Therefore, when the young die I am reminded of a strong flame extinguished by a torrent; but when old men die it is as if a fire had gone out without the use of force and of its own accord, after the fuel had been consumed; and, just as apples when they are green are with difficulty plucked from the tree, but when ripe and mellow fall of themselves, so, with the young, death comes as a result of force, while with the old it is the result of ripeness. To me, indeed, the thought of this “ripeness” for death is so pleasant, that the nearer I approach death the more I feel like one who is in sight of land at last and is about to anchor in his home port after a long voyage.

[Itaque adulescentes mihi mori sic videntur, ut cum aquae multitudine flammae vis opprimitur, senes autem sic, ut cum sua sponte nulla adhibita vi consumptus ignis exstinguitur; et quasi poma ex arboribus, cruda si sunt, vix evelluntur, si matura et cocta, decidunt, sic vitam adulescentibus vis aufert, senibus maturitas; quae quidem mihi tam iucunda est, ut, quo propius ad mortem accedam, quasi terram videre videar aliquandoque in portum ex longa navigatione esse venturus.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Cato Maior de Senectute [Discourse on Old Age], ch. 19 / sec. 71 (44 BC) [tr. Falconer (1923)]
    (Source)

Original Latin. Alt. trans.

Therefore a young man seemeth to me to die like fire put out with water, but old men like fire which being put out by no force, is quietly consumed of it selfe; and as apples on trees being not ripe, are plucked of by violence, but being ripe they fall of themselves: so force taketh away the life of young men, but ripenesse of age the life of old men: which consideration is so pleasant to me, that I seem to behold the earth, as a quiet port, whither after a long and troublesome navigation I shall arrive.
[tr. Austin (17th C), ch. 21]

For Young Men seem to be forced from Life, as Fires are extinguished by great Quantities of Water thrown on them; when on the contrary, Old Men expire of themselves, like a Flame when all its Fuel is spent. And as unripe Fruit requires some Force to part it from its native Bough; but when come to full Maturity, it drops of itself, without any Hand to touch it: So Young People die by something violent or unnatural; but the Old by mere Ripeness. The Thoughts of which to me are now become so agreeable, that the nearer I draw to my End, it seems like discovering the Land at Sea, that, after the Tossings of a tedious and stormy Voyage, will yield me a safe and quiet Harbour.
[tr. Logan (1734)]

In the latter instance [youth]; the privation of life may be resembled to a fire forcibly extinguished by a deluge of water; in the former [an old man], to a fire spontaneously and gradually going out from a total consumption of its fuel. Or, to have recourse to another illustration; as fruit before it is ripe cannot, without some degree of force, be separated from the stalk, but drops of itself when perfectly mature; so the disunion of the soul and body is effected in the young by dint of violence, but is wrought in the old by a mere fullness and completion of years. This ripeness for death I perceive in myself with much satisfaction; and I look forward to my dissolution as to a secure haven, where I shall at length find a happy repose from the fatigues of a long voyage.
[tr. Melmoth (<1820)]

To them it comes
It seems to me, as when a fire is quenched
By streams of water: to the old it comes
As when a fire dies slowly down itself:
Just so the apples, when unripe, are torn
With violence from the boughs: if ripe with age
They gently fall: and so the life of youth
Is taken by some violent attack;
The old man's troublous age comes gently to an end.
To me this seems so pleasant, that I feel
The nearer that I draw towards the end,
I sight the land, and see before my eyes
The harbour waiting to receive the bark
Which long as voyaged on the toilsome sea.
[tr. Allison (1916)]

Death at an early age seems to me like a fire that has suddenly been swamped by a bucket of water; but death in old age is like a fire that has not been extinguished but has gone out of its own accord, because it has used up all its fuel. When an apple is not yet ripe, it takes some work to tug it off the branch; but when it is fully ripe, it simply falls to the ground. In the same way, though some act of violence may snatch life from the young, the old are ready to die. And that to me is a pleasant thought -- so much so that the nearer I get to death, the more I feel like a sailor who, after a long voyage, has made landfall and is about to tie up in his home port.
[tr. Cobbold (2012)]

A young person dying reminds me of a fire extinguished by a deluge. But when an old person dies, it is like a flame that diminishes gradually and flickers away of its own accord with no force applied after its fuel has been used up. In the same way, green apples are hard to pick from a tree, but when ripe and ready they fall to the ground by themselves. So death comes to the young with force, but to the old when the time is right. To me there is great comfort in this idea, so that as death grows nearer, the more I feel like a traveler who at last sees the land of his home port after a long voyage.
[tr. Freeman (2016)]
Added on 7-Dec-20 | Last updated 7-Dec-20
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