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The Consolation of Boethius

Introduction to Boethius

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius was born about 480 CE into an aristocratic Roman family which had been Christian for a century. It was said that he studied for eighteen years in Athens under the influence of the Neo-Platonist Proclus and his disciples, but Proclus died in 485. The father of Boethius had been consul of Rome in 487 but died shortly after that. Boethius was raised by Symmachus who later became his father-in-law when he married his daughter Rusticiana.

The lifetime goal of Boethius was to translate the complete works of Aristotle and all the dialogs of Plato, showing by his commentaries that the two could be harmonized, because they agree at philosophically decisive points. He did translate into Latin Porphyry's introduction to Aristotle's Categories and all of Aristotle's works on logic, which later had a great influence on the history of medieval philosophy, these being the most available works of Aristotle or Plato in Latin. He also translated from Greek into Latin the geometry of Euclid, the music of Pythagoras, the arithmetic of Nicomachus, the mechanics of Archimedes, and the astronomy of Ptolemy. He could explain a sun-dial and a water-clock.

In 510 Boethius became consul under the Ostrogoth Theodoric who had become king of Italy. Although Theodoric was an Arian Christian, Boethius wrote Theological Tractates on the trinity attempting to explain with logic the unity of God as substance and the three divine persons in terms of relation, and to describe the Christ as both human and divine by defining substance, relation, and nature.

About 520 Theodoric appointed Boethius the master of the offices, heading all the government and court services. In 522 Boethius reached the height of his fortune as his two sons became consuls together.

A 35-year schism between Rome and Constantinople had been resolved in 519, and apparently Theodoric was fearful of the Eastern emperor. The senator Albinus was accused of having written a letter to Emperor Justin, and Boethius openly came to his defense. Boethius was charged with treason and also with practicing magic or sacrilege.

In political life Boethius had often stood up for justice at his own risk. He and Saint Epiphanius had persuaded Theodoric to remit by two-thirds the tax his nephew Odoacer had imposed on the farmers of Campania. The eloquence of Boethius had rescued Paulinus from the intriguers in the palace. He had criticized the Goths Conigastus and Trigulla, and he had sided with the culture of the larger Roman empire against the Gothicizing circle of Cyprian. Now the "honorable" Basilius and Opilio were saying that Boethius had treasonous designs.

Boethius was locked up in Pavia three hundred miles from Rome while a sentence was passed against him and confirmed by the Senate, probably under pressure from Theodoric. While Boethius was in captivity and deprived of the use of his library, he wrote THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY.. In 524 a strong cord was tied so tightly around his head that his eyes bulged out; then he was beaten with a club until he died. Shortly after that his father-in-law, the senator Symmachus, was taken from Rome to Ravenna and also executed.

The historian Procopius wrote how Theodoric was stricken with guilt soon after this when the head of a large fish was served him, reminding him of the head of Symmachus. Terrified he caught a chill, which piles of blankets could not smother. He lamented the wrongs he had done against Symmachus and Boethius and died in 526.

THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY became one of the most popular books throughout the middle ages. It was translated into Old, Middle and Elizabethan English by Alfred the Great, Chaucer, and Queen Elizabeth respectively.

The Pi and Theta represent the first letters of Greek words describing philosophy from the practical to the theoretical. The Eleatic school of philosophy was founded by Parmenides a little before Socrates and emphasized the unity of being. The Academics were those who studied at the Academy founded by Plato. The Epicureans followed the philosophy of Epicurus (341-270 BC) which believed in maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. The Stoics included Zeno of Citium, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. Anaxagoras was condemned for impiety and exiled from Athens about 450 BC. Socrates was executed by the Athenians in 399 BC. Zeno of Elea was tortured for challenging the tyranny of Nearchus about 440 BC. Canius was executed by Caligula in 40 CE. Seneca was forced to commit suicide by Nero in 65 CE, and Soranus was condemned to death by Nero in 66.

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

by Boethius

Translated by Sanderson Beck

Book I

I. "Songs Which Once I Wrote"
1. A Woman Comes and Sends Away Muses
II. "Alas, How Immersed in the Deep"
2. She Attends to the Author
III. "Then with Night Dispelled"
3. Philosophy Accepts Challenges
IV. "Everyone Clear in an Orderly Age"
4. Political Intrigues
V. "O Builder of the Starry Orbit"
5. His Emotional Disturbance
VI. "When with Severe Rays of the Sun"
6. Philosophy Diagnoses Him
VII. "Stars Concealed"

Songs which once I wrote in flourishing description,
tearful, alas, I am forced to form into gloomy measures.
Look how the torn Muses dictate to me writing,
and elegies bathe my face with real tears.
Not even terror could overcome these
from proceeding as our companions along the way.
Once the glory of my happy and green youth,
they now console my fate of gloomy old age.
For hurried unexpected age comes with evils,
and sorrow has ordered her time to come in.
From the head unseasonable gray hairs are spreading,
and slack skin trembles on an exhausted body.
Human death is lucky which in sweet years itself
does not intrude and comes when often called by sorrows.
Alas, how it turns aside the wretched by a deaf ear
and cruelly refuses to close weeping eyes!
While fortune may have favored by wrong trust in easy goods
a sad hour nearly overwhelmed my head;
now because the clouds have changed their deceitful face
vicious life is dragged out by unwelcome delays.
Why did you so often consider me happy, friends?
Whoever has fallen, that one was not in a steady position.

While I was silently thinking over these things in myself
and noting mournful complaints by a pen's service
there stood over head visions for me,
a woman of very majestic appearance,
with eyes shining and sharp beyond common human health,
from vivid color and of inexhaustible vigor,
yet so mature in age as almost to be believed of our time,
the height of doubtful determination.

For at one time she held herself to common human measure,
while at another time in height she actually
seemed to strike the heaven of the highest summit;
which when her head was raised higher even penetrated heaven
and was frustrating the observation of the humans looking.

Her clothes with the finest threads were by delicate skill
from the imperishable material of perfection,
which, as I have since learned from her coming out,
she wove herself with her own hands;
just as it usually does smoky pictures,
a kind of fog of neglected antiquity covered their form.

On the lowest border of these a Greek Pi was embroidered,
while on the highest a Theta could be read,
and between both letters could be seen
in the manner of stairs a kind of marked grade,
by which the ascent should be
from the lower to the higher element.

However the hands of some violent ones had torn this dress
and had taken away whatever particulars each could.
At any rate in her right hand were books,
while in the left she was carrying a scepter.

When she saw the poetic Muses standing by our bed
and dictating words for my tears,
upset for a little while and inflamed with wild lights:
"Who," she asked, "allowed the actress harlots
to approach this sick person?
These sorrows not only have not encouraged any cures,
but they actually nourish them further with sweet drugs.
For these are the ones
who with the unproductive thorns of passion
kill the fertile crop of reason with its fruits
and accustom human minds to stress;
they do not liberate.

"Now if your allurements had drawn off someone profane,
as it is usual with you in the crowd,
I would think it bringing in less annoyance,
since then none of our work would be harmed;
while this one has been nurtured
in Eleatic and Academic studies.
But rather depart, Sirens pleasant all the way into ruin,
and leave him to caring and healing by my Muses."

That sad chorus reprimanded by this
cast a gloomier look on the ground
and having confessed shame by a blush went out the door.

But I, whose sight immersed by tears may have been dimmed
so that I could not distinguish
who this woman of such imperious authority might be,
was astounded, and I fixed my sight on the earth
to wait in silence for what action would begin next.

Then personally approaching
she sat down on the farthest part of my bed
and observing my face heavy from mourning
and so cast down by gloom,
about the disturbance of our mind
the complaint is in these verses:

"Alas, how immersed in the deep of the ruined
a mind is dull and by proper light abandoned
stretches to go into external darkness
as often as it is enlarged by terrestrial breezes
guilty care arises in immensity!
Once this one was free to the open heaven
accustomed to going into ethereal movements
he was perceiving the lights of the rosy sun,
seeing the constellations of the cold moon
and wherever a star winding practices
its wandering returns through various orbits
the victor was having counted with numbers;
why and again from where do the noisy winds
stir up causes from the sea's surface,
what spirit turns the stable world
or why does the western constellation on the wave
falling rise red from the east,
what in truth would moderate the calm hours
so that it may adorn the land with rosy flowers,
who gives so that in a full year the fertile
autumn may flow into the loaded grapes
it is the custom to examine and so to report
various causes of a secret nature:
now it is neglected by the exhausted light of the mind
and the neck pressed by heavy chains
and bearing under a burden the sloping face
it is compelled, alas, to perceive the dull earth.

"But," she said, "it is the time
of medicine rather than of complaining."
Then with her eyes completely intent on me, she said:
"Are you not that one who once was nurtured by our milk,
educated by our nourishment
until you had come out in a manly hardness of spirit?
And yet we contributed retaliatory weapons
which if you had not previously thrown away
would have protected you with invincible firmness.

"Don't you recognize me?
Why are you silent?
Have you been silenced by shame or by bewilderment?
I would prefer by shame,
but, as I see, bewilderment overwhelms you."

When she saw me not only silent
but absolutely speechless and mute,
she softly put her hand on my chest and said:
"There is no danger; he is experiencing drowsiness,
a common disease of mental delusions.
For a little while he has forgotten himself.
He will be recollected easily
if in fact he recognizes us as before;
and so that he can, in a little while let us wipe
from his eyes the cloudy fogginess of mortal things."

She said this, and gathering her dress into a fold
she dried my eyes weeping with tears.

Then with night dispelled the darkness left me
and the previous energy returned to the eyes,
as with the rushed northwest wind the stars are gathered
and in storms the rainy pole stood,
the sun hides and not yet in heaven with the coming stars
is the night from above spilled on the earth;
but if the north wind sent out from a Thracian cave
beats and unlocks enclosed day
the sparkled sun shines out and suddenly by light
dazzles admiring eyes with its rays.

In no other way with clouds of sadness dissolved
did I drink in heaven,
and mind I regained in recognizing the physician's face.
And so when I was brought back
and concentrated my eyes upon her watching,
I looked back at my nurse, Philosophy,
in whose liberality from youth was I turned out.

"And why," I asked,
"have you come into these lonely places of our exile,
O mistress of all virtues,
fallen down from the pole above?
Or is it that you too with me may be a defendant
persecuted by false accusations?"

She replied, "Surely I would not desert you, a pupil,
and not share the burden which you have taken on
from the envy of my name by work communicated to you?
Yet it was never right for Philosophy
to abandon unaccompanied the way of the innocent.
Should I no doubt be afraid of my accusers
and as if something new had struck should I tremble?

"Now then do you think it is the first time
wisdom is among bad morals challenged by dangers?
Did we not among the old too
before the great age of our Plato
often contend in disputes with the thoughtlessness of folly
and by the same superstition his teacher Socrates
earned the victory of an unjust death by my assistance?

"The inheritance of which since successively
the crowd of Epicureans and Stoics and others
each having plundered to the best of their ability
they tried to go on
and me crying out and resisting
they carried off for part of the plunder,
a dress they cut up which I had woven with my own hands
and with rags dragged from it went away
believing I had completely yielded to them.
Since among them were seen some traces of our dress,
the imprudent having supposed them to be familiar with me
some of them were undone by the common multitude's error.

"But if you have not learned of the flight of Anaxagoras
nor the poisoning of Socrates nor the tortures of Zeno,
since they are foreigners,
at least Canius, Seneca, and Soranus could be known,
whose memory is neither antiquated nor unhonored.
Nothing else dragged them down into ruin
except that in the studies of our education
they seemed most different from the morals of the bad.

"And so it is no wonder if in this sea of life
we are driven by whirling hurricanes,
in which this plan is precisely to displease the worst.
although in fact the troublesome group is numerous
it nevertheless is rejecting,
since it is not guided by any leader
but is agitated by so much rash error as random distraction.

"The one who if when building a point against us
has taken pains more vigorously,
our leader in fact assembles her resources inside,
while those around are busy seizing useless baggage.
Yet each one taking the most worthless of things
we are laughing at from above
safe from all the frantic disturbance
and on that fortified rampart on which
it should not be right for the raging of folly to attain.

"Everyone clear in an orderly age
may set overbearing fate underfoot
and watching fortune straight in both directions
can maintain an invincible expression;
the fury and threats of the sea
turned not that tide utterly with the disturbing
nor so often as the unsettled bursting forge
hurls the smoky fires of Vesuvius
or to strike the eminent towers of custom
the way of the burning thunderbolt was moving.

"Why are so many of the wretched amazed
at cruel tyrants raging without powers?
You should neither hope for anything nor be afraid,
and you would have disarmed the anger of the powerless;
yet every anxious one who fears or wishes,
which may not be steady and independent,
throws away a shield and having changed place
binds a chain which can drag.

"Do you understand," she asked,
"and do these work into your soul
or is it 'the donkey lyre'?
Why are you crying, why do you yield to tears?

'Speak out, do not conceal your mind.'
If you expect the service of a physician,
you should uncover the wound."

Then I recovered the powers in the soul:
"Is there still a need for a reminder
and does not the cruel severity of fortune
by itself stand out in us enough?
Doesn't the appearance of this place itself move you?
Is this the library, which you yourself assigned
as a most certain seat for you in our home,
in which residing with me you often discussed
about knowledge of human and divine matters?

"Was the condition such and expression such,
when I would search with you the secrets of nature,
when you would describe for me
with a rod the ways of the stars,
when you would shape our morals and the whole system of life
according to the example of the heavenly order?
Are these the rewards we receive for complying with you?

"Yet you sanctioned this doctrine from Plato's mouth
that commonwealths would be blessed
if either those studious in wisdom were ruling
or their rulers came to study wisdom.
You from the mouth of the same man
advised this to be a necessary reason
for the wise to go into politics,
that for the government of the city
to be left to the bad and disgraceful citizens
would be ruin and destruction for the good.

"Therefore having operated on this authority
what I learned from you in quiet privacy
I wished to transfer into the act of public administration.
You and God who serves you in the minds of the wise
are aware that I never offered myself to any office
unless it was the study of all goods in common.

"Then with the bad came
serious and inexorable disagreements and,
because freedom of conscience holds, for watching justice
always the scorned displeasure of the more powerful.

"How often did I in the way catch Conigastus
making an attack on the fortunes of someone helpless,
how often did I put down Trigulla,
the overseer of the royal palace,
from attempting a wrong he was already carrying forward,
how often did I protect by authority exposed to dangers
the miserable who were vexed with unending prosecutions
by the ever unpunished greed of barbarians!

"Never has anyone pulled me away from justice to wrong.
I have felt sorry no differently than those
who suffered their provincial fortunes to be ruined
not only by private robbery but by public taxation.
When in the time of the bitter famine
an oppressive and inexplicable sale was considered
putting a ruinous price on Campania province scarcity,
I undertook a contest against the praetorian commander
on account of the common interest;
by the king learning of it I fought and defeated it
and the sale was not enforced.

"Paulinus, a brave consul, whose resources
the Palatine dogs in hope and ambition had already devoured,
I drew from their gaping jaws.
The penalty of a prejudiced accusation
might have seized another brave consul, Albinus,
had I not exposed myself
to the hatred of the informer Cyprian.

"Do I seem to have aroused great enough discord on me?
But I should have been more protected among the others,
I who by my love of justice
reserved nothing among the courtiers
by whom I might have been more protected.

"Now by which informers was I knocked down?
One of them, Basilius, once expelled from royal service
was forced into the denouncing of our name
by the necessity of debt.

"While Opilio and Gaudentius
when for countless and various frauds
royal decree decided they should go into exile
and when evidently unwilling they themselves
were looking to temple sanctuary for defense
and it was found out by the king,
he said unless they withdrew by a specified day from Ravenna
they would be expelled from the city
with distinguishing marks on their foreheads.
What does it seem could be added to this severity?
Yet on that day the denouncing of our name
by the same informers was undertaken.

"Then why? So did our virtues deserve this
or did prejudged condemnation make these accusers right?
So does nothing shame fortune
if not in the innocence of the accused
at least the cheapness of the accusers?

"But you investigate the sum of the charge
for which we are blamed.
It was said I wished the Senate to be safe.
You want the method.
I was charged with having hindered an informer,
lest he bring proof by which
he could make the Senate a defendant for treason.

"So what do you think, o teacher?
Shall we deny the crime, lest we be a shame to you?
But I did wish it, and I shall never cease to wish it.
Shall I confess?
But I stopped hindering the work of the informer.
Or should I call it wrong
having wished the welfare of that order?

"In fact by its own decrees about me
it tried to prove how this was wrong.
But imprudence ever deceiving itself
cannot change the merits of things,
nor for me by Socratic resolve do I think it is right
either to have the truth concealed
or to have a lie conceded.

"In whatever way it may be true,
I leave the valuing to you and to the judgment of the wise.
The sequence and truth of which matter
cannot escape the notice of posterity,
as I have committed the history to writing.

"Now why would it pertain to tell about the forged letters
by which I am blamed for having hoped for Roman liberty?
Their fraud would have been made clear if only for us
by the confession of the informers themselves,
since in every business it has the most strength,
granted that it had been allowed.

"Now what freedom can be left to be hoped for?
And if only there could be any!
I would have answered in the words of Canius, who
when he was accused by Gaius Caesar, the son of Germanicus,
of being aware of a plot against himself:
replied, 'If I had known, you would not have known.'

"For that reason grief has not dulled our feelings so far
that I should complain of the wicked
working impiety against the virtuous,
but I am surprised they hoped to be effective violently.
Now to wish it might be perhaps
weakness from our lower nature,
to be able to do against the innocent
what every wicked one has conceived
with God looking on is quite monstrous.

"Thus it is not wrong that
a certain follower of yours has questioned:
'If in fact God exists,' he asks, 'where is evil from?
While where is good from, if it does not exist?'

"But it might be possible for criminal persons,
who aim at the blood of all the good and the entire Senate,
also having wished us to go to ruin,
whom they had seen fight for the good and the Senate.
But surely we did not deserve the same from patriots too?

"You remember, I think, since you yourself
always were present guiding me in whatever words and action,
you remember," I said, "at Verona
when the king eager for its common outcome
tried to transfer the charge of treason
by which Albinus was accused
to the whole order of the Senate, a Senate entirely innocent
which in spite of the danger to my safety I defended.

"You know this I am mentioning is both true
and I am not at any time boasting in praise of myself;
for the mystery of conscience
is lessened in some way in approving itself,
as often as anyone accepts the reward of fame
for displaying what was done.

"But you see the result followed after our innocence;
instead of the rewards of true virtue
we undergo the penalties of a falsified crime.
Did ever a clear confession of any action
so find the judges agreed on severity
that some were not moderated
either by the human nature of error itself
or by the uncertain condition of fortune for all mortals?

"If it were said we had wished to burn sacred temples,
or to murder priests with an impious sword,
or to plot the slaughter of all the good,
even then I would have been present for the sentence,
at least confessed or convicted before being punished;

"Now about five hundred miles away mute and defenseless
on account of inclining affection toward the Senate
I am condemned to death and proscription.
O for such a crime no one can deserve to be convicted!

"Even those who indicted me saw the honor of the charge;
considering how much some were blackening it
with the mixture of some crime,
they were lying that I had polluted my conscience
by sacrilege out of ambition for position.

"And yet you implanted in us
expelled from the seat of our spirit
all desire of mortal things,
and under your eyes room for sacrilege was not possible.
For you were instilling in my ears and daily thoughts
that Pythagorean saying, 'Follow God.'

"Nor was it proper for me
to try for the support of the meanest characters,
in this excellence which you were composing
considering how you made me just like a god.

"Further the interior innocence of the home,
the meeting of most honored friends,
besides my father-in-law
pious and equal to you yourself in veneration
defend us from every suspicion of this crime.

"But---oh the shame!
while those take from you the trust of such a crime
and we seem by this itself to have been allied with mischief
because we are steeped in your teachings,
educated in your morals.

"So it is not enough
that your reverence has been of no benefit to me,
but besides you may be torn by the offense rather than me.
But certainly this even adds to the mass of our evils,
because the opinion of most
does not look at the merits of things
but at the results of fortune
and at the same time judges foresight to be worth
what luck has approved;
thus it is that the good opinion of all
first deserts the unlucky.

"What now are the rumors of the people,
how discordant and various the opinions,
I dislike recalling;
this I would rather say is
the ultimate burden of adverse fortune because,
as long as some crime is fastened on the wretched,
what they endure they are believed to have deserved.
And I in fact driven from all good things,
stripped of positions, disgraced in reputation
for kindness I bore punishment.

"Now I seem to see the criminal workshops of the wicked
flowing with delight and joy,
the most desperate threatening new and false denunciations,
the good lying low prostrated by terror of our crisis,
the profligate daring in fact any act with impunity,
while encouraged in accomplishing it by rewards,
and the harmless deprived not only of safety
but even of defense itself.

"Therefore it is pleasing to cry out:

"O builder of the starry orbit,
who is set on a universal throne
you turn heaven in a swift spiral
and compel the stars to submit to law,
so that at one time bright with a full horn
exposed to all the brother's flames
the moon conceals the lesser stars,
at another time paled by a dark horn
nearer it loses the lights from the sun
and who at the earliest time of night
rising drives the cooling western ones
again may alter the usual reins
paling the morning star with the rising of the sun:
you in the leaf-stripped cold of winter
draw tight the light to a shorter span,
you when the fervid heat comes
divide the agile hours of night.

"Your power regulates the diverse year,
so that the leaves which the north wind took away
the mild west wind brings back,
all the seeds Arcturus has seen
Sirius may parch as high crops:
nothing exempt from the ancient law
leaves the work of its proper station.

"Certainly governing all things by an end
the act of humans alone you refuse
as a guide to restrain by merit only.
For why does fleeting Fortune
keep changing conditions so much?

"The harmful penalty due the wicked presses the innocent,
but the morals of the perverted residing on a high throne
trample on the pious,
and the guilty in retaliation trample on the wrong necks.
Hidden in dark unconsciousness is concealed bright virtue,
and the just bear the crime of the unfair.

"For themselves fraud harms neither the perjured
nor the ones embellished with a colorful lie.
But since the strong ones liked to use them,
they are glad to subdue the highest rulers
whom countless people fear.

"O directly look to the wretched lands,
whoever binds the agreements of things!
Not a poor part of such great work
humans are shaken on the sea of fortune.
Check, guide, the impetuous floods
and where you rule immeasurable heaven
confirm in federation the steadfast lands."

When in continued sorrow I poured these out,
she with a calm expression and not moved by my complaints
said, "When I saw you mourning and crying
I knew instantly you were wretched and in exile;
but how long the exile was I would not have known
unless your speech had revealed it.

"But you have not even been pushed so far from home,
but strayed and, if you think you were pushed,
rather you expelled yourself;
for it is the case concerning you
what never would have been right for anyone else.

"For if you remember the country from which you descended,
not as Athens was formerly ruled by command of a crowd,
but 'It is one ruler, one king'
who rejoices in crowds of citizens not in rejection;
to be led by those reins and so comply
is the freedom of justice.

"Or are you ignorant of that oldest law of the community
whereby it is a sacred right for that one not to be an exile
who has preferred to establish a seat in it?
For the one who is contained by its fort and defense,
there is no fear of exile being deserved;
but whoever wishes to abandon living there
equally abandons also the deserving.

"And so not so much of this place moves me as your face,
nor do I need library walls arranged with ivory and glass
rather than the seat of your mind, in which are no books
but that which creates value in books,
sentences of my books I once arranged.

"And it is true about your services to the common good,
but as for the many carried out by you few have you told.
Of objections to you either honest or false
you have mentioned what is noted by all.

"Of the accusations by the wicked and fraudulent
you have correctly thought to touch on them slightly,
since they are repeated by the mouth of the public
better and more fully reviewing them all.

"Also you have vehemently noised about
the action of the unjust Senate.
About us also have you grieved for the slander;
for hurts damaging our reputation too have you wept.

"The last sorrow got hot against fortune
and in outcry of its not repaying the equal reward of merit;
in the extreme poetry of raging, you proposed prayers
that the peace which rules heaven should rule lands too.

"But since the most emotional disturbance broods over you,
and varied sorrow, anger and mourning are distracting you,
so that you are now of a mind,
not yet do the more powerful remedies take hold of you.

"And so let us use milder ones for a little while,
so that which in flowing disturbances hardens into swelling
may soften by a coaxing touch
until the taking of the medicine of sharper power.

"When with severe rays of the sun
the constellation of Cancer scorches,
then whoever in declining plenty
entrusted seeds to the furrow
cheated by the promise of Ceres
must go to the oak trees.

"Never look in purple woods
for a couch of violets
when the hissing plain bristles
with the fierce north wind;
nor would you look with eager hand
to prune the vines in spring
if you would enjoy the taste of grapes;
rather in autumn
Bacchus confers his gifts.

"God designates the times
adapting to the proper functions,
and these cycles which it itself controlled
it does not allow to be mixed.

"Thus because a way of violence
abandons reliable order
it does not have a pleasant outcome.

"First then will you open to me the state of your mind
to undertake and test it with a very few questions,
so that I may understand
what should be the method of your treatment?"

"Certainly," I said, "in your judgment
whatever request you will wish I shall answer."

Then she said, "Do you suppose this world
is led by random and chance accidents
or do you believe there is any rule of reason in it?"

"No," I said, "I don't at all think that
such certain accidents would be changed by chance;
truly I know the founder God presides over its work
nor ever would there be a day
which will dislodge me from this true belief."

"So it is," she said;
"for you even recited it a little before
and deplored humans being so much outside of divine care;
for concerning the others nothing would change
that they are ruled by reason.
But ooh, I wonder very much why
one placed in so healthy an attitude should be ill.
Let us search deeper for the truth;
I cannot but think some interpretation is missing.
But tell me, since you do not doubt God rules the world,
do you also pay attention by which governments it is ruled?"

"Scarcely," I said, "do I recognize
the meaning of your question,
much less can I reply to the inquiry."

"Surely," she said, "I am not mistaken
that something is missing,
in that as with an opening in a hard fortification
emotional disease has insinuated itself into your spirit?
But tell me, do you remember what the end of things may be,
the intent toward which all of nature is aiming?"

"I have heard it," I said,
"but mourning has dulled the memory."

"Yet you know from where all things have proceeded."

"I know," I said, and I answered it is God.

"And how could it happen that
in having understood the origin
you should be ignorant of what the end of things should be?
Yet it is true the behavior of these disturbances is strong,
so that it can in fact change a person's position,
but it cannot destroy and uproot the whole for oneself.
But I should like you to answer this too:
do you remember that you are a person?"

"Why should I not remember?" I replied.

"Can you then reveal what a person should be?"

"Are you asking this,
whether I am sure I am an animal by the rational and mortal?
I know it, and I confess myself to be it."

And she said, "Do you know yourself to be nothing else?"


"Already I know," she replied,
"the other very greatest cause of your illness;
you have stopped knowing what you should be yourself.
Thus I have come upon fully the reason for your sickness
and the approach for the restoring of safety.

"For since you are confused in your forgetfulness,
you also have grieved that
you are exiled and robbed of your personal goods;
while since you are ignorant
of what should be the end of things,
you think worthless and criminal people
are powerful and happy;
while since you have forgotten
by which governments the world is ruled,
you estimate these changes of fortune
to waver without a guide:
great causes not only of illness, but truly of death too.

"But give thanks to the author of safety,
because your whole nature has not yet forsaken you.
We have the greatest spark of your health,
the true judgment about the government of the world,
because you believe it is not subject to the fall of chance
but to divine reason;
therefore be alarmed at nothing,
already for you from this smallest little spark
a vital heat will blaze.

"But since it is not yet time for stronger remedies,
and it is agreed to be the nature of minds
that as often as they will abandon truths,
they will assume false opinions,
from which the fog of emotions sprang
which confuses that true insight,
I shall attempt for a little while to reduce this
with the mild and moderate ones,
so that with the shadows of the deceitful emotion dispersed
you can recognize the clarity of true light.

"Stars concealed
by black clouds
can shed
no light.

"If the sea is rolling
the troubled south wind
mixes the surf,
just now a glassy wave
and like the clear ones
the wave for days
soon released
filthy mud
obstructs with sights,
and what is wandering
from the high mountains
the flowing river
often stops
freed from rock
thrown against a boulder.

"You also if you wish
clear light
to perceive the truth,
by the straight path
to travel the foot-path:
pleasures drive out,
drive out fear
and banish hope
and sorrow may not appear.

"The mind is cloudy
and defeated by restraints
when these are ruling."

Notes to Book 1:

1: The Pi and Theta represent the first letters of Greek words describing philosophy from the practical to the theoretical.

1: The Eleatic school of philosophy was founded by Parmenides a little before Socrates and emphasized the unity of being. The Academics were those who studied at the Academy founded by Plato.

3: The Epicureans followed the philosophy of Epicurus (341-270 BC) which believed in maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. The Stoics included Zeno of Citium, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.

3: Anaxagoras was condemned for impiety and exiled from Athens about 450 BC. Socrates was executed by the Athenians in 399 BC. Zeno of Elea was tortured for challenging the tyranny of Nearchus about 440 BC.

3: Canius was executed by Caligula in 40 CE. Seneca was forced to commit suicide by Nero in 65 CE, and Soranus was condemned to death by Nero in 66.

4: A Greek proverb referred to those who would not listen any better than a donkey to a lyre.

4: Plato discusses the importance of having wise rulers in his Republic V and VI (473, 487).

4: Gaius Caesar, son of Germanicus, is better known as the Roman Emperor Caligula (reigned 37-41).

4: The mystical Pythagorean brotherhood began in the sixth century BC with Pythagoras and his school at Krotona in Italy.

VI: The sun is in the sign of Cancer during the first month of summer.

VI: Bacchus was also known as Dionysus, a god of fruitfulness as well as wine and ecstasy.

Book II Fortune and Happiness

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