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The Consolation of Philosophy

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SONG I.Boethius' Complaint. Who wrought my studious numbersSmoothly once in happier days,Now perforce in tears and sadnessLearn a mournful strain to raise.Lo, the Muses, grief-dishevelled,Guide my pen and voice my woe;Down their cheeks unfeigned the tear dropsTo my sad complainings flow!These alone in danger's hourFaithful found, have dared attendOn the footsteps of the exileTo his lonely journey's end.These that were the pride and pleasureOf my youth and high estateStill remain the only solaceOf the old man's mournful fate.Old? Ah yes; swift, ere I knew it,By these sorrows on me pressedAge hath come; lo, Grief hath bid meWear the garb that fits her best.O'er my head untimely sprinkledThese white hairs my woes proclaim,And the skin hangs loose and shrivelledOn this sorrow-shrunken frame.Blest is death that intervenes notIn the sweet, sweet years of peace,But unto the broken-hearted,When they call him, brings release!Yet Death passes by the wretched,Shuts his ear and slumbers deep;Will not heed the cry of anguish,Will not close the eyes that weep.For, while yet inconstant FortunePoured her gifts and all was bright,Death's dark hour had all but whelmed meIn the gloom of endless night.Now, because misfortune's shadowHath o'erclouded that false face,Cruel Life still halts and lingers,Though I loathe his weary race.Friends, why did ye once so lightlyVaunt me happy among men?Surely he who so hath fallenWas not firmly founded then. I.

While I was thus mutely pondering within myself, and recording my sorrowful complainings with my pen, it seemed to me that there appeared above my head a woman of a countenance exceeding venerable. Her eyes were bright as fire, and of a more than human keenness; her complexion was lively, her vigour showed no trace of enfeeblement; and yet her years were right full, and she plainly seemed not of our age and time. Her stature was difficult to judge. At one moment it exceeded not the common height, at another her forehead seemed to strike the sky; and whenever she raised her head higher, she began to pierce within the very heavens, and to baffle the eyes of them that looked upon her. Her garments were of an imperishable fabric, wrought with the finest threads and of the most delicate workmanship; and these, as her own lips afterwards assured me, she had herself woven with her own hands. The beauty of this vesture had been somewhat tarnished by age and neglect, and wore that dingy look which marble contracts from exposure. On the lower-most edge was inwoven the Greek letter Π [Greek: P], on the topmost the letter θ [Greek: Th], and between the two were to be seen steps, like a staircase, from the lower to the upper letter. This robe, moreover, had been torn by the hands of violent persons, who had each snatched away what he could clutch. Her right hand held a note-book; in her left she bore a staff. And when she saw the Muses of Poesie standing by my bedside, dictating the words of my lamentations, she was moved awhile to wrath, and her eyes flashed sternly....