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De rerum natura

Mother of Rome, delight of Gods and men,

Dear Venus that beneath the gliding stars

Makest to teem the many-voyaged main

And fruitful lands- for all of living things

Through thee alone are evermore conceived,

Through thee are risen to visit the great sun-

Before thee, Goddess, and thy coming on,

Flee stormy wind and massy cloud away,

For thee the daedal Earth bears scented flowers,

For thee waters of the unvexed deep

Smile, and the hollows of the serene sky

Glow with diffused radiance for thee!

For soon as comes the springtime face of day,

And procreant gales blow from the West unbarred,

First fowls of air, smit to the heart by thee,

Foretoken thy approach, O thou Divine,

And leap the wild herds round the happy fields

Or swim the bounding torrents. Thus amain,

Seized with the spell, all creatures follow thee

Whithersoever thou walkest forth to lead,

And thence through seas and mountains and swift streams,

Through leafy homes of birds and greening plains,

Kindling the lure of love in every breast,

Thou bringest the eternal generations forth,

Kind after kind. And since 'tis thou alone

Guidest the Cosmos, and without thee naught

Is risen to reach the shining shores of light,

Nor aught of joyful or of lovely born,

Thee do I crave co-partner in that verse

Which I presume on Nature to compose

For Memmius mine, whom thou hast willed to be

Peerless in every grace at every hour-

Wherefore indeed, Divine one, give my words

Immortal charm. Lull to a timely rest

O'er sea and land the savage works of war,

For thou alone hast power with public peace

To aid mortality; since he who rules

The savage works of battle, puissant Mars,

How often to thy bosom flings his strength

O'ermastered by the eternal wound of love-

And there, with eyes and full throat backward thrown,

Gazing, my Goddess, open-mouthed at thee,

Pastures on love his greedy sight, his breath

Hanging upon thy lips. Him thus reclined

Fill with thy holy body, round, above!

Pour from those lips soft syllables to win

Peace for the Romans, glorious Lady, peace!

For in a season troublous to the state

Neither may I attend this task of mine

With thought untroubled, nor mid such events

The illustrious scion of the Memmian house

Neglect the civic cause.

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.

The rest leap far asunder, far recoil,

Leaving huge gaps between: and these supply

For us thin air and splendour-lights of the sun.

And many besides wander the mighty void-

Cast back from unions of existing things,

Nowhere accepted in the universe,

And nowise linked in motions to the rest.

And of this fact (as I record it here)

An image, a type goes on before our eyes

Present each moment; for behold whenever

The sun's light and the rays, let in, pour down

Across dark halls of houses: thou wilt see

The many mites in many a manner mixed

Amid a void in the very light of the rays,

And battling on, as in eternal strife,

And in battalions contending without halt,

In meetings, partings, harried up and down.

From this thou mayest conjecture of what sort

The ceaseless tossing of primordial seeds

Amid the mightier void- at least so far

As small affair can for a vaster serve,

And by example put thee on the spoor

Of knowledge. For this reason too 'tis fit

Thou turn thy mind the more unto these bodies

Which here are witnessed tumbling in the light:

Namely, because such tumblings are a sign

That motions also of the primal stuff

Secret and viewless lurk beneath, behind.

For thou wilt mark here many a speck, impelled

By viewless blows, to change its little course,

And beaten backwards to return again,

Hither and thither in all directions round.

Lo, all their shifting movement is of old,

From the primeval atoms; for the same

Primordial seeds of things first move of self,

And then those bodies built of unions small

And nearest, as it were, unto the powers

Of the primeval atoms, are stirred up

By impulse of those atoms' unseen blows,

And these thereafter goad the next in size:

Thus motion ascends from the primevals on,

And stage by stage emerges to our sense,

Until those objects also move which we

Can mark in sunbeams, though it not appears

What blows do urge them.

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.