Saturday, February 12, 2011


The Fall of Princes

Seneca, Thyestes 391-403 (tr. Abraham Cowley):
Upon the slippery tops of humane State,
  The guilded Pinnacles of Fate,
Let others proudly stand, and for a while
  The giddy danger to beguile,
With Joy, and with disdain look down on all,
  Till their Heads turn, and down they fall.
Me, O ye Gods, on Earth, or else so near
  That I no Fall to Earth may fear,
And, O ye gods, at a good distance seat
  From the long Ruines of the Great.
Here wrapt in th' Arms of Quiet let me ly;
Quiet, Companion of Obscurity.
Here let my Life, with as much silence slide,
  As Time that measures it does glide.
Nor let the Breath of Infamy or Fame,
From town to town Eccho about my Name.
Nor let my homely Death embroidered be
  With Scutcheon or with Elegie.
  An old Plebean let me Dy,
Alas, all then are such as well as I.
  To him, alas, to him, I fear,
The face of Death will terrible appear:
Who in his life flattering his senceless pride
By being known to all the world beside,
Does not himself, when he is Dying know
Nor what he is, nor Whither hee's to go.

Stet quicumque volet potens
aulae culmine lubrico:
me dulcis saturet quies.
obscuro positus loco
leni perfruar otio,
nullis nota Quiritibus
aetas per tacitum fluat.
sic cum transierint mei
nullo cum strepitu dies,
plebeius moriar senex.
illi mors gravis incubat
qui, notus nimis omnibus,
ignotus moritur sibi.
The same, tr. Richard Polwhele (1760-1838):
The dizzy dome be his, who will;
Be mine the shade, obscure and still.
Here, while the great in public pine,
Be dulcet rest and leisure mine.
Unknown to all the sons of pride,
Smooth may my hours in silence glide.
So, when the close of life draws near,
Without a trouble or a fear,
Unnotic'd by the world, may I
An aged but a poor man, die!
Heavy the stroke of death must fall
On him who, conversant with all
Where'er he turns his anxious eyes,
Yet to himself a stranger dies!
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