Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Boethius: Consolation of Philosophy (In plain American English)


Book I

Chapter 2 — The Poet is speechless

“But the time,” said she, “calls now for healing rather than for lamenting.”
Then, with her eyes fixed full upon me,
“Are you that man,” she cried, “who earlier feeding with the milk and rearing on the nourishment which is mine to give, has grown up to the full vigor of a manly spirit? And yet I had bestowed such armor on you as would have proved an invincible defense, have you not thrown it away. Do you know me? Why are you silent? Is it shame or amaze­ment that has struck you dumb? It might be shame; but as I see, a stupor has seized upon you.”
Then, seeing that I was not only paralyzed, but also speechless, she gently touched my breast with her hand, saying:
“There is no danger; these are the symptoms of lethargy, the usual sickness of deluded minds. He has forgotten himself momentarily, but he will easily recover his memory—if only he first recognizes me. And that he may do so, let me now wipe his eyes that are clouded with a mist of mortal things.”
Quickly, with a fold of her robe, she dried my eyes all swim­ming with tears.

Chapter 3 — Philosophy explains

So the clouds of my melancholy were broken up. I saw the clear sky, and regaining my power I recognized the face of my physician. Hence, when I lifted my eyes and fixed my gaze upon her, I saw my nurse, Philosophy, whose halls I had frequented from my youth up.
“Ah! Why,” I said, “mistress of all excellence, have you come down from on high, and entered the solitude of this my exile? Are you, too, being persecuted with false accusations—just as I am?”
“Could I abandon you, child,” said she, “and not lighten the burden which you have taken upon yourself through the hatred of my name, by sharing this trouble?
Never will Philosophy allow herself to let the innocent to walk alone in his journey.
Do you think I fear to incur reproach, or shrink from it, as yough some strange new misfortune had just happened? Do you think that just now wisdom has been attacked by danger for the first time in an evil age?
 Have I not often in the olden days —even before my servant Plato lived— waged stern warfare with the rashness of folly?
In his lifetime, too, Socrates, Plato’s master, won with my help the victory of an unjust death. And when, one after the other, the Epicurean herd, the Stoic, and the rest, each of them did their best to seize the heritage he left, dragging me off protesting and resisting. Seizing me as their booty, they tore in pieces the garment which I had woven with my own hands, and, clutching the torn pieces, I went off, believing that the whole of me had passed into their possession.
And some of them, because some traces of my clothes were seen upon them, were destroyed by the lewd crowd that mistakenly and falsely took them for my disciples.
It may be that you are unaware of the banishment of Anaxagoras,[i] of the poison draught of Socrates, or of Zeno’s[ii] torturing, because these things happened in a distant country.
Yet, you might have learned of the fate of Arrius,[iii] of Seneca,[iv] of Soranus,[v] whose stories are neither old nor unknown to fame. These men were brought to destruction for no other reason than that, settled as they were in my principles; their lives were a stark contrast to the ways of the wicked. So there is nothing you should wonder at, if on the seas of this life we are tossed by storm-blasts, seeing that we have made it our main goal to refuse compliance with evildo­ers.
Although it is possible that the host of the wicked is many in number, yet is it contemptible, since it is under no leadership, but is chaotic, and subject to the blind driving of mad error. And if at times and seasons they line up against us, and fall on in overwhelming strength, our leader draws off her forces into the citadel while they are busy plundering the useless baggage.
But we from our vantage ground, safe from all this wild work, laugh to see them making prize of the most valueless of things, protected by a wall which aggres­sive folly may not wish to climb.”

[i] Anaxagoras went into exile from Athens about 450 B.C.

[ii] Zeno of Elea was tortured by Nearchus, tyrant of Elea, about 440 B.C.

[iii] Canius was put to death by Caligula, c. A.D. 40.

[iv] Seneca was driven to commit suicide by Nero, A.D. 66
[v] Soranus was condemned to death by Nero, A.D. 66

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