Page:Essays Vol 1 (Ives, 1925).pdf/129

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(b) non Siculæ dapes
Dulcem elaborabunt saporem,
Non avium cytharsæque cantus
Somnum reducent,[1]

(a) do you think that they could be gladdened by it, and that the final purpose of their journey, being all the time before their eyes, has not weakened and destroyed their taste for all those enjoyments?

(b) Audit iter, numeratque dies, spacioque viarum Metitur vitam, torquetur peste futura.[2]

(a) The end of our career is death; it is the unavoidable object of our vision; if it terrifies us, how is it possible to go a step forward without trembling? The remedy of the common people is not to think about it. But from what brutish stupidity can they derive such gross blindness! It makes them put the bridle on the ass’s tail, —

Qui capite ipse suo instituit vestigia retro.[3]

It is no wonder that they are so often caught in the trap. Such people are terrified by only hearing death named, and most of them cross themselves as at the name of the devil. And because it is mentioned in testaments, do not expect them to put their hand thereto until the doctor has pronounced their final doom; and then, betwixt pain and fear, God knows with what excellent judgement they cook it[4] up!

(b) Because that syllable struck their ears too harshly, and that word seemed to them of evil omen, the Romans had learned to soften it, or to stretch it out by periphrases. Instead of saying, “He is dead,” they said, “He has ceased to live,” “He has lived.”[5] So long as it is life, even past life,

  1. Not the banquets of Sicily will produce a sweet taste, nor will the songs of birds and of the lyre bring back sleep. — Horace, Odes, III, 1.18.
  2. He asks about the route and counts the days, and measures his life by the length of the road; he is tortured by the coming calamity. — Claudian, In Rufinum, II, 137.
  3. Who places himself with the head where his feet should be. — Lucretius, IV, 472.
  4. That is, the testament.
  5. See Plutarch, Life of Cicero.