'Twas Athens first, the glorious in name, That whilom gave to hapless sons of men The sheaves of harvest, and re-ordered life, And decreed laws; and she the first that gave Life its sweet solaces, when she begat A man of heart so wise, who whilom poured All wisdom forth from his truth-speaking mouth; The glory of whom, though dead, is yet to-day, Because of those discoveries divine Renowned of old, exalted to the sky. For when saw he that well-nigh everything Which needs of man most urgently require Was ready to hand for mortals, and that life, As far as might be, was established safe, That men were lords in riches, honour, praise, And eminent in goodly fame of sons, And that they yet, O yet, within the home, Still had the anxious heart which vexed life Unpausingly with torments of the mind, And raved perforce with angry plaints, then he, Then he, the master, did perceive that 'twas The vessel itself which worked the bane, and all, However wholesome, which from here or there Was gathered into it, was by that bane Spoilt from within,—in part, because he saw The vessel so cracked and leaky that nowise 'T could ever be filled to brim; in part because He marked how it polluted with foul taste Whate'er it got within itself. So he, The master, then by his truth-speaking words, Purged the breasts of men, and set the bounds Of lust and terror, and exhibited The supreme good whither we all endeavour, And showed the path whereby we might arrive Thereunto by a little cross-cut straight, And what of ills in all affairs of mortals Upsprang and flitted deviously about (Whether by chance or force), since nature thus Had destined; and from out what gates a man Should sally to each combat. And he proved That mostly vainly doth the human race Roll in its bosom the grim waves of care. For just as children tremble and fear all In the viewless dark, so even we at times Dread in the light so many things that be No whit more fearsome than what children feign, Shuddering, will be upon them in the dark. This terror then, this darkness of the mind, Not sunrise with its flaring spokes of light, Nor glittering arrows of morning can disperse, But only nature's aspect and her law. Wherefore the more will I go on to weave In verses this my undertaken task. And since I've taught thee that the world's great vaults Are mortal and that sky is fashioned Of frame e'en born in time, and whatsoe'er Therein go on and must perforce go on The most I have unravelled; what remains Do thou take in, besides; since once for all To climb into that chariot' renowned Of winds arise; and they appeased are So that all things again... Which were, are changed now, with fury stilled; All other movements through the earth and sky Which mortals gaze upon (O anxious oft In quaking thoughts!), and which abase their minds With dread of deities and press them crushed Down to the earth, because their ignorance Of cosmic causes forces them to yield All things unto the empery of gods And to concede the kingly rule to them. For even those men who have learned full well That godheads lead a long life free of care, If yet meanwhile they wonder by what plan Things can go on (and chiefly yon high things Observed o'erhead on the ethereal coasts), Again are hurried back unto the fears Of old religion and adopt again Harsh masters, deemed almighty,—wretched men, Unwitting what can be and what cannot, And by what law to each its scope prescribed, Its boundary stone that clings so deep in Time. Wherefore the more are they borne wandering on By blindfold reason. And, Memmius, unless From out thy mind thou spuest all of this And casteth far from thee all thoughts which be Unworthy gods and alien to their peace, Then often will the holy majesties Of the high gods be harmful unto thee, As by thy thought degraded,—not, indeed, That essence supreme of gods could be by this So outraged as in wrath to thirst to seek Revenges keen; but even because thyself Thou plaguest with the notion that the gods, Even they, the Calm Ones in serene repose, Do roll the mighty waves of wrath on wrath; Nor wilt thou enter with a serene breast Shrines of the gods; nor wilt thou able be In tranquil peace of mind to take and know Those images which from their holy bodies Are carried into intellects of men, As the announcers of their form divine. What sort of life will follow after this 'Tis thine to see. But that afar from us Veriest reason may drive such life away, Much yet remains to be embellished yet In polished verses, albeit hath issued forth So much from me already; lo, there is The law and aspect of the sky to be By reason grasped; there are the tempest times And the bright lightnings to be hymned now— Even what they do and from what cause soe'er They're borne along—that thou mayst tremble not, Marking off regions of prophetic skies For auguries, O foolishly distraught Even as to whence the flying flame hath come, Or to which half of heaven it turns, or how Through walled places it hath wound its way, Or, after proving its dominion there, How it hath speeded forth from thence amain— Whereof nowise the causes do men know, And think divinities are working there. Do thou, Calliope, ingenious Muse, Solace of mortals and delight of gods, Point out the course before me, as I race On to the white line of the utmost goal, That I may get with signal praise the crown, With thee my guide!