Wednesday, June 17, 2015


The Blandishments of Pleasure

H.J. Rose (1883-1961), A Handbook of Latin Literature (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1967), p. 391, called Silius Italicus "the most tedious author of the whole Silver Age" and a poet of "no talent and no taste," whose epic poem Punica is "wholly intolerable."

I find it not only tolerable but even enjoyable. Here is a sample, in which Voluptas (Pleasure) tries unsuccessfully to persuade Scipio to abandon his dreams of military glory (15.46-58, 63-67; tr. J.D. Duff):
But if you follow me, my son, then your allotted term of life will move along no rugged path. Never will the trumpet break your troubled sleep; you will not feel the northern cold nor the fierce heat of Cancer nor the pangs of thirst, nor take your meal many a time on the blood-stained turf, nor gulp down the dust behind your helmet, suffering fearful hardship. No: you will pass happy days and unclouded hours, and a life of ease will warrant you in hoping for length of days. What great things the gods themselves have created for the use and enjoyment of man! How many harmless pleasures they have supplied with bountiful hand! And they themselves set an example of peaceful existence to men; for they live at ease, and their peace of mind is never broken....Attend to me. The life of man fleets fast away, and no man can be born a second time; time flies, and the stream of death carries us away and forbids us to carry to the lower world the things that gave us pleasure in life. Who, when his last hour comes, does not regret too late that he let slip the seasons of Pleasure?

at si me comitere, puer, non limite duro
iam tibi decurrat concessi temporis aetas.
haud umquam trepidos abrumpet bucina somnos;
non glaciem Arctoam, non experiere furentis
ardorem Cancri nec mensas saepe cruento        50
gramine compositas; aberunt sitis aspera et haustus
sub galea pulvis plenique timore labores;
sed current albusque dies horaeque serenae,
et molli dabitur victu sperare senectam.
quantas ipse deus laetos generavit in usus        55
res homini plenaque dedit bona gaudia dextra!
atque idem, exemplar lenis mortalibus aevi,
imperturbata placidus tenet otia mente.


huc adverte aures. currit mortalibus aevum,
nec nasci bis posse datur; fugit hora, rapitque
Tartareus torrens ac secum ferre sub umbras,        65
si qua animo placuere, negat. quis luce suprema
dimisisse meas sero non ingemit horas?

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