Homer: Men are as leaves that drop at the wind's breath

Lets-Book-Flickr

What are the children of men, but as leaves that drop at the wind's breath? 

or

Even as are the generations of leaves, such are those also of men. As for the leaves, the wind scattereth some upon the earth, but the forest, as it bourgeons, putteth forth others when the season of spring is come; even so of men one generation springeth up and another passeth away.

  –Homer in the Iliad, VI, 147. The first translation seems to be by Maxwell Staniforth, as he translated Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, which were written in Greek. The second one is from Oxford University Press's translation of the Iliad by A.T. Murray (1920).

οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν.
φύλλα τὰ μέν τ᾽ ἄνεμος χαμάδις χέει, ἄλλα δέ θ᾽ ὕλη
τηλεθόωσα φύει, ἔαρος δ᾽ ἐπιγίγνεται ὥρη:
ὣς ἀνδρῶν γενεὴ ἣ μὲν φύει ἣ δ᾽ ἀπολήγει.


Prince Shōtoku: on the dead traveler

Jochem-Oogink-Flickr

He who if at home
would be pillowed on the arm
of his own dear love,
on a journey, grass for pillow,
here lies sprawled, poor traveler!

  –Prince Shōtoku of Japan (聖徳太子) (574-621). Poem in The Gem-Glistening Cup (1993), by Edwin Cranston"A poem composed in sorrow when on an excursion to the Well of Takahara Prince Shōtoko of the Upper Palace saw a dead man on Mount Tatsuta."

Ie naraba
imo ga te makamu
kusamakura
tabi ni koyaseru
kono tabito aware


Bruce Kramer: Sadnesss is a way of sensitizing you to what really matters

KaMaPhotography-Flickr-gemeinsam

I had delved down into a space where I perceived this great pool of gratitude and sadness. And don’t mix sadness up with depression or despair… All sadness is is a way of sensitizing you to what really matters, what’s really meaningful.

And death does that.

I see my death. It looms in front of me sooner than I would like, but because it’s there, because we live with that, I am so grateful for just this moment, for this time together. And that is a great gift.

  –Bruce Kramer in an "On Being" conversation. He recently died of ALS and kept a blog about it. Thanks to Maria Popova for the link.


Shmu'el HaNagid: On the death of his son, Jacob

ChrisHConnelly-flickr

Before me the world is a binding seal,
and my home to me is a prison, my son.
After your death I'll go in fear
no more of Time-- for my terror has come.

  --By Shmu'el HaNagid, also known as Samuel ibn Naghrilla (993-after 1056) from The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492, edited and translated by Peter Cole (2007). Cole is a poet himself and has won the MacArthur award, among many others.


Moshe Ibn Ezra: Let man remember he's on his way towards death

Jonas Schleske Yearning Flickr

Let man remember throughout his life
he's on his way toward death:
each day he travels only a little
so thinks he's always at rest--

like someone sitting at ease on a ship
while the wind sweeps it over the depths.

  --By Moshe Ibn Ezra (ca 1055-after 1138) from The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492, edited and translated by Peter Cole (2007). Cole is a poet himself and has won the MacArthur award, among many others.


Sannazaro: Inexorable death lays cities waste...

530A53_na_p_334_pl_187

And do we complain if the years allotted to our life flee swiftly? Inexorable death lays cities waste...
The Fates carry men away. Time unaided will remove cities and whatever you behold, as the Fates demand.

  --From "In the ruins of Cumae," by Jacopo Sannazaro (1458-1530), translated by Helen Waddell (1889-1965) in The Wandering Scholars (1927)

Et querimur, cito si nostrae data tempora vitae
diffugiunt? urbes mors violenta rapit...
Fata trahunt homines: fatis urgentibus, urbes, et quodcumque vides, auferet ipsa dies.