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Emblem 152: On Human Life

by Richard Hoffman

adapted from Andrea Alciati’s Book of Emblems

Now more than ever
weep for our troubles,
Heraclitus: many
calamities befall us.

You, Democritus,
now more than ever,
laugh: our life’s become

How long, I wonder,
should I weep with you
over this mess,
my friend Heraclitus?

And how much laughter,
dear Democritus,
is too much, and how much
just enough?

Andrea Alciati’s Emblematum liber or Book of Emblems, a collection of 212 Latin emblem poems, was first published in 1531 and was expanded in various editions during the author’s lifetime.


Richard Hoffman is author of the Half the House: a Memoir, the poetry collections Without Paradise and Gold Star Road, winner of the 2006 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize, and Interference & Other Stories, forthcoming in fall 2009. His work, both verse and prose, has appeared in AGNI, Ascent, Harvard Review, The Hudson Review, The Literary Review, Poetry, Witness, and other magazines. He teaches at Emerson College and in the Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine. (7/2009)

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