Daniel Dockery

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Seneca • Daniel Dockery

Seneca

March 26th, 2005

Seneca, de Tranquillitate Animi (“On the tranquility of the mind”), XVII.8–11:

Indulgendum est animo dandumque subinde otium, quod alimenti ac uirium loco sit. Et in ambulationibus apertis uagandum, ut cælo libero et multo spiritu augeat attollatque se animus; aliquando uectatio iterque et mutata regio uigorem dabunt, conuictusque et liberalior potio. Nonnumquam et usque ad ebrietatem ueniendum, non ut mergat nos, sed ut deprimat: eluit enim curas et ab imo animum mouet et, ut morbis quibusdam, ita tristitiæ medetur, Liberque non ob licentiam linguæ dictus est inuentor uini, sed quia liberat seruitio curarum animum et asserit uegetatque et audaciorem in omnes conatus facit. Sed, ut libertatis, ita uini salubris moderatio est. Solonem Arcesilanque indulsisse uino eredunt; Catoni ebrietas obiecta est: facilius efficient crimen honestum quam turpem Catonem. Sed nec sæpe faciendum est, ne animus malam consuetudinem ducat, et aliquando tamen in exsultationem libertatemque extrahendus tristisque sobrietas remouenda paulisper. Nam, siue græco pœtæ credimus, “aliquando et insanire iucundum est”; siue Platoni, “frustra pœticas fores compos sui pepulit”; siue Aristoteli, “nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiæ fuit”. Non potest grande aliquid et super ceteros loqui nisi mota mens. Cum uulgaria et solita contempsit instinctuque sacro surrexit excelsior, tunc demum aliquid cecinit grandius ore mortali. Non potest sublime quicquam et in arduo positum contingere, quamdiu apud se est: desciscat oportet a solito et efferatur et mordeat frenos et rectorem rapiat suum, eoque ferat quo per se timuisset escendere.

Translation:

We must treat the mind kindly and frequently give it rest, which serves the purpose of food and strength: and we must indulge in outdoor rambles, that the mind may become stronger and be elevated under the open sky and in the fresh air. Sometimes riding, travel, a change of country, a social meal and more liberal drinking will give us strength; sometimes we ought to come even to the point of drunkenness, not for the purpose of drowning ourselves, but of sublimating ourselves deep in wine. For it washes away cares and raises our spirits from the lowest depths, and is a remedy for sadness as also for certain diseases. The inventor of wine is called Liber, not because of the freedom of speaking which comes through him, but because he frees the soul from the servitude of cares, releases it from slavery, quickens it, and makes it bolder for all undertakings. But moderation is wholesome both in freedom and in wine. Men believe that Solon and Arcesilaus were addicted to wine. Drunkenness is charged to Cato: yet whoever shall reproach him with this will more easily prove that this crime is honorable than that Cato was base. But it must not be done often lest the mind contract a bad habit, and yet sometimes it ought to be drawn into exultation and freedom, and gloomy sobriety ought to be case aside for a short time. For whether we believe the Greek poet, ‘it is sometimes even pleasant to be mad,’ or Plato, ‘he who is master of himself has knocked in vain at the doors of poetry;’ or Aristotle, ‘there is no great genius without a mixture of madness;’ the mind cannot express anything lofty and above the ordinary unless inspired. When it despises the common and the customary, and with sacred inspiration rises higher, then at length it sings something grander than that which can come from mortal lips. It cannot attain anything sublime and lofty so long as it is sane: it must depart from the customary, swing itself aloft, take the bit in its teeth, carry away its rider and bear him to a height whither he would have feared to ascend alone.

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Daniel Dockery

animî nostrî dêbent interdum âlûcinâri

Home of published musician, recording artist, mathematician, programmer, translator, artist, classicist, and general polymath.

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