Another Epigram of Buchanan: Icones 2

The first of George Buchanan’s Word-Pictures is on Saturn; the second, fittingly enough, is on Jupiter. I have translated it below, once again rendering the two elegiac couplets as three iambic pentameter/tetrameter couplets.

The backdrop of the poem seems to be euhemerist, an approach Buchanan then uses to laud the virtue of liberality or generosity.

That is, Jupiter seems to be envisioned here as an early king who stood out for his beneficence. His reputation (fama) for that reason seems to have posthumously bestowed on him the position of a god in heaven. Buchanan the points the moral in two different ways, which we might call “objective” and “subjective” in relation to the one who is generous. “Objectively,” generosity, as an equalizing force, raises the estate of the lowly and makes the humblest citizen (Quiritem) the peers of kings. “Subjectively,” it makes the giver like the gods who, because of their exalted status, give gifts to mankind asymmetrically. Indeed, this virtue is the only thing (una) that makes men like gods.

I give the Latin text as found in Buchanan’s 1725 Opera omnia, Tomus secundus, pars prima, 386. Enjoy!

In Latin:

II. Jupiter

Largus opis, nec avarus opum, dum regna tenebam:

    inde mihi coelum fama benigna dedit.

Haec aequat virtus humili de plebe Quiritem

    regibus, haec homines efficit una deos.

And in English:

2. Jupiter

While I was in possession of the realm,

    I freely gave of wealth, of wealth

Not greedy. Mortal men thence heaven’s helm

    to me apportioned: so top-shelf

This virtue is. It kings the humblest homme

    And gods the prodigal himself.


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