Petrarch (1304-1374), Secretum
, from Dialogue 2 (Augustine speaking; tr. William H. Draper):
Do you remember with what delight you used to wander in the depth of
the country? Sometimes, laying yourself down on a bed of turf, you
would listen to the water of a brook murmuring over the stones; at
another time, seated on some open hill, you would let your eye wander
freely over the plain stretched at your feet; at others, again, you
enjoyed a sweet slumber beneath the shady trees of some valley in the
noontide heat, and revelled in the delicious silence. Never idle, in
your soul you would ponder over some high meditation, with only the
Muses for your friends—you were never less alone than when in their
company, and then, like the old man in Virgil who reckoned himself
"As rich as kings, when, at the close of day,
you would come at sunset back to your humble roof; and, contented with
your good things, did you not find yourself the richest and happiest
of mortal men?
Home to his cot he took his happy way,
And on his table spread his simple fare,
Fresh from the meadow without cost or care,"
meministi quanta cum voluptate reposto quondam rure vagabaris, et nunc herbosis pratorum thoris accubans murmur aque luctantis hauriebas, nunc apertis collibus residens subiectam planitiem libero metiebaris intuitu; nunc in aprice vallis umbraculo dulci sopore correptus optato silentio fruebaris; nunquam otiosus, mente aliquid altum semper agitans, et, solis Musis comitantibus, nusquam solus? Denique virgiliani senis exemplo qui
regum equabat opes animo, seraque revertens
sub occasum solis angustam domum repetens et tuis contentus bonis, nunquid non tibi omnium mortalium longe ditissimus et plane felicissimus videbaris?
nocte domum, dapibus mensas onerabat inemptis
Id. (Petrarch speaking):
Who shall find words to utter my daily disgust for this
place where I live, in the most melancholy and disorderly of towns,
the narrow and obscure sink of the earth, where all the filth of the
world is collected? What brush could depict the nauseating spectacle
—streets full of disease and infection, dirty pigs and snarling
dogs, the noise of cart-wheels grinding against the walls, four-horse
chariots coming dashing down at every cross-road, the motley crew
of people, swarms of vile beggars side by side with the flaunting
luxury of the wealthy, the one crushed down in sordid misery, the
others debauched with pleasure and riot; and then the medley of
characters—such diverse rôles in life—the endless clamour of their
confused voices, as the passers-by jostle one another in the streets?
All this destroys the soul accustomed to any better kind of life, banishes all serenity from a generous heart, and quite upsets the student's habit of mind.
quis vite mee tedia et quotidianum fastidium sufficienter exprimat, mestissimam turbulentissimamque urbem terrarum omnium, angustissimam atque ultimam sentinam et totius orbis sordibus exundantem? quis verbis equet que passim nauseam concitant: graveolentes semitas, permixtas rabidis canibus obscenas sues, et rotarum muros quatientium stridorem aut transversas obliquis itineribus quadrigas; tam diversas hominum species, tot horrenda mendicantium spectacula, tot divitum furores: illos mestitia defixos, hos gaudio lasciviaque fluitantes; tam denique discordantes animos, artesque tam varias, tantum confusis vocibus clamorem, et populi inter se arietantis incursum?
que omnia et sensus melioribus assuetos conficiunt et generosis animis eripiunt quietem et studia bonarum a contium interpellant.