The opening of Book 2 of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura (Loeb text and translation):
Pleasant it is, when on the great sea the winds trouble the waters, to gaze from shore upon another’s great tribulation: not because any man’s troubles are a delectable joy, but because to perceive what ills you are free from yourself is pleasant. Pleasant is it also to behold great encounters of warfare arrayed over the plains, with no part of yours in the peril. But nothing is more delightful than to possess lofty sanctuaries serene, well fortified by the teachings of the wise, whence you may look down upon others and behold them all astray, wandering abroad and seeking the path of life:—the strife of wits, the fight for precedence, all labouring night and day with surpassing toil to mount upon the pinnacle of riches and to lay hold on power. O pitiable minds of men, O blind intelligences! In what gloom of life, in how great perils is passed all your poor span of time! not to see that all nature barks for is this, that pain be removed away out of the body, and that the mind, kept away from care and fear, enjoy a feeling of delight!
Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis,
e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem;
non quia vexari quemquamst iucunda voluptas,
sed quibus ipse malis careas quia cernere suave est.
suave etiam belli certamina magna tueri
per campos instructa tua sine parte pericli.
sed nil dulcius est bene quam munita tenere
edita doctrina sapientum templa serena,
despicere unde queas alios passimque videre
errare atque viam palantis quaerere vitae,
certare ingenio, contendere nobilitate,
noctes atque dies niti praestante labore
ad summas emergere opes rerumque potiri.
o miseras hominum mentes, o pectora caeca!
qualibus in tenebris vitae quantisque periclis
degitur hoc aevi quodcumquest! nonne videre
nil aliud sibi naturam latrare, nisi utqui
corpore seiunctus dolor absit, mensque fruatur
iucundo sensu cura semota metuque?
Since this all tends to the modern ear to sound more elitist and self-congratulatory than Lucretius intended (especially pulled from context), I’ll call on Henri Bergson for something of a general defense of Lucretius’ overall intent (The Philosophy of Poetry: The Genius of Lucretius, pg 51-52):
Unable to see anything in the universe except cumulative or compensatory forces and convinced that whatever is results naturally and inevitably from whatever has been, Lucretius takes pity on the human race. Man stands helpless in the face of blind, unchanging forces that are and will continue throughout eternity to be at work. Man is the accidental product of a wretched combination of atoms brought temporarily together by inexorably natural laws and destined eventually to be torn apart by the same forces. Does he have a purpose in the universe? We think that matter was made for us, as if we were not subjected to its selfsame laws. We think that friendly or jealous gods protect or persecute us, as if unpredictable alien forces could intervene in nature, or as if we were not borne along in the all-embracing stream by the inexorable laws of matter. That is the source of Lucretius’ melancholy and of his compassion for mankind.
From the same source, according to him, mankind must seek its sweetest consolations. Whoever complains of his fate is ignorant of the true nature of things; he imagines that he has struggled and cries as if defeated. If he reflected and raised himself to the “serene regions” of philosophy, he would understand that any complaint is useless and out of place, for nature inexorably follows her course without taking note of him.