When Jupiter was assigning the various gods their privileges, it so happened that Grief was not present with the rest: but when all had received their share, he too entered and claimed his due. Jupiter was at a loss to know what to do, for there was nothing left for him. However, at last he decided that to him should belong the tears that are shed for the dead. Thus it is the same with Grief as it is with the other gods. The more devoutly men render to him his due, the more lavish is he of that which he has to bestow. It is not well, therefore, to mourn long for the departed; else Grief, whose sole pleasure is in such mourning, will be quick to send fresh cause for tears.
Translation by VS Vernon Jones.
Olim Prometheus saeculi figulus noui
cura subtili Veritatem fecerat,
ut iura posset inter homines reddere.
Subito accersitus nuntio magni Iouis
commendat officinam fallaci Dolo,
in disciplinam nuper quem receperat.
Hic studio accensus, facie simulacrum pari,
una statura, simile et membris omnibus,
dum tempus habuit callida finxit manu.
Quod prope iam totum mire cum positum foret,
lutum ad faciendos illi defecit pedes.
Redit magister, quo festinanter Dolus
metu turbatus in suo sedit loco.
Mirans Prometheus tantam similitudinem
propriae uideri uoluit gloriam.
Igitur fornaci pariter duo signa intulit;
quibus percoctis atque infuso spiritu
modesto gressu sancta incessit Veritas,
at trunca species haesit in uestigio.
Tunc falsa imago atque operis furtiui labor
Mendacium appellatum est, quod negantibus
pedes habere facile et ipse adsentio.
Simulata interdum initio prosunt hominibus,
sed tempore ipsa tamen apparet ueritas.
Prometheus, the Titan of forethought and clever counsel, was a divine potter that was assigned the task of molding mankind out of clay. One day, he decided to dedicate his skill to sculpting the form of the spirit Veritas – Truth – so that he would be able to instill men with virtue. As he toiled, he was called away from his workshop by a sudden summons from the King of the Gods. Dolus – Trickery – had recently become one of Prometheus’ apprentices, and was left in charge of the workshop in the titan’s absence. Dolus used his time in the workshop to create a figure with the same size and possessing the same features as Veritas with his crafty, sly hands. When he was almost finished with his sculpture, which was truly almost identical to Prometheus’ work, he ran out of clay to use for her feet. The divine potter returned, and Dolus scurried to his seat, trembling with fear that his master should discover what he had done and punish him. Prometheus was startled by the similarities between the two clay figures and decided he would take credit for both as a testament to his own skill. He put both statues in the kiln, and after they had been fired, he breathed life into them. Veritas walked with measured, steady steps, while her twin was immobile, stuck in her tracks. The imitation Veritas, a forgery and product of deception and artifice, aquired the name Mendacium – Falsehood. Falsehood has no feet: now and again something that is false can start off successfully, but with time, Truth will always prevail.
English translation by Elizabeth Barrial.