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let him read who understands, for to read without understanding is no better than not to read at all.” Thus is a self-satisfied egotism worthy of Volcatius Sedigitus relieved by a practical purpose
and a sound common sense which even Horace might have admired. In the short “sententiæ" which come next, as well as in the longer couplets which make up the body of the collection, it is doubtful if anything can be found that definitely indicates Christian authorship or Christian teaching, great as is the similarity to Christian ethics illustrated by many of the maxims. The last few “sententiæ" have been thought to be a later addition by a Christian hand, but on very slender basis. No. 53, indeed, Minume iudica (“Judge not at all"), recalls the Sermon on the Mount; and No. 54, Aliena ne concupieris (“Thou shalt not covet another's goods”), suggests the Ten Commandments. But those standing next to these are not striking in such resemblances ; and even the ones already quoted seem about as natural products of Greek philosophy as No. 1, Deo supplica (“Worship God"); No. 2, Parentes ama (“Love your parents "); No. 11, Magistratum metue (“Respect the powers that be "); No. 14, Diligentiam adhibe (“Be diligent in business "); No. 41, Maledicus ne esto (“Thou shalt not malign thy neighbor”); and many others. In fact, most of the sentiments expressed can be easily paralleled in the various collections of wisdom literature from Solomon down. Occasionally we find a little more homely advice, such as Mundus esto (“Keep clean”), Quod satis est, dormi ("Sleep just enough”), Libros lege (“Read books”), Aleam fuge (“Avoid gambling"), Pauca in convivio loquere (“Don't talk much at a banquet").
The same general tone is preserved in the distichs that make up the body of the work. One's duty to himself, his family, his fellow-men, and his God is succinctly stated from various interesting standpoints, but without any easily discoverable principle of arrangement. In several instances, to be sure, two couplets that might well have been derived from the same source stand contiguous to each other; but often the juxtaposition of sentiments makes a well-nigh ludicrous contrast. Different schools of pagan philosophy vie with scriptural orthodoxy, and the noblest thought may alternate with a pitiful narrowness of ideals. Occasionally the wise man goes out of his way to make a sly thrust at the frail. ties of the fair sex, as in 1, 8:
3-FIFTH SERIES, VOL. XV.
Nil temere uxori de servis crede querenti ;
Semper enim coniunx servum, quem diligis, odit. (“Don't take any stock in your wife's complaints of the servants; your wife always hates the servant that you love.") 3, 20: Coniugis iratæ noli tu verba timere ;
Nam lacrimis struit insidias, cum femina plorat. (“Don't be afraid of your wife's words when she is angry; for when a woman weeps she is plotting by her tears.”) Or, again, the point of the moral is, “ Look out for number one," as in 1, 11 :
Dilige sic alios, ut sis tibi carus amicus;
Sic bonus esto bonis, ne te mala damna sequantur. (“Love others in such a way as to be your own best friend; be good to good men, that serious loss may not overtake you.”) On the whole, however, it must be said that a very uniform dignity is maintained throughont the collection. The following maxims have the Stoic flavor : 1,1: Si deus est animus, nobis ut carmina dicunt,
Hic tibi præcipue sit pura mente colendus. (" If the soul is God, as the poets tell us, you must worship him especially with a pure heart.”)
2, 16: Nec te collaudes nec te culpaveris ipse ;
Hoc faciunt stulti, quos gloria vexat inanis. (“Neither praise nor blame yourself; fools do that, fretting for empty glory.”)
3, 2: Cum recte vivas, ne cures verba malorum;
Arbitrii non est nostri, quid quisque loquatur. (“ As long as you live aright, don't mind the words of the wicked; we cannot control the gossip of every individual.")
4, 17: Si famam servare cupis, dum vivis, honestam,
Fac fugias animo, quæ sunt mala gaudia vitæ. ("If you would live a life of good report, see that you avoid even the thought of the gay life of the wicked.”) Perhaps the cynical apathy of this one belongs in the same category : 4, 22: Multum venturi ne cures tempora fati;
Non metuit mortem, qui scit contemnere vitam.
(“Pay little heed to your coming destiny; he fears not death who knows how to scorn life.”)
In many cases, on the other hand, the Epicurean tone is equally pronounced :
2, 2: An di sint cælumque regant, ne quaere doceri ;
Cum sis mortalis, quæ sunt mortalia, cura. (“Seek not to know whether there be gods who rule the heavens; since you are mortal attend to the concerns of this mortal flesh.") 2, 3: Linque metum leti, nam stultum est tempore in omni,
Dum mortem metuas, amittere gaudia vitæ. (“ Away with the fear of death! It is folly to lose the joys of life throngh constant fear of death.") 4, 16: Utere quæsitis opibus, fuge nomen avari;
Quid tibi divitias, si semper pauper abundes ? (“Use the wealth you have acquired, shun the name of being avaricious. Why should you possess wealth if you are always to be poor in the midst of your abundance?”)
1, 33: Cum dubia in certis versetur vita periclis,
Pro lucro tibi pone diem, quicumque sequetur. (“Since life is so uncertain and beset with perils, set down as so much clear gain every day that dawns.") So sang the Epicurean Horace (Car., i, 9):
Quid sit futurum cras fuge quærere, et
Alpone, nec dulcis amores
Sperne puer neque tu choreas.
Spurn not, thou, who art young, dulcet loves;
Spurn not, thou, choral dances and song.")* The likeness is so obvious, we can scarcely doubt that the Horatian stanza was the mine from which this nugget of wisdom was dug. From Horace is the idea of the following couplet also: 4, 37: Tempora longa tibi noli promittere vitæ ;
Quocumque incedis, sequitur mors corporis umbra. (“Do not promise yourself long life; wherever you walk death walks beside you like a shadow.") Compare Horace, Car., i, 4; also the familiar scriptural version of the same idea : “Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”
Some other interesting parallels to the wisdom of Solomon inay be noted :
1, 9: Cum moneas aliquem nec se velit ille moneri,
Si tibi sit carus, noli desistere coeptis. (“Though he whom you reprove desire none of your reproof, if you love him cease not from your efforts.") Comp. Prov. iii, 12: "For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he deligliteth.”
1, 10: Contra verbosos noli contendere verbis;
Sermo datur cunctis, animi sapientia paucis. (“Contend not in speech with a man of many words; speech is given to all, wisdom to few.") Comp. Prov. xvii, 27: “He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit."
3, 1: Instrue præceptis animum, ne discere cessa ;
Nam sine doctrina vita est quasi mortis imago. (“Give instruction to thy soul, cease not to learn wisdomn; for life without wisdom is, so to speak, but the picture of death.") Comp. Prov. iv, 13: “Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.”
Even essentially Christian doctrine shines forth here and there :
1, 5: Si vitam inspicias hominum, si denique mores;
Cum culpant alios, nemo sine crimine vivit. (“If you examine the life and character of men, while they blame others, none of them lives a blameless life himself.") Comp. John viii, 7: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."
1,6: Quæ nocitura tenes, quamvis sint cara, relinque:
Utilitas opibus præponi tempore debet. (“Whatever you possess that is likely to harm you, no matter how dear it may be, give it up; advantage should always be preferred to possessions.”) Comp. Matt. v, 29: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish," etc.
1, 20: Exiguum munus cum det tibi pauper amicus,
Accipito læt plene et laudare memento. (“When a friend of his poverty gives you a trifling gift, you should accept it gladly and not forget to thank him heartily.”) Compare the commendation of the widow's mite, Mark xii, 42-44.
3, 7: Alterius dictum aut factum ne carpseris umquam,
Exemplo simili ne te derideat alter. (“Never harshly judge another's word or deed lest another likewise judge thee.") Comp. Matt. vii, 1: “Judge not, that
. ye be not judged.” On the other hand, here is a precept at the opposite extreme from the teaching of Him who said, "Love your enemies :" Ap. 5: Dissimula læsus, si non datur ultio præsens;
Qui celare potest odium, pote lædere, quem vult. (“When an injury is done to you, if immediate vengeance cannot be had conceal your feelings; he who can conceal his hatred can injure whomsoever he will.")
There are a number of cases where the sentiment expressed would be particularly worthy of the thrifty, practical Cato; and if he should be considered the direct or indirect author of any portion of the work these would be naturally put down at once to his credit. Such are : 1, 37: Servorum culpa cum te dolor urget in iram,
Ipse tibi moderare, tuis ut parcere possis. (** When vexed at the faults of your slaves, and on the verge of anger, restrain yourself, so as to spare your own property.”)
4, 5: Cum fueris locuples, corpus curare memento;
Æger dives habet nummos, se non habet ipsum. (“No matter how rich you are, take care of your body; a sick rich man has cash, but he has not himself.") 4, 14: Cum sis ipse nocens, moritur cur victima pro te ?
Stultitia est morte alterius sperare salutem. ("If you are the guilty one, why should a victim be slain for you? It is folly to hope for safety by the death of somebody else.”) 4, 20: Prospicito cunctos tacitus, quid quisque loquatur;
Sermo hominum mores et celat et indicat idem. (“ Be silent and note what each one says; a man's conversation both conceals and reveals his character.")