaque pampinis nec modico tepore caret et nimios solis defendit ardores. Qua quid potest esse cum fructu laetius, tum aspectu pulchrius? Cuius quidem non utilitas me solum, ut ante dixi, sed etiam cultura et natura ipsa delectat, adminiculorum ordines, capitum iugatio, religatio et propagatio vitium, sarmentorum ea, quam dixi aliorum amputatio, aliorum immissio. Quid ego irrigationes, quid fossiones agri repastinationesque proferam, quibus fit multo terra fecundior?

Of which I wrote in my book on farming?
Our learned Hesiod kept mum about it
Although he wrote a book on the same theme,
But long before him Homer saw fit
To show old Laërtes trying to quell his soul’s turmoil,
For his far-flung son, tilling and manuring the soil.
Besides a life in the field doesn’t seem
To be pleasant only for its crops, meads, vineyards
And trees, but also for its gardens, orchards,
Pastures, flights of bees, flowers of every kind.
It isn’t the act of planting alone that I find
To be agriculture’s smartest invention,
But new life brought to the plant by insertion.

Quid de utilitate loquar stercorandi? Dixi in eo libro, quem de rebus rusticis scripsi; de qua doctus Hesiodus ne verbum quidem fecit, cum de cultura agri scriberet. At Honerus, qui multis, ut mihi videtur, ante saeculis fuit, Laeten lenientem desiderium, quod capiebat e filio, colentem agrum et eum stercorantem facit. Nec vero segetibus solum et pratis et vineis et arbustis res rusticae laetae sunt, sed hortis etiam et pomariis, tum pecudum pastu, apium examinibus, florum omnium varietate. Nec consitiones modo delectant sed etiam insitiones, quibus nihil invenit agri cultura sollertius.

XVI

I might go on talking of the tons
Of beautiful rustic attractions,
But you will doubtlessly forgive
Me for being indeed too talkative
Because of my passion for the boondocks.
An old man is often a chatterbox,
And old age can of course be defective.
After his triumphs over Pyrrhus,
The Samnites, and the Sabines, Manius
Curius spent his last years in a country
House a short distance from mine, as a bee
Flies, and when I watch it I can’t help but admire
Both his great modesty and the severity
Of his times. Once he was sitting by the fire
When some Samnites came to see
Him with a great quantity
Of gold, but he sent them away
Saying not the gold, but the sway
Over those who possessed it, was his goal.
How could a man with such a noble soul
Not make his old age lovely and gay?

Possum persequi permulta oblectamenta rerum rusticarum, sed haec ipsa, quae dixi, sentio fuisse longiora. Ignoscetis autem; nam et studio rusticarum rerum provectus sum, et senectus est natura loquacior, ne ab omnibus eam vitiis videar vindicare. Ergo in hac vita M'. Curius, cum de Samnitibus, de Sabinis, de Pyrrho triumphasset, consumpsit extremum tempus aetatis. Cuius quidem ego villam contemplans (abest enim non longe a me) admirari satis non possum vel hominis ipsius continentiam vel temporum disciplinam. Curio ad focum sedenti magnum auri pondus Samnites cum attulissent, repudiati sunt; non enim aurum habere praeclarum sibi videri dixit, sed eis qui haberent aurum imperare.

Not to digress I go back to farmers now.
In those days senators, all old men,
Lived on their own farms, and once when
Cincinnatus was busy at the plough
He was told he’d been made, there and then,
Dictator and in that capacity
He issued an order to Caius Servilius
Ahala, the Master of the Cavalry,
To apprehend and kill Spurius Melius
Who had strange notions about sovereignty.
And from their country houses these pageboys
Brought to the Senate Curius and the other old men,
That’s the reason why they were called envoys.
The senators’ country life was delightful,
Busily spent, as it was, tilling the soil. Who then
Unwisely called their old age pitiful?
No other age could indeed within my ken
Be, not only morally, more blissful,
As agriculture is very helpful
To mankind, but also for the pleasance
Of which I spoke, and for the abundance
Of all that is about men’s nourishment,
And the cult of the gods omnipotent.
This I say to sign my peace with pleasure,
As some desire this kind of country leisure.
For a land owner, able and diligent,
Keeps lots of wine and oil in the basement,
And varied is his pantry’s assortment.
His villa is prosperous, and in its pens
There is a large number of pigs goats and hens,
And there’s a quantity of cheese and honey too.
So farmers call the garden pantry number two.
Fowling and hunting, also a leisurely effort,
Provide country life with an additional comfort.

Poteratne tantus animus efficere non iucundam senctutem? Sed venio ad agricolas, ne a me ipso recedam. In agris erant tum senatores, id est senes, siquidem aranti L. Quinctio Cincinnato nuntiatum est eum dictatorem esse factum; cuius dictatoris iussu magister equitum C. Servilius Ahala Sp. Maelium regnum adpetentem occupatum interemit. A villa in senatum arcessebatur et Curius et ceteri senes, ex quo, qui eos arcessebant viatores nominati sunt. Num igitur horum senectus miserabilis fuit, qui se agri cultione oblectabant? Mea quidem sententia haud scio an nulla beatior possit esse, neque solum officio, quod hominum generi universo cultura agrorum est salutaris, sed et delectatione, quam dixi, et saturitate copiaque rerum omnium, quae ad victum hominum, ad cultum etiam deorum pertinent, ut, quoniam haec quidem desiderant, in gratiam iam cum voluptate redeamus. Semper enim boni assiduique domini referta cella vinaria, olearia, etiam penaria est, villaque tota locuples est, abundat porco, haedo, agno, gallina, lacte, caseo, melle. Iam hortum ipsi agricolae succidiam alteram appellant. Conditiora facit haec supervacaneis etiam operis aucupium atque venatio.

Should I enlarge upon the greenness
Of the meadows or upon the rows
Of trees or upon the loveliness
Of the vineyards and the olive groves?
Well to put it all in a nutshell
Nothing can be more rewarding and
More beautiful than nicely tilled land.
Old age not only isn’t an impediment,
But instead an appeal and an enticement.
Where else could those who retire
Keep warm in the sun or by the fire,
Or, on the contrary, keep cool
In the shade or by a fresh pool?

Quid de pratorum viriditate aut arborum ordinibus aut vinearum olivetorumve specie plura dicam? Brevi praecidam: agro bene culto nihil potest esse nec usu uberius nec specie ornatius; ad quem fruendum non modo non retardat, verum etiam invitat atque adlectat senectus. Ubi enim potest illa aetas aut calescere vel apricatione melius vel igni, aut vicissim umbris aquisve refrigerari salubrius?

Let the young have arm and mount
Let them have ball and stick and pike
Let them swim and scurry too,
To the old are paramount
Only dice games and the like.
Should they deem those games undue
We’ll comply without ado.

Sibi habeant igitur arma, sibi equos, sibi hastas, sibi clavam et pilam, sibi natationes atque cursus, nobis senibus ex lusionibus multis talos relinquant et tesseras, id ipsum ut lubebit, quoniam sine eis beata esse senectus potest.

XVII

Xenophontes’ most practical views
I invite you to read and peruse,
As you’re already doing, in his books.
One of them contains his outlooks
On agricultural management,
Full of praise and sound judgment,
And its title is, as you see,
“On domestic economy.”
Care for farming is a thing
Fit, he thinks, for a king.
In that book Socrates, speaking
With somebody named Critobulus,
Says that the clever and brave Cyrus
Junior, a prince and son of the Persian monarch,
Received at Sardis a man distinguished and wise,
Lysander, who brought him gifts from his Spartan allies.
Kindly treated was he and then was taken to a park
All fenced in and bearing every sign
Of the most careful landscape design.
Lysander stood in deep reverence
Before the soaring trees, the quincunx shaped
Rows, the soil dug up and nicely raked,
Smelling the flowers’ sweet effluence.
He then said that his feelings of reverence
Were caused not only by the diligence,
But by the skill too, that left him agape,
Of the man who designed that fine landscape.
“I was that man,” said Cyrus “I the presence
Behind all the row measurements, and
Many trees were planted by my hand.”
At that moment looking at his crimson cloak,
His impressive good looks, his Persian attire,
Trimmed with gems and gold, Lysander spoke
“Rightly indeed they deem you happy, o sire,
Since in you fortune and virtue are one.”
Then old men, too, may have a little fun.
As old age leaves us absolutely free
To attend to every activity,
It’s in agriculture we can engage

Multas ad res perutiles Xenophontis libri sunt, quos legite, quaeso, studiose, ut facitis. Quam copiose ab eo agri cultura laudatur in eo libro, qui est de tuenda re familiari, qui Oeconomicus inscribitur! Atque ut intellegatis nihil ei tam regale videri quam studium agri colendi, Socrates in eo libro loquitur cum Critobulo Cyrum minorem, Persarum regem, praestantem ingenio atque imperi gloria, cum Lysander Lacedaemonius, vir summae virtutis, venisset ad eum Sardis eique dona a sociis adtulisset, et ceteris in rebus communem erga Lysandrum atque humanum fuisse et ei quendam consaeptum agrum diligenter consitum ostendisse. Cum autem admiraretur Lysander et proceritates arborum et derectos in quincuncem ordines et humum subactam atque puram et suavitatem odorum, qui adflarentur ex floribus, tum eum dixisse mirari se non modo diligentiam, sed etiam sollertiam eius, a quo essent illa dimensa atque discripta; et Cyrum respondisse: 'Atqui ego ista sum omnia dimensus; mei sunt ordines, mea discriptio, multae etiam istarum arborum mea manu sunt satae.' Tum Lysandrum intuentem purpuram eius et nitorem corporis ornatumque Persicum multo auro multisque gemmis dixisse; 'Recte vero te, Cyre, beatum ferunt, quoniam virtuti tuae fortuna coniuncta est.'

Up to the final phase of old age.
Valerius Corvinus, it may be added,
Still worked in his fields when he was a hundred,
Between his first and sixth consulship,
A forty-six-year-long political trip.
His career, as long as prefixed
By our progenitors betwixt
Birth and the threshold
Of the age of the old,
Was happier at its extremity,
With less work and more authority,
The privilege, that is, of seniority.

Hac igitur fortuna frui licet senibus, nec aetas impedit, quo minus et ceterarum rerum et in primis agri colendi studia teneamus usque ad ultimum tempus senectutis. M. quidem Valerium Corvinum accepimus ad centesimum annum perduxise, cum esset acta iam aetate in agris eosque coleret; cuius inter primum et sextum consulatum sex et quadraginta anni interfuerunt. Ita, quantum spatium aetatis maiores ad senectutis initium esse voluerunt, tantus illi cursus honorum fuit; atque huius extrema aetas hoc beatior quam media, quod auctoritatis habebat plus, laboris minus; apex est autem senectutis auctoritas.

Big indeed was the authority of Lucius
Metellus and Aulus Atilius Calatinus
Whose epitaph is well known
And inscribed in his headstone:
“The opinion is general
This citizen was nonpareil.”
He surely was a man with authority
On whose merits there was unanimity.
What a man in Publius Crassus we saw,
The High Pontiff, a short time ago,
And then in that Marcus Lepidus,
Who had the same sacerdotal status,
And what about Paulus and Africanus
Or, as I said before, Fabius Maximus?
Their fellow citizens were not only awed
By their speech, but also by a mere nod.
Old men who the public honours trail trod
Have so much authority, in truth,
To offset all the pleasures of youth.

Quanta fuit in L. Caecilio Metello, quanta in A. Atilio Calatino! in quem illud elogium: 'Hunc unum plurimae consentiunt gentes populi primarium fuisse virum.' Notum est carmen incisum in sepulcro. Iure igitur gravis, cuius de laudibus omnium esset fama consentiens. Quem virum nuper P. Crassum, pontificem maximum, quem postea M. Lepidum eodem sacerdotio praeditum, vidimus! Quid de Paulo aut Africano loquar aut, ut iam ante, de Maximo? quorum non in sententia solum, sed etiam in nutu residebat auctoritas. Habet senectus, honorata praesertim, tantam auctoritatem, ut ea pluris sit quam omnes adulescentiae voluptates.

XVIII

But consider how, in all this argument,
I praise the old age which has built its ways
On the solid plinth of its salad days,
And therefore, by universal assent,
I’ve said dreary is the old age which
To defend itself can only pitch
Words. For no deep wrinkles nor hoary
Hair are the source of authority,
But only a past life of honesty.

Sed in omni oratione mementote eam me senectutem laudare, quae fundamentis adulescentiae constituta sit. Ex quo efficitur id quod ego magno quondam cum assensu omnium dixi, miseram esse senectutem quae se oratione defenderet. Non cani, nec rugae repente auctoritatem arripere possunt, sed honeste acta superior aetas fructus capit auctoritatis extremos.

Those seemingly small social trimmings
Are in themselves honourable things:
Being greeted and given precedence,
Seeing people stand up in our presence,
Being consulted and having cohorts
Of eager and willing street escorts.
This is what good mannered people do,
Out of courtesy with uttermost kindness,
In Rome and in other cities too.
In line with the ethics of the populace,
Lysander, the Spartan that I told you about,
Used to say the city of Sparta was, no doubt,
The most honoured domicile for oldness.
Well, nowhere else is old age so respected,
And nowhere else it is also so blessed.
An old-timer left standing in the aisle,
They say, of an Athens theatre while
All his fellow citizens were seated,
During the city’s festivities,
Went to the section occupied
By the Spartan ambassadors who
All stood up without further ado,
And heartily made him feel at ease.
After a prolonged standing ovation
On the part of all the congregation,
One of them said the Athenians were hopeless

Haec enim ipsa sunt honorabilia quae videntur levia atque communia, salutari, adpeti, decedi, adsurgi, deduci, reduci, consuli; quae et apud nos et in aliis civitatibus, ut quaeque optime morata est, ita diligentissime observantur. Lysandrum Lacedaemonium, cuius modo feci mentionem, dicere aiunt solitum Lacedaemonem esse honestissimum domicilium senectutis: nusquam enim tantum tribuitur aetati, nusquam est senectus honoratior. Quin etiam memoriae proditum est, cum Athenis ludis quidam in theatrum grandis natu venisset, magno consessu locum nusquam ei datum a suis civibus; cum autem ad Lacedaemonios accessisset, qui legati cum essent, certo in loco consederant, consurrexisse omnes illi dicuntur et senem sessum recepisse.

As they knew well, but avoided all kindness.
Many an unwritten remarkable page
Of habits, like this one under our eyes,
Has your College of Augurs, where ayes
Or nays are given by precedence of age,
Which applies not only to the hierarchy,
But also to those with full authority.
But is it not really a bit thick
To compare those laden with clout,
And physical pleasures, no doubt,
With those who secure the very pick
Of authority with all its prestige?
Those who’ve enjoyed this privilege
Have stuck, I think, to all this life’s program
Without cutting the figure of a ham,

Quibus cum a cuncto consessu plausus esset multiplex datus, dixisse ex eis quendam Atheniensis scire, quae recta essent, sed facere nolle. Multa in nostro collegio praeclara, sed hoc de quo agimus in primis, quod, ut quisque aetate antecedit, ita sententiae principatum tenet, neque solum honore antecedentibus, sed eis etiam, qui cum imperio sunt, maiores natu augures anteponuntur. Quae sunt igitur voluptates corporis cum auctoritatis praemiis comparandae? Quibus qui splendide usi sunt, ei mihi videntur fabulam aetatis peregisse nec tamquam inexercitati histriones in extremo actu corruisse.

But old people, it may be well objected,
Are anxious, crabbed, ill-tempered, cross, peevish
And, come to think of it, also close-fisted
Though it’s clear every single blemish
Stems from character, and not from oldness.
Yet all those faults, besides peevishness,
Certainly have some likely excuse.
People, they suspect, find no use,
Snub and look down on them and again
Each offence gives a weak body a pain.
And yet all the blemishes of old age
Can by good habits and study be abated,
As we see in life, real or re-enacted,
By those two brothers of the Adelphis’ stage:
One the very image of fierceness,
And the other brimming with kindness.
Certainly neither all wines go sour
Nor do all men because of agedness.
I approve of old men’s calm severity,
But I don’t put up with those who are dour.

At sunt morosi et anxii et iracundi et difficiles senes. Si quaerimus, etiam avari; sed haec morum vitia sunt, non senectutis. Ac morositas tamen et ea vitia, quae dixi, habent aliquid excusationis non illius quidem iustae, sed quae probari posse videatur; contemni se putant, despici, inludi; praeterea in fragili corpore odiosa omnis offensio est. Quae tamen omnia dulciora fiunt et moribus bonis et artibus; idque cum in vita, tum in scaena intellegi potest ex eis fratribus, qui in Adelphis sunt. Quanta in altero diritas, in altero comitas! Sic se res habet; ut enim non omne vinum, sic non omnis natura vetustate coacescit. Severitatem in senectute probo, sed eam, sicut alia, modicam, acerbitatem nullo modo.

When it comes to old people’s avidity,
It is altogether beyond my pale
To seek more food when shorter is the trail.

Avaritia vero senilis quid sibi velit, non intellego; potest enim quicquam esse absurdius quam, quo viae minus restet, eo plus viatici quaerere?

XIX

Our last years have a fourth cause of great distress,
I mean the approach of our demise,
Which can’t surely be far away from oldness.
A poor man must be him whose eyes
Never saw death’s despicable lies.
Death must be disregarded if her goal
Is the total extinction of the soul,
Or regarded instead as a good grace
If she takes it to some immortal place.
After all, there’s certainly no third case,

Quarta restat causa, quae maxime angere atque sollicitam habere nostram aetatem videtur, adpropinquatio mortis, quae certe a senectute non potest esse longe. O miserum senem qui mortem contemnendam esse in tam longa aetate non viderit! quae aut plane neglegenda est, si omnino exstinguit animum, aut etiam optanda, si aliquo eum deducit, ubi sit futurus aeternus; atqui tertium certe nihil inveniri potest.

Beyond death there is indeed nothing to fear,
Either a state of non mirth or of good cheer.
Moreover who is so fool as to presume
Not to fall before dusk into the tomb?
The green age usually has to moan
Many more death cases than our own
As the young are usually disease prone.
Their ailments are serious and hard to cure.
Very few of them can therefore be sure
To grow old though the survival of these guys
Would give life a turn benevolent and wise.
In old men is to be found
Intelligence and common sense,
And if they were not around
The states would be just a pretence,
But let me deal again with death,
Who looms over us with her breath.
But what is this object of reproach
Of old age which can also encroach

Quid igitur timeam, si aut non miser post mortem aut beatus etiam futurus sum? Quamquam quis est tam stultus, quamvis sit adulescens, cui sit exploratum se ad vesperum esse victurum? Quin etiam aetas illa multo pluris quam nostra casus mortis habet; facilius in morbos incidunt adulescentes, gravius aegrotant, tristius curantur. Itaque pauci veniunt ad senectutem; quod ni ita accideret, melius et prudentius viveretur. Mens enim et ratio et consilium in senibus est; qui si nulli fuissent, nullae omnino civitates fuissent. Sed redeo ad mortem impendentem. Quod est istud crimen senectutis, cum id ei videatis cum adulescentia esse commune?

On youth? When my fine boy died I was stung,
And you Scipio, too, were grievously hit,
Losing your brothers for all honours fit.
Death is common to the old and the young,
But they say a young man hopes in a long lease
Of life while an old man awaits its surcease.
Taking certain for uncertain is a wish,
Like taking false for true, completely foolish.
But, they add, even at the end of the rope
An old man is in a better shape than a young man
For he has already fulfilled his life’s hope.
One wants the long life the other had in full measure,
But dear gods what is “long” in man’s nature?
Well imagine the longest time span:

Sensi ego in optimo filio, tu in exspectatis ad amplissimam dignitatem fratribus, Scipio, mortem omni aetati esse communem. At sperat adulescens diu se victurum, quod sperare idem senex non potest. Insipienter sperat. Quid enim stultius quam incerta pro certis habere, falsa pro veris? At senex ne quod speret quidem habet. At est eo meliore condicione quam adulescens, quoniam id, quod ille sperat, hic consecutus est; ille vult diu vivere, hic diu vixit.

Let’s hope for the life expectancy
Of Argathantonius, his majesty
The Tartessian king, whose rule then
In Cadiz, as it is written,
Lasted eighty years until his death.
He was one hundred and twenty
Years old when he breathed his last breath.
But I don’t consider at all lengthy
Anything with an arranged finish
Which once attained makes the past vanish
For good, apart from the value
Of all the good deeds and virtue.
Hours, days, months, years go
Away never to come back though,
And there’s no way to know
The times that will follow.
So a man must be content
With his own time allotment.

Quamquam, O di boni! quid est in hominis natura diu? Da enim summum tempus, exspectemus Tartessiorum regis aetatem (fuit enim, ut scriptum video, Arganthonius quidam Gadibus, qui octoginta regnavit annos, centum viginti vixit)--sed mihi ne diuturnum quidem quicquam videtur in quo est aliquid extremum. Cum enim id advenit, tum illud, quod praeteriit, effluxit; tantum remanet, quod virtute et recte factis consecutus sis; horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur, nec quid sequatur sciri potest; quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus.

During a drama an actor has no need
To be cheered but in the parts he plays
while on the stage of mortal life, indeed,
A man of discernment never stays
Until the last applause. A short life is always
Long enough to be lived honestly and well
But should somebody longer on this earth dwell
He shouldn’t mutter more complaints than farmers do, who
After sweet Spring confront Summer and Autumn too.
Spring is the image of youth and shows the fruits
To come, while the other seasons’ target
Is, of course, to cut down and collect

Neque enim histrioni, ut placeat, peragenda fabula est, modo, in quocumque fuerit actu, probetur, neque sapientibus usque ad 'Plaudite' veniendum est. Breve enim tempus aetatis satis longum est ad bene honesteque vivendum; sin processerit longius, non magis dolendum est, quam agricolae dolent praeterita verni temporis suavitate aestatem autumnumque venisse. Ver enim tamquam adulescentiam significat ostenditque fructus futuros, reliqua autem tempora demetendis fructibus et percipiendis accommodata sunt.

Them. Now, I repeat myself, old age’s roots
Lie in memory and in the wealth of property
Put aside, and all nature does must naturally
Be counted as a collateral,
And what is in fact more natural
than seeing a fading man who dies.
This may happen likewise
To a young man even though, of course,
An early death alters nature’s due course.
Therefore young people, it seems to me, pass
Away like tall flames put out by a large mass
Of water while old men die out like the fumes
Of an unquenchable fire which consumes
Itself without recourse to another force.
And just as unripe fruits are hard to pluck
From the trees to which they’re closely stuck,
But once mature and fully grown
Drop down to the ground on their own,
So young lives are cut down by ferocity
While old ones are spent by maturity.
A maturity to me so suave
The nearer I get to the grave.
It also seems to me as though
I were almost shouting land-ho!
On reaching the port of destination
After a very long navigation.

Fructus autem senectutis est, ut saepe dixi, ante partorum bonorum memoria et copia. Omnia autem quae secundum naturam fiunt sunt habenda in bonis. Quid est autem tam secundum naturam quam senibus emori? Quod idem contingit adulescentibus adversante et repugnante natura. Itaque adulescentes mihi mori sic videntur, ut cum aquae multitudine flammae vis opprimitur, senes autem sic, ut cum sua sponte nulla adhibita vi consumptus ignis exstinguitur; et quasi poma ex arboribus, cruda si sunt, vix evelluntur, si matura et cocta, decidunt, sic vitam adulescentibus vis aufert, senibus maturitas; quae quidem mihi tam iucunda est, ut, quo propius ad mortem accedam, quasi terram videre videar aliquandoque in portum ex longa navigatione esse venturus.

XX

But old age has no fixed extremity
And as long as one can do his duty
One can fully spend it and disdain
Death. As a consequence it is plain
That old age is much more unafraid
Than youth and even more strongly made.
This throws light upon Solon’s reply
To Pisistratus who’d asked him why
He defied him in a fashion so bold
“Because,” he said to the tyrant “I’m old.”
But life’s most gracious conclusion
Takes place when the same nature
That put together its structure
Presides over its dissolution
While still sound is the intelligence
And efficient every single sense.
He who built a ship or a house easily can
Dismantle them by reversing the building plan,
And likewise nature herself disassembles man.
It is indeed very difficult
To destroy a conglutination, if new,
But an old one is easy to unglue.
What’s left of a lifetime, as a result,
Is neither to be too coveted
Nor unduly given up by the aged.

Senectutis autem nullus est certus terminus, recteque in ea vivitur, quoad munus offici exsequi et tueri possit [mortemque contemnere]; ex quo fit, ut animosior etiam senectus sit quam adulescentia et fortior. Hoc illud est quod Pisistrato tyranno a Solone responsum est, cum illi quaerenti, qua tandem re fretus sibi tam audaciter obsisteret, respondisse dicitur: 'Senectute.' Sed vivendi est finis optimus, cum integra mente certisque sensibus opus ipsa suum eadem quae coagmentavit, natura dissolvit. Ut navem, ut aedificium idem destruit facillime, qui construxit, sic hominem eadem optime quae conglutinavit natura dissolvit. Iam omnis conglutinatio recens aegre, inveterata facile divellitur. Ita fit ut illud breve vitae reliquum nec avide adpetendum senibus nec sine causa deserendum sit; vetatque Pythagoras iniussu imperatoris, id est dei, de praesidio et statione vitae decedere.

Leaving one’s station in life and one’s garrison,
Says Pythagoras, is never to be done
Without the Emperor’s straight command,
Signed that is, by God Almighty’s hand.
There is indeed this short saying by Solon
Who asks his friends in two lines pithy and brief
To spare his funeral from sorrow and grief.
I think he wants to be to his friends dear
But I find Ennius’ couplet very clear:
“I pray you for my own sake
No honoured tears at my wake”
He thinks that mourning death is hollow
If eternal life is to follow.

Solonis quidem sapientis est elogium, quo se negat velle suam mortem dolore amicorum et lamentis vacare. Volt, credo, se esse carum suis; sed haud scio an melius Ennius:

Nemo me lacrumis decoret neque funera fletu faxit.

An old man may indeed have some sensation
Of dying but, given his age, a short one,
and this sensation after death may seem
Either covetable or just a dream.
From our young days we must meditate
On the futility of our ultimate fate,
Without this meditation nobody can
Maintain the peace of mind of a tranquil man.
It’s sure a man will pass away
And perhaps on this very day.
Thus how can rely on a firm mind
He whom death hourly stalks from behind?

Non censet lugendam esse mortem, quam immortalitas consequatur. Iam sensus moriendi aliquis esse potest, isque ad exiguum tempus, praesertim seni; post mortem quidem sensus aut optandus aut nullus est. Sed hoc meditatum ab adulescentia debet esse mortem ut neglegamus, sine qua meditatione tranquillo animo esse nemo potest. Moriendum enim certe est, et incertum an hoc ipso die. Mortem igitur omnibus horis impendentem timens qui poterit animo consistere?

No need indeed upon death to linger
When I, not on Lucius Brutus put my finger
Him who was killed in freeing his homeland,
Nor on the two Decii who spurred their horses and
met a voluntary death, nor on Marcus Atilius
Regulus who travelled back to the torments
Of his foes to be true to his engagements,
Nor on the two Scipios who with their corpses
Stopped the onrush of the Punic forces,
Nor on your granddad Lucius Paulus who paid
With death the rashness of his colleague who was flayed
At Cannae, nor on Marcus Marcellus
To whom an incredibly barbarous
Enemy granted a funeral arch,
But, as I wrote in “Originibus,”
I put it on our legions, on the march
To places with no hope of return,
With a spirited and bold frame of mind.
Will therefore accomplished old people display concern
For thoughts of fear young people wave behind,
counting with them the boors and louts who refuse to learn?

De qua non ita longa disputatione opus esse videtur, cum recorder non L. Brutum, qui in liberanda patria est interfectus, non duos Decios, qui ad voluntariam mortem cursum equorum incitaverunt, non M. Atilium, qui ad supplicium est profectus, ut fidem hosti datam conservaret, non duos Scipiones, qui iter Poenis vel corporibus suis obstruere voluerunt, non avum tuum L. Paulum, qui morte luit conlegae in Cannensi ignominia temeritatem, non M. Marcellum, cuius interitum ne crudelissimus quidem hostis honore sepulturae carere passus est, sed legiones nostras, quod scripsi in Originibus, in eum locum saepe profectas alacri animo et erecto, unde se redituras numquam arbitrarentur. Quod igitur adulescentes, et ei quidem non solum indocti, sed etiam rustici, contemnunt, id docti senes extimescent?

The fulfilment of all desires,
At least it seems to me, kills all life’s bliss,
And childhood certainly requires
Interests that young people do not miss,
And the tastes of youth’s initial stage
Won’t be sought after in middle age
Whose pursuits seem to be cheerless
To those in their elderliness.
Therefore as the previous life’s urges
Will set like the Sun so will old age’s.
Once life has had its fill there comes the day
On which one may suitably pass away.

Omnino, ut mihi quidem videtur, studiorum omnium satietas vitae facit satietatem. Sunt pueritiae studia certa; num igitur ea desiderant adulescentes? Sunt ineuntis adulescentiae: num ea constans iam requirit aetas quae media dicitur? Sunt etiam eius aetatis; ne ea quidem quaeruntur in senectute. Sunt extrema quaedam studia senectutis: ergo, ut superiorum aetatum studia occidunt, sic occidunt etiam senectutis; quod cum evenit, satietas vitae tempus maturum mortis adfert.

XXI

I don’t see why I shouldn’t be so brave
As to tell you my view on the grave
Which I see clearly as I now abide
Every day a bit closer to its side.
Scipio, I believe your father and yours too
Laelius, friends noblest and dearest,
Are still alive and live just
That life alone that can be called true.
As long as we can’t possibly shirk
The snares of our body’s framework
We are subjected, as it were, to a duty
Dictated to us by necessity.
For our celestial soul has been downed
From her dwelling on high to the ground,
A place contrary to her divine
Nature and her eternal design.
But I think the immortal gods have imbued
Human bodies with souls so that a multitude
Might till the soil and might contemplate
The celestial order trying to imitate
It with a life based on method and constancy.

Non enim video cur, quid ipse sentiam de morte, non audeam vobis dicere, quod eo cernere mihi melius videor, quo ab ea propius absum. Ego vestros patres, P. Scipio, tuque, C. Laeli, viros clarissimos mihique amicissimos, vivere arbitror, et eam quidem vitam, quae est sola vita nominanda. Nam, dum sumus inclusi in his compagibus corporis, munere quodam necessitatis et gravi opere perfungimur; est enim animus caelestis ex altissimo domicilio depressus et quasi demersus in terram, locum divinae naturae aeternitatique contrarium. Sed credo deos immortalis sparsisse animos in corpora humana, ut essent, qui terras tuerentur, quique caelestium ordinem contemplantes imitarentur eum vitae modo atque constantia. Nec me solum ratio ac disputatio impulit, ut ita crederem, sed nobilitas etiam summorum philosophorum et auctoritas.

Not only do I gather this from philosophy,
But also from the best philosophers’ authority.
I’ve heard about Pythagoras and his club
Of Pythagoreans with whom we almost rub
Elbows. Those philosophers of the school
Named after the Italians could never overrule
That our souls stem from the Mind
Divine and universal. Besides the oracle
Of Apollo had opined
Socrates was at the top of the pinnacle
Of wisdom. Socrates who, I was told,
On the last day of his life had extolled
The immortality of the soul,
And that may be enough, but on the whole
I am convinced, indeed I guess,
That such is the soul’s readiness,
Such the memory of the past
And the solid forecast
Of the future, such the arts, the science,
Such the inventions that the conscience
That includes things so natural
Cannot possibly be mortal.
And as the soul is always in motion,
A motion, that is, that has no inception,
It moves under her own steam
Without end and does not seem
It will ever disappear
As her nature is quite clear
With no different component
In herself. She’s all entire
And therefore she can’t expire.
It’s a fact that before birth mankind
Is endowed with a programmed mind,
And the proof is kids learn quite a few
Very hard subjects without ado,
As if they recall, in their prime,
Things they are told for the first time,
And these are Plato’s ideas too.

Audiebam Pythagoram Pythagoreosque, incolas paene nostros, qui essent Italici philosophi quondam nominati, numquam, dubitasse, quin ex universa mente divina delibatos animos haberemus. Demonstrabantur mihi praeterea, quae Socrates supremo vitae die de immortalitate aminorum disseruisset, is qui esset omnium sapientissimus oraculo Apollinis iudicatus. Quid multa? Sic persuasi mihi, sic sentio, cum tanta celeritas animorum sit, tanta memoria praeteritorum futurorumque prudentia, tot artes, tantae scientiae, tot inventa, non posse eam naturam, quae res eas contineat, esse mortalem, cumque semper agitetur animus nec principium motus habeat, quia se ipse moveat, ne finem quidem habiturum esse motus, quia numquam se ipse sit relicturus; et, cum simplex animi esset natura, neque haberet in se quicquam admixtum dispar sui atque dissimile, non posse eum dividi; quod si non posset, non posse interire; magnoque esse argumento homines scire pleraque ante quam nati sint, quod iam pueri, cum artis difficilis discant, ita celeriter res innumerabilis arripiant, ut eas non tum primum accipere videantur, sed reminisci et recordari. Haec Platonis fere.

XXII

However in one of Xenophon’s
Books Cyrus the Elder addressed
These words to all his sons:
“You are not to think my dearest
That when I’ve gone away from you
I shall be nowhere and dead too.
Indeed when I was with you you couldn’t see
My soul, but you knew it was inside me.
You can be sure it exists, therefore,
Even though you can’t see it as before,

Apud Xenophontem autem moriens Cyrus maior haec dicit: 'Nolite arbitrari, O mihi carissimi filii, me, cum a vobis discessero, nusquam aut nullum fore. Nec enim, dum eram vobiscum, animum meum videbatis, sed eum esse in hoc corpore ex eis rebus quas gerebam intellegebatis. Eundem igitur esse creditote, etiamsi nullum videbitis.

And the honours wouldn’t outlast
The death of great men if their past
and their souls did nothing actively
To help us maintain their memory.
As for me I could never be persuaded
That the soul is alive when enshrouded
In a body, but not when the body dies,
Nor that the soul has no intelligence,
Once it has relinquished her bodily ties,
As then and there it acquires a conscience.
Being freed from all corporal mixture
It acquires a pure and sound texture,
And moreover, when death brings about
The dissolution of man’s nature,
One can see, with no shadow of a doubt,
The end of every other element.
All go back to their primeval spheres,
The soul instead never appears
When she is or isn’t present.

Nec vero clarorum virorum post mortem honores permanerent, si nihil eorum ipsorum animi efficerent, quo diutius memoriam sui teneremus. Mihi quidem numquam persuaderi potuit animos, dum in corporibus essent mortalibus, vivere, cum excessissent ex eis, emori, nec vero tum animum esse insipientem, cum ex insipienti corpore evasisset, sed cum omni admixtione corporis liberatus purus et integer esse coepisset, tum esse sapientem. Atque etiam cum hominis natura morte dissolvitur, ceterarum rerum perspicuum est quo quaeque discedat; abeunt enim illuc omnia, unde orta sunt, animus autem solus nec cum adest nec cum discedit, apparet. Iam vero videtis nihil esse morti tam simile quam somnum.

You see for sure nothing is more similar to
Death than sleep as the sleeper’s soul is the clue
To the divine origin, as she can foresee,
When free and rested, what the time to come will be,
And one can sense what she has in store beyond
The release from her corporal bond.
If that’s the case, he added, you must honour me
As a god, but if the soul on the contrary
Is intended to die with her mortal bones,
You who fear the gods who keep the key
Of this fair universe of waters and stones
Will piously preserve my memory”.

Atqui dormientium animi maxime declarant divinitatem suam; multa enim, cum remissi et liberi sunt, futura prospiciunt. Ex quo intellegitur quales futuri sint, cum se plane corporis vinculis relaxaverint. Qua re, si haec ita sunt, sic me colitote,' inquit, 'ut deum; sin una est interiturus animus cum corpore, vos tamen, deos verentes, qui hanc omnem pulchritudinem tuentur et regunt, memoriam nostri pie inviolateque servabitis.'

XXIII

These were the words of the dying Cyrus and we,
If you wish, will examine our history.
No one, Scipio, will persuade me that either
Your father Paulus or each grandfather
Of yours Paulus, that is, and Africanus
Or the father and the uncle of Africanus
Or many other paramount
Men, we really needn’t count,
Would have tried, as it were,
Feats of supreme valour
Had they not known those very feats were the key
To the memory of posterity.
Or do you think, as I want to beat the drum
For myself, it’s an old man’s caprice,
That I would have worked myself dumb
Day and night in war and peace,
Do you think that is what I would have done
If the limits of my life and glory were one?
Wouldn’t it have been a lot better
To spend my life in my little acre,
Far away from the hassle and the rat race?
But, I know not why, holding up my face
I always had posterity before my eyes,
As if only in undoing my life’s ties
I could start living for real at long last.
If souls had no immortality
The best people would be sorry,
And wouldn’t strive with great intensity.

Cyrus quidem haec moriens; nos, si placet, nostra videamus. Nemo umquam mihi, Scipio, persuadebit aut patrem tuum Paulum, aut duos avos, Paulum et Africanum, aut Africani patrem, aut patruum, aut multos praestantis viros quos enumerare non est necesse, tanta esse conatos, quae ad posteritatis memoriam pertinerent, nisi animo cernerent posteritatem ad se ipsos pertinere. Anne censes, ut de me ipse aliquid more senum glorier, me tantos labores diurnos nocturnosque domi militiaeque suscepturum fuisse, si eisdem finibus gloriam meam, quibus vitam, essem terminaturus? Nonne melius multo fuisset otiosam et quietam aetatem sine ullo labore et contentione traducere? Sed nescio quo modo animus erigens se posteritatem ita semper prospiciebat, quasi, cum excessisset e vita, tum denique victurus esset. Quod quidem ni ita se haberet, ut animi inmortales essent, haud optimi cuiusque animus maxime ad inmortalitatem et gloriam niteretur.

So what? As all the wisest men
Die with a serene soul, but then
Most of the fools die filled with spite.
Don’t you think a soul with insight
And broad views doesn’t bear in mind,
Unlike a soul that is half blind,
To be bound for a life more refined?
I’m looking forward to seeing indeed
Your fathers whom I loved and fancied,
And those, too, whom I heard of or met face to face,
Or read about, or of whom penned a trace,
And when I shall have gone to them
I won’t be pulled back with a stratagem,
Nor will I be boiled like Pelias by his daughters.
And if some god allowed me to get back again
To the cradle, as one of those crying toddlers,
From my ancient age, I’d refuse there and then.
Having run most of my course, I couldn’t face
To be recalled from the finish to the starting place.

Quid, quod sapientissimus quisque aequissimo animo moritur, stultissimus iniquissimo, nonne vobis videtur is animus qui plus cernat et longius, videre se ad meliora proficisci, ille autem cuius obtusior sit acies, non videre? Equidem efferor studio patres vestros, quos colui et dilexi videndi, neque vero eos solos convenire aveo quos ipse cognovi, sed illos etiam de quibus audivi et legi et ipse conscripsi; quo quidem me proficiscentem haud sane quid facile retraxerit, nec tamquam Peliam recoxerit. Et si quis deus mihi largiatur, ut ex hac aetate repuerascam et in cunis vagiam, valde recusem, nec vero velim quasi decurso spatio ad carceres a calce revocari.

What are the advantages of life indeed
If oftentimes it has us pilloried?
Its great advantages indeed we admit,
But it has also a surfeit a limit.
And about my own life I don’t complain,
As I don’t think I went through it in vain.
I leave this life as I would leave
An inn and not a home. Nature
Gave us in fact a temporary hotel,
Not a permanent place in which to dwell.
O, it’ll be a splendid day of pleasure
When I’ll meet those souls in divine beatitude,
Leaving behind this cesspool and this multitude.
And not only the men mentioned above
But also my son Cato, whom I love,
Second to none, good and celebrated,
Whose youthful body I myself cremated
While it should have been the other way around.
His soul looked at me as he was heavenbound,
The very place reserved for me by fate.
I seemed to be quite strong in that plight,
and that was not due to resignation,
but to the thought that our separation
a few short years would render very slight.

Quid habet enim vita commodi? Quid non potius laboris? Sed habeat sane, habet certe tamen aut satietatem aut modum. Non lubet enim mihi deplorare vitam, quod multi, et ei docti, saepe fecerunt, neque me vixisse paenitet, quoniam ita vixi, ut non frustra me natum existimem, ut ex vita ita discedo tamquam ex hospitio, non tamquam e domo. Commorandi enim natura devorsorium nobis, non habitandi dedit. O praeclarum diem, cum in illud divinum animorum concilium coetumque proficiscar cumque ex hac turba et conluvione discedam! Proficiscar enim non ad eos solum viros, de quibus ante dixi, verum etiam ad Catonem meum, quo nemo vir melior natus est, nemo pietate praestantior; cuius a me corpus est crematum, quod contra decuit ab illo meum, animus vero, non me deserens sed respectans, in ea profecto loca discessit, quo mihi ipsi cernebat esse veniendum. Quem ego meum casum fortiter ferre visus sum, non quo aequo animo ferrem, sed me ipse consolabar existimans non longinquum inter nos digressum et discessum fore.

And that, Scipio, is why you wonder why,
Along with Laelius, I find old age light,
And not only not at all inconvenient,
But on the contrary to my heart’s content.
And if it is an error of mine to imply
That man is endowed with a mortal soul,
I err with pleasure and promptly console
Myself as long as I am alive and spry.
If when I am dead I’ll have no sensation,
As some small philosophers think, I won’t fear
Accents of derision from their graves to hear.
And if immortality should be a delusion,
A good way out is a timely extinction.
Nature has natural limits and it’s certain
Old age is but life’s drama’s final curtain.
This winds up my views about old age.
If hope to heaven you attain that state
So that, with my experience at your side,
You might approve of me as your good guide.

His mihi rebus, Scipio (id enim te cum Laelio admirari solere dixisti), levis est senectus, nec solum non molesta sed etiam iucunda. Quod si in hoc erro, qui animos hominum inmortalis esse credam, libenter erro; nec mihi hunc errorem, quo delector, dum vivo, extorqueri volo; sin mortuus, ut quidam minuti philosophi censent, nihil sentiam, non vereor, ne hunc errorem meum philosophi mortui irrideant. Quod si non sumus inmortales futuri, tamen exstingui homini suo tempore optabile est. Nam habet natura, ut aliarum omnium rerum, sic vivendi modum. Senectus autem aetatis est peractio tamquam fabulae, cuius defatigationem fugere debemus, praesertim adiuncta satietate. Haec habui, de senectute quae dicerem, ad quam utinam perveniatis, ut ea, quae ex me audistis, re experti probare possitis.

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