Caesar’s Sorrow

Thornton Wilder, The Ides of March:

“[Here Caesar continues the letter in his own hand:]

You talk of the past.

I do not let my thoughts dwell on it for long. All of it, all of it, seems of a beauty that I shall not see again. Those presences, how can I think of them? At the memory of one whisper, one pair of eyes, the pen falls from my hand, the interview in which I am engaged turns to stone. Rome and her business become a clerk’s task, arid and tedious, with which I fill my days until death relieves me of it. Am I peculiar in this? I do not know. Can other men weave past joy into their thoughts in the present and their plans for the future? Perhaps only the poets can; they alone use all of themselves in every moment of their work.

I think that such a one has come among us to replace our Lucretius. I am enclosing a sheaf of his verses. I want you to tell me what you think of them. This mastership of the world which you ascribe to me is more worth administering since I have seen these examples of what our Latin tongue can do. I am not enclosing the verses which have reference to myself; this Catullus is as eloquent in hatred as in love.”

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