Friday, September 4, 2009

"Juvenal's Prayer"

What's best, what serves us... leave it to the gods.
We're dearer to the gods than to ourselves.
Harassed by impulse and diseased desire,
we ask for wives, and children by those wives --
what wives and children heaven only knows.
Still if you will ask for something, pray for
a healthy body and a healthy soul,
a mind that is not terrified of death,
thinks length of days the least of nature's gifts --
courage that drives out anger and longing... our hero,
Hercules, and the pain of his great labor...
Success is worshipped as a god; it's we
who set her up in palace and cathedral.
I give you simply what you have already.
by Robert Lowell, Selected Poems
(being a translation of the last lines of Juvenal's Tenth Satire, best known for the saying, "mens sana in corpore sano"; for Lowell, "a healthy body and a healthy soul.")

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