A poem by Aristotle

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A poem by Aristotle

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Wed Feb 25, 2004 8:20 pm


To my great surprise, I found out that the philosopher who is reputed to be one of the most prosaic men of his age (remember his pointing literally down to earth on Rafael's "School of Athens" fresco) has written a poem, which is handed down to us by Diogenes Laertius.

The content is perhaps a little less surprising, as it concerns an ode to virtue.

"It is interesting to see how Aristotle links his idea of virtue to a heroic conception of friendship" (M. Yourcenar, in the introduction to her translation in "La Couronne et la Lyre").

Here is the poem, in a public domain translation:

O Virtue, won by earnest strife,
And holding out the noblest prize
That ever gilded earthly life,
Or drew it on to seek the skies;
For thee what son of Greece would not
Deem it an enviable lot,
To live the life, to die the death
That fears no weary hour, shrinks from no fiery breath?

Such fruit hast thou of heavenly bloom,
A lure more rich than golden heap,
More tempting than the joys of home,
More bland than spell of soft-eyed sleep.
For thee Alcides, son of Jove,
And the twin boys of Leda strove,
With patient toil and sinewy might,
Thy glorious prize to grasp, to reach thy lofty height.

Achilles, Ajax, for thy love
Descended to the realms of night;
Atarneus' King thy vision drove,
To quit for aye the glad sun-light,
Therefore, to memory's daughters dear,
His deathless name, his pure career,
Live shrined in song, and link'd with awe,
The awe of Xenian Jove, and faithful friendship's law


Quintus Pomponius Atticus

"Ars longa, vita brevis" - Hippocrates
Quintus Pomponius Atticus
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