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IV.11. Fur et Lucerna


Parallels: For parallel versions, see Perry 513.


Lucernam fur accendit ex ara Iouis
ipsumque compilauit ad lumen suum.
Onustus qui sacrilegio cum discederet,
repente uocem sancta misit Religio:
"Malorum quamuis ista fuerint munera
mihique inuisa, ut non offendar subripi,
tamen, sceleste, spiritu culpam lues,
olim cum adscriptus uenerit poenae dies.
Sed ne ignis noster facinori praeluceat,
per quem uerendos excolit pietas deos,
ueto esse tale luminis commercium."
Itaque hodie nec lucernam de flamma deum
nec de lucerna fas est accendi sacrum.
Quot res contineat hoc argumentum utiles
non explicabit alius quam qui repperit.
Significat primum saepe quos ipse alueris
tibi inueniri maxime contrarios;
secundum ostendit scelera non ira deum,
Fatorum dicto sed puniri tempore;
nouissime interdicit ne cum melefico
usum bonus consociet ullius rei.


Here is the poem in a more prose-like word order for easy reading:


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Here is the poem with meter marks:


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A thief lit his lamp from the altar of Jupiter and then robbed the god by the light of his own fire. When he left, laden with the spoils of sacrilege, holy Religion herself suddenly began to speak, 'Although those gifts were the offerings of wicked man and therefore hateful to me (so that I am in no way offended by their theft), you will nevertheless pay for this with your life, you villain, when the day of your assigned punishment arrives! However, so that our fire -- this fire which the pious employ in their worship of the awesome gods -- may never serve to illuminate the path of crime, I hereby forbid all such traffic in light.' This is why even today one may no longer light a lamp from the flame that is sacred to the gods, nor is it permitted to use a lamp to light the sacred fire.

Only the author who devised this story, and no on else, can explain to you how many useful lessons it contains. First of all, it shows that someone that you yourself have supported often proves to be your worst enemy; second, it shows that crimes are not punished by the wrath of the gods but only at the time that is decreed by the Fates; finally, it forbids good people to have anything in common with evil-doers.


The Sacrilegious Thief (trans. C. Smart)

A villain to Jove's altar came

To light his candle in the flame,

And robb'd the god in dead of night,

By his own consecrated light:

Then thus an awful voice was sent,

As with the sacrilege he went:

"Though all this gold and silver plate

As gifts of evil men I hate;

And their removal from the fane

Can cause the Deity no pain;

Yet, caitiff, at th' appointed time

Thy life shall answer for thy crime.

But, for the future, lest this blaLe,

At which the pious pray and praise,

Should guide the wicked, I decree

That no such intercourse there be."

Hence to this day all men decline

To light their candle at the shrine;

Nor from a candle e'er presume

The holy light to re-illume.

How many things are here contained,

By him alone can be explain'd

Who could this useful tale invent.

In the first place, herein is meant,

That they are often most your foes

Who from your fost'ring hand arose.

Next, that the harden'd villain's fate

Is not from wrath precipitate,

But rather at a destined hour.

Lastly, we're charg'd with all our pow'r,

To keep ourselves, by care intense,

From all connexions with offence.




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