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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Apostrophe to Agricola
By Tacitus (56–c. 120 A.D.)
 
From the ‘Agricola’: Translation of Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb

THOU wast indeed fortunate, Agricola, not only in the splendor of thy life, but in the opportune moment of thy death. Thou submittedst to thy fate, so they tell us who were present to hear thy last words, with courage and cheerfulness, seeming to be doing all thou couldst to give thine Emperor full acquittal. As for me and thy daughter, besides all the bitterness of a father’s loss, it increases our sorrow that it was not permitted us to watch over thy failing health, to comfort thy weakness, to satisfy ourselves with those looks, those embraces. Assuredly we should have received some precepts, some utterances, to fix in our inmost hearts. This is the bitterness of our sorrow, this the smart of our wound: that from the circumstance of so long an absence thou wast lost to us four years before. Doubtless, best of fathers, with the most loving wife at thy side, all the dues of affection were abundantly paid thee; yet with too few tears thou wast laid to thy rest, and in the light of thy last day there was something for which thine eyes longed in vain.  1
  If there is any dwelling-place for the spirits of the just; if, as the wise believe, noble souls do not perish with the body,—rest thou in peace; and call us, thy family, from weak regrets and womanish laments to the contemplation of thy virtues, for which we must not weep nor beat the breast. Let us honor thee not so much with transitory praises as with our reverence; and if our powers permit us, with our emulation. That will be true respect, that the true affection of thy nearest kin. This too is what I would enjoin on daughter and wife: to honor the memory of that father, that husband, by pondering in their hearts all his words and acts, by cherishing the features and lineaments of his character rather than those of his person. It is not that I would forbid the likenesses which are wrought in marble or in bronze; but as the faces of men, so all similitudes of the face are weak and perishable things, while the fashion of the soul is everlasting,—such as may be expressed not in some foreign substance, or by the help of art, but in our own lives. Whatever we loved, whatever we admired in Agricola, survives, and will survive in the hearts of men, in the succession of the ages, in the fame that waits on noble deeds. Over many, indeed, of those who have gone before, as over the inglorious and ignoble, the waves of oblivion will roll: Agricola, made known to posterity by history and tradition, will live for ever.  2
 
 
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