List the twelve things we need in order to be happy.

Times Online – Peter Stothard – WBLG
Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gentle sex and free money

List the twelve things we need in order to be happy.

And which is the poem most often translated into English from another language?

A thoughtful friend in Washington has just sent me a copy of Joshua Weiner's new collection of poems, From the Book of Giants.

In it is a neat contemporary version of Martial's epigram (10.47) on the best way to attain a happy life, a dozen things which we all need at all times. [See below for the poem]

This is surely the one, the Latin poem (at least) that has most often found an English home – and all because it gives such good answers.

Martial, a Spaniard who came to Rome in the reign of Nero and survived his successors till early in the second century AD, set out a long list of necessities for happiness – from unearned income to fearlessness before death.

To cite his English imitators, they are:

'The richesse left, not got with pain. . .' (Henry Howard, c. 1540)

'A Soyle, not barren; a continewall fire. .' (Ben Jonson, 1640)

'City seldome, Law-suits never. .' (Richard Fanshawe, 1648)

'Quick wit, a Body well inclin'd. .' (Edward Sherburne, 1651)

'A prudent plainesse, equal friends. .' (Robert Fletcher, 1656)

'Thy active mind in equal temper keep . .' (Abraham Cowley, 1668)

'Discourse that may in Pleasure end. .' (Thomas Heyrick, 1691)

'A wife discreet, yet blithe and bright. . ' (Goldwin Smith, 1903)

'Of wine enough to banish care. .' (A.E. Street, 1907)

'Sound sleep that makes the darkness fly. .' (W.J.Courthope, 1914)

'Contentment with your native gift. .' (Rolfe Humphries, 1963)

'Neither dread your last day, nor long for death. .' (Peter Porter, 1972)

A good list.

OK, it needs a little gender-adjustment. But the list for a happy human seems to have been much the same throughout the ages?

Weiner makes some additions of his own:

'Open affection with your wife and kids'.

And he borrows also from elsewhere in Martial, (Book 8, Epigram14):

'Clear pipes in winter, in summer screens that fit'

He praises:

'A bed in which to love, read, dream and re-imagine love'.

And he ends with a free grace that any of his predecessors might have appreciated.

'To know the soul exceeds where it's confined

Yet does not seek the terms of its release,

Like a child's kite catching at the wind

That flies because the hand holds tight the line.'

Posted by Peter Stothard on Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 08:10 in Books |

VITAM quae faciunt beatiorem,
Fecundissime Martialis, haec sunt:
Res non parta labore sed relicta;
Non ingrates ager, focus perennis;
Lis numquam, toga rara, mens quieta;
Vires ingenuae, salubre corpus;
Prudens simplicitas, pares amici,
Convictus facilis, sine arte mensa;
Nox non ebria sed soluta curis,
Non tristis torus et tamen pudicus;
Somnus qui faciat breves tenebras:
Quod sis esse velis nihilque malis;
Summum nec metuas diem nec optes

Site of Lupercalia, perhaps?

From UKTV History
New treasures discovered on Palatine Hill

Excavations on Rome's Palatine Hill have revealed more about the city's past and uncovered new historic treasures.
Archaeologists working on the Palatine Hill in the heart of Rome have uncovered host of new features and artefacts.

A grotto discovered under the Roman site is thought to have been revered by Ancient Romans as the cave where the city's founding fathers, Romulus and Remus, were suckled by a wolf.

The monuments on the Palatine Hill are crumbling and efforts are underway to preserve them, with large portions of the site currently closed to the public. The hill holds layers and layers of Rome's past, from the remains of huts dating from the eighth century BC to medieval and Renaissance structures.

A 52ft deep cavity stumbled upon by archaeologists underneath the hill revealed a well-preserved vaulted cave decorated with frescoes that may have been the famed lupercale, on which the myth of the founding of Rome is based.

Experts are meeting to discuss the future of the ancient hill, which features imperial homes, monuments and places of worship. Many of the ancient temples and palaces have been under-explored and recent finds include insignia thought to have been owned by the emperor Maxentius, an alabaster and marble tiger and an ancient sewer.

The ornate, decorated halls of the palaces of the first emperor, Augustus, may be opened to tours later this year.

This news story was first published on 24th January 2007.
© 2007 Adfero Ltd.