“Why don’t you look again?” suggested a London colleague. “It may be the best description of it in Latin literature.”
¶ ‘There is a place in the centre of the world, between land and sea
and the expanse of the sky—the boundary point of the threefold domain.
From there whatever happens is viewed—anywhere, however distant its region,
and every voice comes through to its receptive ears.
Rumour lives here, and has chosen a house for herself in its topmost citadel,
and she has added countless entrances and a thousand doorways to the building,
and has not closed the thresholds with any doors.
It is open, night and day: the whole structure is of resonant metal,
the whole of it resounds, and sends back voices, and repeats what it hears;
there is no rest inside, and no silence in any part—
yet there is no shouting, but the murmurs of low voices…
A crowd occupies its halls: they come and go, an empty-headed mob,
and thousands of fabrications—rumours mixed with facts—spread everywhere,
and set confused talk in motion.
Some of these people fill empty ears with their chatter,
others carry the stories elsewhere, and the size of the fiction grows,
and each new teller adds something to what he has heard.
There dwells Credulity, and unthinking Error,
and groundless Celebration, and dismayed Fears,
and sudden Troublemaking, and Whispers of dubious origin.
Rumour herself sees whatever action is going on, in sky, on sea,
on land, and she investigates the entire globe.’
—Metamorphoses XII. 39-49, 53-63.
For any who would like to criticise the translation, here is the whole passage:
¶ Orbe locus medio est inter terrasque fretumque
caelestesque plagas, triplicis confinia mundi; 40
unde quod est usquam, quamvis regionibus absit,
inspicitur, penetratque cavas vox omnis ad aures:
Fama tenet summaque domum sibi legit in arce,
innumerosque aditus ac mille foramina tectis
addidit et nullis inclusit limina portis; 45
nocte dieque patet: tota est ex aere sonanti,
tota fremit vocesque refert iteratque quod audit;
nulla quies intus nullaque silentia parte,
nec tamen est clamor, sed parvae murmura vocis,
qualia de pelagi, siquis procul audiat, undis 50
esse solent, qualemve sonum, cum Iuppiter atras
increpuit nubes, extrema tonitrua reddunt.
atria turba tenet: veniunt, leve vulgus, euntque
mixtaque cum veris passim commenta vagantur
milia rumorum confusaque verba volutant; 55
e quibus hi vacuas inplent sermonibus aures,
hi narrata ferunt alio, mensuraque ficti
crescit, et auditis aliquid novus adicit auctor.
illic Credulitas, illic temerarius Error
vanaque Laetitia est consternatique Timores 60
Seditioque repens dubioque auctore Susurri;
ipsa, quid in caelo rerum pelagoque geratur
et tellure, videt totumque inquirit in orbem.
—Metamorphoses XII. 39-63