Sunday, June 06, 2021


What Makes a King

Seneca, Thyestes 344-352 (tr. Frank Justus Miller):
A king neither riches make,
nor robes of Tyrian hue,
nor crown upon the royal brow,
nor doors with gold bright-gleaming;
a king is he who has laid fear aside
and the base longings of an evil heart;
whom ambition unrestrained        350
and the fickle favour
of the reckless mob move not...

regem non faciunt opes,
non vestis Tyriae color,
non frontis nota regia,
non auro nitidae fores;
rex est qui posuit metus
et diri mala pectoris;
quem non ambitio impotens        350
et numquam stabilis favor
vulgi praecipitis movet...
Imitated (as others have noted) by John Marston (1576-1634), Antonio and Mellida 4.1.46-65:
'Tis not the bared pate, the bended knees,
Gilt tipstaves, Tyrian purple, chairs of state,
Troops of pied butterflies that flutter still
In greatness' summer, that confirm a prince;
'Tis not the unsavoury breath of multitudes,        50
Shouting and clapping with confused din,
That makes a prince. No, Lucio, he's a king,
A true right king, that dares do aught save wrong,
Fears nothing mortal, but to be unjust;
Who is not blown up with the flattering puffs        55
Of spongy sycophants, who stands unmoved,
Despite the jostling of opinion,
Who can enjoy himself maugre the throng
That strive to press his quiet out of him,
Who sits upon Jove's footstool, as I do,        60
Adoring, not affecting, majesty;
Whose brow is wreathed with the silver crown
Of clear content. This, Lucio, is a king,
And of this empire every man's possessed
That's worth his soul.                                   65

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