Tempus fugit is a Latin phrase, usually translated into English as "time flies". The expression comes from line 284 of book 3 of Virgil's Georgics, where it appears as fugit inreparabile tempus: "it escapes, irretrievable time". The phrase is used in both its Latin and English forms as a proverb that "time's a-wasting".
Tempus fugit is typically employed as an admonition against sloth and procrastination (cf. carpe diem) rather than an argument for licentiousness (cf. "gather ye rosebuds while ye may"); the English form is often merely descriptive: "time flies like the wind", "time flies when you're having fun".
The phrase is a common motto, particularly on sundials and clocks. It also has been used on gravestones.
Some writers have attempted rebuttals: Time goes, you say? Ah, no! alas, time stays, we go. by H(enry) Austin Dobson 1840–1921. 'Hêd Amser! / Meddi Na! / Erys Amser / Dyn Â' on sundial at Univ of Bangor, North Wales. says the sundial was commissioned by Sir William Henry Preece, and offers an English equivalent: Time flies, thou sayest - Nay! Man flies; Time still doth stay. Another English version is: Time Flies, Say Not So: Time Remains,'Tis Man Must Go.
In the Georgics
The phrase's full appearance in Virgil's Georgics is:
|Omne adeo genus in terris hominumque ferarumque||Thus every Creature , and of every Kind ,|
The secret Joys of sweet Coition find :
Not only Man's Imperial Race ; . . .
|Nay, every race on earth of men, and beasts,|
|et genus aequoreum, pecudes pictaeque volucres,|| . . . but they|
That wing the liquid Air ; or swim the Sea ,
Or haunt the Desart , . . .
|And ocean-folk, and flocks, and painted birds,|
|in furias ignemque ruunt: amor omnibus idem. ...|| . . . rush into the flame :|
For Love is Lord of all ; and is in all the same .
|Rush to the raging fire: love sways them all.|
|Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus,||But time is lost , which never will renew ,||Fast flies meanwhile the irreparable hour,|
|singula dum capti circumvectamur amore.||While we too far the pleasing Path pursue ;|
Surveying Nature , with too nice a view .
|As point to point our charmed round we trace.|
- Vergilius Maro, Publius. Georgicon, III. c. 29 BC. Hosted at Wikisource. (in Latin)
- Dryden, John (trans.). The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis, 3rd ed., Vol. I, pp. 163–166. Jacob Tonson (London), 1709. Hosted at Google Books. Accessed 30 May 2014.
- Rhoades, James (trans.). Bucolics, Aeneid, and Georgics of Vergil. Ginn & Co. (Boston), 1900. Hosted at MIT. Accessed 30 May 2014.
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