Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Rursus facere Romam magnam
Hoc ut facilius diiudicetur, non uanescamus inani uentositate iactati atque obtundamus intentionis aciem altisonis uocabulis rerum, cum audimus populos regna prouincias; sed duos constituamus homines (nam singulus quisque homo, ut in sermone una littera, ita quasi elementum est ciuitatis et regni, quantalibet terrarum occupatione latissimi), quorum duorum hominum unum pauperem uel potius mediocrem, alium praediuitem cogitemus; sed diuitem timoribus anxium, maeroribus tabescentem, cupiditate flagrantem, numquam securum, semper inquietum, perpetuis inimicitiarum contentionibus anhelantem, augentem sane his miseriis patrimonium suum in inmensum modum atque illis augmentis curas quoque amarissimas aggerantem; mediocrem uero illum re familiari parua atque succincta sibi sufficientem, carissimum suis, cum cognatis uicinis amicis dulcissima pace gaudentem, pietate religiosum, benignum mente, sanum corpore, uita parcum, moribus castum, conscientia securum. Nescio utrum quisquam ita desipiat, ut audeat dubitare quem praeferat. Vt ergo in his duobus hominibus, ita in duabus familiis, ita in duobus populis, ita in duobus regnis regula sequitur aequitatis, qua uigilanter adhibita si nostra intentio corrigatur, facillime uidebimus ubi habitet uanitas et ubi felicitas.
That this may be more easily discerned, let us not come to nought by being carried away with empty boasting, or blunt the edge of our attention by loud-sounding names of things, when we hear of peoples, kingdoms, provinces. But let us suppose a case of two men; for each individual man, like one letter in a language, is as it were the element of a city or kingdom, however far-spreading in its occupation of the earth. Of these two men let us suppose that one is poor, or rather of middling circumstances; the other very rich. But the rich man is anxious with fears, pining with discontent, burning with covetousness, never secure, always uneasy, panting from the perpetual strife of his enemies, adding to his patrimony indeed by these miseries to an immense degree, and by these additions also heaping up most bitter cares. But that other man of moderate wealth is contented with a small and compact estate, most dear to his own family, enjoying the sweetest peace with his kindred neighbors and friends, in piety religious, benignant in mind, healthy in body, in life frugal, in manners chaste, in conscience secure. I know not whether any one can be such a fool, that he dare hesitate which to prefer. As, therefore, in the case of these two men, so in two families, in two nations, in two kingdoms, this test of tranquility holds good; and if we apply it vigilantly and without prejudice, we shall quite easily see where the mere show of happiness dwells, and where real felicity.
from St. Augustine, The City of God, Book IV, Chapter III