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This man through all his new life, fresh and young,
in virtual power was one who might have proved,
in all of his behaviour, wonderful.
Yet there, on earth, the richer soil may be,
the more — untilled or sown with evil seed —
its vigour turns to wilderness and bane.

[Questi fu tal ne la sua vita nova
virtüalmente, ch’ogne abito destro
fatto averebbe in lui mirabil prova.
Ma tanto più maligno e più silvestro
si fa ’l terren col mal seme e non cólto,
quant’elli ha più di buon vigor terrestro.]

Dante Alighieri the poet
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) Italian poet
The Divine Comedy [Divina Commedia], Book 2 “Purgatorio,” Canto 30, l. 115ff (3.115-120) [Beatrice] (1314) [tr. Kirkpatrick (2007)]

Beatrice, speaking of Dante.

(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

Such genuine worth adorn'd his early days,
That each prolific stem of heav'nly Grace
In that rich Mould a genuine footing found:
But, oh! the rankest soil but serves to feed
The plant of juice malign, and noxious weed.
If Culture's hand neglect the hapless ground.
[tr. Boyd (1802), st. 26]

This man
Was in the freshness of his being, such,
So gifted virtually, that in him
All better habits wond’rously had thriv’d.
The more of kindly strength is in the soil,
So much doth evil seed and lack of culture
Mar it the more, and make it run to wildness.
[tr. Cary (1814)]

This man was such, in his new being found,
Of virtuous kind, that every nobler way
In him gave proof of wonderful essay;
So much the more malignant, wild the soil
Of earth with evil seed, untilled with toil,
The more good vigour and terrestrial oil.
[tr. Bannerman (1850)]

Such had this man become in his new life
Potentially, that every righteous habit
Would have made admirable proof in him;
But so much more malignant and more savage
Becomes the land untilled and with bad seed,
The more good earthly vigour it possesses.
[tr. Longfellow (1867)]

This man was such in his new life, potentially, that every right habit would have wrought in him a wondrous result. But all the more malign and the more wild becomes the ground with bad seed and uncultivated, in proportion as it has from the soil more of good force.
[tr. Butler (1885)]

This one was such in new life's opening hour
Fitted for good, that every virtuous growth
Had made in him miraculous proof of power.
But so much more malign and tangled groweth,
With poisonous wilding seeds, the uncultured sward,
As of terrestrial strength the more it show.
[tr. Minchin (1885)]

This man was such in his new life, virtually, that every right habit would have made admirable proof in him. But so much the more malign and more savage becomes the land ill-sown and untilled, as it has more of good terrestrial vigor.
[tr. Norton (1892)]

This man was such in his new life potentially, that every good talent would have made wondrous increase in him.
But so much the more rank and wild the ground becomes with evil seed and untilled, the more it hath of good strength of soil.
[tr. Okey (1901)]

This man in his early life was such potentially that every right disposition would have come to marvelous proof in him; but so much the more noxious and wild the ground becomes, with bad seed and untilled, as it has more good strength of soil.
[tr. Sinclair (1939)]

This man was such in natural potency,
In his new life, that all the ingrained good
Looked in him to have fruited wonderously.
But so much groweth the more rank and rude
The soil with bad seed and unhusbanded,
The more it hath from earth of hardihood.
[tr. Binyon (1943)]

[...] had so endowed this man, potentially,
In his new life, that from such gifts as those
A wondrous harvest would have come to be.
But so much ranker, weedier, and more gross
Runs the untended field where wild tares seed,
As the good soil is rich and vigorous.
[tr. Sayers (1955)]

This man, potentially, was so endowed
from early youth that marvelous increase
should have come from every good he sowed.
But richest soil the soonest will grow wild
with bad seed and neglect.
[tr. Ciardi (1961)]

This man was such in his new life, virtually, that every right disposition would have made marvelous proof in him. But so much the more rank and wild becomes the land, ill-sown and untilled, as it has more of good strength of soil.
[tr. Singleton (1973)]

[...] was this man so endowed, potentially,
in early youth -- had he allowed his gifts
to bloom, he would have reaped abundantly.
But the more vigorous and rich the soil,
the wilder and weedier it grows
when left untilled, its bad seeds flourishing.
[tr. Musa (1981)]

This man, in his youthful years, had such
Possibilities, that every propitious tendency
Would have produced some marvelous result in him.
But ground sown with bad seed and not cultivated
Becomes the more malignant and overgrown
The more wholesome vigour there is in the soil.
[tr. Sisson (1981)]

when young, was such -- potentially -- that any
propensity innate in him would have
prodigiously succeeded, had he acted.
But where the soil has finer vigor, there
precisely -- when untilled or badly seeded --
will that terrain grow wilder and more noxious.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1982)]

This man, potentially, was such in his vita nuova, his new life, that every true skill would have grown miraculously in him. But the more good qualities the earth’s soil has, the more wild and coarse it becomes with evil seed, and lack of cultivation.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

He was such in his new life, potentially, that every good habit would have produced a marvelous result in him.
But all the more malignant and wild becomes the soil with bad seed and without cultivation, the more it has in it of good earthly vigor.
[tr. Durling (2003)]

This man in his new life potentially was such
that each good disposition in him
would have come to marvelous conclusion,
but the richer and more vigorous the soil,
when planted ill and left to go to seed,
the wilder and more noxious it becomes.
[tr. Hollander/Hollander (2007)]

And one such was this man's new life on earth,
So all good inclinations, all predictions,
Should wonderfully be proved in the life he lives.
Yet land improperly sown, and never tilled,
But blessed with soil of enormous power and strength,
Will turn itself more terribly rank and foul.
[tr. Raffel (2010)]

Added on 22-Mar-24 | Last updated 22-Mar-24
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More quotes by Dante Alighieri

Claudia Peregrina weds my Pudens.
Bless your torches, Hymen! Let them shine!
So aptly nard is mixed with cinnamon,
and Theseus’ honeycombs with Massic wine.
So well weak vines are joined to elms; the lotus
loves water thus, while myrtle loves the shore.
Fair Harmony, dwell always in their bed,
and Venus bless the couple evermore.
Let her still love him when he’s old someday;
may she seem young to him, even when she’s gray.

[Claudia, Rufe, meo nubit Peregrina Pudenti:
Macte esto taedis, o Hymenaee, tuis.
Tam bene rara suo miscentur cinnama nardo,
Massica Theseis tam bene vina favis;
Nec melius teneris iunguntur vitibus ulmi,
Nec plus lotos aquas, litora myrtus amat.
Candida perpetuo reside, Concordia, lecto,
Tamque pari semper sit Venus aequa iugo:
Diligat illa senem quondam, sed et ipsa marito
Tum quoque, cum fuerit, non videatur anus.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 4, epigram 13 (4.13) (AD 89) [tr. McLean (2014)]

Webb (below) notes that Claudia (based on ep. 4.53) may have been from Britain, hence the allusion to combining native (Massic) wine with foreign (Theseus' / Athenian) honey. Webb also notes the suggestion this Claudia and Pudens may be the ones mentioned in the New Testament's 2 Tim 4:21, though there is no connection other than the names.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Strange, Claudia's married to a friend of mine.
O Hymen, be thou ready with thy pine!
Thus the rare cinnamons with the spicknard joyne,
And the Thesean sweets with Massick wine.
Nor better does the elm and vine embrace,
Nor the lote-tree affect the fenny place.
Nor yet the myrtles more
     Love and desire the shore.
Let a perpetual peace surround their bed,
And may their loves with equal fire be fed!
May she so love him old, that to him shee,
Though old indeed, may not seem so to bee.
[tr. Fletcher (1656)]

Perpetual harmony their bed attend,
And, Venus! still the well-match'd pair befriend!
May she, when Time has sunk him into years,
Love her old man, and cherish his white hairs;
Nor he perceive her charms through age decay,
But think each happy sun his bridal day.
[The Spectator, #506 (10 Oct 1712)]

Their nuptial bed may smiling Concord dress,
And Venus still the happy union bless!
Wrinkled with age, may mutual love and truth
To their dim eyes recall the bloom of youth.
[F. Lewis, The Rambler, #167 (22 Oct 1751)]

To Pudens see the beauteous Claudia vail:
Hail, charming torches! thrice, blest Hymen, hail!
So the rare cinnamon with spikenard blends:
So Massic blood Thesean combs distends.
Not more the elmlings on the vinelets dote;
On shores the myrtle, or on streams the lote.
Fair Concord, o'er their constant couch preside;
The dovelike yoke delighted Venus guide.
Him, spite of years, may she still lovely deem:
May she to him in youth perennial seem.
[tr. Elphinston (1782); Book 8, Part 2, ep. 16]

My friend Pudens marries Claudia Peregrina. O Hymen! be ready with your torches. As fitly is the rare cinnamon blended with nard, as fitly is the Massic wine mixed with Attic honey; nor more fitly are elms united with the tender vines; nor do rills love more the lotus, nor their banks the myrtle. Concord! garbed in white attire, reside always with that nuptial couch ! and may Venus be ever propitious to so suitable a marriage! After a lapse of years may Claudia love, as now, her then aged husband; and may she, even when she is old, not appear old in his eyes!
[tr. Amos (1858), "Connubial Felicity"]

Claudia Peregrina, Rufus, is about to be married to my friend Pudens. Be propitious, Hymen, with your torches. As fitly is precious cinnamon united with nard, and Massic wine with Attic honey. Nor are elms more fitly wedded to tender vines, the lotus more love the waters, or the myrtle the river's bank. May you always hover over their couch, fair Concord, and may Venus ever be auspicious to a couple so well matched. In after years may the wife cherish her husband in his old age; and may she, when grown old, not seem so to her husband.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

Here, Hymen, here thy blessings shed,
Bright burns thy torches' golden flame:
For Pudens doth with Claudia wed.
The Roman lord and British dame.
How seldom nard its odours sweet
And cinnamon combine so well;
Or Massic wines so fitly meet
With juice of Attic honey-cell!
Not with more grace do soft with brave --
Do tender vines with elms unite;
Nor better lotus loves the wave,
Or myrtles in their banks delight.
Fair on this marriage-couch the while,
A goddess bright, let Concord rest;
And kindly still may Venus smile
On mutual love of pair so blest.
Him may her warm affection cheer,
When youth on time's swift pinions flies;
And so may she, when age is near,
Seem never old to loving eyes.
[tr. Webb (1879)]

My Pudens shall his Claudia wed this day.
Shed, torch of Hymen, shed they brightest ray!
So costly nard and cinnamon combine,
So blends sweet honey with the luscious wine.
So clasps the tender vine her elm, so love
The lotus leaves the stream, myrtles the cove.
Fair Concord, dwell for ever by that bed;
Let Venus bless the pair so meetly wed;
May the wife love with love that grows not cold,
And never to her husband's eye seem old.
[tr. Smith (1893), "On a Friend's Wedding"]

Claudia Peregrina weds, Rufus, with my own Pudens; a blessing, O Hymenaeus, be upon thy torches! So well does rare cinnamon blend with its own nard; so well Massic wine with Attic combs. Not closer are elms linked to tender vines, nor greater love hath the lotos for the waters, the myrtle for the shore. Fair Concord, rest thou unbroken on that bed, and may kind Venus be ever kindly to a bond so equal knit! May the wife love her husband when anon he is grey, and she herself, even when she is old, seem not so to her spouse!
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Pudens to-day his Claudia doth claim
In love united,
A blessing, Hymen, on the twofold flame
Thy torch hath lighted.
These are as honey poured in rarest wine;
Could aught be meeter?
Not cinnamon with spikenard could combine
In fragrance sweeter.
Beside this tender vine her elm doth tower
His might to give her.
She is the myrtle sweet, the lotus flower,
And he her river.
Fair Concord ever o’er their lives preside
Dear Venus bless the bridegroom and the bride
So fitly mated;
And may the coming years so far and dim
No change discover,
But she be loving still and fair to him,
Her grey-haired lover.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921), "An Epithalamium"]

Claudia's to marry Pudens, so they say.
God's blessing, Rufus, on their wedding day.
So cinnamon and spikenard will combine,
And Attic honey blend with Massic wine.
So with the vine the elm is mantled o'er,
So Lotus loves the wave, Myrtle the shore.
Unbroken union be their portion here
And Venus smile on wedded peer and peer.
May she still love him when her hair is grey,
To him as youthful as she is today.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), #164]

Hail to the wedding of Claudia Peregrina and my good friend Pudens!
Oh, Spirit of Marriage, bless the rite with your blazing torch!
We don't often find the best cinnamon allied with its companion nard,
or fine Massic wine with Athenian honey. Nor can the vines
be better wedded to the elms, the lotus more companionable
to the water, the myrtle to the stream it loves.
And so may clear understanding
and gracious agreement
ever dwell at their nuptial couch.
May she love him when he grows old
and seem in her husband's eyes as she does today
a young bride who never grows old.
[tr. Bovie (1970)]

Rufus, Claudia Peregrina marries my Pudens. A blessing, Hymen, on your torches! Even so happily is cinnamon mingled with its nard, even so happily Massic wines with Theseus' honeycombs. No more apt is the joining of elms with tender vines, nor does the lotus more love the waters or the myrtle the shore. Fair Harmony, dwell always in their bed and let Venus ever favor so well-matched a pair. Let her love him when one day he is old; but for her part, let her not seem old to her husband, even when old she is.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

My dear friend takes a wife, and we must light
The marriage torches that will bless this night
As sweet is joined with spicy, or as wine
Is soothed with honey, or as curling vine
Does climb and hang as close as close can be
Around the of its protective tree,
As waterlily floats in liquid rest,
Or rooted myrtle shines on shore its best --
So be they harmonized in wedded life.
Let Venus bless them both and ease all strife.
When they grow old, let her his ills assuage;
Let him not even recognize her age.
[tr. Wills (2007)]

Now Claudia to my Pudens comes a bride:
blessings on their Hymen torches!
Cinnamon blends well with cinnamon oil,
Massic with Attic honey blends.
Vine is not more closely twined to elm; no
myrtle more loves coast; lotus pool.
May constant Harmony attend their bed,
likewise Venus their like pledge.
Let her still love him old, and him not see
her old age come, though old she be.
[tr. Whigham (1987)]

Added on 26-Aug-22 | Last updated 27-Nov-23
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More quotes by Martial

The good things of youth are strength and beauty, but the flower of age is moderation.

[Ἰσχὺς καὶ εὐμορφίη νεότητος ἀγαθά, γήραος δὲ σωφροσύνη ἄνθος.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 294 (Diels) [tr. Freeman (1948)]

Diels citation: "294. (205 N.)"; ; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium IV, 115, 19.

Alternate translations:

  • "The good things of youth are strength and beauty; moderation is the flower of age." [Source]
  • "Strength and beauty are the blessings of youth; temperance, however, is the flower of old age."
Added on 26-Jan-21 | Last updated 23-Feb-21
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I have no faith in the sense of comforting beliefs which persuade me that all my troubles are blessings in disguise.

Rebecca West (1892-1983) British author, journalist, literary critic, travel writer [pseud. for Cicily Isabel Fairfield]
“Pleasure Be Your Guide,” The Nation, “Living Philosophies” series #10 (25 Feb 1939)

Adapted into Clifton Fadiman, I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Certain Eminent Men and Women of Our Time (1952)
Added on 27-Oct-20 | Last updated 27-Oct-20
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For one swallow does not make spring, nor does one fine day; and similarly one day or a brief period of happiness does not make a man supremely blessed and happy.

[μία γὰρ χελιδὼν ἔαρ οὐ ποιεῖ, οὐδὲ μία ἡμέρα: οὕτω δὲ οὐδὲ μακάριον καὶ εὐδαίμονα]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 1, ch. 7 (1.7, 1098a.18) (c. 325 BC) [tr. Rackham (1934)]

Rackham notes that μακάριος ("blessed"/"happy") derives from μάκαρ, applied in Homer and Hesiod to the gods, and to humans admitted to the Islands of the Blessed. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

For as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.
[tr. Chase (1847)]

For a single day, or even a short period of happiness, no more makes a blessed and a happy man than one sunny day or one swallow makes a spring.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

For as one swallow or one day does not make a spring, so one day or a short time does not make a fortunate or happy man.
[tr. Welldon (1892), ch. 6]

For one swallow or one fine day does not make a spring, nor does one day or any small space of time make a blessed or happy man.
[tr. Peters (1893), 1.7.16]

For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one day. Nor, similarly, does one day or a short time make someone blessed and happy.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

One swallow does not make a summer; neither does one fine day. And one day, or indeed any brief period of felicity, does not make a man entirely and perfectly happy.
[tr. Thomson (1953)]

For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one day; and so too one day or a short time does not make a man blessed or happy.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

One swallow does not make a summer; neither does one day. Similarly neither can one day, or a brief space of time, make a man blessed and happy.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

For one swallow does not make a summer, nor one day. Neither does one day or a short time make someone blessed and happy.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one day. And in this way, one day or a short time does not make someone blessed and happy either.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

For one swallow does not make a spring, nor does one day. Nor, similarly, does one day or a short time make someone blessed and happy.
[tr. Reeve (2014)]

Added on 3-Feb-20 | Last updated 14-Dec-21
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More quotes by Aristotle

He sendeth sun, he sendeth shower,
Alike they’re needful to the flower;
And joys and tears alike are sent
To give the soul fit nourishment.
As comes to me or cloud or sun,
Father! thy will, not mine, be done.

Sarah Fuller Adams (1805-1848) English poet (nee Flower)
“He sendeth Sun, he sendeth Shower”
Added on 29-Sep-16 | Last updated 29-Sep-16
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Men understand the worth of blessings only when they have lost them.

Plautus (c. 254-184 BC) Roman playright [Titus Maccius Plautus]
The Captives (3rd C BC)
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Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
The Open Door (1957)
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Quite often, people who mean well will inquire of me whether I ever ask myself, in the face of my diseases, “Why me?” I never do. If I ask “Why me?” as I am assaulted by heart disease and AIDS, I must ask “Why me?” about my blessings, and question my right to enjoy them. The morning after I won Wimbledon in 1975 I should have asked “Why me?” and doubted that I deserved the victory. If I don’t ask “Why me?” after my victories, I cannot ask “Why me?” after my setbacks and disasters.

Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) American athlete
Days of Grace, ch. 10 (1993)

Often paraphrased (or used elsewhere by Ashe) as "If I were to say 'God, why me?' about the bad things, then I should have said 'God, why me?' about the good things that happened in my life."

Added on 4-Mar-13 | Last updated 11-Sep-15
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Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. Fill your glass again, with a merry face and contented heart. Our life on it, but your Christmas shall be merry, and your new year a happy one!

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
Sketches by Boz, “Characters,” ch. 2 “A Christmas Dinner” (1833-36)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-Dec-22
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