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On the Nature of Things
by Titus Lucretius Carus
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Charles Segal, Harvard University
"The translation is accurate, clear, readable, and vigorous. The introduction is excellent."
David Sedley, Christ's College, University of Cambridge
"Meticulous, judicious and reader-friendly in equal measure, it embodies the fruits of a lifetime's study of Lucretius' poetic masterpiece."
Martin Ferguson Smith's work on Lucretius is both well known and highly regarded. However, his 1969 translation of De Rerum Natura--long out of print--is virtually unknown. Readers will share our excitement in the discovery of this accurate and fluent prose rendering. For this edition, Professor Smith provides a revised translation, new Introduction, headnotes and bibliography.
Text: English, Latin (translation)
But yet creation's neither crammed nor blocked About by body: there's in things a void- Which to have known will serve thee many a turn, Nor will not leave thee wandering in doubt, Forever searching in the sum of all.
The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Long poem written in Latin as De rerum natura by Lucretius which sets forth the physical theory of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. The title of Lucretius' work translates that of the chief work of Epicurus, Peri physeos (On Nature). Lucretius divided his argument into six books. Books I and II establish the main principles of the atomic universe, refute the rival theories of the pre-Socratic cosmic philosophers Heracleitus, Empedocles, and Anaxagoras, and covertly attack the Stoics, a school of moralists rivaling that of Epicurus. Book III demonstrates the atomic structure and mortality of the soul and ends with a triumphant sermon on the theme "Death is nothing to us." Book IV describes the mechanics of sense perception, thought, and certain bodily functions and condemns sexual passion. Book V describes the creation and working of the world and the celestial bodies and the evolution of life and human society. Book VI explains remarkable phenomena of the earth and sky, in particular, thunder and lightning. The poem ends with a description of the plague at Athens, a somber picture of death that contrasts with the depiction of spring and birth in the invocation to Venus with which the poem opens. The linguistic style of the poem is notable. Lucretius' aim was to render the bald and abstract Greek prose of Epicurus into Latin hexameters at a time when Latin had no philosophic vocabulary. He succeeded by turning common words to a technical use. When necessary, he invented words. He freely used alliteration and assonance, solemn and often metrically convenient archaic forms, and old constructions. He imitated or echoed Homer, the dramatists Aeschylus and Euripides, the poet Callimachus, the historian Thucydides, and the physician Hippocrates.
About the Author
Martin Ferguson Smith is Prof. of Classics Emeritus, Univ. of Durham, United Kingdom. Among his scholarly achievements are his revisions of the Rouse translation of De Rerum Natura for the Loeb Classical Library.
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