Home > Poetry > Emblem 152: On Human Life
Published: Wed Jul 1 2009
Wosene Worke Kosrof, The Inventor V (detail), 2022, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
Emblem 152: On Human Life

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 the author of seven books, including the celebrated Half the House: a Memoir, recently published in a Twentieth-Anniversary Edition (New Rivers Press, 2015), and the memoir Love & Fury (Beacon Press, 2014). In addition to the collection Interference and Other Stories, he has published four volumes of poetry: Without Paradise; Gold Star Road, winner of the Barrow Street Pres Poetry Prize and the Sheila Motton Award from The New England Poetry Club; Emblem; and Noon until Night. His work, both prose and verse, has appeared regularly for the past forty years in such journals as AGNI, Barrow Street, Consequence, Harvard Review, The Hudson Review, The Literary Review, Poetry, Witness, and elsewhere. A former chair of PEN New England, he is senior writer in residence at Emerson College and adjunct assistant professor of creative writing at Columbia University. (updated 10/2018)

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