Archive for Seneca

Spiritus Mundi

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on April 14, 2009 by telescoper

I found this poem by Simon Pomery a while ago in the Times Literary Supplement. Something made me cut it out of the paper and keep it. Part of the reason that it made an impression on me was probably that it is taken from a lengthy verse translation of one of Seneca‘s Moral Epistles called Divina Lux (a couple of other fragments of which you can find here) and this is a work I studied a bit in latin classes at School. You can also find prose translations of some of the 124 such Epistles Seneca wrote very near the end of his life here.

The soul of the world abides.
It doesn’t distinguish between
those born in town or country:
it makes its home in the wild sea,
the blur and seam of the horizon,
the cloud-racked firmament itself.
The space that separates the gods
from men unites them also, where stars,
like watchmen, sleep out in the open.

Seneca espoused a Stoic philosophy that was developed later by Marcus Aurelius, whose Meditations is one of my favourite books, although I’ve forgotten too much of my schoolboy Latin to read it in the original. I do, however, keep the paperback English translatlon with me when I go travelling. It is one the greatest works of classical philosophy, but it’s also a collection of very personal thoughts by someone who managed to be an uncompromisingly authoritarian Emperor of Rome at the same time as being a tender and introspective person.

Not that I’ve ever in practice managed to obey his exhortations to self-denial…

Advertisements