previous next

“O sad humanity! Why do you fear
alarms of icy death, afraid of Styx,
fearful of moving shadows and empty names—
of subjects harped on by the poets' tales,
the fabled perils of a fancied life?
Whether the funeral pile consumes your flesh
with hot flames, or old age dissolves it with
a gradual wasting power, be well assured
the body cannot meet with further ill.
And souls are all exempt from power of death.
When they have left their first corporeal home,
they always find and live in newer homes.

“I can declare, for I remember well,
that in the days of the great Trojan War,
I was Euphorbus, son of Panthous.
In my opposing breast was planted then
the heavy spear-point of the younger son
of Atreus. Not long past I recognised
the shield, once burden of my left arm, where
it hung in Juno's temple at ancient Argos,
the realm of Abas. Everything must change:
but nothing perishes. The moving soul
may wander, coming from that spot to this,
from this to that—in changed possession live
in any limbs whatever. It may pass
from beasts to human bodies, and again
to those of beasts. The soul will never die,
in the long lapse of time. As pliant wax
is moulded to new forms and does not stay
as it has been nor keep the self same form
yet is the selfsame wax, be well assured
the soul is always the same spirit, though
it passes into different forms. Therefore,
that natural love may not be vanquished by
unnatural craving of the appetite,
I warn you, stop expelling kindred souls
by deeds abhorrent as cold murder.—Let
not blood be nourished with its kindred blood!

“Since I am launched into the open sea
and I have given my full sails to the wind,
nothing in all the world remains unchanged.
All things are in a state of flux, all shapes
receive a changing nature. Time itself
glides on with constant motion, ever as
a flowing river. Neither river nor
the fleeting hour can stop its constant course.
But, as each wave drives on a wave, as each
is pressed by that which follows, and must press
on that before it, so the moments fly,
and others follow, so they are renewed.
The moment which moved on before is past,
and that which was not, now exists in Time,
and every one comes, goes, and is replaced.

“You see how night glides by and then proceeds
on to the dawn, then brilliant light of day
succeeds the dark night. There is not the same
appearance in the heavens,: when all things
for weariness are resting in vast night,
as when bright Lucifer rides his white steed.
And only think of that most glorious change,
when loved Aurora, Pallas' daughter, comes
before the day and tints the world, almost
delivered to bright Phoebus. Even the disk
of that god, rising from beneath the earth,
is of a ruddy color in the dawn
and ruddy when concealed beneath the world.
When highest, it is a most brilliant white,
for there the ether is quite purified,
and far away avoids infection from
impurities of earth. Diana's form
at night remains not equal nor the same!
'Tis less today than it will be tomorrow,
if she is waxing; greater, if she wanes.

“Yes, do you not see how the year moves through
four seasons, imitating human life:
in early Spring it has a nursling's ways
resembling infancy, for at that time
the blade is shooting and devoid of strength.
Its flaccid substance swelling gives delight,
to every watching husbandman, alive
in expectation. Then all things are rich
in blossom, and the genial meadow smiles
with tints of blooming flowers; but not as yet
is there a sign of vigor in the leaves.

“The year now waxing stronger, after Spring
it passes into Summer, and its youth
becomes robust. Indeed of all the year
the Summer is most vigorous and most
abounds with glowing and life-giving warmth.

“Autumn then follows, and, the vim of life
removed, that ripe and mellow time succeeds
between youth and old age, and a few white hairs
are sprinkled here and there upon his brow.

“Then aged Winter with his tremulous step
follows, repulsive, strips of graceful locks
or white with those he has retained so long.

“Our bodies also, always change unceasingly:
we are not now what we were yesterday
or we shall be tomorrow. And there was
a time when we were only seeds of man,
mere hopes that lived within a mother's womb.
But Nature changed us with her skilfull touch,
determined that our bodies should not be
held in such narrow room, below the entrails
in our distended parent; and in time
she brought us forth into the vacant air.

“Brought into light, the helpless infant lies.
Then on all fours he lifts his body up,
feeling his way, like any young wild beast,
and then by slow degrees he stands upright,
weak-kneed and trembling, steadied by support
of some convenient prop. And soon more strong
and swift he passes through the hours of youth,
and, when the years of middle age are past,
slides down the steep path of declining age.

“This undermines him and destroys the strength
of former years: and Milon, now grown old,
weeps, when he sees his arms, which once were firm
with muscles big as those of Hercules,
hang flabby at his side: and Helen weeps,
when in the glass she sees her wrinkled face,
and wonders why two heroes fell in love
and carried her away.—O Time,
devourer of all things, and envious Age,
together you destroy all that exists
and, slowly gnawing, bring on lingering death.

“Yes, even things which we call elements,
do not endure. Now listen well to me,
and I will show the ways in which they change.

“The everlasting universe contains
four elemental parts. And two of these
are heavy—earth and water—and are borne
downwards by weight. The other two devoid
of weight, are air and—even lighter—fire:
and, if these two are not constrained, they seek
the higher regions. These four elements,
though far apart in space, are all derived
from one another. Earth dissolves
as flowing water! Water, thinned still more,
departs as wind and air; and the light air,
still losing weight, sparkles on high as fire.
But they return, along their former way:
the fire, assuming weight, is changed to air;
and then, more dense, that air is changed again
to water; and that water, still more dense,
compacts itself again as primal earth.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Hugo Magnus, 1892)
load focus English (Arthur Golding, 1567)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Juno (North Carolina, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: