The Consolation of Philosophy



'Builder of yon starry dome,

Thou that whirlest, throned eternal,

Heaven's swift globe, and, as they roam,

Guid'st the stars by laws supernal:

So in full-sphered splendour dight

Cynthia dims the lamps of night,

But unto the orb fraternal

Closer drawn,[D] doth lose her light.

'Who at fall of eventide,

Hesper, his cold radiance showeth,

Lucifer his beams doth hide,

Paling as the sun's light groweth,

Brief, while winter's frost holds sway,

By thy will the space of day;

Swift, when summer's fervour gloweth,

Speed the hours of night away.

'Thou dost rule the changing year:

When rude Boreas oppresses,

Fall the leaves; they reappear,

Wooed by Zephyr's soft caresses.

Fields that Sirius burns deep grown

By Arcturus' watch were sown:

Each the reign of law confesses,

Keeps the place that is his own.

'Sovereign Ruler, Lord of all!

Can it be that Thou disdainest

Only man? 'Gainst him, poor thrall,

Wanton Fortune plays her vainest.

Guilt's deserved punishment

Falleth on the innocent;

High uplifted, the profanest

On the just their malice vent.

'Virtue cowers in dark retreats,

Crime's foul stain the righteous beareth,

Perjury and false deceits

Hurt not him the wrong who dareth;

But whene'er the wicked trust

In ill strength to work their lust,

Kings, whom nations' awe declareth

Mighty, grovel in the dust.

'Look, oh look upon this earth,

Thou who on law's sure foundation

Framedst all! Have we no worth,

We poor men, of all creation?

Sore we toss on fortune's tide;

Master, bid the waves subside!

And earth's ways with consummation

Of Thy heaven's order guide!'


[D] The moon is regarded as farthest from the sun at the full, and, as she wanes, approaching gradually nearer.


When I had poured out my griefs in this long and unbroken strain of lamentation, she, with calm countenance, and in no wise disturbed at my complainings, thus spake:

'When I saw thee sorrowful, in tears, I straightway knew thee wretched and an exile. But how far distant that exile I should not know, had not thine own speech revealed it. Yet how far indeed from thy country hast thou, not been banished, but rather hast strayed; or, if thou wilt have it banishment, hast banished thyself! For no one else could ever lawfully have had this power over thee. Now, if thou wilt call to mind from what country thou art sprung, it is not ruled, as once was the Athenian polity, by the sovereignty of the multitude, but "one is its Ruler, one its King," who takes delight in the number of His citizens, not in their banishment; to submit to whose governance and to obey whose ordinances is perfect freedom. Art thou ignorant of that most ancient law of this thy country, whereby it is decreed that no one whatsoever, who hath chosen to fix there his dwelling, may be sent into exile? For truly there is no fear that one who is encompassed by its ramparts and defences should deserve to be exiled. But he who has ceased to wish to dwell therein, he likewise ceases to deserve to do so. And so it is not so much the aspect of this place which moves me, as thy aspect; not so much the library walls set off with glass and ivory which I miss, as the chamber of thy mind, wherein I once placed, not books, but that which gives books their value, the doctrines which my books contain. Now, what thou hast said of thy services to the commonweal is true, only too little compared with the greatness of thy deservings. The things laid to thy charge whereof thou hast spoken, whether such as redound to thy credit, or mere false accusations, are publicly known. As for the crimes and deceits of the informers, thou hast rightly deemed it fitting to pass them over lightly, because the popular voice hath better and more fully pronounced upon them. Thou hast bitterly complained of the injustice of the senate. Thou hast grieved over my calumniation, and likewise hast lamented the damage to my good name. Finally, thine indignation blazed forth against fortune; thou hast complained of the unfairness with which thy merits have been recompensed. Last of all thy frantic muse framed a prayer that the peace which reigns in heaven might rule earth also. But since a throng of tumultuous passions hath assailed thy soul, since thou art distraught with anger, pain, and grief, strong remedies are not proper for thee in this thy present mood. And so for a time I will use milder methods, that the tumours which have grown hard through the influx of disturbing passion may be softened by gentle treatment, till they can bear the force of sharper remedies.'