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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.


By Philemon (c. 368–c. 264 B.C.)

  • From Philemon’s ninety-eight years and ninety-seven plays surprisingly little remains. The prologue of the ‘Trinummus,’ however, says expressly:—
  • “PHILEMON wrote it: Plautus rendered it
  • In barbarous speech.”
  • The Plautine ‘Mercator,’ also, is a translation from the Greek poet. His gentle nature and rather commonplace yet polished style may be indicated by the five passages here chosen.

    Peace is Happiness

    IT is a question of philosophers,

    So have I heard, whereon much time is spent,—

    What is the real Good. None find it. One

    Says Virtue; and another Prudence. I,

    Who in the country dwell, and dig the earth,

    Have found it: it is Peace! O dearest Zeus,

    How loving is the goddess, and how kind!

    Marriages, festivals, kin, children, friends,

    Food, wine, health, riches, happiness, she gives.

    And if of all these things we are deprived,

    Dead is the life of men while yet they live!


    IF lamentation were the cure of grief,

    And he were freed from sorrow who laments,

    Then would we proffer gold to purchase tears!

    But now, our destiny doth pay no heed

    Thereto, my lord, but ever goes its way,

    The same, if thou give way to grief or no.

    What boots it? Nothing! Yet our sorrow brings

    The tear, as fitly as the tree her fruit!

    Tyranny of Custom

    OH, trebly blessed, trebly happy are

    The beasts, who have no thought of things like these!

    For never one of them is criticized,

    Nor have they any artificial woes.

    Unlivable the life we men must live:

    The slaves of custom, subject unto law,

    Bound to posterity and ancestry,—

    So have we no escape from misery.

    Diversity of Character

    WHY, pray, did he who made us, as ’tis told,

    And all the beasts besides,—Prometheus,—give

    To other animals one nature each?

    For full of courage are the lions all,

    And every hare, again, is timorous.

    One fox is not of crafty spirit, one

    Straightforward; but if you shall bring together

    Three times ten thousand foxes, you will find

    One character is common to them all.

    But we,—so many as our bodies are,

    No less diverse our natures you will find.