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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Foolishness of Luxury
By Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99–c. 55 B.C.)
From ‘On the Nature of Things,’ Book Second: Translation of Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro

IT is sweet, when on the great sea the winds trouble its waters, to behold from land another’s deep distress; not that it is a pleasure and delight that any should be afflicted, but because it is sweet to see from what evils you are yourself exempt. It is sweet, also, to look upon the mighty struggles of war arrayed along the plains without sharing yourself in the danger. But nothing is more welcome than to hold the lofty and serene positions well fortified by the learning of the wise, from which you may look down upon others and see them wandering all abroad and going astray in their search for the path of life,—see the contest among them of intellect, the rivalry of birth, the striving night and day with surpassing effort to struggle up to the summit of power and be masters of the world. Oh, miserable minds of men! oh, blinded breasts! in what darkness of life and in how great dangers is passed this term of life, whatever its duration! Not choose to see that nature craves for herself no more than this, that pain hold aloof from the body, and she in mind enjoy a feeling of pleasure exempt from care and fear? Therefore we see that for the body’s nature few things are needed at all, such and such only as take away pain. Nay, though more gratefully at times they can minister to us many choice delights, nature for her part wants them not, when there are no golden images of youths through the house holding in their right hands flaming lamps for supply of light to the nightly banquet, when the house shines not with silver nor glitters with gold, nor do the paneled and gilded roofs re-echo to the harp; what time, though these things be wanting, they spread themselves in groups on the soft grass beside a stream of water, under the boughs of a high tree, and at no great cost pleasantly refresh their bodies, above all when the weather smiles and the seasons of the year besprinkle the green grass with flowers. Nor do hot fevers sooner quit the body if you toss about on pictured tapestry and blushing purple, than if you must lie under a poor man’s blanket. Wherefore, since treasures avail nothing in respect of our body nor birth nor the glory of kingly power, advancing farther you must hold that they are of no service to the mind as well.  1

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