Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pliny's verbum sapienti

To Caninius Rufus,*

How is that sweet Comum of ours looking? What about that most enticing of villas, the portico where it is one perpetual spring, that shadiest of plane-tree walks, the crystal canal so agreeably winding along its flowery banks, together with the lake lying below that so charmingly yields itself to the view? What have you to tell me of the firm yet soft gestatio the sunny bath-room, those dining-rooms for large parties, and the others for small ones, and all the elegant apartments for repose, both at noon and night? Do these delightful attractions share you by turns, or do family affairs, as usual, frequently call you out from this agreeable retreat? If the scene of your enjoyments lies wholly there, you are one of the happiest of beings; if not, why then you are no better than the rest of them. Why not leave, my friend, (for it is quite time you did so) these insignificant, degrading, cares to others and devote yourself, in this snug and secluded retreat, entirely to pleasures of the studious kind? Make these your business and your recreation, your labour and your rest, the subjects of your waking and even sleeping thoughts. Compose, bring out, something that shall always belong to you. All your other possessions will pass from one master to another: this alone, once yours, will remain yours for ever. I know the temper and genius I would seek to stimulate. Do but try and think as well of yourself as others will think of you, if you will only do yourself justice. Farewell.

[Caius Plinius Caecilius Secundus]

*A wealthy landowner in Como and friend of Pliny the Younger.

-from The Letters of Caius Plinius Caecilius Secundus / the translation of Melmoth; revised and corrected by the Rev. F. C. T. Bosanquet (London: George Bell and Sons, 1895) p. 2-3

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