Seneca the Younger, Epistles

LCL 75: 266-267

Go To Section
Go To Section

The Epistles Of Seneca

nihil habet veri; movere vult turbam et inconsultas aures inpetu rapere, tractandam se non praebet, aufertur. Quomodo autem regere potest, quae regi non potest? Quid, quod haec oratio, quae sanandis mentibus adhibetur, descendere in nos debet? Remedia non prosunt, nisi inmorantur.

5Multum praeterea habet inanitatis et vani, plus sonat quam valet. Lenienda sunt, quae me exterrent, conpescenda, quae inritant, discutienda, quae fallunt, inhibenda luxuria, corripienda avaritia; quid horum raptim potest fieri? Quis medicus aegros in transitu curat? Quid, quod ne voluptatem quidem ullam habet talis verborum sine dilectu ruentium strepitus? 6Sed ut pleraque, quae fieri posse non crederes, cognovisse satis est, ita istos, qui verba exercuerunt, abunde est semel audisse. Quid enim quis discere, quid imitari velit? Quid de eorum animo iudicet, quorum oratio perturbata et inmissa est nec potest reprimi? 7Quemadmodum per proclive currentium non ubi visum est, gradus sistitur, sed incitato corporis pondere se rapit1 ac longius quam voluit effertur; sic ista dicendi celeritas nec in sua potestate est nec satis decora philosophiae, quae ponere debet verba, non proicere, et pedetemptim procedere.


Epistle XL.

popular style has nothing to do with the truth; its aim is to impress the common herd, to ravish heedless ears by its speed; it does not offer itself for discussion, but snatches itself away from discussion. But how can that speech govern others which cannot itself be governed? May I not also remark that all speech which is employed for the purpose of healing our minds, ought to sink into us? Remedies do not avail unless they remain in the system.

Besides, this sort of speech contains a great deal of sheer emptiness; it has more sound than power. My terrors should be quieted, my irritations soothed, my illusions shaken off, my indulgences checked, my greed rebuked. And which of these cures can be brought about in a hurry? What physician can heal his patient on a flying visit? May I add that such a jargon of confused and ill-chosen words cannot afford pleasure, either? No; but just as you are well satisfied, in the majority of cases, to have seen through tricks which you did not think could possibly be done,a so in the case of these word-gymnasts,—to have heard them once is amply sufficient. For what can a man desire to learn or to imitate in them? What is he to think of their souls, when their speech is sent into the charge in utter disorder, and cannot be kept in hand? Just as, when you run down hill, you cannot stop at the point where you had decided to stop, but your steps are carried along by the momentum of your body and are borne beyond the place where you wished to halt; so this speed of speech has no control over itself, nor is it seemly for philosophy; since philosophy should carefully place her words, not fling them out, and should proceed step by step.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-epistles.1917