By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Power of Success

Dragon Boat Races
Dragon Boat Races (Photo credit: Telstar Logistics)
I won't quote Norman Vincent Peale or Dale Carnegie. But rather we can look to Vergil in Book V of the Aeneid (lines 227-31):

Tum uero ingeminat clamor cunctique sequentem
instigant studiis, resonatque fragoribus aether.
hi proprium decus et partum indignantur honorem
ni teneant, uitamque uolunt pro laude pacisci; 
hos successus alit: possunt, quia posse uidentur.


"But then the shouting redoubles and all the onlookers urge on with zeal the pursuing boat, and the air resounds with the roar.

These men [in the lead] are angry lest they fail to hold on to their own glory and their already gained honor, and they even wish to trade their life for the sake of praise; on the other hand, success nourishes the others who are in pursuit: they are able, because they seem to be able" (my non-literal translation).

What is the context? The context is a friendly boat race among the Trojans. Vergil first describes the indignation of the leading boat which is in danger of being overtaken by a pursuing boat. The men in the leading craft naturally do not want to lose their lead. At the same time, the pursuing vessel is confidently elated because it has managed to make up so much lost ground--its success in closing the gap spurs it further onward.

In short, success breeds success. That is why many advise us to become more mindful of what we have actually accomplished thus far and be thankful for it: that thankful awareness spurs us onward to greater achievements, as the dramatic advance in the boat race spurred the men advancing from the rear to try to surpass even the leading boat. Yet, in the end, this pursuing boat still came in second place. The leading boat did keep its lead and its glory. Yet, second place is very good for a boat that started the race at the rear of the pack. With due respect to Coach Lombardi, winning first place is not everything. Sometimes winning is just closing the gap with which we began the race.


(Translation consulted, which also provides the broader context of the famous boat race:
 http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/VirgilAeneidV.htm#_Toc1537951 .)



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