Thursday, July 27, 2017


What is Man?

Seneca, De Consolatione ad Marciam 11.3 (tr. John W. Basore):
What is man? A vessel that the slightest shaking, the slightest toss will break. No mighty wind is needed to scatter you abroad; whatever you strike against, will be your undoing. What is man? A body weak and fragile, naked, in its natural state defenceless, dependent upon another's help, and exposed to all the affronts of Fortune; when it has practised well its muscles, it then becomes the food of every wild beast, of everyone the prey; a fabric of weak and unstable elements, attractive only in its outer features, unable to bear cold, heat, and toil, yet from mere rust and idleness doomed to decay; fearful of the foods that feed it, it dies now from the lack of these, and now is burst open by their excess; filled with anxiety and concern for its safety, it draws its very breath on sufferance, keeping but a feeble hold upon it—for sudden fear or a loud noise that falls unexpectedly upon the ears will drive it forth—and fosters ever its own unrest, a morbid and a useless thing.

quid est homo? quolibet quassu vas et quolibet fragile iactatu. non tempestate magna, ut dissiperis, opus est; ubicumque arietaveris, solveris. quid est homo? imbecillum corpus et fragile, nudum, suapte natura inerme, alienae opis indigens, ad omnis fortunae contumelias proiectum; cum bene lacertos exercuit, cuiuslibet ferae pabulum, cuiuslibet victima, ex infirmis fluidisque contextum et lineamentis exterioribus nitidum, frigoris, aestus, laboris impatiens, ipso rursus situ et otio iturum in tabem, alimenta metuens sua, quorum modo inopia deficit, modo copia rumpitur; anxiae sollicitaeque tutelae, precarii spiritus et male haerentis, quem pavor repentinus aut auditus ex improviso sonus auribus gravis excutit; sollicitudinis semper sibi nutrimentum, vitiosum et inutile.

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