“Let someone else pile up gleaming gold
And hold as many lots of well-plowed land,
Let constant labor frighten him when an enemy’s near
As war’s clarion blasts send his sleep to flight.
But may my poverty guide me through a settled life
as long as my hearth shines with a tireless light.”
Divitias alius fulvo sibi congerat auro
Et teneat culti iugera multa soli,
Quem labor adsiduus vicino terreat hoste,
Martia cui somnos classica pulsa fugent:
Me mea paupertas vita traducat inerti, 5
Dum meus adsiduo luceat igne focus.
Yeah, I am still a sucker for Tibullus. But Quintilian agrees with me. And with recent fluctuations in the commodity market, who’s to say that leisure might not be worth more than gold? (It is certainly more pleasant than war…)
2 thoughts on “Tibullus, 1.1-6: Poverty is Better than Gold”
And yet isn’t leisure to work at that which one pleased rather to that which one has to? Great poetry, not so great an idea. Seneca, Zeno, Eratosthenes, Attalus, Marcus Aurelius, and every other Roman that called money “cows” (pecunia) scowls…all in good fun, of course. The poet does well to compare money to agriculture, they are pretty much the same thing in Ancient Rome!
So very true. Throughout time, it is largely people who have (money) who point out that other things are more important.