Ad Helviam Matrem
1. Saepe iam, mater optima, impetum cepi consolandi te, saepe continui. Ut auderem, multa me impellebant. Primum videbar depositurus omnia incommoda, cum lacrimas tuas, etiam si supprimere non potuissem, interim certe abstersissem; deinde plus habiturum me auctoritatis non dubitabam ad excitandam te, si prior ipse consurrexissem; praeterea timebam, ne a me victa fortuna aliquem meorum vinceret. Itaque utcumque conabar manu super plagam meam imposita ad obliganda vulnera 2 vestra reptare. Hoc propositum meum erant rursus quae retardarent. Dolori tuo, dum recens saeviret, sciebam occurrendum non esse, ne illum ipsa solacia irritarent et accenderent; nam in morbis quoque nihil est perniciosius quam immatura medicina. Expectabam itaque, dum ipse vires suas frangeret
To Helvia His Mother
Often, my best of mothers, I have felt the impulse to send you consolation,a and as often I have checked it. The motives that urged me to be so bold were many. In the first place, I thought that I should lay aside all my troubles when, even though I could not stop your weeping, I had meanwhile at least wiped away your tears; again, I felt sure that I should have more power to raise you up, if I had first arisen from my own grief; besides, I was afraid that Fortune, though vanquished by me, might still vanquish someone dear to me. And so, placing my hand over my own gash, I was trying as best I could to creep forward to bind up your wounds. On the other hand, there were reasons which made me delay as regards my purpose. I knew that I ought not to intrude upon your grief while its violence was fresh, lest my very condolences should irritate and inflame it; for in bodily ills also nothing is more harmful than an untimely use of medicine. I was waiting, therefore, until your grief should of itself subdue its violence, and its soreness, soothed by time
- aWriting in philosophic serenity from his place of exile, Seneca seeks to allay his mother’s grief at the mishap that has befallen him. After her widowhood she seems to have lived with her father in Spain (ch. 18. 9), but had, apparently, visited Rome shortly before her son’s banishment (ch. 15. 3).