Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
 
VI. Human Experience
Conscience
Juvenal (c. 40–125)
 
Anonymous translation from the Latin

From Satire XIII.

THE SPARTAN rogue who, boldly bent on fraud,
Dared ask the god to sanction and applaud,
And sought for counsel at the Pythian shrine,
Received for answer from the lips divine,—
“That he who doubted to restore his trust,        5
And reasoned much, reluctant to be just,
Should for those doubts and that reluctance prove
The deepest vengeance of the powers above.”
The tale declares that not pronounced in vain
Came forth the warning from the sacred fane:        10
Ere long no branch of that devoted race
Could mortal man on soil of Sparta trace!
Thus but intended mischief, stayed in time,
Had all the mortal guilt of finished crime.
  If such his fate who yet but darkly dares,        15
Whose guilty purpose yet no act declares,
What were it, done! Ah! now farewell to peace!
Ne’er on this earth his soul’s alarms shall cease!
Held in the mouth that languid fever burns,
His tasteless food he indolently turns;        20
On Alba’s oldest stock his soul shall pine!
Forth from his lips he spits the joyless wine!
Nor all the nectar of the hills shall now
Or glad the heart, or smooth the wrinkled brow!
While o’er the couch his aching limbs are cast,        25
If care permit the brief repose at last,
Lo! there the altar and the fane abused!
Or darkly shadowed forth in dream confused,
While the damp brow betrays the inward storm,
Before him flits thy aggravated form!        30
Then as new fears o’er all his senses press,
Unwilling words the guilty truth confess!
These, these be they whom secret terrors try,
When muttered thunders shake the lurid sky;
Whose deadly paleness now the gloom conceals        35
And now the vivid flash anew reveals.
No storm as Nature’s casualty they hold,
They deem without an aim no thunders rolled;
Where’er the lightning strikes, the flash is thought
Judicial fire, with Heaven’s high vengeance fraught.        40
Passes this by, with yet more anxious ear
And greater dread, each future storm they fear;
In burning vigil, deadliest foe to sleep,
In their distempered frame if fever keep,
Or the pained side their wonted rest prevent,        45
Behold some incensed god his bow has bent!
All pains, all aches, are stones and arrows hurled
At bold offenders in this nether world!
From them no crested cock acceptance meets!
Their lamb before the altar vainly bleats!        50
Can pardoning Heaven on guilty sickness smile?
Or is there victim than itself more vile?
Where steadfast virtue dwells not in the breast,
Man is a wavering creature at the best!
 
 
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