Petronius, Satyricon 5:34
Banqueting in Nero’s palace.
Trimalchio’s extravagant and outrageous dinner feast, in the heart of ancient Rome, paused as Ethiopian slaves hustled away the previous course of peahen eggs. Oh, so delicious they were, nicely seasoned with pepper and hiding fat orioles within. Soon, two other slaves with curly hair carried little skin bottles and poured wine over our hands. Everyone clapped enthusiastically, and then glass jars, carefully sealed and coated, were set before us.
Trimalchio, the host, interrupted our wine-label reading and announced that this wine was the real stuff, genuine Falerian wine 100 years old, bottled in the consulship of Opimius He smiled and then chirped that this expensive elixir would outlast us all and urged us to drink heartily.
While we were sipping and savoring the luxurious wine, a whistling slave brought in a silver skeleton fastened in such a way that the joints could be bent in any direction. The servants tossed it upon the table before us and twisted it into several suggestive postures while Trimalchio recited his own poem:
Nothing but bones, that what we are.
Death hustles us humans away.
Today we’re here, and tomorrow we’re not,
So live and drink while you may!
David said our lives are nothing more than breaths of air that slip into the evening mists with barely a notice. He and Trimalchio, with his wriggling silver skeleton, mutter the same truth: we don’t have long on this earth.
“LORD, …You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath” (Ps 139:4-5).
Kiss the skeleton
and make today count.
“This is a brief life, but in its brevity
it offers us some splendid moments, some meaningful adventures.”