Seneca the Younger, Epistles

LCL 75: 162-163

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The Epistles Of Seneca

6et quod plus pateat introrsus. Fac, oro te, Lucili carissime, quod unum potest praestare felicem: dissice et conculca ista, quae extrinsecus splendent, quae tibi promittuntur ab alio vel ex alio, ad verum bonum specta et de tuo gaude. Quid est autem hoc “de tuo”? Te ipso et tui optima parte. Corpusculum quoque, etiam si nihil fieri sine illo potest, magis necessariam rem crede quam magnam; vanas suggerit voluptates, breves, paenitendas, ac nisi magna moderatione temperentur, in contrarium abituras. Ita dico: in praecipiti voluptas ad dolorem vergit, nisi modum tenuit.

Modum autem tenere in eo difficile est, quod bonum esse credideris. Veri boni aviditas tuta est. 7Quid sit istud, interrogas, aut unde subeat? Dicam: ex bona conscientia, ex honestis consiliis, ex rectis actionibus, ex contemptu fortuitorum, ex placido vitae et continuo tenore unam prementis viam. Nam illi, qui ex aliis propositis in alia transiliunt aut ne transiliunt quidem, sed casu quodam transmittuntur, quomodo habere quicquam certum mansurumve 8possunt suspensi et vagi? Pauci sunt, qui consilio se suaque disponant, ceteri eorum more, quae fluminibus innatant, non eunt, sed feruntur. Ex quibus alia lenior unda detinuit ac mollius vexit, alia vehementior


Epistle XXIII.

itself the more fully as you penetrate into it. Therefore I pray you, my dearest Lucilius, do the one thing that can render you really happy: cast aside and trample under foot all those things that glitter outwardly and are held out to youa by another or as obtainable from another; look toward the true good, and rejoice only in that which comes from your own store. And what do I mean by “from your own store”? I mean from your very self, that which is the best part of you. The frail body, also, even though we can accomplish nothing without it, is to be regarded as necessary rather than as important; it involves us in vain pleasures, short-lived, and soon to be regretted, which, unless they are reined in by extreme self-control, will be transformed into the opposite. This is what I mean: pleasure, unless it has been kept within bounds, tends to rush headlong into the abyss of sorrow.

But it is hard to keep within bounds in that which you believe to be good. The real good may be coveted with safety. Do you ask me what this real good is, and whence it derives? I will tell you: it comes from a good conscience, from honourable purposes, from right actions, from contempt of the gifts of chance, from an even and calm way of living which treads but one path. For men who leap from one purpose to another, or do not even leap but are carried over by a sort of hazard,—how can such wavering and unstable persons possess any good that is fixed and lasting? There are only a few who control themselves and their affairs by a guiding purpose; the rest do not proceed; they are merely swept along, like objects afloat in a river. And of these objects, some are held back by sluggish waters and

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-epistles.1917