Seneca the Younger, Epistles

LCL 76: 56-57

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The Epistles Of Seneca

LXX. Seneca Lvcilio svo salvtem

1Post longum intervallum Pompeios tuos vidi. In conspectum adulescentiae meae reductus sum. Quicquid illic iuvenis feceram, videbar mihi facere adhuc 2posse et paulo ante fecisse. Praenavigavimus, Lucili, vitam et quemadmodum in mari, ut ait Vergilius noster,

Terraeque urbesque recedunt,

sic in hoc cursu rapidissimi temporis primum pueritiam abscondimus, deinde adulescentiam, deinde quidquid est illud inter iuvenem et senem medium, in utriusque confinio positum, deinde ipsius senectutis optimos annos. Novissime incipit ostendi publicus finis 3generis humani. Scopulum esse illum putamus dementissimi; portus est, aliquando petendus, numquam recusandus, in quem si quis intra primos annos delatus est, non magis queri debet quam qui cito navigavit. Alium enim, ut scis, venti segnes ludunt ac detinent et tranquillitatis lentissimae taedio lassant, alium pertinax flatus celerrime perfert.

4Idem evenire nobis puta: alios vita velocissime adduxit, quo veniendum erat etiam cunctantibus, alios maceravit et coxit. Quae, ut scis, non semper

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Epistle LXX.

LXX. On the Proper Time to Slip the Cable

After a long space of time I have- seen your beloved Pompeii.a I was thus brought again face to face with the days of my youth. And it seemed to me that I could still do, nay, had only done a short time ago, all the things which I did there when a young man. We have sailed past life, Lucilius, as if we were on a voyage, and just as when at sea, to quote from our poet Vergil,

Lands and towns are left astern,b

even so, on this journey where time flies with the greatest speed, we put below the horizon first our boyhood and then our youth, and then the space which lies between young manhood and middle age and borders on both, and next, the best years of old age itself. Last of all, we begin to sight the general bourne of the race of man. Fools that we are, we believe this bourne to be a dangerous reef; but it is the harbour, where we must some day put in, which we may never refuse to enter; and if a man has reached this harbour in his early years, he has no more right to complain than a sailor who has made a quick voyage. For some sailors, as you know, are tricked and held back by sluggish winds, and grow weary and sick of the slow-moving calm; while others are carried quickly home by steady gales.

You may consider that the same thing happens to us: life has carried some men with the greatest rapidity to the harbour, the harbour they were bound to reach even if they tarried on the way, while others it has fretted and harassed. To such a life, as you

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-epistles.1917