We do not regard what is before our feet; we all gaze at the stars.
This is the father of Roman poetry, the Homer of Rome, and it’s really too bad his work exists only in fragments. There are many ancient writers I’d love to visit, if I could hop in a time machine and head off for some literary tourism, and he is one.
He wasn’t likely to be the kind of man I’d have enjoyed an evening of conversation with, judging from what’s said of him: a man’s man, sounds a bit macho, and he liked his aristocracy. But who knows? Writers are writers, and it’s just possible a conversation over a bowl of wine or two might have been scintillating. This was a man, trilingual, who liked to say he had three hearts. A three-hearted man probably has got many interesting things to say.
And the things he said! This quote has always struck me as bitter and sweet. It’s true, and it’s hopeful, and it’s a bit sad. He packed a lot of human understanding into these few words. Depending on your mood, you can see it as a celebration or a condemnation. That’s the power of poetry: to give us words that say more than what they would seem to on the surface. (Of course, geologists would need to fiddle the wording a bit: we’re always looking down at the ground. Sometimes, we need to be reminded to look at the stars.)
He also said, “Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with mourning; for I still live, as I pass to and fro through the mouths of men.” This is our immortality: these words, passed from mouth to mouth, mind to mind.