Triumph of Fame
I scarce could take mine eyes from such a sight
Until a voice said: "Look to the other side:
'Tis not in arms alone that fame is won."
I turned to the left; and Plato there I saw,
Who of them all came closest to the goal
Where to by Heaven's grace man may attain;
Then Aristotle, of high intellect,
Pythagoras, who in humility
First gave philosophy its fitting name;
Socrates, Xenophon, and the aged bard
To whom the Muses were so kind that Troy
And Argos and Mycenae know thereof:
He, first to paint men's ancient memories,
Sang of the toils and of the wanderings
Of the son of Laertes, and of a goddess' son.
And side by side with him, singing, there went
The Mantuan, who seems to rival him,
And one whose passing made the grass to bloom:
This is that Marcus Tullius, in whom
The fruits and flowers of eloquence appear:
Theirs are the eyes that light our Latin tongue.
Then came Demosthenes, hoping no more
That to the highest place he might attain,
And ill content with second honors, yet
He seemed to be a fiery thunderbolt:
Let Aeschines report, who, hearing, knew
His own voice faint beside that mighty voice.
I cannot rightly and in order tell
Where 'twas, or when, I saw this man or that,
Or who came first and who came afterward.
For, thinking of innumerable things,
And gazing at the great and noble throng,
My eyes and thoughts were straying constantly.
Solon I saw, who nursed the useful plant
That, if it be ill tended, bears but ill:
And the six sages of whom Greece is proud.
Leading the company of our land, I saw
Varro, the third of the great lights of Rome,
Who shines the more, the more you gaze at him;
Crispus Sallustius then; and at his side
One who held him in scorn, and envied him?
And this was Livy, the great Paduan.
While I was watching him I chanced to see
Pliny, his neighbor of Verona, who,
Wise in his writings, was unwise in death.
The Platonist Plotinus then I saw,
Who, thinking himself safe in solitude,
Was overtaken by the destiny
That had been with him ever since his birth,
So that his providence availed him nought;
Hortensius, Crassus, Galba and Antony;
Calvus and Pollio, who grew so proud
That they made wordy war on Cicero,
Seeking a fame that they did not deserve.
Thucydides I saw, who clearly tells
The times and places and the valiant deeds
Of war, and who it was that fought and bled.
I saw the father of Grecian history,
Herodotus; the great geometer,
Bedecked with circles, triangles and squares;
Then Porphyry, a stone against our faith,
Who with the sharpness of his syllogisms
His quiver filled, and used his sophistries
As weapons in his fight against the truth;
Hippocrates, who much advanced his art
By dicta given now but little heed;
Before him Aesculapius and Apollo,
Shrouded so close they scarce could be discerned,
Their names hidden by time and worn away;
Then Galen followed, who the healing art
That he found briefly stated and obscure,
Made fully clear-though it be spoiled today.
Then Anaxarchus, manly and resolute,
Then, stronger than a rock, Xenocrates,
Who could not be compelled to a shameful act.
Then Archimedes, with his eyes down-bent;
Democritus, absorbed in thought profound;
Who robbed himself of gold and of his sight;
Then aged Hippias, who dared to say:
"I know all things"; and then, certain of nought,
Archesilaus, doubtful of everything;
Then Heraclitus, covert in his words;
Diogenes the cynic, covered less,
In what he did, than shame would have required;
And one who, coming home with foreign lore,
Felt himself enviable and well content
E'en though his fields were all despoiled and bare.
Here too I saw the searcher Dicaearchus,
Quintilian also, Plutarch, Seneca,
Who differed in their several masteries;
And some I saw who have disturbed the seas
With adverse winds and wanderings of mind,
Famed for contention, not for what they knew.
Like lions or like dragons did they fight
That lash with their tails: what good is there in this,
Each being well content with what he knows?
Carneades I saw, so keen of mind
And ready-tongued that when he spoke there seemed
But little difference' twixt the true and the false.
He spent his lengthy life and his thoughtfulness
Seeking to win accord between the sects
Fiercely engaged in literary war;
But he could not prevail: as doctrines grew
So envy grew, and with the rise of learning
Diffused its poisons into swollen hearts.
'Gainst him of Syros, who raised human hopes,
Claiming the immortality of the soul,
Came Epicurus (whence his fame is less)
Who dared to argue that it was not true?
So infamous and blinded was his light!?
And those who followed him, as Metrodorus
And Aristippus, held to their master's thought.
Then with a marvelous spindle and weaver's beam
I saw Chrysippus weaving a subtle web.
Antisthenes and Anaximenes
I saw, Anaximander, and then Zeno,
Now with close fist and now with open palm,
Stating the fair opinion that he held.