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On the Nature of Things: De Rerum Natura

by Lucretius, Anthony M. Esolen, Translator, etc.

Buy the book: Lucretius. On the Nature of Things: De Rerum Natura

Release Date: August, 1995

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Lucretius. On the Nature of Things: De Rerum Natura

Poetic philosophy

How incredible it is to read a poet and philosopher from 60 B.C. writing on the derivation of the idea that atoms must exist and that there is conservation of matter in nature! These thoughts about "atomism" might have been lost except for their inclusion in a very good Latin poem. Although credit is given to Leucippus and Democritus for starting the idea of atomism, Epicurius and Lucretius were strong exponents of these ideas. This poem utilizes common observations to illustrate that the world about us is simply a combination of atoms and void. This had strong implications not only for the demise of the Roman and Greek gods and goddesses but also for how humans should live in the real world, and how they largely create their own misery. Lucretius loved life, speaks strongly against the fear of death, and promotes a rational calm life in which friendship is very important. The poetry is wonderful and powerful in itself. Two quotes from the early part of the poem speak clearly and dramatically to the modern reader: "When before our eyes man's life lay groveling, prostrate, crushed to dust under the burden of Religion (which thrust its head from heaven, its horrible face glowering over mankind born to die), one man, a Greek, was the first mortal who dared oppose his eyes, the first to stand firm in defiance. Not the fables of the gods, nor lightning, nor the menacing rumble of heaven could daunt him, but all the more whetted his keen mind with longing to be first to smash open the tight-barred gates of Nature....And yet your virtue and the hoped-for pleasure of a delightful friendship urge me to persevere in my work, to watch through the calm nights, seeking choice words, the song by which at last I can open to your mind such dazzling light that you may see deep into hidden things." This is a great and astonishing poem, translated powerfully by Esolen. The book has a 21 page introduction at the beginning and 49 pages of notes at the end to help the reader understand the place of this poem in the history of ideas.

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