Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Beatus Ille

Anonymous, from Robert Jones, Ultimum Vale (1608), as printed in Norman Ault, Elizabethan Lyrics from the Original Texts (1949; rpt. New York: Capricorn Books, 1960), pp. 396-397:
            Happy he
    Who, to sweet home retired,
    Shuns glory so admired,
      And to himself lives free.
Whilst he who strives with pride to climb the skies
Falls down with foul disgrace before he rise.

            Let who will,
    The active life commend,
    And all his travels bend
      Earth with his fame to fill:
Such fame, so forced, at last dies with his death,
Which life maintained by others' idle breath.

            My delights,
    To dearest home confined,
    Shall there make good my mind,
      Not awed with Fortune's spites:
High trees heaven blasts, winds shake and honours fell,
When lowly plants long time in safety dwell.

            All I can
    My worldly strife shall be
    They one day say of me:
      'He died a good old man.'
On his sad soul a heavy burden lies
Who, known to all, unknown to himself dies.
As others have noted, this is loosely based on Seneca, Thyestes 391-403:
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.

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