Quote From the Twelve Caesars (2)

The year was 49 BC. Caesar had a choice to make. Start a civil war in the Roman Republic or obey the orders of the Senate to give up his armies.

Caesar was apparently conflicted on what to do. Then, as Suetonius recounts, this happened.

As he stood, in two minds, an apparition of superhuman size and beauty was seen sitting on the river bank playing a reed pipe. A party of shepherds gathered around to listen and, when some of Caesar’s men broke ranks to do the same, the apparition snatched a trumpet from one of them, ran down to the river, blew a thunderous blast, and crossed over. Caesar exclaimed: ‘Let us accept this as a sign from the Gods, and follow where they beckon, in vengeance on our double-dealing enemies. The die is cast.’

Magical times back in the ol’ Roman days!

Quote: The Twelve Caesars

This is from Chapter One of Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars. I’m reading the translation by Robert Graves, one of my favorite poets.

Here is the quote:

Is crime consonant with nobility?
Then noblest is the crime of tyranny –
In all things else obey the laws of Heaven.

Actually, this is a quote from a quote from a quote. Suetonius says that Cicero wrote in his book Essay on Duty that Julius Caesar quoted the words from a play by Euripides entitled The Phoenician Women. A rather literate bunch, these Romans!

It appears that Caesar used the quote to justify his bid for monarchical power.

Secret Garden

We dallied in the secret garden,
Our sitting legs variously crossed and uncomposed.
And our children played.
My child. And yours.
Naked essence unaware,
Of the gleaming watchtowers crumbling,
And all the world’s infirmities,
Beyond our idyll walls.

Last Words

He often wondered what his last words would be. His very last thought. The last idea to emanate from his mind before he died. While he held her wrinkled old hand. And looked into her gray eyes. Perhaps he would’ve simply said goodbye. Perhaps he would’ve said, “I love you.”

It didn’t matter now. She was gone. And he could think of nothing to say. He was empty, and his mind was empty. No words. No thoughts. Only a dark empty cavern in which he cowered, shivering and primitive.

Flower to Form

How can what is
Never not be?

I was born …
I know.
I will die …
I know.

How can something be
What ever always is?

A thousand times
I lived this life.
A thousand times more
It will yet be lived.

Petals whispered from the lips of a flower,
Strewn upon a beaten path,
Gather in this life and the next.

Flower to form,
To form, a flower.

Once Written

Once written,
its meaning is lost.
Once spoken,
the words go unheard.
Once seen,
it may not be seen again.

Therefore, hold fast to Truth.
As one would the hand of a dear friend,
bidding farewell,
called to sea,
to a far shore,
and more temperate climes.

Vanishing Youth

Petrarch is known as the father of Humanism and ushered in the era of the Italian Renaissance. This passage is from Petrarch’s Letter to Posterity. It kinda hit home:

My youth was gone before I realized it; I was carried away by the strength of manhood; but a riper age brought me to my senses and taught me by experience the truth I had long before read in books, that youth and pleasure are vanity-nay, that the Author of all ages and times permits us miserable mortals, puffed up with emptiness, thus to wander about, until finally, coming to a tardy consciousness of our sins, we shall learn to know ourselves.

Personally, I would replace the word sin with ignorance.