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RES PUBLICA.[1]

SHIP OF STATE

Aspice mutatos Delphinum in corpora nautas
In rate pampineis frondibus implicita.
Quam remoratam alii remis, ac arte gubernant,
Praecipites alii sub vada caeca natant
Est in puppe Deus. quem supplex unus adorat:
Diffugiunt variae transtra per alta ferae.
Optima signatur Respublica imagine tali:
Turbida quam circum multa negotia stant.
Namque Deum in summo residentem Ecclesia placat.
At proceres, urbem pro ratione regunt.
Esse φιλανθρώπους quos (ut Delphinas) oportet.
Ut genus & cives prorsus amare suum.
Nec per magna etiam dubitare pericula mergi,
Ut respublica sit libera servitio.
Sic & amatores hominum, latraeque Deorum
Urbi cm fuerint: nulla tyrannis erit.

See how sailors in a ship woven round with strands of vine are changed to dolphins! Some steer their sluggish ship with oars and skill, while others swim headlong under the blind waves. A god’s in the poop, whom one meekly adores, while animals of different shapes flee across the high benches of the rowers. This picture shows the best kind of state, around which many confused crises stand. For the Church placates God, who sits in the highest place, and the nobles direct affairs of state, as is their duty. It is right that they be philanthropic (like the dolphins), and to love the citizens like their own kind. Don’t doubt that the ship will float even in dire perils if the state is free through service: if the city has lovers of men and servants of God, there will be no tyranny.

Notes:

1. The ‘ship of state’ is the oft-cited metaphor put forth by Plato in book VI of the Republic, calling for rule by philosopher-kings. It has been reproduced and satirised numerous times, including the humourous boat song in Bernstein’s version of Voltaire’s “Candide”.



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