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‘Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
rubaiyat 094

Omar Khayyám (1048-1123) Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer [عمر خیام]
Rubáiyát [رباعیات], Bod. # 94 [tr. FitzGerald, 1st ed. (1859), # 49]

Alternate translations:

In the view of reality, not of illusion,
We mortals are chess-men and fate is the player;
We each act our game on the board of life,
And then one by one are swept into the box!
[tr. Cowell (1858), # 27]

Impotent Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays;
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
[tr. FitzGerald, 2nd ed. (1868), # 74, and 3rd ed. (1872) # 69]

But helpless Pieces of the Game He plays
Upon this Chequer-board of Nights and Days;
Hither and thither moves, and checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
[tr. FitzGerald, 4th ed. (1879), # 49, and 5th ed. (1889), # 49]

Here, below, we are naught but puppets tor the diversion of the wheel of the heavens. This is indeed a truth, and no simile. We truly are but pieces on this chessboard of humanity, which in the end we leave, only to enter, one by one, into the grave of nothingness.
[tr. McCarthy (1879), # 61]

We are but chessmen, who to move are fain,
Just as the great Chessplayer doth ordain.
It moves us on life's chess-board to and fro,
And then in death's box shuts us up again.
[tr. Whinfield (1882), # 148]

We are but chessmen, destined, it is plain,
That great chess player, Heaven, to entertain;
It moves us on life's chess-board to and fro,
And then in death's box shuts up again.
[tr. Whinfield (1883), # 270]

We are all Puppets of the Sky, we run
As wills the Player till the Game is done,
And when The Player wearies of the Sport,
He throws us into Darkness One by One.
[tr. Garner (1887), 4.2]

But puppets are we in Fate's puppet-show --
No figure of speech is this, but in truth 't is so!
On the draughtboard of Life we are shuffled to and fro,
Then one by one to the box of Nothing go!
[tr. M. K. (1888)]

[tr. McCarthy (1889)]

Upon this checkerboard of joys and woes
The wretched puppet hither and thither goes,
Until the mighty Player of the skies
His plaything back in the casket throws.
[tr. Garner (1898), # 82]

We're the pieces Heaven moves on the chessboard of space
(No metaphor this, but the truth of the case);
Each awhile on Life's board plays his game and returns
In the box of nonentity back to his place.
[tr. Payne (1898), # 480]

To speak plain language, and not in parables,
we are the pieces and heaven plays the game,
we are played together in a baby-game upon the chessboard of existence,
and one by one we return to the box of non-existence.
[tr. Heron-Allen (1898), # 94]

'Tis not a fancy of disordered brains
But certain truth, that on life's checkered square
We men are puppets, whose steps God ordains;
The time is short in which we dally there,
Then in death's casket one by one we fall,
The game is played and earth must cover all.
[tr. Cadell (1899), # 108]

Like helpless chessmen on the checkered blocks,
We 're hither, thither moved, till Heaven knocks
The luckless pieces from the crowded board,
And one by one returns them to the box.
[tr. Roe (1906), # 53]

In truth and not by way of simile.
Heaven plays the game and its mere puppets we;
In sport moved on Life's chess-board, one by one
We reach the chess-box of Nonentity!
[tr. Thompson (1906), # 317]

To speak plain language, parable to shame,
We are the pieces, Heaven plays the game:
A childish game upon the board of Life,
Then back into the Box from whence we came.
[tr. Talbot (1908), # 94]

To speak the truth and not as a metaphor, we are
the pieces of the game and Heaven the player.
We play a little game on the chessboard of existence.
Then we go back to the box of non-existence, one by one.
[tr. Christensen (1927), # 6]

This is not an allegory, it is reality:
We are the figures and the Sphere is the player.
We act a play on the boards of existence
And we go back into the box of non-existence one by one.
[tr. Rosen (1928), # 168]

We puppets dance to tunes of Time we know,
We are puppets in fact, and not for show;
Existence is the carpet where we dance,
So one by one where aught is naught we go.
[tr. Tirtha (1941), # 2.6]

Let me speak out, unallegorically:
We are mere puppets of our Master, toys.
On the Table of Existence, one by one.
Flung back in the toy box of Non-existence.
[tr. Graves & Ali-Shah (1967), # 73]

We are but chessmen in God’s scheme of things:
The most are merely pawns, a few are kings;
And when our unimportant game is done
Back in the box we tumble one by one.
[tr. Bowen (1976), # 44]

We are the puppets and fate the puppeteer
This is not a metaphor, but a truth sincere
On this stage, fate for sometime our moves steer
Into the chest of non-existence, one by one disappear.
[tr. Shahriari (1998), literal]

The hands of fate play our game
We the players are given a name
Some are tame, others gain fame
Yet in the end, we’re all the same.
[tr. Shahriari (1998), figurative]

Added on 5-May-24 | Last updated 5-May-24
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More quotes by Omar Khayyam

He that waits upon Fortune, is never sure of a Dinner.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher, aphorist
Poor Richard (1734 ed.)
Added on 15-Apr-24 | Last updated 15-Apr-24
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If anything does happen to me, I shall fall with a contented and prepared mind; and, indeed, death cannot be disgraceful to a brave man, nor premature to one of consular rank, nor miserable to a wise man.

[Si quid obtigerit, aequo animo paratoque moriar. nam neque turpis1mors forti viro potest accidere neque immatura consulari nec misera sapienti.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Orationes in Catilinam [Catilinarian Orations], No. 4, § 2, cl. 3 (4.2.3) (63-12-05 BC) [tr. Yonge (1856), 4.3]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

if any thing should fall out amiss, I shall be contented and ready to die: For Death can never come dishonourable to a Valiant Person, nor untimely to him that is Consular, nor unfortunate to a Wise man.
[tr. Wase (1671), 4.3]

If I am doomed to fall a sacrifice in your cause, I am resigned to my fate. To a well-prepared spirit death can never be dishonourable; to a consul never premature; to a wise man it never can be an evil.
[tr. Sydney (1795)]

If anything shall happen to me, I shall die with a mind contented and prepared. For neither can a disgraceful death happen to a brave man, nor an untimely one to a man of consular rank, nor a wretched one to a wise man.
[tr. Mongan (1879), 4.2]

If any (thing) shall have befallen, I shall die with an equal and prepared mind. For neither a base death is able to happen to a brave man, nor an immature (death) to a consular (man), nor a wretched (death) to a wise man.
[tr. Underwood (1885), 4.2]

If any (thing) shall have befallen, I shall die with an equal [a calm] and prepared mind. For neither a base death is able to happen to a brave man, nor an immature (one) to a consular (man), nor a wretched (one) to a wise (man).
[tr. Dewey (1916), 4.2]

Death cannot be dishonorable to the brave man, or premature to him who has held high office, or lamentable to the philosopher.

Added on 4-Apr-24 | Last updated 4-Apr-24
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More quotes by Cicero, Marcus Tullius

It may be that everything we do is determined by some grand unified theory. If that theory has determined that we shall die by hanging, then we shall not drown. But you would have to be awfully sure that you were destined for the gallows to put to sea in a small boat during a storm. I have noticed that even people who claim that everything is predestined and that we can do nothing to change it look before they cross the road. Maybe it’s just that those who don’t look don’t survive to tell the tale.

Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) English physicist, author
“Is Everything Determined?” lecture, Sigma Club Seminar, Cambridge University (1990-04)

Reprinted in Black Holes and Baby Universes, and Other Essays, ch. 12 (1994). Hawking's thesis that the universe is actually deterministic, but too complex to be predictable, so acting as though free will exists is useful socially and, like fluid dynamics equations, satisfactory for most purposes.
Added on 2-Apr-24 | Last updated 2-Apr-24
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Chance is necessity hidden behind a veil.

[Zufall ist die in Schleier gehüllte Nothwendigkeit.]

Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (1830-1916) Austrian writer
Aphorisms [Aphorismen], No. 10 (1880) [tr. Scrase/Mieder (1994)]

(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

Accident is veiled necessity.
[tr. Wister (1883)]
Added on 5-Mar-24 | Last updated 5-Mar-24
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Yet they, believe me, who await
No gifts from chance, have conquered fate.

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) English poet and critic
“Resignation,” The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems (1848)
Added on 20-Feb-24 | Last updated 20-Feb-24
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An evil doom of some god was my undoing, and measureless wine.

[ἆσέ με δαίμονος αἶσα κακὴ καὶ ἀθέσφατος οἶνος.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 11, l. 61 (11.61) [Elpenor] (c. 700 BC) [tr. Murray (1919)]

Odysseus first encounter in the Underworld is the shade of his comrade Elpenor, whose body had been left on Circe's island. This is Elpenor's explanation of his death (10.552-560). Drunk with his crew mates, he climbed a ladder to the roof of Circe's palace to sleep it off. When he heard his friends preparing to leave, he either fell from or forgot about using the ladder, plummeting to his ignominious death.

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

In Circe’s house, the spite some spirit did bear,
And the unspeakable good liquor there,
Hath been my bane.
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

I had come along with th’ bark,
But that the Devil and excess of wine
Made me to fall, and break my neck i’ th’ dark.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 54ff]

To hell my doom I owe,
Demons accursed, dire ministers of woe!
My feet, through wine unfaithful to their weight,
Betray'd me tumbling from a towery height.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

Fool’d by some dæmon and the intemp’rate bowl.
[tr. Cowper (1792), ll. 69-70]

I died
By stroke of fate and the dread fumes of wine.
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 9]

Ill fate destroyed me, and unstinted wine!
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]

An evil doom of some god was my bane, and wine out of measure.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

God's doom and wine unstinted on me the bane hath brought.
[tr. Morris (1887)]

Heaven's cruel doom destroyed me, and excess of wine.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

It was all bad luck, and my own unspeakable drunkenness.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

It was all bad luck of a daimôn, and my own unspeakable drunkenness.
[tr. Butler (1898), rev. Power/Nagy (1900)]

It was all bad luck of a superhuman force [daimōn], and my own unspeakable drunkenness.
[tr. Butler (1898), rev. Kim/McCray/Nagy/Power (2018)]

The harsh burden of some God sealed my doom, together with my own unspeakable excess in wine.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

It was the malice of some evil power that was my undoing, and all the wine I swilled before I went to sleep in Circe’s palace.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

Bad luck shadowed me, and no kindly power;
ignoble death I drank with so much wine.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

The evil will of the spirit and the wild wine bewildered me.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

My undoing lay
in some god sending down my dismal fate
and in too much sweet wine.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

The doom of an angry god, and god knows how much wine --
they were my ruin, captain.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

Bad luck and too much wine undid me.
[tr. Lombardo (2000)]

The malicious decree of some god and too much wine were my undoing.
[tr. DCH Rieu (2002)]

It was a god-sent evil destiny that ruined me, and too much wine.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

But I had bad luck from some god, and too much wine befuddled me.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

Some god's ill-will undid me -- that, and too much wine!
[tr. Green (2018)]

Some fatal deity
has brought me down -- that and too much wine.
[tr. Johnston (2019)]

Added on 30-Nov-23 | Last updated 30-Nov-23
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More quotes by Homer

Titan! to thee the strife was given
Between the suffering and the will,
Which torture where they cannot kill;
And the inexorable Heaven,
And the deaf tyranny of Fate,
The ruling principle of Hate,
Which for its pleasure doth create
The things it may annihilate,
Refused thee even the boon to die:
The wretched gift Eternity
Was thine — and thou hast borne it well.

Lord Byron
George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
“Prometheus,” st. 2 (1816)
Added on 2-Nov-23 | Last updated 2-Nov-23
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There be many shapes of mystery.
And many things God makes to be,
Past hope or fear.
And the end men looked for cometh not,
And a path is there where no man thought.
So hath it fallen here.

[πολλαὶ μορφαὶ τῶν δαιμονίων,
πολλὰ δ᾿ ἀέλπτως κραίνουσι θεοί·
καὶ τὰ δοκηθέντ᾿ οὐκ ἐτελέσθη,
τῶν δ᾿ ἀδοκήτων πόρον ηὗρε θεός.
τοιόνδ᾿ ἀπέβη τόδε πρᾶγμα.]

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Bacchæ [Βάκχαι], l. 1388ff, final lines [Chorus/Χορός] (405 BC) [tr. Murray (1902)]

This sort of exit coda, as the Chorus exits, was apparently normal with Euripides. In fact this same text shows up in five of his plays (Bacchae, Alcestis, Andromache, Helen, and slightly modified, Medea), all of which have to do with reversals of fortune. Still, the identical text has some scholars debating whether one or more might later additions. See Kirk, Esposito, Gibbons / Segal for more discussion.

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

A thousand shapes our varying Fates assume,
The Gods perform what least we could expect,
And oft the things for which we fondly hop'd
Come not to pass: Heaven finds a clue to guide
Our steps thro' the perplexing maze of life,
And thus doth this important business end.
[tr. Wodhull (1809)]

Many are the forms of divine things, and the gods bring to pass many things unexpectedly; what is expected has not been accomplished, but the god has found out a means for doing things unthought of. So too has this event turned out.
[tr. Buckley (1850)]

Many the forms in which God is made manifest,
Often He orders what seemed unexpected,
Much men resolve on remains uneffected,
Such men can not do God finds a way for;
Such is the meaning of what ye see.
[tr. Rogers (1872), l. 1358ff]

Many are the forms the heavenly will assumes, and many a thing the gods fulfil contrary to all hope; that which was expected is not brought to pass, while for the unlooked-for Heaven finds out a way. E’en such hath been the issue here.
[tr. Coleridge (1891)]

O the works of the Gods -- in manifold wise they reveal them:
Manifold things unhoped-for the Gods to accomplishment bring.
And the things that we looked for, the Gods deign not to fulfil them;
And the paths undiscerned of our eyes, the Gods unseal them.
So fell this marvelous thing.
[tr. Way (1898)]

The gods have many shapes.
The gods bring many things
to their accomplishment.
And what was most expected
has not been accomplished.
But god has found his way
for what no man expected.
So ends the play.
[tr. Arrowsmith (1960)]

Many are the shapes of things divine;
much the gods achieve beyond expectation;
and what seems probable is not accomplished,
whereas for the improbable, god finds a way.
Such was the result of this affair.
[tr. Kirk (1970)]

Gods manifest themselves in many forms,
Bring many matters to surprising ends;
The things we thought would happen do not happen;
The unexpected God makes possible:
And that is what has happened here to-day.
[tr. Vellacott (1973)]

Many the guises of the divine ones,
many surprises gods may accomplish'
and the expected finds no fruition,
all unexpected god finds a pathway.
Such was the outcome in this, our play.
[tr. Neuburg (1988)]

The Gods take many forms.
They manifest themselves in unpredictable ways.
What we most expect
does not happen.
And for the least expected
God finds a way.
This is what happened here today.
[tr. Cacoyannis (1982)]

Divinity takes many forms.
The gods accomplish many things beyond all hope.
What is expected is not brought to pass.
But god discovers means
To bring about the unexpected.
Such was the outcome here.
[tr. Blessington (1993)]

Many are the shapes of divinity,
many the things the gods accomplish against our expectation.
What seems proper is not brought to pass,
whereas for the improbable god finds a way.
Such was the outcome of this story.
[tr. Esposito (1998)]

Many are the shapes the gods will take,
many the surprises they perform.
What was thought likely did not transpire,
and what was unlikely the god made easy.
That is how this matter ended.
[tr. Woodruff (1999)]

Many are the shapes of what's divine.
Many unforeseen events the gods design.
What seemed most likely was not fulfilled;
What was unlikely, the god has willed.
Such were the things that end in this decline.
[tr. Gibbons/Segal (2000), l. 1609ff]

What heaven sends has many shapes, and many things the gods accomplish against our expectations. What men look for is not brought to pass, but a god finds a way to achieve the unexpected. Such was the outcome of this story.
[tr. Kovacs (2002)]

The gods take many forms,
The gods move in strange ways,
That which seemed, does not transpire
And that which did not, does.
That is what transpired here.
Turn out the lights.
[tr. Teevan (2002)]

That which was expected in this story did not come to pass, and for that which was expected, the god found a way. Perhaps mortals can never really grasp the workings of gods, for they do not follow a human design. They are a power of life we do not know, nor can fully understand.
[tr. Rao/Wolf (2004)]

The Fates have many guises and the gods bring about many things unexpected by mortals.
Those things we expect do not necessarily happen.
So ends this play.
[tr. Theodoridis (2005)]

Many are the forms of the Divine
And the gods brought to pass much unexpected,
And what was expected, not brought to pass;
And they did make possible th’impossible:
Thus did the affair turn out.
[tr. Valerie (2005)]

The gods appear in many forms,
carrying with them unwelcome things.
What people thought would happen never did.
What they did not expect, the gods made happen.
That's what this story revealed.
[tr. Johnston (2008)]

The gods take many shapes,
accomplish many things beyond our expectations.
What we look for does not come to pass;
what we least expect is fashioned by the gods.
And that is what has happened here today.
[tr. Robertson (2014)]

The shapes of god shift through many forms,
and lives are changed more than we could dream.
What we thought would happen did not,
but we have seen the god reveal
the true order of the world.
[tr. Behr/Foster (2019)]

Many are the forms of divine powers
Many are the acts the gods unexpectedly make.
The very things which seemed likely did not happen
but for the unlikely, some god found a way.
This turned out to be that kind of story.
[tr. @sentantiq (2019)]

Many are the forms of things of the daimones, and the gods bring many things to pass unexpectedly. What is expected does not come to telos, and a god finds a way for the unexpected. So too has this affair turned out.
[tr. Buckley/Sens/Nagy (2020)]

Added on 19-Jul-23 | Last updated 19-Jul-23
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More quotes by Euripides

As for understanding the ways of Providence, I gave up trying, long ago. I see no way of solving the mysteries of this strange existence, except by regarding it as preparatory to another; and even with that explanation, the fate of some individuals remains an inexplicable riddle.

Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880) American abolitionist, activist, journalist, suffragist
Letter to Harriet Seward (1869)
Added on 27-Jun-23 | Last updated 27-Jun-23
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Now, now, my sister, the Fates are in command.
Don’t hold me back. Where God and relentless
Fortune call us on, that’s the way we go!

[Iam iam fata, soror, superant; absiste morari;
quo deus et quo dura vocat Fortuna, sequamur.]

Virgil the Poet
Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 12, l. 676ff (12.676-677) [Turnus] (29-19 BC) [tr. Fagles (2006)]

Declaring to his sister that, despite her attempts to protect him, Fate dictates he face Aeneas in (likely fatal) battle.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Fate calls now, sister, there is no delay:
What God and hard chance bids, we must obey.
[tr. Ogilby (1649)]

Sister, the Fates have vanquish'd: let us go
The way which Heav'n and my hard fortune show.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Sister, now, now, destiny prevails; forbear to stop me; let us follow whither god and rigid fortune calls.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

The Fates, the Fates must have their way:
O sister! cease to breed delay:
Where Heaven and cruel Fortune call,
There let me follow to my fall.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Now, sister, now the fates prevail.
Bid me not pause. Wherever Heaven may lead
And Fortune stern, let us pursue our course.
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 856ff]

Now, O my sister, now fate prevails: cease to hinder; let us follow where deity and stern fortune call.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Now, sister, now the Fates prevail! no more for tarrying try.
Nay, let us follow where the God, where hard Fate calleth me!
[tr. Morris (1900)]

"Sister," he cries, "Fate conquers; let us go
The way which Heaven and cruel fortune show."
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 88, l. 787ff]

Fate is too strong, my sister! Seek no more
to stay the stroke. But let me hence pursue
that path where Heaven and cruel Fortune call.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Now, my sister, now Fate triumphs: cease to hinder; where God and cruel Fortune call, let us follow!
[tr. Fairclough (1918)]

Fate is the winner now; keep out of my way,
My sister: now I follow god and fortune.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

The fates are too strong for me, sister -- I see it now. Don't hold me back;
Let me go where God and my own unmerciful fortune call me.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

Sister, fate has won; do not
delay me; let us follow where both god
and cruel fortune call.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 900ff]

Ah, sister, see, fate overpowers us.
No holding back now. We must follow where
The god calls, or implacable Fortune calls.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), l. 915ff]

"Sister," he said, "the time has come at last. The Fates are too strong. You must not delay them any longer. Let us go where God and cruel fortune call me."
[tr. West (1990)]

Now, sister, now fate triumphs: no more delays:
where god and cruel fortune calls, let me follow.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Now, Sister, the Fates triumph at last.
Stop holding me back. We will follow
Where God and cruel Fortune call us.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

Sister, fate has won. Stop delaying me.
Let's go where Jove and heartless Fortune call.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 7-Jun-23 | Last updated 21-Jun-23
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More quotes by Virgil

Vesuvius, once latticed with vine shade,
With grapes from which the richest wine was made —
This is where Bacchus had his favorite haunt
And Satyrs could their wildest dances vaunt.
Here Venus more than Sparta made her place.
Here Hercules brought blessings for the race.
What once in beauty and renown was cherished
In fire and ashes has with horror perished.
Were it allowed immortal gods to rue it,
They would have wished they were not doomed to do it.

[Hic est pampineis viridis modo Vesbius umbris,
Presserat hic madidos nobilis uva lacus:
Haec iuga, quam Nysae colles, plus Bacchus amavit,
Hoc nuper Satyri monte dedere choros.
Haec Veneris sedes, Lacedaemone gratior illi,
Hic locus Herculeo numine clarus erat.
Cuncta iacent flammis et tristi mersa favilla:
Nec superi vellent hoc licuisse sibi.]

Marcus Valerius Martial
Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 4, epigram 44 (4.44) (AD 89) [tr. Wills (2007)]

On the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79, which destroyed the towns of Pompeii (whose patron was Venus) and Herculaneum (supposedly founded by Hercules), as well as much of the surrounding countryside.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Vesuvius shaded once with greenest vines,
Where pressed grapes did yield the noblest wines.
Which hills far more they say Bacchus lov'd,
Where Satyrs once in mirthfull dances mov'd,
Where Venus dwelt, and better lov'd the place
Than Sparta; where Alcides Temple was,
Is now burnt downe, rak'd up in ashes sad.
The gods are griev'd that such great power they had.
[tr. May (1629)]

Vesuvio, cover'd with the fruitful vine,
Here flourish'd once, and ran with floods of wine.
here Bacchus oft to the cool shades retir'd,
And his own native Nisa less admir'd:
Oft to the mountain's airy tops advanc'd,
The frisking Satyrs on the summits danc'd.
Alcides here, here Venus grac'd the shore,
Nor lov'd her fav'rite Lacedæmon more!
Now piles of ashes , spreading all around
In undistinguish'd heaps, deform the ground.
The gods themselves the ruin'd seats bemoan;
And blame the mischiefs that themselves have done.
[tr. Addison (1705)]

Vesuvius this! So lately crown'd with vines!
Whence in full currents flowed the generous wines!
By Bacchus more than Nysa's hills belov'd!
Upon whose top in dance the satyrs mov'd!
The seat of Venus, more than Sparta dear!
Proud of her name Heraclea once was here!
All drown'd in flames! with ashes cover'd o'er!
the gods, who caus'd the ill, their power deplore.
[tr. Hay (1755)]

Here Vesuvius late with rich festoons was green:
Here noblest clusters gusht a lake serene.
These beyond Nysa's hights the god advanc'd:
On this glad moutnain gamesom satyrs danc'd.
This, more than Sparta, joy'd the laughing dame:
These summits prouden'd by Alcides' name.
Smoke, embers, flames, have laid the glories low:
The pow'rs regret the very pow'r they glow.
[tr. Elphinston (1782), Book 4, part 1, ep. 33]

Yonder is Vesuvius, lately verdant with the shadowy vines; there a noble grape under pressure yielded copious lakes of wine; that hill Bacchus preferred to the hills of Nysa; there lately the Satyrs led their dances; there Venus had a residence more agreeable to her than Lacedæmon; that spot was made illustrious by the name of Hercules. Now, every thing is laid low by flames, and is buried under the sad ashes. Surely the Gods must regret that they possessed so much power for mischief.
[tr. Amos (1858), ch. 7, ep. 167]

This is Vesuvius, lately green with umbrageous vines; here the noble grape had pressed the dripping coolers. These are the heights which Bacchus loved more than the hills of Nysa; on this mountain the satyrs recently danced. This was the abode of Venus, more grateful to her than Lacedaemon; this was the place renowned by the divinity of Hercules. All now lies buried in flames and sad ashes. Even the gods would have wished not to have had the power to cause such a catastrophe.
[tr. Bohn's Classical (1859)]

This is Vesbius, green yesterday with viny shades; here had the noble grape loaded the dripping vats; these ridges Bacchus loved more than the hills of Nysa; on this mount of late the Satyrs set afoot their dances; this was the haunt of Venus, more pleasant to her than Lacedaemon; this spot was made glorious by the name of Hercules. All lies drowned in fire and melancholy ash; even the High Gods could have wished this had not been permitted them.
[tr. Ker (1919)]

Fair were thy shading vines and rich to fill
The overflowing wine-press year by year,
Bacchus hath loved thee more than Nysa’s hill,
Vesuvius, for his fauns held revel here;
Sweet Venus held no other haunt so dear,
Alcides made thee glorious with his name,
Flame-swept art thou, a waste of ashes drear,
And heaven remorseful hides its face for shame.
[tr. Pott & Wright (1921)]

Vesuvius here was green with mantling vine,
Here brimming vats o'erflowed with noble wine.
These hills to jocund Bacchus were more dear
Than Nysa, and the Satyrs reveled here.
This blest retreat could Cytherea please,
This owned the fame of godlike Hercules;
Now dismal ashes all and scorching flame.
Such dire caprice might move a god to shame.
[tr. Francis & Tatum (1924), ep. 84]

Behold Vesuvius, lately green
With vineyard-covered slopes!
Here did the noble grapevine yield
Beyond one's wildest hopes!

Here are the ridges Bacchus loves
More than those of his youth.
And here till late his Satyrs danced
There merry dance uncouth.

Here stood Pompeii, dearer far
To Aphrodite than
The Lacedaemonian island where
Her early life began.

And here stood Herculaneum,
Founded by Hercules
Where here he paused to rest the oxen
Of Geryones.

All this, by fire and flame consumed,
Lies sunk, so sad a sight
The very gods might wish they had
Not had it in their might.
[tr. Marcellino (1968)]

Only a short while ago old smoky Vesuvius
bore a green burden of vineyards on his shoulders
and the vats below were clogged with gorgeous grapes.
This was a place whose forests high in the air meant more to Bacchus than his Nysean hills.
And only a short while ago Satyrs led their troupes down this same mountainside. Here were Venus’ haunts
more appealing to her than Sparta.
And this whole landscape knew the sound of Hercules’ roving name. He too made it holy.
And now, there it lies submerged in ashes,
crumpled, shorn by the flames,
so curiously at odds
with the will of the gods
[tr. Bovie (1970)]

Hear the testament of death:
yesterday beneath Vesuvius' side
the grape ripened in green shade,
the dripping vats with their viny tide
squatted on hill turf: Bacchus
loved this land more than fertile Nysa:
here the satyrs ran, this was Venus' home,
sweeter to her than Lacedaemon
or the rocks of foam-framed Cyprus.
One city now in ashes the great name
of Hercules once blessed, one other
to the salty sea was manacled.
All is cold silver, all fused with death
murdered by the fire of Heaven. Even
the Gods repent this faculty
that power of death which may not be recalled.
[tr. Porter (1972)]

This is Vesuvius, yesterday green with shady vines.
Here notable grapes weighted down the wine-steeped vats.
These the heights that Bacchus loved more than Nysa's hills.
On this mountain the Satyrs began their dances lately.
This was Venus' seat, more pleasing to her than Sparta.
This place was made renowned by Hercules' godhead.
All lies sunk in flames and bleak ash. Even the high gods
Could wish that this had not been allowed to them.
[tr. Shepherd (1987)]

This is Vesuvius, but lately green with shade of vines. Here the noble grape loaded the vats to overflowing. These slopes were more dear to Bacchus than Nysa's hills, on this mountain not long ago Satyrs held their dances. This was Venus' dwelling, more pleasing to her than Lacedaemon, this spot the name of Hercules made famous. All lies sunk in flames and drear ashes. The High Ones themselves would rather this had not been in their power.
[tr. Shackleton Bailey (1993)]

Here is Vesuvius, viney and shade-green only yesterday;
here, on these slopes Bacchus loved more than Nysa’s hills,
the noble grapes outgave themselves time and again;
on this mountain the Satyrs leaped and danced,
for this was Venus’s adopted home, dearer to her than Sparta,
and here a proud town bore the name of Hercules.
It’s all drowned now by fire, sunk to drab ash. What won’t
the high gods permit themselves, they could well ask.
[tr. Matthews (1995)]

This is Vesuvius, green just now with vines;
here fine grapes loaded brimming vats. These heights
were loved by Bacchus more than Nysa's slopes;
on this mount, satyrs lately danced their rites.
this home of Venus pleased her more than Sparta;
this spot the name of Hercules made proud.
All lie engulfed in flames and dismal ashes:
the gods themselves regret it was allowed.
[tr. McLean (2014)]

Added on 12-May-23 | Last updated 3-May-24
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More quotes by Martial

Every man’s last day is fixed.
Lifetimes are brief and not to be regained,
For all mankind. But by their deeds to make
Their fame last: that is labor for the brave.

[Stat sua cuique dies, breve et inreparabile tempus
Omnibus est vitae; sed famam extendere factis,
Hoc virtutis opus.]

Virgil the Poet
Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 10, l. 467ff (10.467-69) [Jove] (29-19 BC) [tr. Fitzgerald (1981)]

Jove, to Alcides (Hercules), comforting him on the pending, but brave, death of Pallas.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Each hath his fate; Short and irreparable time
Man's life enjoyes: But by brave deeds to clime
To honour's height, this they by valour gain.
[tr. Ogilby (1649)]

Short bounds of life are set to mortal man.
'Tis virtue's work alone to stretch the narrow span.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

To every one his day is fixed: a short and irretrievable term of life is given to all: but by deeds to lengthen out fame, this is virtue's task.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Each has his destined time: a span
Is all the heritage of man:
'Tis virtue's part by deeds of praise
To lengthen fame through after days.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

To every one his day
Stands fixed by fate. The term of mortal life
Is brief, and irretrievable to all.
But to extend the period of its fame
By noble actions, this is virtue's work.
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 615ff]

Each hath his own appointed day; short and irrecoverable is the span of life for all: but to spread renown by deeds is the task of valour.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

His own day bideth every man; short space that none may mend
Is each man's life: but yet by deeds wide-spreading fame to send,
Man's valour hath this work to do.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Each hath his day; irreparably brief
Is mortal life, and fading as the leaf.
'Tis valour's part to bid it bloom anew
By deeds of fame.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 63, l. 562ff]

To each his day is given. Beyond recall
man's little time runs by: but to prolong
life's glory by great deeds is virtue's power.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Each has his day appointed; short and irretrievable is the span of life to all: but to lengthen fame by deeds -- that is valour's task.
[tr. Fairclough (1918)]

Every man, my son,
Has his appointed time; life’s day is short
For all men; they can never win it back,
But to extend it further by noble deeds
Is the task set for valor.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Every man's hour is appointed. Brief and unalterable
For all, the span of life. To enlarge his fame by great deeds
Is what the brave man must aim at.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

Each has his day; there is, for all, a short,
irreparable time of life; the task
of courage: to prolong one's fame by acts.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 648ff]

Each man has his allotted day. All life is brief and time once past can never be restored. But the task of the brave man is to enlarge his fame by his actions.
[tr. West (1990)]

Every man has his day, the course
of life is brief and cannot be recalled: but virtue’s task
is this, to increase fame by deeds.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Each man has his day, and the time of life
is brief for all, and never comes again.
But to lengthen out one’s fame with action,
that’s the work of courage.
[tr. Fagles (2006), l. 553ff]

The day of death awaits all men; their time is brief and comes just once. But they can prolong their fame by action. This is the task of valor.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 8-Mar-23 | Last updated 21-Jun-23
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More quotes by Virgil

How each man weaves
his web will bring him to glory or to grief.
King Jupiter is the king to all alike.
The Fates will find the way.

[Sua cuique exorsa laborem
fortunamque ferent. Rex Iuppiter omnibus idem.
Fata viam invenient.]

Virgil the Poet
Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 10, l. 111ff (10.111-113) (29-19 BC) [tr. Fagles (2006)]

Jupiter, declining to intervene or show favor in the battle between the Trojans and Rutulians, even though he's been rooting for the Trojans all along.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Let each the chance of his own enterprise
And danger bear: Iove's the same King to all,
The fates will make their way whatever fall.
[tr. Ogilby (1649)]

Each to his proper fortune stand or fall;
Equal and unconcern'd I look on all.
[...] The Fates will find their way.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

To each his own enterprise shall procure disaster or success. Sovereign Jove shall be to all the same. The Fates shall take their course.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Each warrior from his own good lance
Shall reap the fruit of toil or chance:
Jove deals to all an equal lot,
And Fate shall loose or cut the knot.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

To each his enterprise
Will bring its weal or woe. Jove is the same
To all alike. The Fates will find their way.
[tr. Cranch (1872)]

Each as he hath begun shall work out his destiny. Jupiter is one and king over all; the fates will find their way.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Let each one's way-faring
Bear its own hap and toil, for Jove to all alike is king;
The Fates will find a way to wend.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Equally I weigh
The chance of all, [...]
For each must toil and try, till Fate the doom declare.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 16, l. 139ff]

But of his own attempt
let each the triumph and the burden bear;
for Jove is over all an equal King.
The Fates will find the way
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Each one's own course shall bring him weal or woe. Jupiter is king over all alike; the fates shall find their way.
[tr. Fairclough (1918)]

In every man’s beginning
His luck resides, for good or ill. I rule
All men alike. The fates will find the way.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

The selfhood of each shall determine
His effort and how it fares. I am king to all, and impartial.
Fate will settle the issue.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

What each man does will shape his trial and fortune.
For Jupiter is king of all alike;
The Fates will find their way.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971)]

The effort each man makes
Will bring him luck of trouble. To the all
King Jupiter is the same king. And the Fates
Will find their way.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981)]

... [A]s each man has set up his loom, so will he endure the labor and fortune of it. [...] Jupiter is the same king to all men. The Fates will find their way.
[tr. West (1990)]

What each has instigated
shall bring its own suffering and success. Jupiter is king of all,
equally: the fates will determine the way.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

The efforts
Of each will bring suffering or success.
Jupiter rules over all alike. The Fates
Will find their way.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

Added on 22-Feb-23 | Last updated 21-Jun-23
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More quotes by Virgil

No longer dream that human prayer
The will of Fate can overbear.

[Desine fata deum flecti sperare precando.]

Virgil the Poet
Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 6, l. 176ff (6.176) [The Sybil] (29-19 BC) [tr. Conington (1866)]

Speaking to dead Palinurus.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Desist to hope that fates will heare thy prayer
[tr. Ogilby (1649)]

Fate, and the dooming gods, are deaf to tears.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Cease to hope that the decrees of the gods are to be altered by prayers.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Cease to hope
By prayers to bend the destinies divine.
[tr. Cranch (1872)]

Cease to hope prayers may bend the decrees of heaven.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

Hope not the Fates of very God to change by any prayer.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Hope not by prayer to bend the Fates' decree.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 51, l. 454]

Hope not by prayer to change the laws of Heaven!
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Cease to dream that heaven's decrees may be turned aside by prayer.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

Give up the hope
That fate is changed by praying.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

Give up this hope that the course of fate can be swerved by prayer.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

Leave any hope that prayer can turn aside
the gods' decrees.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), ll. 495-96]

Abandon hope by prayer to make the gods
Change their decrees.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), ll. 506-7]

You must cease to hope that the Fates of the gods can be altered by prayers.
[tr. West (1990)]

Cease to hope that divine fate can be tempered by prayer.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Stop hoping that the gods' decrees
Can be bent with prayer.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

Hope no more
the gods’ decrees can be brushed aside by prayer,
[tr. Fagles (2006), l. 428-29]

As if the gods' fates could be bent by prayer.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 23-Nov-22 | Last updated 21-Jun-23
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More quotes by Virgil

Yield not to evils, but the bolder thou
Persist, defiant of misfortune’s frown,
And take the path thy Destinies allow.

[Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito
Quam tua te fortuna sinet.]

Virgil the Poet
Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 6, l. 95ff (6.95-96) [The Sybil] (29-19 BC) [tr. Taylor (1907), st. 15, ll. 12]

Stoic maxim. There is argument as to whether it should be quam or qua, leading to some variations in translating the second half of the quotation.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

Yet dangers fear not, but on bolder goe,
What course thy fortune grants
[tr. Ogilby (1649)]

But thou, secure of soul, unbent with woes,
The more thy fortune frowns, the more oppose.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Yield not under your sufferings, but encounter them with greater boldness than your fortune shall permit.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

Yet still despond not, but proceed
Along the path where Fate may lead.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Yet yield not thou, but go more boldly on,
Where Fortune leads, till victory be won.
[tr. Cranch (1872), ll. 121-122]

Yield not thou to distresses, but all the bolder go forth to meet them, as thy fortune shall allow thee way.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

But thou, yield not to any ill, but set thy face, and wend
The bolder where thy fortune leads.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

Oh! yield not to thy woe, but front it ever,
And follow boldly whither Fortune calls.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Yield not thou to ills, but go forth to face them more boldly than thy Fortune shall allow thee!
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

          Do not yield to evil,
Attack, attack, more boldly even than fortune
Seems to permit.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

But never give way to those evils: face them all the more boldly,
Using what methods your luck allows you.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

Do not relent before distress, but be
far bolder than your fortune would permit.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), ll. 132-33]

          Never shrink from blows.
Boldly, more boldly where your luck allows,
Go forward, face them.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), ll. 143-45]

You must not give way to these adversities but must face them all the more boldly wherever your fortune allows it.
[tr. West (1990)]

Do not give way to misfortunes, meet them more bravely,
as your destiny allows.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Do not yield, but oppose your troubles
All the more boldly, as far as your fate
And fortune allow.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

But never bow to suffering, go and face it,
all the bolder, wherever Fortune clears the way.
[tr. Fagles (2006), ll. 113-14]

Don’t yield to evils, but go boldly forward
Where your fortune bids you.
[tr. @sentantiq (2018)]

Don't give up at these misfortunes. Be as brave as Fortune lets you.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 5-Oct-22 | Last updated 21-Jun-23
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More quotes by Virgil

          Goddess-born, wherever
Fate pulls or hauls us, there we have to follow;
Whatever happens, fortune can be beaten
By nothing but endurance.

[Nate dea, quo fata trahunt retrahuntque, sequamur;
Quidquid erit, superanda omnis fortuna ferendo est.]

Virgil the Poet
Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 5, l. 709ff (5.709-710) [Nautes] (29-19 BC) [tr. Humphries (1951)]

Nautes encouraging Achilles after fire destroys some of the ships. Sometimes paraphrased in two separate phrases:

  • Quocunque trahunt fata sequamur. -- Wherever the Fates direct us, let us follow.
  • Superanda omnis fortuna ferendo est. -- Every misfortune is to be subdued by patience.
(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

What ere the mighty ire
Of gods portend, or what the fates require,
We must endure. Comforting, he begun
Thus to Aeneas: O thou Goddesse son,
Let us obey the fates; whatever chance,
All fortunes vanquish'd are by sufferance.
[tr. Ogilby (1649)]

O goddess-born, resign'd in ev'ry state,
With patience bear, with prudence push your fate.
By suff'ring well, our Fortune we subdue;
Fly when she frowns, and, when she calls, pursue.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

Goddess-born, let us follow the Fates, whether they invite us backward or forward: come what will, every fortune is to be surmounted by patience.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

My chief, let Fate cry on or back,
'Tis ours to follow, nothing slack:
Whate'er betide, he only cures
The stroke of fortune who endures.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

Wherever Fate may lead us, whether on
Or backward, let us follow. Whatsoe'er
Betides, all fortune must be overcome
By endurance.
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 840ff]

Goddess-born, follow we fate's ebb and flow, whatsoever it shall be; fortune must be borne to be overcome.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

O Goddess-born, Fate's ebb and flow still let us follow on,
Whate'er shall be, by bearing all must Fortune's fight be won.
[tr. Morris (1900)]

O Goddess-born, where Fate directs the way,
'Tis ours to follow. Who the best can bear,
Best conquers Fortune, be the doom what may.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 97, l. 865ff]

O goddess-born, we follow here or there,
as Fate compels or stays. But come what may,
he triumphs over Fortune, who can bear
whate'er she brings.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

Goddess-born, whither the Fates, in their ebb and flow, draw us, let us follow ; whatever befall, all fortune is to be o'ercome by bearing.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

Goddess-born, let us follow our destiny, ebb or flow.
Whatever may happen, we master fortune by fully accepting it.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

O goddess-born, there where the fates would have us
go forward or withdraw, there let us follow;
whatever comes, all fortune must be won
by our endurance.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 934ff]

Sir, born of an immortal, let us follow
Where our fates may lead, or lead us back.
Whatever comes,
All Fortune can be mastered by endurance.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981)]

Son of the goddess, let us follow the Fates, whether they lead us on or lead us back. Whatever fortune may be ours, we must at all times rise above it by enduring it.
[tr. West (1990)]

Son of the Goddess, let us follow wherever fate ebbs or flows,
whatever comes, every fortune may be conquered by endurance.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

Son of Venus, whether the Fates will draw us on
or draw us back, let’s follow where they lead.
Whatever Fortune sends, we master it all
by bearing it all, we must!
[tr. Fagles (2006)]

Goddess-born, let's follow where fate draws us, even if we backtrack. Come what may, we'll win out by endurance.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 22-Sep-22 | Last updated 21-Jun-23
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More quotes by Virgil

I have lived a life. I’ve journeyed through
the course that Fortune charted for me. And now
I pass to the world below, my ghost in all its glory.

[Vixi, et, quem dederat cursum Fortuna, peregi;
Et nunc magna mei sub terras ibit Imago.]

Virgil the Poet
Virgil (70-19 BC) Roman poet [b. Publius Vergilius Maro; also Vergil]
The Aeneid [Ænē̆is], Book 4, l. 653ff (4.653-654) [Dido] (29-19 BC) [tr. Fagles (2006)]

Dido's deathbed statement.

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

I have
Liv'd, and perform'd that course my fortune gave,
And now the earth must my great shade seclude.
[tr. Ogilby (1649)]

My fatal course is finish'd; and I go,
A glorious name, among the ghosts below.
[tr. Dryden (1697)]

I have lived, and finished the race which fortune gave me. And now my ghost shall descent illustrious to the shades below.
[tr. Davidson/Buckley (1854)]

My life is lived, and I have played
     The part that Fortune gave,
And now I pass, a queenly shade,
     Majestic to the grave.
[tr. Conington (1866)]

I have lived,
And have achieved the course that fortune gave.
And now of me the queenly shade shall pass
Beneath the earth.
[tr. Cranch (1872), l. 855ff]

I have lived and fulfilled Fortune's allotted course; and now shall I go a queenly phantom under the earth.
[tr. Mackail (1885)]

I, I have lived, and down the way fate showed to me have passed;
And now a mighty shade of me shall go beneath the earth!
[tr. Morris (1900)]

My life is lived; behold, the course assigned
By Fortune now is finished, and I go,
A shade majestic, to the world below.
[tr. Taylor (1907), st. 86, l 768ff]

My life is done.
I have accomplished what my lot allowed;
and now my spirit to the world of death
in royal honor goes.
[tr. Williams (1910)]

My life is done and I have finished the course that Fortune gave; and now in majesty my shade shall pass beneath the earth.
[tr. Fairclough (1916)]

I have lived, I have run the course that fortune gave me,
And now my shade, a great one, will be going
Below the earth.
[tr. Humphries (1951)]

I have lived, I have run to finish the course which fortune gave me:
And now, a queenly shade, I shall pass to the world below.
[tr. Day-Lewis (1952)]

I have lived
and journeyed through the course assigned by fortune.
And now my Shade will pass, illustrious,
beneath the earth.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1971), l. 900ff]

I have lived my life out to the very end
And passed the stages Fortune had appointed.
Now my tall shade goes to the under world.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1981), l. 907ff]

I have lived my life and completed the course that Fortune has set before me, and now my great spirit will go beneath the earth.
[tr. West (1990)]

I have lived, and I have completed the course that Fortune granted,
and now my noble spirit will pass beneath the earth.
[tr. Kline (2002)]

I have lived, and I have completed the course
Assigned by Fortune. Now my mighty ghost
Goes beneath the earth.
[tr. Lombardo (2005)]

I'm done with life; I've run the course Fate gave me.br> Now my noble ghost goes to the Underworld.
[tr. Bartsch (2021)]

Added on 24-Aug-22 | Last updated 21-Jun-23
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Life is full of doors that don’t open when you knock, equally spaced amid those that open when you don’t want them to.

Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) American writer
“Blood of Amber, ch. 2 (1986)
Added on 23-Mar-22 | Last updated 23-Mar-22
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And, oh! whate’er Heaven destined to betide,
Let neither flattery soothe, nor pity hide.
Prepared I stand: he was but born to try
The lot of man; to suffer, and to die.

[πέρι γάρ μιν ὀιζυρὸν τέκε μήτηρ.
μηδέ τί μ᾽ αἰδόμενος μειλίσσεο μηδ᾽ ἐλεαίρων,
ἀλλ᾽ εὖ μοι κατάλεξον ὃπως ἤντησας ὀπωπῆς.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 3, l. 96ff (3.96) (c. 700 BC) [tr. Pope (1725), l. 114ff]

Telemachus seeking to learn from Nestor of the fate of his father, Odysseus. Telemachus later repeats these words in seeking news of his father from Menelaus (4.326). (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

[T]he unhappy wanderer,
To too much sorrow whom his mother bore.
You then by all your bounties I implore,
[...] that in nought applied
To my respect or pity you will glose,
But uncloth’d truth to my desires disclose
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

[B]orn to calamity.
Let no respect, or pity mitigate
Your story, howsoever sad it be.
Nothing but naked truth to me relate.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 85ff]

For my father at his birth
Was, sure, predestin’d to no common woes.
Neither through pity, or o’erstrain’d respect
Flatter me, but explicit all relate
Which thou hast witness’d.
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 120ff]

How hath his mother to exceeding teen
borne him! Let no kind thought thy tidings screen;
Paint not the tale through pity.
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 12]

For sure a woeful wight his mother bore him!
Extenuate naught for shame or pity's sake,
But tell me all, as thou hast chanced to see!
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869), l. 95ff]

His mother bare him to exceeding sorrow. And speak me no soft words in ruth or pity, but tell me plainly what sight thou didst get of him.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

This man, his mother bore him to most exceeding woe --
But have no respect of my sorrow nor be soft and soothing now,
But tell all out unto me, in what wise the man thou hast seen.
[tr. Morris (1887), l. 95ff]

To exceeding grief his mother bore him. Use no mild word, no yield to pity, from regard for me, but tell me fully all you chanced to see.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

He was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things out of any pity for me, but tell me in all plainness exactly what you saw.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

For beyond all men did his mother bear him to sorrow. And do thou nowise out of ruth or pity for me speak soothing words, but tell me truly how thou didst come to behold him.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

Even from his mother's womb, calamity had marked him for her own. Do not in pity convey to me smooth things, things gentler than the truth: blurt out, rather, all that met your sight.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

For if ever a man was born for misery, it was he. Do not soften your account out of pity or concern for my feelings, but faithfully describe the scene that met your eyes.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

The man was born for trouble. Spare me no part for kindness' sake; be harsh; but put the scene before me as you saw it.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

His mother bore this man to be wretched. Do not soften it because you pity me and are sorry for me, but fairly tell me all that your eyes have witnessed.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

She who gave birth to him gave birth to grief. You need not sweeten anything for me. Forget discretion, set aside your pity: tell me completely -- all you chanced to see.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

More than all other men, that man was born for pain.
Don't soften a thing, from pity, respect for me --
tell me, clearly, all your eyes have witnessed.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

He was born to sorrow.
More than any man on earth. And do not,
Out of pity, spare me the truth, but tell me
Whatever you have seen, whatever you know.
[tr. Lombardo (2000), l. 104ff]

For his mother indeed bore him to be woeful. Spare me nothing, extenuate nothing, nor show any pity; tell me all to the end, however it came to your notice.
[tr. Merrill (2002)]

For if ever a man was born to suffer it was he. Do not soften your account out of pity or concern for my feelings, but faithfully describe the scene that met your eyes.
[tr. D C H Rieu (2002)]

More than any other man his mother bore him for wretchedness. Do not let respect or pity for me soften your words, but tell me exactly how you chanced to see him.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

He was surely born to suffer in extraordinary ways. Please do not try to sweeten bitter news from pity; tell me truly if you saw him, and how he was.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

To unmatched sorrow his mother bore him! And don't, from concern or pity, speak false comfort to me, but tell me exactly what you may have witnessed!
[tr. Green (2018)]

For his mother bore him
to go through trouble more than other men.
Do not pity me or, from compassion,
just offer me kind words of consolation,
but tell me truly how you chanced to see him.
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 119ff]

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Those fools
were not aware that now they all were snared,
that death cords lashed them fast.

[τὸ δὲ νήπιοι οὐκ ἐνόησαν,
ὡς δή σφιν καὶ πᾶσιν ὀλέθρου πείρατ᾽ ἐφῆπτο.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 22, l. 32ff (22.32) (c. 700 BC) [tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

O fools, to think
That all their rest had any cup to drink
But what their great Antinous began!
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

For, proud and foolish, they perceived not
The fatal hour was to them all arriv’d.
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 27ff]

Blind as they were: for death e'en now invades
His destined prey, and wraps them all in shades.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

Nor saw
Th’ infatuate men fate hov’ring o’er them all.
[tr. Cowper (1792), ll. 34-35]

How fatal and how nigh
Death's snares were set, they foolish never knew!
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 5]

Yet this the fools knew not
That now them all the goal of death was touching!
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]

Insensate they!
Who felt not in that hour that one and all
Upon the verge of their own ruin stood!
[tr. Musgrave (1869), l. 54ff]

But they knew not in their folly that on their own heads, each and all of them, the bands of death had been made fast.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

And they had no understanding, fools as they were, and vain,
That to all the end of the Death-doom was hard upon them now.
[tr. Morris (1887), ll. 32-33]

They foolishly did not see that for them one and all destruction's cords were knotted.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

And did not perceive that death was hanging over the head of every one of them.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

In their folly they knew not this, that over themselves one and all the cords of destruction had been made fast.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

... their infatuation hiding from them the toils of death that enlaced each and every one.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

It had not dawned upon the fools that every one of them was marked for slaughter too.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

Fools, not to comprehend
they were already in the grip of death.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]

They had not yet realized
how over all of them the terms of death were now hanging.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

The fools did not perceive
That already the bond of destruction were fastened on them all.
[tr. Cook (1967)]

Poor fools, blind to the fact
that all their necks were in the noose, their doom sealed.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

And had no idea of how tightly the net
Had been drawn around them.
[tr. Lombardo (2000)]

And the poor fools never suspected how on all of the suitors the grim death bindings were fastened.
[tr. Merrill (2002)]

It had not dawned upon the fools that the fate of all of them was sealed.
[tr. DCH Rieu (2002)]

Fools, who did not understand that on every one of them death's ropes were now fastened tight.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

Those poor fools did not know [...] that the snares of death were round them all.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

Poor fools, they had no notion that over them all the bonds of destruction were set.
[tr. Green (2018)]

In their folly,
they did not understand that they were now enmeshed
in destruction’s net.
[tr. Johnston (2019), ll. 39-41]

Added on 29-Sep-21 | Last updated 1-Dec-21
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Only ambition is fired by the coincidences of success and easy accomplishment but nothing is quite as splendidly uplifting to the heart as the defeat of a human being who battles against the invincible superiority of fate. This is always the most grandiose of all tragedies, one sometimes created by a dramatist but created thousands of times by life.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer
Stellar Moments in Human History [Sternstunden der Menschheit] (1953) [tr. Sonnenfeld]
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If fate means you to lose, give him a good fight anyhow.

William McFee (1881-1966) English writer
Casuals of the Sea, Book 2, ch. 2 (1916)
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Then welcome fate!
‘Tis true I perish, yet I perish great:
Yet in a mighty deed I shall expire,
Let future ages hear it, and admire!

[νῦν αὖτέ με μοῖρα κιχάνει.
μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδί γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην,
ἀλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 22, l. 303ff (22.303) [Hector] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Pope (1715-20), l. 385ff]

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

But Fate now conquers; I am hers; and yet not she shall share
In my renown; that life is left to every noble spirit,
And that some great deed shall beget that all lives shall inherit.
[tr. Chapman (1611), l. 266ff]

But I will not fall
Inglorious; I will act some great exploit
That shall be celebrated ages hence.
[tr. Cowper (1791), l. 347ff]

Fate overtakes me. Nevertheless I will not perish cowardly and ingloriously at least, but having done some great deed to be heard of even by posterity.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

My fate hath found me now.
Yet not without a struggle let me die,
Nor all inglorious; but let some great act,
Which future days may hear of, mark my fall.
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Now my fate hath found me. At least let me not die without a struggle or ingloriously, but in some great deed of arms whereof men yet to be born shall hear.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

My doom has come upon me; let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Now again is my doom come upon me. Nay, but not without a struggle let me die, neither ingloriously, but in the working of some great deed for the hearing of men that are yet to be.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

But now my death is upon me. Let me at least not die without a struggle, inglorious, but do some big thing first, that men to come shall know of it.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

Now the appointed time's upon me. Still, I would not die without delivering a stroke, or die ingloriously, but in some action memorable to men in days to come.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

So now I meet my doom. Well let me die --
but not without struggle, not without glory, no,
in some great clash of arms that even men to come
will hear of down the years!
[tr. Fagles (1990), l. 359ff]

But now has my doom overcome me. But let me at least not die without making a fight, without glory, but a great deed having done for the men of the future to hear of.
[tr. Merrill (2007)]

May I not die without a fight and without glory
but after doing something big for men to come to learn about.
[tr. @Sentantiq (2011)]

Added on 24-Mar-21 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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Ah my friend, if you and I could escape this fray
and live forever, never a trace of age, immortal,
I would never fight on the front lines again
or command you to the field where men win fame.
But now, as it is, the fates of death await us,
thousands poised to strike, and not a man alive
can flee them or escape — so in we go for attack!
Give our enemy glory or win it for ourselves!

[Ὦ πέπον εἰ μὲν γὰρ πόλεμον περὶ τόνδε φυγόντε
αἰεὶ δὴ μέλλοιμεν ἀγήρω τ’ ἀθανάτω τε
ἔσσεσθ’, οὔτέ κεν αὐτὸς ἐνὶ πρώτοισι μαχοίμην
οὔτέ κε σὲ στέλλοιμι μάχην ἐς κυδιάνειραν·
νῦν δ’ ἔμπης γὰρ κῆρες ἐφεστᾶσιν θανάτοιο
μυρίαι, ἃς οὐκ ἔστι φυγεῖν βροτὸν οὐδ’ ὑπαλύξαι,
ἴομεν ἠέ τῳ εὖχος ὀρέξομεν ἠέ τις ἡμῖν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 12, l. 322ff (12.322-328) [Sarpedon to Glaukos] (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 374-81]

Original Greek. Alt. trans.:

O friend, if keeping back
Would keep back age from us, and death, and that we might not wrack
In this life’s human sea at all, but that deferring now
We shunn’d death ever, nor would I half this vain valour show,
Nor glorify a folly so, to wish thee to advance;
But since we must go, though not here, and that, besides the chance
Propos’d now, there are infinite fates of other sort in death,
Which, neither to be fled nor ’scap’d, a man must sink beneath,
Come, try we, if this sort be ours, and either render thus
Glory to others, or make them resign the like to us.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 323-33]

Could all our care elude the gloomy grave,
Which claims no less the fearful than the brave,
For lust of fame I should not vainly dare
In fighting fields, nor urge thy soul to war;
But since, alas! ignoble age must come,
Disease, and death's inexorable doom;
The life which others pay, let us bestow,
And give to fame what we to nature owe;
Brave though we fall, and honoured if we live,
Or let us glory gain, or glory give!
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Oh Glaucus, if escaping safe the death
That threats us here, we also could escape
Old age, and to ourselves secure a life
Immortal, I would neither in the van
Myself expose, nor would encourage thee
To tempt the perils of the glorious field.
But since a thousand messengers of fate
Pursue us close, and man is born to die --
E’en let us on; the prize of glory yield,
If yield we must, or wrest it from the foe.
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 389-98]

O dear friend, if indeed, by escaping from this war, we were destined to be ever free from old age, and immortal, neither would I combat myself in the van, nor send thee into the glorious battle. But now -- for of a truth ten thousand Fates of death press upon us, which it is not possible for a mortal to escape or avoid -- let us on: either we shall give glory to some one, or some one to us.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

O friend! if we, survivors of this war,
Could live, from age and death for ever free,
Thou shouldst not see me foremost in the fight,
Nor would I urge thee to the glorious field:
But since on man ten thousand forms of death
Attend, which none may ’scape, then on, that we
May glory on others gain, or they on us!
[tr. Derby (1864)]

Ah, friend, if once escaped from this battle we were for ever to be ageless and immortal, neither would I fight myself in the foremost ranks, nor would I send thee into the war that giveth men renown, but now -- for assuredly ten thousand fates of death do every way beset us, and these no mortal may escape nor avoid -- now let us go forward, whether we shall give glory to other men, or others to us.
[tr. Leaf/Lang/Myers (1891)]

My good friend, if, when we were once out of this fight, we could escape old age and death thenceforward and for ever, I should neither press forward myself nor bid you do so, but death in ten thousand shapes hangs ever over our heads, and no man can elude him; therefore let us go forward and either win glory for ourselves, or yield it to another.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Ah friend, if once escaped from this battle we were for ever to be ageless and immortal, neither should I fight myself amid the foremost, nor should I send thee into battle where men win glory; but now -- for in any case fates of death beset us, fates past counting, which no mortal may escape or avoid -- now let us go forward, whether we shall give glory to another, or another to us.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

Man, supposing you and I, escaping this battle,
would be able to live on forever, ageless, immortal,
so neither would I myself go on fighting in the foremost,
nor would I urge you into the fighting where men win glory.
But now, seeing that the spirits of death stand close about us
in their thousands, no man can turn aside or escape them,
let us go on and win glory for ourselves, or yield it to others.
[tr. Lattimore (1951)]

But now a thousand shapes of death surround us,
and no man can escape the, or be safe. Let us attack --
whether to give some fellow glory or to win it from him.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

Added on 2-Dec-20 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it,
neither brave man nor coward, I tell you —
it’s born with us the day that we are born.

[Μοῖραν δ’ οὔ τινά φημι πεφυγμένον ἔμμεναι ἀνδρῶν,
οὐ κακὸν οὐδὲ μὲν ἐσθλόν, ἐπὴν τὰ πρῶτα γένηται.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Iliad [Ἰλιάς], Book 6, l. 488ff (6.488-489) (c. 750 BC) [tr. Fagles (1990), ll. 582-84]

Hector bidding his wife farewell. Alt. trans.:

And fate, whose wings can fly?
Noble, ignoble, fate controls. Once born, the best must die.
[tr. Chapman (1611), ll. 528-29]

Fixed is the term to all the race of earth,
And such the hard condition of our birth.
No force can then resist, no flight can save;
All sink alike, the fearful and the brave.
[tr. Pope (1715-20)]

Nor lives he who can overpass the date
By heaven assign’d him, be he base or brave
[tr. Cowper (1791), ll. 595-96]

But I think there is no one of men who has escaped fate, neither the coward nor the brave man, after he has once been born.
[tr. Buckley (1860)]

If a man's hour is come, be he brave or be he coward, there is no escape for him when he has once been born.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Only his doom, methinks, no man hath ever escaped, be he coward or valiant, when once he hath been born.
[tr. Murray (1924)]

No mortal, either, can escape his fate, coward or brave man, once he comes to be.
[tr. Fitzgerald (1974)]

Added on 7-Oct-20 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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Now and then it occurs to one to reflect upon what slender threads of accident depend the most important circumstances of his life; to look back and shudder, realizing how close to the edge of nothingness his being has come.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
100%: the Story of a Patriot, Sec. 1 (1920)
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From history’s examples we conclude,
And modern instances teach us the same:
Good follows Evil, Evil follows Good,
Shame ends in glory, glory ends in shame.
Thus it is evident that no man should
Put trust in victories or wealth or fame,
Nor yet despair if Fortune is adverse:
She turns her wheel for better, as for worse.

Si vede per gli esempi di che piene
Sono l’antiche e le moderne istorie,
Che ‘l ben va dietro al male, e ‘l male al bene,
E fin son l’un de l’altro e biasmi e glorie;
E che fidarsi a l’uom non si conviene
In suo tesor, suo regno e sue vittorie,
Né disperarsi per Fortuna avversa,
Che sempre la sua ruota in giro versa.

Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) Italian poet
Orlando Furioso, Canto 45, st. 4 (1532) [tr. Reynolds (1973)]

Alt. trans. [Rose (1831)]:
'Tis plain to sight, through instances that fill
The page of ancient and of modern story,
That ill succeeds to good, and good to ill;
That glory ends in shame, and shame in glory;
And that man should not trust, deluded still,
In riches, realm, or field of battle, gory
With hostile blood, nor yet despair, for spurns
Of Fortune; since her wheel for ever turns.
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The great appeal of fatalism, indeed, is as a refuge from the terror of responsibility.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Decline of Greatness,” Saturday Evening Post (1 Nov 1958)

The same phrase is used in the successor essay, "On Heroic Leadership," sec. 2. (1960)
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Brave men earn the right to shape their own destiny.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Decline of Greatness,” Saturday Evening Post (1 Nov 1958)

Reprinted in The Politics of Hope, ch. 2 (1963)
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You can have the other words — chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I’ll take it.

Mary Oliver (1935-2019) American poet
“Sand Dabs, Five,” Winter Hours (1999)
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For we hold that the man who is truly good and wise will bear with dignity whatever fortune sends, and will always make the best of his circumstances, as a good general will turn the forces at his command to the best account, and a good shoemaker will make the best shoe that can be made out of a given piece of leather, and so on with all other crafts.

[τὸν γὰρ ὡς ἀληθῶς ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἔμφρονα πάσας οἰόμεθα τὰς τύχας εὐσχημόνως φέρειν καὶ ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων ἀεὶ τὰ κάλλιστα πράττειν, καθάπερ καὶ στρατηγὸν ἀγαθὸν τῷ παρόντι στρατοπέδῳ χρῆσθαι πολεμικώτατα καὶ σκυτοτόμον ἐκ τῶν δοθέντων σκυτῶν κάλλιστον ὑπόδημα ποιεῖν: τὸν αὐτὸν δὲ τρόπον καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους τεχνίτας ἅπαντας.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 1, ch. 10, sec. 13 (1.10.13) / 1101a.1-6 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Peters (1893)]

(Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

For the man who is truly good and sensible bears all fortunes, we presume, becomingly, and always does what is noblest under the circumstances, just as a good general employs to the best advantage the force he has with him; or a good shoemaker makes the handsomest shoe he can out of the leather which has been given him; and all other good artisans likewise.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 8]

For we hold that the really good and prudent man will bear all changes of fortune with good grace, and will always, as the case may allow, act most nobly; exactly as a good general will use such forces as are at his disposal most skilfully, and even as a good cobbler will, out of such leather as he may have, make the most perfect show; and of all those who practice any other art the same rule will hold good.
[tr. Williams (1869), sec. 17]

For our conception of the truly good and sensible man is that he bears all the chances of life with decorum and always does what is noblest in the circumstances, as a good general uses the forces at his command to the best advantage in war, a good cobbler makes the best shoe with the leather that is given him, and so on through the whole series of the arts.
[tr. Welldon (1892)]

For the man who is truly good and wise, we think, bears all the chances life becomingly and always makes the best of circumstances, as a good general makes the best military use of the army at his command and a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of the hides that are given him; and so with all other craftsmen.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

We hold that the truly good and wise man will bear all kinds of fortune in a seemly way, and will always act in the noblest manner that the circumstances allow; even as a good general makes the most effective use of the forces at his disposal, and a good shoemaker makes the finest shoe possible out of the leather supplied him, and so on with all the other crafts and professions.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

For a truly good and practically-wise person, we think, will bear what luck brings graciously, and, making use of the resources at hand, will always do the noblest actions, just as a good general makes the best uses in warfare of the army he has and a good shoemaker makes the best shoes out of the hides he has been given, and the same with all other craftsmen.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

For we hold that a truly good and sensible man will bear all fortunes of life with propriety and will always act most nobly under whatever the given circumstances may be, like a good general, who uses a given army most effectively, or a good shoemaker, who makes the best shoes out of a given leather, and likewise with any artist.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

For we believe that the truly good and wise man bears all his fortunes with dignity, and always takes the most honorable course that circumstances permit, just as a good general uses his available forces in the most militarily effective way, and a good shoemaker makes the neatest shoe out of the leather supplied to him, and the same with all the other kinds of craftsmen.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

For a truly good and intelligent person, we suppose, will bear strokes of fortune suitably, and from his resources at any time will do the finest action, just as a good general will make best use of his forces in war, and a good shoemaker will produce the finest shoe from the hides given him, and similarly for all other craftsmen.
[tr. Irwin/Fine (1995)]

For the truly good and wise person, we believe, bears all the fortunes of life with dignity and always does the noblest thing in the circumstances, as a good general does the most strategically appropriate thing with the army at his disposal, and a shoemaker makes the noblest shoe out of the leather he is given, and so on with other practitioners of skills.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

For we suppose that someone who is truly good and sensible bears up under all fortunes in a becoming way and always does what is noblest given the circumstances, just as a good general makes use, with the greatest military skill, of the army he has and a shoemaker makes the most beautiful shoe out of the leather given him. It holds in the same manner with all the other experts as well.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

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If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Chinese proverb

Quoted by Amy Tan, The Kitchen God’s Wife (1992).
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People don’t alter history any more than birds alter the sky, they just make brief patterns in it.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
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“The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on” — and only then do you find out if it goosed you in passing.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Farnham’s Freehold, ch. 21 (1964)
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If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same ….

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) English writer
“If–” st. 2 (1910)
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The greatest evil which fortune can inflict on men is to endow them with small talents and great ambition.

Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747) French moralist, essayist, soldier
Reflections and Maxims [Réflexions et maximes], #562 [tr. Stevens] (1746)
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KARMA’S A BITCH. No, let me rephrase that: Karma is your vengeful bunny-boiler ex, lurking in your darkened front hallway wearing an ice-hockey mask and carrying a baseball bat inscribed with BET YOU DIDN’T SEE THIS COMING.

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Rhesus Chart (2014)
Added on 23-May-17 | Last updated 23-May-17
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A man’s character is his fate.

Heraclitus of Ephesus (c.540-c.480 BC) Greek philosopher [Ἡράκλειτος, Herákleitos, Heracleitus]
“On the Universe,” fragment 121
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You wanted God’s ideas about what was best for you to coincide with your ideas, but you also wanted him to be the almighty Creator of heaven and earth so that he could properly fulfill your wish. And yet, if he were to share your ideas, he would cease to be the almighty Father.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses (1843) [tr. Hong]
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Destiny is for people who are too lazy to create alternate timelines.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Richard Stevens III, Diesel Sweeties (5 Oct 2011)
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Captain, the problem is not that I’m paranoid. The problem is that the universe keeps justifying my paranoia.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
The End of All Things (2015)
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Fate chooses our relatives, we choose our friends.

Jacques Delille (1738-1813) French poet, translator
“Malheur et Pitié,” Canto 1 (1803)
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MONGO: Mongo only pawn in game of life.

Mel Brooks (b. 1926) American comedic actor, writer, producer [b. Melvyn Kaminsky]
Blazing Saddles (1974)
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Small are the seeds fate does unheeded sow
Of slight beginnings to important ends.

William Davenant (1606-1668) English poet and playwright [a.k.a. William D'Avenant]
Gondibert, Canto 2 (1650)
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It is a very rare thing for a man of talent to succeed by his talent.

Joseph Roux
Joseph Roux (1834-1886) French Catholic priest
Meditations of a Parish Priest: Thoughts, Part 4, #88 (1886)
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CALAMITY, n. A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering. Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
“Calamity,” The Cynic’s Word Book (1906)

Included in The Devil's Dictionary (1911).
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RESPONSIBILITY, n. A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
“Responsibility,” The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
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MALVOLIO: In my stars I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.

Shakespeare - greatness thrust - wist_info

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Twelfth Night, Act 2, Sc. 5, l. 147ff (2.5.147-150) (1601)

The phrase appears three times in the play:

  1. As above, Malvolio reading the forged love letter from Maria.
  2. Act 3, sc. 4, l. 42ff, Malvolio recalling the phrases from the letter.
  3. Act 5, sc. 1, l. 393ff, the Fool reciting the second half of the phrase.
See also Boorstin.
Added on 11-Nov-15 | Last updated 8-Feb-24
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The power of fortune is confessed only by the miserable; for the happy impute all their success to prudence or merit.
Jonathan Swift - fortune - wist_info

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) English writer and churchman
“Thoughts on Various Subjects” (1706)
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Sometimes I wonder whether if I’d been the one that went for coffee and not Leslie May my life would have been much less interesting and certainly much less dangerous. Could it have been anyone, or was it destiny? When I’m considering this I find it helpful to quote the wisdom of my father, who once told me, “Who knows why the fuck anything happens?”

Ben Aaronovitch (b. 1964) British author
Rivers of London [Midnight Riot] (2011)
Added on 30-Sep-15 | Last updated 30-Sep-15
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Whatever happens, they say afterwards, it must have been fate. People are always a little confused about this, as they are in the case of miracles. When someone is saved from certain death by a strange concatenation of circumstances, they say that’s a miracle. But of course if someone is killed by a freak chain of events — the oil spilled just there, the safety fence broken just there — that must also be a miracle. Just because it’s not nice doesn’t mean it’s not miraculous.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Interesting Times (1994)
Added on 2-Sep-15 | Last updated 2-Sep-15
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Do your duty, and leave the outcome to the Gods.

Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) French tragedian
Horace, Act 2, sc. 8 (1640)
Added on 9-Jul-15 | Last updated 9-Jul-15
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KIRSTEN: Do you figure his parents just assumed he’d grow up to be evil when they named him “Zebediah Killgrave”?

MATT: Yeah, we call that the “Victor Von Doom” Paradox.

Mark Waid (b. 1962) American comic book writer, editor
Daredevil, Vol. 4, #10 (Nov 2014)
Added on 27-Apr-15 | Last updated 27-Apr-15
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Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll meet them on your way down.

Wilson Mizner (1876-1933) American screenwriter and wit
In Alva Johnston, The Legendary Mizners, ch. 4 (1953)

Also quoted in Evan Esar, The Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (1949). Often attributed to Walter Winchell, who frequently quoted Mizner.
Added on 23-Apr-15 | Last updated 22-Feb-22
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