Front Page Titles (by Subject) XIX - The Consolation of Philosophy
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XIX - Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy [520 AD]
King Alfred’s Version of the Consolations of Boethius. Done into Modern English, with an Introduction by Walter John Sedgefield Litt.D. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900).
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WHEN Philosophy had made an end of her discourse she began again to chaunt, and this was what she sang: ‘Whosoever wisheth to have idle renown and useless vainglory, let him behold on the four sides of him, and see how spacious is the vault of heaven, and how strait the spread of earth, though to us it seem so broad. Then he may be ashamed of the extent of his own fame, being unable even to spread it over this narrow earth. O ye proud ones, why do ye desire to put your necks under that deadly yoke? or why are ye at such idle pains to spread your fame over so many peoples? Though it should happen that the uttermost nations P. 48. were to exalt your name, and praise you in many a tongue, and though a man were to wax great from his noble birth, and prosper in all wealth and all splendour, yet Death recketh not for these things. He giveth no heed to high birth, but swalloweth up mighty and lowly alike, and so bringeth both great and small to one level. Where now are the bones of the famous and wise goldsmith, Weland? I call him wise, for the man of skill can never lose his cunning, and can no more be deprived of it than the sun may be moved from his station. Where are now Weland’s bones, or who knoweth now where they are? Where now is the famous and the bold Roman chief [consul] that was called Brutus, and by his other name Cassius, or the wise and steadfast Cato, that was also a Roman leader, and well known as a sage? Did they not die long ago, and not a man now knoweth where they are? What is there left of them but a meagre fame, and a name writ with a few letters? And worse still, we know of many famous men, and worthy of remembrance, now dead, of whom but few have any knowledge. Many lie dead and utterly forgotten, so that even fame is not able to make them known. Though ye now hope for and desire long life here in this world, how are ye the better for it? For doth not Death come, though he come late, and doth he not put you out of this world? What availeth you then your vainglory, you at least whom the second death shall seize, and hold fast for ever?’
[P. 48. ]The famous and wise goldsmith, Weland. This name, famous in Teutonic legend, is substituted by Alfred for the Latin Fabricius The king has come to grief in identifying Brutus with Cassius.