Saturday, May 26, 2007


The Dregs of Life

Seneca, On the Shortness of Life 3.4-5 (tr. John W. Basore):
You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last. You have all the fears of mortals and all the desires of immortals. You will hear many men saying: "After my fiftieth year I shall retire into leisure, my sixtieth year shall release me from public duties." And what guarantee, pray, have you that your life will last longer? Who will suffer your course to be just as you plan it? Are you not ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnant of life, and to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business? How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live! What foolish forgetfulness of mortality to postpone wholesome plans to the fiftieth and sixtieth year, and to intend to begin life at a point to which few have attained!

tamquam semper victuri vivitis, numquam vobis fragilitas vestra succurrit, non observatis quantum iam temporis transierit; velut ex pleno et abundanti perditis, cum interim fortasse ille ipse qui alicui vel homini vel rei donatur dies ultimus sit. omnia tamquam mortales timetis, omnia tamquam immortales concupiscitis. audies plerosque dicentes: "a quinquagesimo anno in otium secedam, sexagesimus me annus ab officiis dimittet." et quem tandem longioris vitae praedem accipis? quis ista sicut disponis ire patietur? non pudet te reliquias vitae tibi reservare et id solum tempus bonae menti destinare quod in nullam rem conferri possit? quam serum est tunc vivere incipere cum desinendum est? quae tam stulta mortalitatis oblivio in quinquagesimum et sexagesimum annum differre sana consilia et inde velle vitam inchoare quo pauci perduxerunt?
John Dryden, Aureng-Zebe, IV.i:
When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat;
Yet fooled with hope, men favour the deceit;
Trust on, and think tomorrow will repay;
Tomorrow's falser than the former day;
Lies worse; and while it says, we shall be blest
With some new joys, cuts off what we possest.
Strange cozenage! none would live past years again,
Yet all hope pleasure in what yet remain;
And from the dregs of life think to receive,
What the first sprightly running could not give.
I'm tired with waiting for this Chymick gold,
Which fools us young, and beggars us when old.

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