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De rerum natura

A man leaves his great house because he's bored

With life at home, and suddenly returns,

Finding himself no happier abroad.

He rushes off to his villa driving like mad,

You'ld think he's going to a house on fire,

And yawns before he's put his foot inside,

Or falls asleep and seeks oblivion,

Or even rushes back to town again.

So each man flies from himself (vain hope, because

It clings to him the more closely against his will)

And hates himself because he is sick in mind

And does not know the cause of his disease.

Nothing is more blissful than to occupy the heights effectively fortified by the teaching of the wise, tranquil sanctuaries from which you can look down upon others and see them wandering everywhere in their random search for the way of life, competing for intellectual eminence, disputing about rank, and striving night and day with prodigious effort to scale the summit of wealth and to secure power. O minds of mortals, blighted by your blindness! Amid what deep darkness and daunting dangers life’s little day is passed! To think that you should fail to see that nature importantly demands only that the body may be rid of pain, and that the mind, divorced from anxiety and fear, may enjoy a feeling of contentment!

Trees don't live in the sky, and clouds don't swim

In the salt seas, and fish don't leap in wheatfields,

Blood isn't found in wood, nor sap in rocks.

By fixed arrangement, all that live and grows

Submits to limit and restrictions.

You see that stones are worn away by time,

Rocks rot, and towers topple, even the shrines

And images of the gods grow very tired,

Develop crack or wrinkles, their holy wills

Unable to extend their fated term,

To litigate against the Laws of Nature.

And don't we see the monuments of men

Collapse, as if to ask us, "Are not we

As frail as those whom we commemorate?"?

Boulders come plunging down from the mountain heights,

Poor weaklings with no power to resist

The thrust that says to them, Your time has come!

But they would be rooted in steadfastness

Had they endured from time beyond all time,

As far back as infinity. Look about you!

Whatever it is that holds in its embrace

All earth, if it projects, as some men say,

All things out of itself, and takes them back

When they have perished, must itself consist

Of mortal elements. The parts must add

Up to the sum. Whatever gives away

Must lose in the procedure, and gain again

Whenever it takes back.


Humana ante oculos foede cum vita iaceret

in terris oppressa gravi sub religione,

quae caput a caeli regionibus ostendebat

horribili super aspectu mortalibus instans,

primum Graius homo mortalis tollere contra

est oculos ausus primusque obsistere contra;

quem neque fama deum nec fulmina nec minitanti

murmure compressit caelum, sed eo magis acrem

inritat animi virtutem, effringere ut arta

naturae primus portarum claustra cupiret.


When before our eyes human life was lying in shambles

in the lands, crushed under heavy Religion,

which was displaying its head from the regions of the sky,

lowering with a horrible face over mortals,

for the first time a Greek man dared to direct

his eyes against it, and he was the first to stand against it.

Neither the fame of the gods nor thunderbolds nor the sky

with its threatening murmur controlled him but it provoked

the sharp virtue of his mind so much more that he wanted

to be the first to break open the close-barred barriers of nature’s gates.


Toen het menselijke leven klaarblijkelijk op afstotelijke wijze

op aarde neerlag, verdrukt door de strenge godsdienst

die haar hoofd vanuit de hemelsferen toonde,

de stervelingen van boven bedreigend met zijn afgrijselijke blik,

durfde voor het eerst een Griekse sterveling zijn ogen

ertegen op te heffen en zich als eerste ertegen te verzetten;

Noch legenden over de goden, noch de bliksems, noch de hemel

met zijn dreigend gedreun konden hem het zwijgen opleggen,

maar des te meer vuurden ze zijn scherpe intelligentie aan, zodat hij als eerste

verlangde de strakke grendels van de poorten van de natuur open te breken.