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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

More from Seneca

From Fascinating History, whose previous post on Seneca I also enjoyed, these words by a Roman philosopher later forced to commit suicide by Nero:
"Why do we complain about nature? She has acted kindly: life is long if you know how to use it. But one man is gripped by insatiable greed, another by a laborious dedication to useless tasks ... Many are occupied by either pursuing other people's money or complaining about their own ... Some have no aims at all for their life's course, but death takes them unawares as they yawn languidly - so much so that I cannot doubt the truth of that oracular remark of the greatest of poets: 'It is a small part of life we really live.'...You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you
don't notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply.

"...he says, 'When will vacation come?'. Everyone hustles his life
along and is troubled by a longing for the future and weariness of the present."
This reminds me of the poetry of Isaac Watts, which forms the lyrics of so many of the Sacred Harp hymns I love:
Death, like an overflowing stream,
Sweeps us away; our life's a dream,
An empty tale, a morning flower,
Cut down and withered in an hour.
How short and hasty is our life! How vast our souls' affairs!
Yet senseless mortals vainly strive to lavish out their years.
Our days run thoughtlessly along, without a moment's stay;
Just like a story or a song we pass our lives away.
Or finally, from another shape-note hymn, the words of Charles Wesley:
Lo! on a narrow neck of land, ’twixt two unbounded seas I stand
Yet how insensible...

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