8 December 65 BC – 27 November 8 BC / Italy

Bki:Xxviii Three Handfuls Of Earth

You, my Archytas, philosopher, and measurer of land,
of the sea, of wide sands, are entombed
in a small mound of meagre earth near the Matinian shore,
and it’s of no use to you in the least,

that you, born to die, have explored the celestial houses
crossed, in spirit, the rounds of the sky.
Tantalus, Pelop’s father, died too, a guest of the gods,
and Tithonus took off to the heavens,

Minos gained entry to great Jupiter’s secrets, Tartarus
holds Euphorbus, twice sent to Orcus,
though he bore witness, carrying his shield there, to Trojan times,
and left nothing more behind, for black Death,

but his skin and his bones, and that certainly made him, Archytas,
to your mind, no trivial example
of Nature and truth. But there’s still one night that awaits us all,
and each, in turn, makes the journey of death.

The Furies deliver some as a spectacle for cruel Mars,
the greedy sea’s the sailor’s ruin:
the funerals of the old, and the young, close ranks together,
and no one’s spared by cruel Proserpine.

Me too, the south wind, Notus, swift friend of setting Orion,
drowned deep in Illyrian waters.
O, sailor, don’t hesitate, from spite, to grant a little treacherous
sand, to my unburied bones and skull.

So that, however the east wind might threaten the Italian
waves, thrashing the Venusian woods,
you’ll be safe, yourself, and rich rewards will flow from the source,
from even-handed Jupiter, and from
Neptune, who is the protector of holy Tarentum. Are you
indifferent to committing a wrong
that will harm your innocent children hereafter? Perhaps
a need for justice, and arrogant

disdain, await you, too: don’t let me be abandoned here
my prayers unanswered: no offering
will absolve you. Though you hurry away, it’s a brief delay:
three scattered handfuls of earth will free you.
107 Total read