Saturday, January 27, 2007


The Happy Life

Dave Lull draws my attention to Peter Stothard's Gentle sex and free money, which starts out:
List the twelve things we need in order to be happy.

And which is the poem most often translated into English from another language?
Stothard goes on to discuss Martial 10.47. I doubt that it is "the poem most often translated into English from another language," but it is indeed popular, as the list provided by Stothard shows. One of the translations in his list is by Ben Johnson. I can't find it on the Internet, so I've transcribed it from George Parfitt's edition of Ben Johnson: The Complete Poems (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975). The original Latin by Martial follows:
The things that make the happy life, are these,
Most pleasant Martial; substance got with ease,
Not laboured for, but left thee by thy sire;
A soil, not barren; a continual fire;
Never at law; seldom in office gowned;
A quiet mind; free powers; and body sound;
A wise simplicity; friends alike-stated;
Thy table without art, and easy-rated;
Thy night not drunken, but from cares laid waste;
No sour, or sullen bed-mate, yet a chaste;
Sleep, that will make the darkest hours swift-paced;
Will to be, what thou art; and nothing more:
Nor fear thy latest day, nor wish therefore.

Vitam quae faciant beatiorem,
iucundissime Martialis, haec sunt:
res non parta labore sed relicta;
non ingratus ager, focus perennis;
lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta;
vires ingenuae, salubre corpus;
prudens simplicitas, pares amici;
convictus facilis, sine arte mensa;
nox non ebria sed soluta curis;
non tristis torus et tamen pudicus;
somnus qui faciat breves tenebras:
quod sis esse velis nihilque malis;
summum nec metuas diem nec optes.
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