Thursday, January 06, 2011


The Long View

Cicero, On Old Age 7.24-25 (my translation):
They expend effort on things which they know won't benefit them at all: "He plants trees to benefit another age," as our Caecilius Statius says in his Young Comrades. If you ask a farmer, no matter how old he is, for whom he's planting, he doesn't hesitate to say, "For the immortal gods, who not only were willing for me to receive these things from my ancestors, but also for me to hand them on to my descendants."

in eis elaborant, quae sciunt nihil ad se omnino pertinere: "serit arbores, quae altero saeclo prosint," ut ait Statius noster in Synephebis. 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."
J.G.F. Powell, ed., Cicero: Cato Maior De Senectute (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 155, cites several parallels, among them the following.

Vergil, Eclogues 9.50 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Graft thy pears, Daphnis; thy children's children shall gather fruits of thine.

insere, Daphni, piros; carpent tua poma nepotes.
Horace, Odes 2.14.21-24 (my translation):
You must leave earth, home, and affectionate wife. None of those trees which you're tending will accompany you (their short-lived master), except for the hated cypresses.

linquenda tellus et domus et placens
uxor, neque harum quas colis arborum
  te praeter invisas cupressos
    ulla brevem dominum sequetur.
Philodemus, On Death 4.38 (tr. David Armstrong; I can't find all of the Greek online, but some of the Greek is quoted by Nisbet and Hubbard on Horace, Odes 2.14.22):
Or rather in the confusion of his thoughts he does not even despair of immortality, as appears from his planting cypresses still, and choking with rage over the loss of two brass pennies, and laying the foundations of dwelling-places that will not be able to be finished even a thousand years hence.
Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 86.14 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
If what I am saying shall seem to you too pessimistic, charge it up against Scipio's country-house, where I have learned a lesson from Aegialus, a most careful householder and now the owner of this estate; he taught me that a tree can be transplanted, no matter how far gone in years. We old men must learn this precept; for there is none of us who is not planting an olive-yard for his successor.

haec si tibi nimium tristia videbuntur, villae inputabis, in qua didici ab Aegialo, diligentissimo patre familiae, is enim nunc huius agri possessor est, quamvis vetus arbustum posse transferri. hoc nobis senibus discere necessarium est, quorum nemo non olivetum alteri ponit.
E.L. von Leutsch and F.G. Schneidewin, Corpus Paroemiographorum Graecorum, Vol. I (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1839), p. 205 (my translation):
Some sow, others will reap.

ἄλλοι μὲν σπείρουσιν, ἄλλοι δὲ ἀμήσονται.
Midrash Rabbah on Leviticus 25.5, tr. in The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, ed. Charles F. Horne, vol. IV (Medieval Hebrew: The Midrash, The Kabbalah) (New York: Parke, Austin, and Lipscomb, Inc., 1917), pp. 99-100:
Adrianus (Hadrian) was passing on his way to Tiberias when he saw a very old man digging holes preparatory to planting trees. Addressing the old man, he said: "I can understand you having worked in your younger days to provide food for yourself, but you seem to labor in vain at this work. You can surely not expect to eat of the fruits which the trees, that you intend planting, will bring forth?" "I," said the old man, "must nevertheless do my duty as long as I am able to do it." "How old are you?" asked Adrianus. "I am a hundred years old," replied the planter, "and the God who granted me these long years may even vouchsafe me to eat of the fruit of these trees. But in any case I do not grudge the labor on them, and as it pleases the Lord so he may do with me." "Promise me," said Adrianus, "that if you should be alive when these trees bear figs you will apprise me of it." When the trees brought forth their fruit the old man loaded a basket full of figs, and made his way with the fruit to the King's palace. Arrived at the gate he was at first refused admission, but owing partly to his persistence, and partly to his venerable appearance, his wish for an audience was conveyed to the King, who granted it. On being asked his wish, he reminded the King that he was the old man whom his Majesty had observed planting trees, and that he had expressed the wish to be acquainted with the fact if the old man should be alive when the trees bore fruit. "Here," continued the old man, "I have brought a basket full of the figs which I plucked from the trees your Majesty saw me planting." So pleased was Adrianus with the incident that he accepted the fruit from the gray-haired man and ordered the basket, now empty, to be filled with coins.
Babylonian Talmud, tractate Taanith 23a (tr. Michael L. Rodkinson):
Once he was travelling on the road, and he noticed a man planting a carob-tree. He asked him how many years it would take before the tree would bear fruit, and the man answered: "Seventy years." Honi then asked: "Art thou, then, sure that thou wilt live seventy years?" And the man replied: "I found carob-trees in existence when I came into the world, consequently my ancestors must have planted them. Why should I not also plant them for my children?"
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