Friday, September 22, 2017


So Much for Mortal Men's Plans

Petronius, Satyricon 115.7-19 (tr. Michael Heseltine, rev. E.H. Warmington):
[7] I suddenly saw a man's body caught in a gentle eddy and carried ashore. [8] I stopped gloomily, and, with moist eyes, proceeded to reflect upon the treachery of the sea. [9] "Maybe," I cried, "there is a wife waiting cheerfully at home for this man in a far-off land, or a son or a father, maybe, who know nothing of this storm; he is sure to have left some one behind whom he kissed before he went. [10] So much for mortal men's plans, and the prayers of high ambition. Look how the man floats." [11] I was still crying over him as a perfect stranger, when a wave turned his face towards the shore without a mark upon it, and I recognized Lichas, but a while ago so fierce and so relentless, now thrown almost under my feet. [12] Then I could restrain my tears no longer; I beat my breast again and again, and cried, "Where is your temper and your hot head now? [13] Behold! you are a prey for fish and savage beasts. An hour ago you boasted the strength of your command, and you have not one plank of your great ship to save you. [14] Now let mortal men go and fill their hearts with proud imaginations. Let misers make arrangements for a thousand years about the gains they win by fraud. [15] Lo! this man but yesterday looked into the accounts of his family property, and even settled in his own mind the very day when he would come home again. Lord, Lord, how far he lies from his consummation! [16] But it is not the waves of the sea alone that thus keep faith with mortal men. The warrior's weapons fail him; another pays his vows to Heaven, and his own house falls and buries him in the act. Another slips from his coach and dashes out his eager soul: the glutton chokes at dinner, the sparing man dies of want. [17] Make a fair reckoning, and you find shipwreck everywhere. You tell me that for those the waters whelm there is no burial. As if it mattered how our perishable flesh comes to its end, by fire or water or the lapse of time! [18] Whatever you may do, all these things achieve the same goal. But beasts will tear the body, you say, as though fire would give it a more kindly welcome! When we are angry with our slaves, we consider burning their heaviest punishment. [19] Then what madness to take such trouble to prevent the grave from leaving aught of us behind!"

[7] repente video corpus humanum circumactum levi vertice ad litus deferri. [8] substiti ergo tristis coepique umentibus oculis maris fidem inspicere et [9] 'hunc forsitan' proclamo 'in aliqua parte terrarum secura exspectat uxor, forsitan ignarus tempestatis filius aut pater; utique reliquit aliquem, cui proficiscens osculum dedit. [10] haec sunt consilia mortalium, haec vota magnarum cogitationum. en homo quemadmodum natat.' [11] adhuc tanquam ignotum deflebam, cum inviolatum os fluctus convertit in terram, agnovique terribilem paulo ante et implacabilem Licham pedibus meis paene subiectum. [12] non tenui igitur diutius lacrimas, immo percussi semel iterumque manibus pectus et 'ubi nunc est' inquam 'iracundia tua, ubi impotentia tua? [13] nempe piscibus beluisque expositus es, et qui paulo ante iactabas vires imperii tui, de tam magna nave ne tabulam quidem naufragus habes. [14] ite nunc mortales, et magnis cogitationibus pectora implete. ite cauti, et opes fraudibus captas per mille annos disponite. [15] nempe hic proxima luce patrimonii sui rationes inspexit, nempe diem etiam, quo venturus esset in patriam, animo suo fixit. dii deaeque, quam longe a destinatione sua iacet. [16] sed non sola mortalibus maria hanc fidem praestant. illum bellantem arma decipiunt, illum diis vota reddentem penatium suorum ruina sepelit. ille vehiculo lapsus properantem spiritum excussit, cibus avidum strangulavit, abstinentem frugalitas. [17] si bene calculum ponas, ubique naufragium est. at enim fluctibus obruto non contingit sepultura. tanquam intersit, periturum corpus quae ratio consumat, ignis an fluctus an mora. [18] quicquid feceris, omnia haec eodem ventura sunt. ferae tamen corpus lacerabunt. tanquam melius ignis accipiat; immo hanc poenam gravissimam credimus, ubi servis irascimur. [19] quae ergo dementia est, omnia facere, ne quid de nobis relinquat sepultura?'

[8] umentibus Muncker: nictantibus humentibus in margine edit. Tornaesii (Lyon 1575): viventibus codd.: urentibus Lipsius
[9] pater Buecheler: patrem codd.
[10] magnarum cogitationum del. Fraenkel
[14] per codd.: in Nisbet
[15] fixit Oevering: finxit codd.
[16] e ante vehiculo add. Kraffert
post excussit lacunam ind. Stocker
[17] contingit Goldast: contigit codd.: continget Barth
mora codd.: terra Crusius: aura Buecheler

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