Front Page Titles (by Subject) Book II: Deals with the Motion and Forms of the Atoms, and their Combination in Things - On the Nature of Things
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Book II: Deals with the Motion and Forms of the Atoms, and their Combination in Things - Titus Lucretius Carus, On the Nature of Things 
Lucretius On the Nature of Things, trans. Cyril Bailey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910).
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Deals with the Motion and Forms of the Atoms, and their Combination in Things
Introduction: the calm heights of philosophy.Sweet it is, when on the great sea the winds are buffeting the waters, to gaze from the land on another’s great struggles; not because it is pleasure or joy that any one should be distressed, but because it is sweet to perceive from what misfortune you yourself are free. Sweet is it too, to behold great contests of war in full array over the plains, when you have no part in the danger. But nothing is more gladdening than to dwell in the calm high places, firmly embattled on the heights by the teaching of the wise, whence you can look down on others, and see them wandering hither and thither, going astray as they seek the way of life, in strife matching their wits or rival claims of birth, struggling night and day by surpassing effort to rise up to the height of power and gain possession of the world. Ah! miserable minds of men, blind hearts! in what darkness of life, in what great dangers ye spend this little span of years!Nature’s needs to think that ye should not see that nature cries aloud for nothing else but that pain may be kept far sundered from the body, and that, withdrawn from care and fear, she may enjoy in mind the sense of pleasure!for the body And so we see that for the body’s nature but few things at all are needful, even such as can take away pain. Yea, though pleasantly enough from time to time they can prepare for us in many ways a lap of luxury, yet nature herself feels no loss, if there are not golden images of youths about the halls, grasping fiery torches in their right hands, that light may be supplied to banquets at night, if the house does not glow with silver or gleam with gold, nor do fretted and gilded ceilings re-echo to the lute. And yet, for all this, men lie in friendly groups on the soft grass near some stream of water under the branches of a tall tree, and at no great cost delightfully refresh their bodies, above all when the weather smiles on them, and the season of the year bestrews the green grass with flowers. Nor do fiery fevers more quickly quit the body, if you toss on broidered pictures and blushing purple, than if you must lie on the poor man’s plaid. Wherefore since in our body riches are of no profit, nor high birth nor the glories of kingship, for the rest,and for the mind. Earthly power and the terrors of Religion. we must believe that they avail nothing for the mind as well; unless perchance, when you see your legions swarming over the spaces of the Campus,n and provoking a mimic war, strengthened with hosts in reserve and forces of cavalry,1 when you draw them up equipped with arms,2 all alike eager for the fray, when you see the army wandering far and wide in busy haste, then alarmed by all this the scruples of religion fly in panic from your mind, or that the dread of death leaves your heart empty and free from care. But if we see that these thoughts are mere mirth and mockery, and in very truth the fears of men and the cares that dog them fear not the clash of arms nor the weapons of war, but pass boldly among kings and lords of the world, nor dread the glitter that comes from gold nor the bright sheen of the purple robe,Religion and Philosophy. can you doubt that all such power belongs to reason alone, above all when the whole of life is but a struggle in darkness? For even as children tremble and fear everything in blinding darkness, so we sometimes dread in the light things that are no whit more to be feared than what children shudder at in the dark, and imagine will come to pass. This terror then, this darkness of the mind, must needs be scattered not by the rays of the sun and the gleaming shafts of day, but by the outer view and the inner law of nature.
The Motion of the Atoms
A. Motion of the atoms:Come now, I will unfold by what movement the creative bodies of matter beget diverse things, and break up those that are begotten, by what force they are constrained to do this, and what velocity is appointed them for moving through the mighty void: do you remember to give your mind to my words.the cause of successive growth and decay. For in very truth matter does not cleave close-packed to itself, since we see each thing grow less, and we perceive all things flow away, as it were, in the long lapse of time, as age withdraws them from our sight: and yet the universe is seen to remain undiminished, inasmuch as all bodies that depart from anything, lessen that from which they pass away, and bless with increase that to which they have come; they constrain the former to grow old and the latter again to flourish, and yet they abide not with it. Thus the sum of things is ever being replenished, and mortals live one and all by give and take. Some races wax and others wane, and in a short space the tribes of living things are changed, and like runners hand on the torch of life.
Their incessant movement. Its two causes:If you think that the first-beginnings of things can stay still, and by staying still beget new movements in things, you stray very far away from true reasoning. For since they wander through the void,n it must needs be that all the first-beginnings of things move on either by their own weight or sometimes by the blow of another For when quickly,movement of free atoms in the void; again and again, they have met and clashed together, it comes to pass that they leap asunder at once this way and that; for indeed it is not strange, since they are most hard with solid heavy bodies, and nothing bars them from behind. And the more you perceive all the bodies of matter tossing about, bring it to mind that there is no lowest point in the whole universe, nor have the first-bodies any place where they may come to rest, since I have shown in many words, and it has been proved by true reasoning, that space spreads out without bound or limit, immeasurable towards every quarter everywhere. And since that is certain, no rest, we may be sure, is allowed to the first-bodies moving through the deep void, but rather plied with unceasing, diverse motion, some when they have dashed together leap back at great space apart, others too are thrust but a short way from the blow.movement of atoms in compounds. And all those which are driven together in more close-packed union and leap back but a little space apart, entangled by their own close-locking shapes, these make the strong roots of rock and the brute bulk of iron and all other things of their kind. Of the rest which wander through the great void, a few leap far apart, and recoil afar with great spaces between; these supply for us thin air and the bright light of the sun. Many, moreover, wander on through the great void, which have been cast back from the unions of things, nor have they anywhere else availed to be taken into them and link their movements. And of this truth, as I am telling it, a likeness and image is ever passing presently before our eyes. For look closely,Illustration from the motesin the sunbeam: whenever rays are let in and pour the sun’s light through the dark places in houses: for you will see many tiny bodies mingle in many ways all through the empty space right in the light of the rays, and as though in some everlasting strife wage war and battle, struggling troop against troop, nor ever crying a halt, harried with constant meetings and partings; so that you may guess from this what it means that the first-beginnings of things are for ever tossing in the great void.a picture and an indication of the unseen movements of the atoms. So far as may be, a little thing can give a picture of great things and afford traces of a concept.n And for this reason it is the more right for you to give heed to these bodies, which you see jostling in the sun’s rays, because such jostlings hintn that there are movements of matter too beneath them, secret and unseen. For you will see many particles there stirred by unseen blows change their course and turn back, driven backwards on their path, now this way, now that, in every direction everywhere. You may know that this shifting movement comes to them all from the first-beginnings. For first the first-beginnings of things move of themselves; then those bodies which are formed of a tiny union, and are, as it were, nearest to the powers of the first-beginnings, are smitten and stirred by their unseen blows, and they in their turn, rouse up bodies a little larger. And so the movement passes upwards from the first-beginnings, and little by little comes forth to our senses, so that those bodies move too, which we can descry in the sun’s light; yet it is not clearly seen by what blows they do it.
Velocity of the atoms. Comparison with sunlight,Next, what speed of movement is given to the first-bodies of matter, you may learn, Memmius, in a few words from this. First, when dawn strews the land with new light, and the diverse birds flitting through the distant woods across the soft air fill the place with their clear cries, we see that it is plain and evident for all to behold how suddenly the sun is wont at such a time to rise and clothe all things,which yet is impeded by external opposition bathing them in his light. And yet that heat which the sun sends out, and that calm light of his, is not passing through empty space; therefore, it is constrained to go more slowly, while it dashes asunder, as it were, the waves of air. Nor again do the several particlesn of heat move on one by one, but entangled one with another, and joined in a mass; therefore they are at once dragged back each by the other,and internal vibration, and impeded from without, so that they are constrained to go more slowly. But the first-beginnings, which are of solid singleness, when they pass through the empty void, and nothing checks them without, and they themselves, single wholes with all their parts, are borne, as they press on, towards the one spot which they first began to seek,whereas the atoms are quite unchecked. must needs, we may be sure, surpass in speed of motion, and be carried far more quickly than the light of the sun, and rush through many times the distance of space in the same time in which the flashing light of the sun crowds the sky.
NA1 nor to follow up each of the first-beginnings severally, to see by what means each single thing is carried on.
False theory that the world is made for men by divine power;Yet a certain sect, against all this, ignorant <that the bodies> of matter <fly on of their own accord, unvanquished through the ages,>2 believe that nature cannot without the power of the gods, in ways so nicely tempered to the needs of men, change the seasons of the year, and create the crops, and all else besides, which divine pleasure wins men to approach, while she herself, the leader of life, leads on and entices them by the arts of Venus to renew their races, that the tribe of mankind may not perish. But when they suppose that the gods have appointed all things for the sake of men, they are seen in all things to fall exceeding far away from true reason.but it is made so badly. For however little I know what the first-beginnings of things are, yet this I would dare to affirm from the very workings of heaven, and to prove from many other things as well, that the nature of the world is by no means made by divine grace for us: so great are the flaws with which it stands beset. And this, Memmius, I will make clear to you hereafter. Now I will set forth what yet remains about the movements.
Causes of atomic motion:Now is the place, I trow, herein to prove this also to you, that no bodily thing can of its own forcen be carried upwards or move upwards; lest the bodies of flames give you the lie herein. For upwards indeed the smiling crops and trees are brought to birth, and take their increase, upwards too they grow,1. the universal motion downwards: upward motion is always due to force; albeit all things of weight, as far as in them lies, are borne downwards. Nor when fires leap up to the roofs of houses, and with swift flame lick up beams and rafters, must we think that they do this of their own will, shot up without a driving force. Even as when blood shot out from our body spirts out leaping up on high, and scatters gore. Do you not see too with what force the moisture of water spews up beams and rafters? For the more we have pushed them straight down deep in the water, and with might and main have pressed them, striving with pain many together, the more eagerly does it spew them up and send them back, so that they rise more than half out of the water and leap up. And yet we do not doubt, I trow, but that all these things, as far as in them lies, are borne downwards through the empty void. Just so, therefore, flames too must be able when squeezed out to press on upwards through the breezes of air, albeit their weights are fighting, as far as in them lies, to drag them downwards. And again, the nightly torches of the sky which fly on high, do you not see that they trail long tracts of flames behind towards whatever side nature has given them to travel? do you not descry stars and constellations falling to earth? The sun too from the height of heaven scatters its heat on every side, and sows the fields with his light; ’tis towards the earth then that the sun’s heat also tends. And you descry, too, thunderbolts flying crosswise through the rain; now from this side, now from that the fires burst from the clouds and rush together; the force of flame everywhere falls towards the earth.
2. the swerve of the atoms.Herein I would fain that you should learn this too, that when first - bodies are being carried downwards straight through the void by their own weight, at times quite undetermined and at undetermined spots they push a little from their path:n yet only just so much as you could call a change of trend. But if they were not used to swerve, all things would fall downwards through the deep void like drops of rain, nor could collision come to be, nor a blow brought to pass for the first-beginnings: so nature would never have brought aught to being.
False theory that heavier atoms fall faster than lighter.But if perchance any one believesn that heavier bodies, because they are carried more quickly straight through the void, can fall from above on the lighter, and so bring about the blows which can give creative motions, he wanders far away from true reason. For all things that fall through the water and thin air, these things must needs quicken their fall in proportion to their weights, just because the body of water and the thin nature of air cannot check each thing equally, but give place more quickly when overcome by heavier bodies.This is not true in the void. But, on the other hand, the empty void cannot on any side, at any time, support anything, but rather, as its own nature desires, it continues to give place; wherefore all things must needs be borne on through the calm void, moving at equal rate with unequal weights. The heavier will not then ever be able to fall on the lighter from above, nor of themselves bring about the blows, which make diverse the movements, by which nature carries things on. Wherefore, again and again,A slight swerve is necessary, it must needs be that the first-bodies swerve a little; yet not more than the very least, lest we seem to be imagining a sideways movement, and the truth refute it. For this we see plain and evident, that bodies, as far as in them lies, cannot travel sideways, since they fall headlong from above,and is not contradicted by phenomena. as far as you can descry. But that nothing at all swerves from the straight direction of its path, what sense is there which can descry?1
Once again, if every motion is always linked on,The swerve accounts for the power of free motion in living beings. and the new always arises from the old in order determined, nor by swerving do the first-beginnings make a certain start of movement to break through the decrees of fate, so that cause may not follow cause from infinite time; whence comes this free will for living things all over the earth, whence, I ask, is it wrested from fate, this will whereby we move forward, where pleasure leads each one of us, and swerve likewise in our motions neither at determined times nor in a determined direction of place,It starts from the will and then passes through all the limbs. but just where our mind has carried us? For without doubt it is his own will which gives to each one a start for this movement, and from the will the motions pass flooding through the limbs. Do you not see too how, when the barriers are flung open, yet for an instant of time the eager might of the horses cannot burst out so suddenly as their mind itself desires? For the whole store of matter throughout the whole body must be roused to movement, that then aroused through every limb it may strain and follow the eager longing of the mind; so that you see a start of movementn is brought to pass from the heart, and comes forth first of all from the will of the mind, and then afterwards is spread through all the body and limbs.It is very different from motion under compulsion. Nor is it the same as when we move forward impelled by a blow from the strong might and strong constraint of another. For then it is clear to see that all the matter of the body moves and is hurried on against our will, until the will has reined it back throughout the limbs. Do you not then now see that, albeit a force outside pushes many men and constrains them often to go forward against their will and to be hurried away headlong, yet there is something in our breast, which can fight against it and withstand it? And at its bidding too the store of matter is constrained now and then to turn throughout the limbs and members, and, when pushed forward, is reined back and comes to rest again.It is due to the second cause of motion, the swerve of the atoms. Wherefore in the seeds too you must needs allow likewise that there is another cause of motion besides blows and weights, whence comes this power born in us, since we see that nothing can come to pass from nothing. For weight prevents all things coming to pass by blows, as by some force without. But that the very mind feels not some necessity within in doing all things, and is not constrained like a conquered thing to bear and suffer, this is brought about by the tiny swerve of the first-beginnings in no determined direction of place and at no determined time.
The sum of motion, like that of matter, is unchangeable.Nor was the store of matter ever more closely packed nor again set at larger distances apart. For neither does anything come to increase it nor pass away from it. Wherefore the bodies of the first-beginnings in the ages past moved with the same motion as now, and hereafter will be borne on for ever in the same way; such things as have been wont to come to being will be brought to birth under the same law, will exist and grow and be strong and lusty, inasmuch as is granted to each by the ordinances of nature. Nor can any force change the sum of things; for neither is there anything outside, into which any kind of matter may escape from the universe, nor whence new forces can arise and burst into the universe and change the whole nature of things and alter its motions.
Though a whole body seems at rest, the atoms are in unseen motion.Herein we need not wonder why it is that, when all the first-beginnings of things are in motion, yet the whole seems to stand wholly at rest, except when anything starts moving with its entire body. For all the nature of the first-bodies lies far away from our senses, below their purview; wherefore, since you cannot reach to look upon them, they must needs steal away their motions from you too; above all, since such things as we can look upon, yet often hide their motions, when withdrawn from us on some distant spot.Parallels in experience. For often the fleecy flocks cropping the glad pasture on a hill creep on whither each is called and tempted by the grass bejewelled with fresh dew, and the lambs fed full gambol and butt playfully; yet all this seems blurred to us from afar, and to lie like a white mass on a green hill. Moreover, when mighty legions fill the spaces of the plains with their chargings, awaking a mimic warfare, a sheen rises there to heaven and all the earth around gleams with bronze, and beneath a noise is roused by the mighty mass of men as they march, and the hills smitten by their shouts turn back the cries to the stars of the firmament, and the cavalry wheel round and suddenly shake the middle of the plains with their forceful onset, as they scour across them. And yet there is a certain spot on the high hills, whence all seems to be at rest and to lie like a glimmering mass upon the plains.
The Forms of the Atoms and their Effects in Combination
B. The shapes of the atoms. Their variety,Now come, next in order learn of what kind are the beginnings of all things and how far differing in form, and how they are made diverse with many kinds of shapes; not that but a few are endowed with a like form, but that they are not all alike the same one with another.which arises from the infinite number of the atoms, Nor need we wonder; for since there is so great a store of them, that neither have they any limit, as I have shown, nor any sum, it must needs be, we may be sure, that they are not all of equal bulk nor possessed of the same shape.and is the cause of the distinction of individuals in the same species. Moreover, the race of men, and the dumb shoals of scaly creatures which swim the seas, and the glad herds and wild beasts, and the diverse birds, which throng the gladdening watering-places all around the riverbanks and springs and pools, and those which flit about and people the distant forests; of these go and take any single one you will from among its kind, yet you will find that they are different in shape one from another. Nor in any other way could the offspring know its mother, or the mother her offspring; yet we see that they can, and that they are clearly not less known to one another than men.Illustrations: the cow and her calf; For often before the sculptured shrines of the gods a calf has fallen, slaughtered hard by the altars smoking with incense, breathing out from its breast the hot tide of blood. But the mother bereft wanders over the green glades and seeks1 on the ground for the footprints marked by those cloven hoofs, scanning every spot with her eyes, if only she might anywhere catch sight of her lost young, and stopping fills the leafy grove with her lament: again and again she comes back to the stall, stabbed to the heart with yearning for her lost calf, nor can the tender willows and the grass refreshed with dew and the loved streams, gliding level with their banks, bring gladness to her mind and turn aside the sudden pang of care, nor yet can the shapes of other calves among the glad pastures turn her mind to new thoughts or ease it of its care: so eagerly does she seek in vain for something she knows as her own.kids and lambs and their mothers; Moreover, the tender kids with their trembling cries know their horned dams and the butting lambs the flocks of bleating sheep: so surely, as their nature needs, do they run back always each to its own udder of milk.grains of corn; Lastly, take any kind of corn, you will not find that every grain is like its fellows, each in its several kind, but that there runs through all some difference between their forms. And in like manner we see the race of shells painting the lap of earth,shells. where with its gentle waves the sea beats on the thirsty sand of the winding shore. Wherefore again and again in the same way it must needs be, since the first-beginnings of things are made by nature and not fashioned by hand to the fixed form of one pattern, that some of them fly about with shapes unlike one another.
It is owing to this variety that some things pass through, where others are checked.It is very easy by reasoning of the mind for us to read the riddle why the fire of lightning is far more piercing than is our fire rising from pine-torches on earth. For you might say that the heavenly fire of lightning is made more subtle and of smaller shapes, and so passes through holes which our fire rising from logs and born of the pine-torch cannot pass. Again light passes through horn-lanterns, but the rain is spewed back. Why? unless it be that those bodies of light are smaller than those of which the quickening liquid of water is made. And we see wine flow through the strainer as swiftly as you will; but, on the other hand, the sluggish olive-oil hangs back, because, we may be sure, it is composed of particles either larger or more hooked and entangled one with the other, and so it comes about that the first-beginnings cannot so quickly be drawn apart, each single one from the rest, and so ooze through the single holes of each thing.
To it are due differences of taste,There is this too that the liquids of honey and milk give a pleasant sensation of the tongue, when rolled in the mouth; but on the other hand, the loathsome nature of wormwood and biting centaury set the mouth awry by their noisome taste; so that you may easily know that those things which can touch the senses pleasantly are made of smooth and round bodies, but that on the other hand all things which seem to be bitter and harsh, these are held bound together with particles more hooked, and for this cause are wont to tear a way into our senses, and at their entering in to break through the body.
and all differences of sensation in hearing,Lastly, all things good or bad to the senses in their touch fight thus with one another, because they are built up of bodies of different shape; lest by chance you may think that the harsh shuddering soundn of the squeaking saw is made of particles as smooth as are the melodies of music which players awake, shaping the notes as their fingers move nimbly over the strings;smell, nor again, must you think that first-beginnings of like shape pierce into men’s nostrils, when noisome carcasses are roasting, and when the stage is freshly sprinkled with Cilician saffron, and the altar hard by is breathing the scent of Arabian incense;and sight. nor must you suppose that the pleasant colours of things, which can feed our eyes, are made of seeds like those which prick the pupil and constrain us to tears, or look dreadful and loathly in their hideous aspect. For every shape, which ever charms the senses,Pleasure and pain are determined by the shapes of the particles; has not been brought to being without some smoothness in the first-beginnings; but, on the other hand, every shape which is harsh and offensive has not been formed without some roughness of substance. Other particles there are, moreover, which cannot rightly be thought to be smooth nor altogether hooked with bent points, but rather with tiny angles standing out a little, insomuch that they can tickle the senses rather than hurt them; and of this kind is lees of wine and the taste of endive. Or again, that hot fires and cold frost have particles fanged in different ways to prick the senses of the body, is proved to us by the touch of each.for touch is the ultimate cause of all sensation. For touch, yea touch, by the holy powers of the gods, is the sense of the body, either when something from without finds its way in, or when a thing which is born in the body hurts us, or gives pleasure as it passes out, or else when the seeds after collision jostle within the body itself and, roused one by another, disturb our sense: as if by chance you should with your hand strike any part of your own body and so make trial. Therefore the first-beginnings must needs have forms far different, which can produce such diverse feelings.
Further differences and the atomic shapes which cause them: hard things;Or, again, things which seem to us hard and compact, these, it must needs be, are made of particles more hooked one to another, and are held together close-fastened at their roots, as it were by branching particles. First of all in this class diamond stones stand in the forefront of the fight, well used to despise all blows, and stubborn flints and the strength of hard iron, and brass sockets, which scream aloud as they struggle against the bolts.liquid things; Those things indeed must be made of particles more round and smooth, which are liquid with a fluid body: for indeed a handful of poppy-seed moves easily just as a draught of water; for the several round particles are not checked one by the other, and when struck, it will roll downhill just like water.pungent and evanescent things; Lastly, all things which you perceive flying asunder, like smoke, clouds and flames, it must needs be that even if they are not made entirely of smooth and round particles, yet they are not hampered by particles closely linked, so that they can prick the body, and pass into rocks, and yet not cling one to another: so that you can easily learn that, whatever we see <borne asunder by the tearing winds and> meeting our senses <as poison>,1 are of elements not closely linked but pointed.liquid but bitter things. But because you see that some things which are fluid, are also bitter, as is the brine of the sea, count it no wonder. For because it is fluid, it is of smooth and round particles, and many rugged bodies mingled in it give birth to pain; and yet it must needs be that they are not hooked and held together: you must know that they are nevertheless spherical, though rugged, so that they can roll on together and hurt the senses. And that you may the more think that rough are mingled with smooth first-beginnings, from which is made the bitter body of the sea-god, there is a way of sundering them and seeing how, apart from the rest, the fresh water, when it trickles many a time through the earth, flows into a trench and loses its harshness; for it leaves behind up above the first-beginnings of its sickly saltness, since the rough particles can more readily stick in the earth.2
Differences of shapes of atoms limited in number. Otherwise 1. some atoms would be of vast size;And since I have taught this much, I will hasten to link on a truth which holds to this and wins belief from it, that the first-beginnings of things are limited in the tale of their varying shapes. If it were not to be so, then once again certain seeds must needs be of unbounded bulk of body. For, within the same tiny frame of any one single seed, the shapes of the body cannot be very diverse. For suppose the first-bodiesn to be of three least parts, or if you will, make them larger by a few more; in truth when you have tried all those parts of one body in every way, shifting top and bottom, changing right with left, to see what outline of form in that whole body each arrangement gives, beyond that, if by chance you wish to make the shapes different, you must needs add other parts; thence it will follow that in like manner the arrangement will ask for other parts, if by chance you still wish to make the shapes different: and so greater bulk in the body follows on newness of forms. Wherefore it is not possible that you can believe that there are seeds with unbounded difference of forms, lest you constrain certain of them to be of huge vastness, which I have taught above cannot be approved.12. all extremes in our experience would be surpassed. At once you would see barbaric robes and gleaming Meliboean purple, dyed with the colour of Thessalian shells, and the golden tribes of peacocks, steeped in smiling beauty, lie neglected and surpassed by the new colours in things; and the smell of myrrh and the taste of honey would be despised, and the swan’s song and the many-toned melodies on Phoebus’s strings would in like manner be smothered and mute: for something more excellent than all else would ever be arising. Likewise, all things would sink back on the worse side, just as we have told that they would rise towards the better. For, on the other hand, something would be more loathly too than all else to nostrils and ears and eyes, and the taste of the mouth.As it is, there are fixed limits. And since these things are not so, but a fixed limit to things marks the extreme on either side, you must needs confess that the first-matter too has a limited difference in shapes. Again from fire right on to the icy frost of winter1 is but a limited way, and in like manner is the way measured back again. For all heat and cold and tepid warmths in the middle lie between the two, filling up the sum in due order. And so they are brought to being differing with limited degrees, since they are marked off at either end by the twin points, beset on this side by flames, on that by stiffening frosts.
The atoms of any one shape are infinite in number.And since I have taught this much, I will hasten to link on a truth which holds to it and wins belief from it, that the first-beginnings of things, which are formed with a shape like to one another, are in number infinite. For since the difference of forms is limited, it must needs be that those which are alike are unlimited, or else that the sum of matter is created limited, which I have proved not to be,Otherwise, the sum of matter would be limited. showing2 in my verses that the tiny bodies of matter from everlasting always keep up the sum of things, as the team of blows is harnessed on unbroken on every side. For in that you seen that certain animals are more rare, and perceive that nature is less fruitful in them, yet in another quarter and spot, in some distant lands, there may be many in that kind,Animals rare in one place are common in another. and so the tale is made up; even as in the race of four-footed beasts we see that elephants with their snaky hands come first of all, by whose many thousands India is embattled with a bulwark of ivory, so that no way can be found into its inner parts: so great is the multitude of those beasts, whereof we see but a very few samples. But still, let me grant this too, let there be, if you will,Even a unique thing would imply infinite atoms of the required kind. some one thing unique, alone in the body of its birth, to which there is not a fellow in the whole wide world; yet unless there is an unlimited stock of matter, from which it might be conceived and brought to birth, it will not be able to be created, nor, after that, to grow on and be nourished. Nay, in very truth, if I were to suppose this too, that the bodies creative of one single thing were limited as they tossed about the universe, whence, where, by what force,If limited in number, they might be tossed about the universe and never meet. in what manner will they meet and come together in that vast ocean, that alien turmoil of matter? They have not, I trow, a plan for union, but as, when many a great shipwreck has come to pass, the great sea is wont to cast hither and thither benches, ribs, yards, prow, masts and swimming oars, so that along all the coasts of the lands floating stern-pieces are seen, giving warning to mortals, to resolve to shun the snares of the sea and its might and guile, nor trust it at any time, when the wiles of the windless waves smile treacherous; even so, if you once suppose that the first-beginnings of a certain kind are limited, then scattered through all time they must needs be tossed hither and thither by the tides of matter, setting towards every side, so that never can they be driven together and come together in union, nor stay fixed in union, nor take increase and grow; yet that each of these things openly comes to pass, fact proves for all to see, that things can be brought to birth and being born can grow. It is manifest then that there are, in any kind of things you will, infinite first-beginnings, by which all things are supplied.
Creation and destruction wage equal warfare.And so, neither can the motions of destruction prevail for ever, and bury life in an eternal tomb, nor yet can the motions of creation and increase for ever bring things to birth and preserve them. So war waged from time everlasting is carried on by the balanced strife of the first-beginnings. Now here, now there, the vital forces of things conquer and are conquered alike. With the funeral mingles the wailing which babies raise as they come to look upon the coasts of light; nor has night ever followed on day, or dawn on night, but that it has heard mingled with the baby’s sickly wailings, the lament that escorts death and the black funeral.
Nothing is created of one single kind of atoms.Herein it is right to have this truth also surely sealed and to keep it stored in your remembering mind, that there is not one of all the things, whose nature is seen before our face, which is built of one kind of first-beginnings, nor anything which is not created of well-mingled seed; and whatever possesses within it more forces and powers, it thus shows that there are in it most kinds of first-beginnings and diverse shapes.Earth has every kind, First of all the earth holds within it the first-bodies, by which the springs welling out coldness ever and anon renew the measureless sea, it holds those whence fires are born. For in many places the surface of the earth is kindled and blazes, but the outburst of Aetna rages with fire from its lowest depths. Then further, it holds those whence it can raise for the races of men the smiling crops and glad trees, whence too it can furnish to the tribe of wild beasts, which ranges the mountains, streams, leaves and glad pastures.and is therefore called Mother. Wherefore earth alone has been called the Great Mother of the gods,n and the mother of the wild beasts, and the parent of our body.
The worship of Mother Earth as Cybele. The meaning of her attributes: the lions; the mural crown;Of her in days of old the learned poets of the Greeks sang that <borne on from her sacred>1 shrine in her car she drove a yoke of lions, teaching thereby that the great earth hangs in the space of air nor can earth rest on earth. To the car they yoked wild beasts, because, however wild the brood, it ought to be conquered and softened by the loving care of parents. The top of her head they wreathed with a battlemented crown, because embattled on glorious heights she sustains towns; and dowered with this emblem even now the image of the divine mother is carried in awesome state through lands far and wide. On her the diverse nations in the ancient rite of worship call as the Mother of Ida,the Phrygian escort; and they give her Phrygian bands to bear her company, because from those lands first they say corn began to be produced throughout the whole world. The mutilated priests they assign to her,the Galli; because they wish to show forth that those who have offended the godhead of the Mother, and have been found ungrateful to their parents, must be thought to be unworthy to bring offspring alive into the coasts of light. Taut timbrels thunder in their hands,music and hollow cymbals all around, and horns menace with harsh-sounding bray, and the hollow pipe goads their minds in the Phrygian mode,and weapons; and they carry weapons before them, the symbols of their dangerous frenzy, that they may be able to fill with fear of the goddess’s power the thankless minds and unhallowed hearts of the multitude. And so as soon as she rides on through great cities, and silently blesses mortals with unspoken salutation, with bronze and silver they strew all the path of her journey, enriching her with bounteous alms, and snow rose-blossoms over her, overshadowing the Mother and the troops of her escort.the Curetes. Then comes an armed band,n whom the Greeks call by name the Curetes of Phrygia, and because now and again they join in mock conflict of arms and leap in rhythmic movement, gladdened at the sight of blood and shaking as they nod the awesome crests upon their heads, they recall the Curetes of Dicte, who are said once in Crete to have drowned the wailing of the infant Jove, while, a band of boys around the baby boy, in hurrying dance all armed, they beat in measured rhythm brass upon brass, that Saturn might not seize and commit him to his jaws, and plant an everlasting wound deep in the Mother’s heart. For this cause in arms they escort the Great Mother, or else because they show forth that the goddess preaches that they should resolve with arms and valour to defend their native land and prepare to be a guard and ornament to their parents.Yet all this is false. Yet all this, albeit well and nobly set forth and told, is nevertheless far removed from true reasoning. For it must needs be that all the nature of the gods enjoys life everlasting in perfect peace,The gods live a placid life apart from the world. sundered and separated far away from our world. For free from all grief, free from danger, mighty in its own resources, never lacking aught of us, it is not won by virtuous service nor touched by wrath. Verily, the earth is without feeling throughout all time, and ’tis because it has possession of the first-beginnings of many things, that it brings forth many in many ways into the light of the sun. Herein, if any one is resolved to call the sea Neptune and corn Ceres, and likes rather to misuse the title of Bacchus than to utter the true name of the vine-juice, let us grant that he may proclaim that the world is the Mother of the gods, if only in very truth he forbear to stain his own mind with shameful religious awe.
And so often fleecy flocks and the warrior brood of horses and horned herds,The same food may nourish different animals cropping the grass from one field beneath the same canopy of heaven, and slaking their thirst from one stream of water, yet live their life with different aspect, and keep the nature of their parents and imitate their ways each after his own kind. So great is the difference of matter in any kind of grass you will,Their flesh, bones, &c., are different. so great in every stream. Moreover, any one living creature of them all is made of bones, blood, veins, heat, moisture, flesh and sinews: and they as well are far different, formed as they are with first-beginnings of unlike shape. Then once again, all things that are set ablaze and burnt up by fire,Different bodies contain the seeds of fire. store in their body, if nothing else, yet at least those particles, from which they may be able to toss fire abroad and shoot out light, and make sparks fly, and scatter cinders far and wide. Traversing all other things with the like reasoning of your mind, you will find then that they hide in their body the seeds of many things and contain diverse shapes. Again,The same thing can stir different senses. you see many things to which both colour and taste are given together with smell. First of all, most of the offerings <burnt on the altars of the gods>:1 these then must needs be made of diverse shapes; for the burning smell pierces, where the hue passes not into the limbs, even so the hue in one way, the taste in another, finds its way into our senses; so that you may know that they differ in the shapes of their first-bodies.All things then contain atoms of various shapes. So different forms come together into one mass and things are made with mingled seeds. Nay, more, everywhere in these very verses of mine you see many letters common to many words, and yet you must needs grant that verses and words are formed of different letters, one from another; not that but a few letters run through them in common, or that no two of them are made of letters all the same, but that they are not all alike the same one with another.There are common elements, but the sums are different. So in other things likewise since there are first-beginnings common to many things, yet they can exist with sums different from one another: so that the human race and corn and glad trees are rightly said to be created of different particles.
But not all combinations are possible.And yet we must not think that all particles can be linked together in all ways, for you would see monstersn created everywhere, forms coming to being half man, half beast, and sometimes tall branches growing out from a living body, and many limbs of land-beasts linked with beasts of the sea, and nature too throughout the lands, that are the parents of all things, feeding Chimaeras breathing flame from their noisome mouths.Each thing has its appropriate seeds, food, and movements. But it is clear to see that none of these things comes to be, since we see that all things are born of fixed seeds and a fixed parent, and can, as they grow, preserve their kind. You may be sure that that must needs come to pass by a fixed law. For its own proper particles separate from every kind of food and pass within into the limbs of everything, and are there linked on and bring about the suitable movements. But, on the other hand, we see nature cast out alien matter on to the ground, and many things with bodies unseen flee from the body, driven by blows, which could not be linked to any part nor within feel the lively motions in harmony with the body and imitate them.This is true of inanimate as well as living things. But lest by chance you should think that living things alone are bound by these laws, the same condition sets a limit to all things. For even as all things begotten are in their whole nature unlike one to the other, so it must needs be that each is made of first-beginnings of a different shape; not that but a few are endowed with a like form, but that they are not all alike the same one with another. Moreover, since the seeds are different, there must needs be a difference in their spaces, passages, fastenings, weights, blows, meetings, movements, which not only sunder living things, but part earth and the whole sea, and hold all the sky away from the earth.
The Atoms are without Secondary Qualities
C. The atoms have no colour,Come now, listen to discourse gathered by my joyful labour, lest by chance you should think that these white things, which you perceive shining bright before your eyes are made of white first-beginnings, or that things which are black are born of black seeds; or should believe that things which are steeped in any other colour you will, bear this colour because the bodies of matter are dyed with a colour like it. For the bodies of matter have no colour at all, neither like things nor again unlike them.though the mind can well conceive them. And if by chance it seems to you that the mind cannot project itselfn into these bodies, you wander far astray. For since those born blind, who have never descried the light of the sun, yet know bodies by touch, never linked with colour for them from the outset of their life, you may know that for our mind too, bodies painted with no tint may become a clear concept.n Again, we ourselves feel that whatever we touch in blind darkness is not dyed with any colour. And since I convince you that this may be, I will now teach you that <the first-beginnings> are <deprived of all colour>.11. Colour changes, but the atoms must be unchangeable.
For any colour, whatever it be, changes into any other; but the first-beginnings ought in no wise to do this. For it must needs be that something abides unchangeable, that all things be not utterly brought to naught. For whenever a thing changes and passes out of its own limits, straightway this is the death of that which was before. Therefore take care not to dye with colour the seeds of things, lest you see all things altogether pass away to naught.
2. If atoms are colourless, their varieties of shape, &c., will account for the different colours of things.Moreover, if the nature of colour has not been granted to the first-beginnings, and yet they are endowed with diverse forms, out of which they beget and vary colours of every kind, forasmuch as it is of great matter with what others all the seeds are bound up, and in what position, and what movements they mutually give and receive, you can most easily at once give account, why those things which were a little while before of black colour, are able of a sudden to become of marble whiteness; as the sea, when mighty winds have stirred its level waters, is turned into white waves of shining marble. For you might say that when the substance of that which we often see black has been mingled up, and the order of its first-beginnings changed and certain things added and taken away,But (a) if they are of the colour of the things they compose, change is impossible, and (b) if they are of all colours, the separate colours would be seen, straightway it comes to pass that it is seen shining and white. But if the level waters of the ocean were made of sky-blue seeds, they could in no wise grow white. For in whatever way you were to jostle together seeds which are sky-blue, never can they pass into a marble colour. But if the seeds which make up the single unmixed brightness of the sea are dyed with this colour and that, even as often out of different forms and diverse shapes some square thing is made up with a single shape, then it were natural that, as in the square we perceive that there are unlike forms, so we should perceive in the water of the ocean, or in any other single and unmixed brightness, colours far different and diverse one from another.and the whole could not be uniform in colour; Moreover, the unlike shapes do not a whit thwart and hinder the whole from being square in its outline; but the diverse colours in things do check and prevent the whole thing being of a single brightness. Then, further, the reason which leads us on and entices us sometimes to assign colours to the first-beginnings of things,further, this contradicts our reason for thinking atoms might have colour. is gone, since white things are not made of white, nor those which are seen black of black, but of diverse colours. And in very truth much more readily will white things be born and rise up out of no colour than out of black, or any other colour you will which fights with it and thwarts it.
3. Colour needs light, with which the atoms have no relation.Moreover, since colours cannot be without light nor do the first-beginnings of things come out into the light, you may know how they are not clothed with any colour. For what colour can there be in blind darkness? Nay even in the light it changes according as it shines brightly, struck with a straight or slanting beam of light; even as the plumage of doves, which is set about their throats and crowns their necks, is seen in the sunshine; for anon it comes to pass that it is red with bright garnet,4. The perception of colour is due to a blow on the eye: and for touch it is shape, not colour which matters. sometimes in a certain view it comes to pass that it seems to mingle green emeralds among coral. And the tail of the peacock, when it is bathed in bounteous light, in like manner changes its colours as it moves round; and since these colours are begotten by a certain stroke of light, you may know that we must not think that they could come to be without it. And since the pupil of the eye receives in itself a certain kind of blow, when it is said to perceive white colour, and another again, when it perceives black and the rest, nor does it matter with what colour things you touch may choose to be endowed, but rather with what sort of shape they are fitted, you may know that the first-beginnings have no need of colours, but by their diverse forms produce diverse kinds of touch.
5. Colour and shape not being connected, if atoms have colour, we should have individuals of different colours in the same species.Moreover, since no fixed nature of colour belongs to fixed shapes, and all conformations of first-beginnings may exist in any hue you will, why on like grounds are not those things which are made out of them steeped with every kind of colour in every kind? For it were natural that often flying crows too should throw off white colour from white wings, and that black swans should be made of black seeds or of any other colour you will, simple or diverse.
Nay again, the more each thing is pulled asunder into tiny parts, the more can you perceive colour little by little fading away and being quenched:6. The smaller a body, the less colour it has. as comes to pass when purple is plucked apart into small pieces: when it has been unravelled thread by thread, the dark purple or the scarlet, by far the brightest of colours, is utterly destroyed; so that you can know from this that the tiny shreds dissipate all their colour before they are sundered into the seeds of things.
7. Just as some things have not smell or sound, so the atoms are without colourLastly, since you do not allow that all bodies send out sound or smell, it comes to pass, therefore, that you do not assign sound and smell to them. Even so, since we cannot with the eyes descry all things, you may know that some things are made bereft of colour, just as some are without any smell and far parted from sound, yet that the keen mind can come to know them no less than it can mark those devoid of other things.
The atoms are also without heat, sound, taste or smell,But lest by chance you think that the first-bodies abide bereft only of colour, they are also sundered altogether from warmth and cold, and fiery heat, and are carried along barren of sound and devoid of taste, nor do they give off any scent of their own from their body. Even as when you set about to make the delicious liquid of marjoram or myrrh, or scent of nard, which breathes nectar to the nostrils, first of all it is right to seek, in so far as you may and can find it, the nature of scentless oil, which may send off no breath of perfume to the nostrils, so that it may as little as possible taint and ruin with its own strong smell the scents mingled in its body and boiled along with it.for they cannot emit anything from their body. Therefore after all the first-beginnings of things are bound not to bring to the begetting of things their own scent or sound, since they cannot give anything off from themselves, nor in the same way acquire any taste at all, nor cold, nor once more warm and fiery heat … and the rest:1 yet since they are such as to be created mortal, the pliant of soft body, the brittle of crumbling body, the hollow of rare, they must needs all be kept apart from the first-beginnings, if we wish to place immortal foundations beneath things, on which the sum of life may rest; lest you see all things pass away utterly into nothing.
Neither have atoms sense.It must needs ben that you should admit that all things which we see have sense are yet made of insensible first-beginnings. The clear facts, which are known for all to see, neither refute this nor fight against it, but rather themselves lead us by the hand and constrain us to believe that, as I say, living things are begotten of insensible things.1. We see the sensible created elsewhere from the senseless. 2. Inanimate food makes animate bodies. Why we may see worms come forth alive from noisome dung, when the soaked earth has gotten muddiness from immeasurable rains; moreover, we may see all things in like manner change themselves. Streams, leaves, and glad pastures change themselves into cattle, cattle change their nature into our bodies, and from our bodies the strength of wild beasts often gains increase, and the bodies of birds strong of wing. And so nature changes all foods into living bodies, and out of food brings to birth all the senses of living things, in no far different way than she unfolds dry logs into flames and turns all things into fires. Do you not then see now that it is of great matter in what order all the first-beginnings of things are placed, and with what others mingled they give and receive motions?
3. The fact that sensible things do not normally arise from the insensible is no objection.Next then, what is it, that strikes on the very mind, which stirs it and constrains to utter diverse thoughts, that you may not believe that the sensible is begotten of the insensible? We may be sure it is that stones1 and wood and earth mixed together yet cannot give out vital sense. Herein it will be right to remember this, that I do not say that sensations are begotten at once from all and every of the things which give birth to sensible things, but that it is of great matter,All depends on the size, position, arrangements, and motions of the atoms. first of what size are these bodies, which create the sensible, and with what form they are endowed, then what they are in their motions, arrangements and positions. And none of these things can we perceive in logs and sods; and yet, when they are, as it were, made muddy through the rains, they give birth to little worms, because the bodies of matter stirred by the newcomer from their old arrangements are brought into union in the way in which living things are bound to be begotten.4. Sensible seeds would be soft and therefore mortal. Next, those who thinkn that the sensible could be created out of sensible bodies which in turn were used to owe their sense to others, <these make the seeds of their own sense mortal>,1 when they make them soft. For all sensation is linked to flesh, sinews and veins, which we see are always soft in nature built up of mortal body.5. If everlasting, they must either (a) feel as a part of the whole, or (b) as an independent whole. But (a) a part does not feel by itself; But still let us grant now that these can abide for ever: still doubtless they must either haven the sense proper to a part, or be thought to be of a sense like to that of whole living things. But it must needs be that the parts cannot have sense by themselves; for all sensation in the limbs depends on us, nor severed from us can the hand nor any part of the body at all keep sensation by itself. It remains that they are made like whole living things. Thus it must needs be that they feel likewise what we feel, so that they may be able to share with us in every place in the vital sensations.(b) (1) they could not be eternal; How then will they be able to be called the first-beginnings of things and to shun the paths of death, since they are living things, and living things are one and the same with mortal things?(2) they would only make a confused mass of sentient beings; (3) if in the body they lose their sense, why give it them? But our previous examples are enough. Yet grant that they can, still by their meeting and union, they will make nothing besides a crowd and mob of living things, even as, as you may know, men, herds of cattle and wild beasts could not beget anything by coming together with one another. But if by chance they lose their own sense, when inside a body, and receive another, what good was it that that should be assigned to them which is taken away? Then, moreover, as we saw before, inasmuch as we perceive the eggs of birds turn into living chicknes, and worms swarm out when mud has seized on the earth owing to immoderate rains, we may know that sensations can be begotten out of that which is not sensation.
6. Sensation cannot arise from the insensate by change or birth; for both imply union. (a) A body cannot have sensation before the union of its substance.But if by chance any one shall sayn that sensation can in any case arise from not-sensation by change of substance or, as it were, by a kind of birth, by which it is thrust out into being, it will be enough to make clear and prove to him that birth cannot come to be, unless when a union has been formed before, nor is anything changed except after union. First of all, no body at all can have sensation before the nature of the living thing is itself begotten, because, we may be sure, its substance is scattered abroad and is kept in the air, in streams, in earth and things sprung from earth, nor has it come together in appropriate way and combined with one another the vital motions, whereby the all-seeing senses are kindled and see to the safety of each living thing.
(b) A blow puts an end to sensation, because it dissolves unions and stops the vital motions.Moreover, a heavier blow than its nature can endure, of a sudden fells any living creature, and hastens to stun all the sensations of its body and mind. For the positions of the first-beginnings are broken up and the vital motions are checked deep within, until the substance, after the shock throughout all the limbs, loosens the vital clusters of the soul from the body, scatters it abroad and drives it out through every pore. For what else are we to think that a blow can do when it meets each thing,Recovery means reunion and motion restarted. but shake it to pieces and break it up? It comes to pass too, that when a blow meets us with less force, the vital motions that remain are often wont to win, yea, to win and to allay the vast disturbances of the blow and summon each part back again into its proper path, and to shake to pieces the movement of death that now, as it were, holds sway in the body, and to kindle the sensations almost lost. For by what other means could living things gather their wits and turn back to life even from the very threshold of death rather than pass on, whither their race is already almost run, and pass away?
7. Pleasure and pain are caused by the internal movements of atoms: atoms cannot then themselves experience them.Moreover, since there is pain when the bodies of matter, disturbed by some force throughout the living flesh and limbs, tremble each in their abode within, and when they settle back into their place, comforting pleasure comes to pass, you may know that the first-beginnings cannot be assailed by any pain, and can find no pleasure in themselves: inasmuch as they are not made of any bodies of first-beginnings, through whose newness of movement they may be in pain or find any enjoyment of life-giving delight. They are bound then not to be endowed with any sensation.
8. Reductio ad absurdum. Sensible atoms must themselves laugh and cry and think and dispute.Again, if, in order that all living things may be able to feel, we must after all assign sensation to their first-beginnings, what of those whereof the race of men has its peculiar increment?n You must think that they are shaken with quivering mirth and laugh aloud and sprinkle face and cheeks with the dew of their tears. And they have the wit to say much about the mingling of things, and they go on to ask what are their first-beginnings; inasmuch as, being made like to whole mortal men, they too must needs be built of other particles in their turn, and those again of others, so that you may never dare to make a stop: nay, I will press hard on you, so that, whatsoever you say speaks and laughs and thinks, shall be composed of other particles which do these same things. But if we perceive this to be but raving madness, and a man can laugh, though he has not the increment of laughing atoms, and can think and give reasons with learned lore, though he be not made of seeds thoughtful and eloquent, why should those things, which, as we see, have feeling, any the less be able to exist, mingled of seeds which lack sense in every way?
Summary Earth is the universal mother.And so, we are all sprung from heavenly seed; there is the one father of us all, from whom when live-giving earth, the mother, has taken within her the watery drops of moisture, teeming she brings forth the goodly crops and the glad trees and the race of men; she brings forth too all the tribes of the wild beasts, when she furnishes the food, on which all feed their bodies and pass a pleasant life and propagate their offspring; wherefore rightly has she won the name of mother. Even so, what once sprung from earth, sinks back into the earth, and what was sent down from the coasts of the sky, returns again, and the regions of heaven receive it.Death is not destruction but reformation, and combination produces qualities and sensation. Nor does death so destroy things as to put an end to the bodies of matter, but only scatters their union. Then she joins anew one with others, and brings it to pass that all things thus alter their forms, and change their colours, and receive sensations, and in an instant of time yield them up again, so that you may know that it matters with what others the first-beginnings of things are bound up and in what position and what motions they mutually give and receive, and may not think that what we see floating on the surface of thingsn or at times coming to birth, and on a sudden passing away, can abide in the possession of eternal first-bodies. Nay, indeed, even in my verses it is of moment with what others and in what order each letter is placed. For the same letters signify sky, sea, earth, rivers, sun, the same too crops, trees, living creatures; if not all, yet by far the greater part, are alike, but it is by position that things sound different. So in things themselves likewise when meetings, motions, order, position, shapes are changed, things too are bound to be changed.
The Infinite Worlds and their Formation and Destruction
D. Other worlds in space. Introduction. Put aside the alarm of novelty,Now turn your mind, I pray, to a true reasoning. For a truth wondrously new is struggling to fall upon your ears, and a new face of things to reveal itself. Yet neither is anything so easy, but that at first it is more difficult to believe, and likewise nothing is so great or so marvellous but that little by little all decrease their wonder at it. First of all the bright clear colour of the sky, and all it holds within it, the stars that wander here and there, and the moon and the sheen of the sun with its brilliant light; all these, if now they had come to being for the first time for mortals, if all unforeseen they were in a moment placed before their eyes, what story could be told more marvellous than these things, or what that the nations would less dare to believe beforehand? Nothing, I trow: so worthy of wonder would this sight have been. Yet think how no one now, wearied with satiety of seeing, deigns to gaze up at the shining quarters of the sky! Wherefore cease to spew out reason from your mind, struck with terror at mere newness, but rather with eager judgement weigh things, and, if you see them true, lift your hands and yield, or, if it is false, gird yourself to battle. For our mind now seeks to reason, since the sum of space is boundless out beyond the walls of this world,and inquire what there is beyond our world. what there is far out there, whither the spirit desires always to look forward, and whither the unfettered projection of our mindn flies on unchecked.
There are other worlds than ours. 1. With infinite atoms meeting in infinite space, chance will form time to time produce them.First of all, we find that in every direction everywhere, and on either side, above and below, through all the universe, there is no limit, as I have shown, and indeed the truth cries out for itself and the nature of the deep shines clear. Now in no way must we think it likely, since towards every side is infinite empty space, and seeds in unnumbered numbers in the deep universe fly about in many ways driven on in everlasting motion, that this one world and sky was brought to birth, but that beyond it all those bodies of matter do naught; above all, since this world was so made by nature, as the seeds of things themselves of their own accord, jostling from time to time, were driven together in many ways, rashly, idly, and in vain, and at last those united, which, suddenly cast together, might become ever and anon the beginnings of great things, of earth and sea and sky, and the race of living things. Wherefore, again and again, you must needs confess that there are here and there other gatherings of matter, such as is this, which the ether holds in its greedy grip.
2. Matter, space, and nature remaining the same, necessity must produce them.Moreover, when there is much matter ready to hand, when space is there, and no thing, no cause delays, things must, we may be sure, be carried on and completed. As it is, if there is so great a store of seeds as the whole life of living things could not number, and if the same force and nature abides which could throw together the seeds of things, each into their place in like manner as they are thrown together here, it must needs be that you confess that there are other worlds in other regions, and diverse races of men and tribes of wild beasts.
3. Nothing in nature is unique.This there is too that in the universe there is nothing single,n nothing born unique and growing unique and alone, but it is always of some tribe, and there are many things in the same race. First of all turn your mind to living creatures; you will find that in this wise is begotten the race of wild beasts that haunts the mountains, in this wise the stock of men, in this wise again the dumb herds of scaly fishes, and all the bodies of flying fowls. Wherefore you must confess in the same way that sky and earth and sun, moon, sea, and all else that exists, are not unique, but rather of number numberless; inasmuch as the deep-fixed boundary-stone of life awaits these as surely, and they are just as much of a body that has birth, as every race which is here on earth, abounding in things after its kind.
Nature is thus seen to work of herself, free of the control of the gods.And if you learn this surely, and cling to it, nature is seen, free at once, and quit of her proud rulers, doing all things of her own accord alone, without control of gods. For by the holy hearts of the gods, which in their tranquil peace pass placid years, and a life of calm, who can avail to rule the whole sum of the boundless, who to hold in his guiding hand the mighty reins of the deep, who to turn round all firmaments at once, and warm all fruitful lands with heavenly fires, or to be at all times present in all places, so as to make darkness with clouds, and shake the calm tracts of heaven with thunder, and then shoot thunderbolts, and often make havoc of his own temples, or moving away into deserts rage furiously there, plying the bolt, which often passes by the guilty and does to death the innocent and undeserving?
The world in its period of growth was increased by constant additions from without.And since the time of the world’s birth, and the first birthday of sea and earth, and the rising of the sun, many bodies have been added from without, and seeds added all around, which the great universe in its tossing has brought together; that from them sea and lands might be able to increase, and from them too the mansion of the sky might gain new room and lift its high vault far away from the lands, and the air might rise up. For from all places all bodies are separated by blows each to its own kind, and they pass on to their own tribes;So all bodies grow, so long as they take in more than they give out. moisture goes to moisture, with earthy substance earth grows, fires forge fires, and sky sky, until nature, parent of all, with perfecting hand has brought all things on to the last end of growing; as it comes to pass, when there is now no whit more which is sent within the veins of life, than what flows out and passes away. Here the growth of all things must stop, here nature by her powers curbs increase. For whatsoever things you see waxing large with joyful increase, and little by little climbing the steps to full-grown years, take more into themselves than they send out from their body, so long as food is passed easily into all their veins, and so long as the things are not so widely spread that they throw off much, and cause waste greater than that on which their growth feeds. For of a surety you must throw up your hands and grant that many bodies flow away and pass from things; but more must needs be added to them, until they have reached the topmost point of increase.Then comes the period of decay, when they lose more than they can take in. Then little by little age breaks their powers and their full-grown strength, and wastes away on the downhill path. For verily the huger a thing is and the wider it is, when once its bulk begins to go, the more bodies now does it scatter abroad and throw off from itself, nor is its food easily dispersed into all its veins, nor is there store enough, whence matter may arise and be supplied to equal the vast ebb which it gives out. With reason then they perish, when all things have been made rare by the ebb, and yield before the blows from without, inasmuch as at last food fails the aged life, nor do bodies from without cease to thump upon it, and wear it away, and to overcome it with hostile blows.So it will be with the world, Thus then even the walls of the wide world all round will be stormed and fall into decay and crumbling ruin. For it is food which must needs repair all things and renew them, food must support them, and food sustain all things; yet all is vain, since neither the veins can bear to receive what is enough, nor does nature furnish all that is needful. Yea, even now its life is broken, and the worn-out earth scarce creates tiny animals, though once it created all the tribes, and brought to birth huge bodies of wild beasts. For it was no golden rope,n I trow, which let down the races of living things from heaven above on to the fields, nor did the sea or the waves, that lash the rocks, create them, but the same earth conceived them, which now nourishes them of her substance. Moreover, at first by herself of her own accord she created for mortals the smiling crops and glad vine-plants, herself brought forth sweet fruits and glad pastures;which even now shows signs of decay. which now scarce wax great, though aided by our toil: we wear out our oxen and the strength of our husbandmen: we exhaust the iron ploughshare, though scarce supplied by the fields so much do they grudge their produce and increase our toil. And now the aged ploughman shaking his head sighs ever and again that the toil of his hands has perished all for naught, and when he matches the present days against the days of the past, he often praises the fortunes of his father. So too gloomily the planter of the wornout, wrinkled vine rails at the trend of the times, and wearies heaven, and grumbles to think how the generations of old, rich in piety, easily supported life on a narrow plot, since aforetime the limit of land was far less to each man. Nor does he grasp that all things waste away little by little and pass to the grave1 foredone by age and the lapse of life.
[1 ] Read with Munro, et ecum vi.
[2 ] Read with Munro, ornatasque armis statuas.
[1 ] A considerable number of lines seems to be lost here, in which Lucretius probably first gave other reasons for the atoms’ velocity, and then fulfilled the promise of line 62 to explain how the atoms by their motion created and dissolved things: the next two lines read like a conclusion of such a section.
[2 ] A line is probably lost here, of which Hoerschelmann has restored the sense: corpora sponte sua volitare invicta per aevum.
[1 ] Read sensus for sese with Bernays.
[1 ] This should be the sense, but the reading is uncertain: possibly quaerit.
[1 ] The text is corrupt and a line is probably lost: the translation follows Brieger’s restoration:ventis differri rapidis, nostrisque venenosensibus esse datum,
[2 ] It is likely that a paragraph is here lost in which Lucretius showed that the size of the atoms was limited: otherwise some would be perceptible. To this he probably refers in lines 479, 481 and 499.
[1 ] Again it is likely that some lines are lost in which Lucretius stated the general argument that if variety of shapes in the atoms were infinite, all extremes in our experience would be far surpassed: he then proceeds to illustration.
[1 ] This is the sense, though the text is uncertain.
[2 ] Reading ostendens with Munro.
[1 ] A line is lost, of which this must have been the general sense.
[1 ] A line is lost here, of which this was the probable sense.
[1 ] A line is lost, of which this must have been the sense.
[1 ] It is impossible to make sense of the passage as it stands, and Giussani is probably right in supposing several verses lost, in which the poet said that only such things could give anything off as contained void, and then gave a list of examples, ending up with the cetera of line 859.
[1 ] Giussani may be right in thinking that we should read latices (water) instead of lapides (stones), as it suits better with what follows.
[1 ] A line is lost, which might have been of the form hi proprii sensus mortalia semina reddunt.
[1 ] Read capulum with Vossius.