Paraphrased Lucretius Book 1

Welcome to this presentation of Book One of “On The Nature of Things,” the philosophy of Epicurus as summarized by Titus Lucretius Carus based on the Brown 1743 edition. Let us first direct our attention to the reason for everything that we do:

[1] MOTHER of Aeneas and the children of Rome, Delight of Men and Gods, Sweet Venus, it is you who with vital power fills the sea with the ships, the Earth with fruit, and all things beneath the rolling signs of Heaven. It is by Your call that all creatures of every kind conceive, rise into life, and view the Sun’s bright light. You, Goddess, the winds avoid. The clouds fly from you and your approach, but with many arts the Earth provides for you her sweetest flowers. For you the seas calm their roughest waves, and the smooth sky shine with clearest light. Each year the Spring leads on the year, and friendly western winds blow fresh. Warmed from from Winter’s cold, the birds are first to feel you, Goddess, and display the power you wake in their souls. Following their example the other animals of all kinds begin to stir and play over the fields and streams. In the same way, pleased by your sweetness, and transported by your charms, all of living Nature strives with sharp desire to follow your guide wherever you are pleased to lead. It is Your power, Venus, which inspires all living things and drives all creatures in the seas, in the mountains, in the forests, and in the plains to propagate their own kind from age to age.

[22] Since you Venus, alone, govern Nature’s laws, since without you nothing can rise to light, and since without you nothing can be gay or lovely, I ask you to join us as we proceed with our presentation of the Nature of Things, which I devote in particular to my friend Memmius and all our friends. I ask that you, sweet Goddess, will inspire this work, and give immortal beauty to our words. In the meantime, free us from the cares of all kinds, for only you can calm the wars which rage around us, and provide us peace for our study of Nature.

[42] In the coming study pay close attention, and be free from care as we pursue true reasoning, and do not reject these lessons before you understand them. For we are about to begin the study of very lofty themes. We are going to study the nature of the gods, the motion of the sky, how all things come into being, how they grow and rise to their limits and how they eventually decline and die. All of these things occur because of things which are called by various names, but to which we will refer as “atoms,” but which are really the smallest of the bodies, or the first principles, or first seeds of things, or first of bodies, from which all else comes. But before we proceed, let us also remember Epicurus,the man to whom we owe all of the wisdom we are about to study:

[63] For indeed there was a time when mankind was held in wretched bondage, and lay groveling on the ground before all eyes, galled with the yoke of what is called Religion. From the sky this tyrant shewed her head, and with grim looks hung over us poor mortals here below; until a man from Greece with steady eyes first dared to look her in the face, and first opposed her power. This man was not held back by the stories of the Gods, by the roar of thunder, or by threatening storms – all these simply spurred him on as he pressed forward to be the first to break through the gates separating men from Nature. By force of mind he prevailed, passing far beyond the flaming limits of this world and exploring the mighty spaces above; from which he then came back to us triumphant, to tell us what things can be, and what cannot be, and how a finite power gives rise to each, with a limit it cannot break. By this man's victory Religion, which we feared before, has now been subdued, and in turn we tread upon it. Through His conquest we ourselves can rise to the skies.

[80] But as we proceed, I am concerned that you will think that we are studying things that are impious, and following a road to wickedness. The truth is very far from this and in fact the reverse – think about what sad deeds Religion has produced. Remember, for example, the story of Iphigenia at Aulis. Remember how it was that, inspired by the Grecian priests, her own father sacrificed her on the altar for a supposed blessing of fair winds for his ships! Such are the scenes of villainy that Religion inspires!

[103] I also want to caution those of you who will be tempted to dispute what I tell you because you are afraid, having spent your lives trembling at the horrible threats of spending an eternity in Hell for impiety. Even now we could talk about such dreams as would pervert even the most steady of reasoning, and cause your hearts to tremble to the bottom in fear. But think - it is no wonder that the priests have invented such tales of punishment, because they know that if you were ever convinced that death is the sure end of all your pains, you would then resist with reason the force of all Religion, and ignore their threats. As it is, because we fear their stories of endless torment after death, we have no power to fight back against their threats.

[113] The problem is that we are confused about the nature of the soul - whether it is formed with the body at birth, and then perishes with the body at death, or whether it survives death to descend into Hell, as poets such as Ennius have taught. Poets such has he have told tales in immortal poems about places where souls wander for eternity in never-ending pain.

[126] So in order to set you straight about all these things, we shall study together the nature of all things, the forces by which the Sun and Moon run their courses in the sky, by what power all things in Earth and Heaven were formed. But even more importantly, we will study together the nature of the human soul, and how we see some things around us clearly, but how we also sometimes think we see other things which scare us, even such things as ghosts of people who we know are long dead.

[137] It is hard to explain all these details in words, but with patience, friends, and with the pleasure we will get from our study together, we can work through all these issues and open our minds to scenes of light which will open up to us the hidden qualities of things previously unknown.

[145] Just remember: Darkness and terrors of the mind cannot be dispelled by the Sun’s beams, but only through the study and understanding of Nature.

And here, first, in all that follows, remember this first principle which will always be our guide: Nothing has ever been made from nothing, even by gods. It is because we do not understand that fear can sometimes grip our minds, and than when we see strange things that we cannot understand we attribute them to the work of gods. But as soon as we understand and are convinced that nothing can come from nothing, then the way is clear to our understanding of nature, and we will see how everything which comes into being occurs without the help or the trouble of the Gods.

[160] If things proceed from nothing, every thing might spring from any thing, and want no seed; Men from the sea might first arise, and fish and birds break from the Earth, and herds and tender flocks drop from the sky, and every kind of beast fix’d to no certain place, might find a being in deserts or in cultivated fields: Nor the same fruit on the same trees would grow, but would be chang’d, and all things all things bear. For had not every thing its genial seed, how is it that every thing derives its birth from causes still the same? But now, since things are formed from certain seeds, and first rise into light, where every being has its principles and matter fitly framed, from hence we see that all things cannot spring from every thing, since each has certain secret properties peculiar to itself.

[175] Why do we see the rose adorn the Spring, the fruits in Summer, and the sweaty Autumn pressing the vine, unless the fixed seeds of things, uniting in their proper times, give life to beings, each in its stated season, while Mother Earth can trust her tender offspring with safety to the air. But if things proceed from nothing, in a moment they might spring at times uncertain, at quarters of the year unfit, and there would be no proper seeds, whose kindly influence might check their growth at seasons that would kill them in the bud.

[185] Again, if things could spring from nought, what need of time for bodies to fulfill their growth by accession of new matter? An infant then might instantly become a youth, and trees start up in full perfection from the Earth. But ‘tis not so, ‘tis plain; for things, we know, grow by degrees from certain seeds, and still as they grow keep their kind; and thus you find each being rise into bulk, and thrives from seed and matter proper to itself.

[193] Nor likewise can the Earth produce her fruits to cheer the heart, unless with timely showers impregnated; nor can creatures, blessed with life, deprived of food, e’er propagate their kind, or save their own lifes; and so you safer say that certain fixed principles belong to certain things, as letters form our words, than that from nothing any thing can rise.

[200] Further, whence is it that Nature cannot shew men so gigantic as on foot to wade through seas, or with their hands to tear up mighty hills, or to surpass the common bounds of life, by many ages, but that certain seeds are fixed to all things, whence they must arise? And so we must confess that nothing springs from nothing, since each kind must proceed from seed, the principle whence every creature derives its life, and feels the gentle air.

[208] Besides, because we find the Earth, improved by care, exceeds the uncultivated soil, and by turning up the fruitful clods, by ploughing, and, by breaking up the ground, we force to spring, but then, if no such seeds lay there, the fruits, without our labor would of their own accord improve, and of themselves prevent our care.

[216] Add here, that Nature does dissolve all bodies into their principles again, nor can reduce things into nothing.

[218] For if every being was liable to death through all its substance, snatched from our eyes, it would directly perish; no need of violence to make a breach in all its parts, and loose the vital bands. But now since things are formed from eternal seeds, Nature wills that nothing be destroyed unless some force prevails, which beats with blows its outward form, or pierces through the pores with subtle art and so dissolves the frame.

[226] Besides, such things as are removed by age, if time destroys them quite in all its parts, whence does the Power of Love restore to light the several race of beings? Whence the Earth, with nicest art, does nourish them when born, and makes them grow, and feeds with proper food each its kind? Whence do the bounteous springs and rivers, with their wandering streams from far, supply the sea? The air whence feed the stars? For that vast tract of time already past had long ago consumed things that were formed from mortal seed; but if those bodies which compose this universe of things were still supplied through all that space and periods of time that passed long since, they must surely consist of an immortal nature, and from death secure, can never into nothing fall.

[239] Again, the same violence would everywhere destroy all beings, if the eternal power of matter did not hold fast their close compacted frame in bonds more strong or weak; a single touch would surely be the cause of death, for things formed out of mortal seed by any force must perish, and their frame be quite dissolved; but now, because the union of seeds of bodies differs, which consist of matter eternal in its nature, every being is safe from danger til some proper force, proportioned to its texture, makes the assault. So nothing can return to nothing; every thing resolves by separation of its parts into its principles from whence it spring.

[251] Lastly, the rains that Father Aether pours into the womb of mother earth do seem to perish there, but strait fair fruits spring up; the boughs grow green upon the trees, their limbs increase, and bend beneath a load of fruit; hence all living race of men and beasts are fed, our gallant cities filled with youth, our leafy woods resound with songs of birds new fledged; the weary flocks grow fat, repose their bodies on the fertile plains, while the white milky humour from their dugs distended flows; and hence their sprightly young, in wanton play, frisk with their tender limbs over the soft grass, cheering their little hearts with the pure milk; and therefore things we see do not entirely die. Nature still renews one being by another, nor does she suffer one thing to be unless supplied with matter from something else that was dissolved before.

[267] And now, since I have taught that nothing can proceed from nothing, nor can things, once formed, to nothing be reduced, lest you by chance should doubt my reasons, since the seeds of things cannot be seen with naked eyes; hear further, that there are seeds of bodies (and you must confess there are) impervious to the sight.

[272] And first, the raging force of winds does lash the sea, o'erthrow vast ships, and chase the clouds; sometimes they scour the plains with furious storms, and spread them o'er with tallest trees, and vex the lofty hills with blasts that rend the woods. And so they bluster with a dreadful sound, and roar with threatening noise through the air. These winds are therefore bodies to the eyes unseen, which scour the sea, the lands, the clouds, and toss them, thus tormented, with their blasts. They act the same, and spread destruction round as a still stream, increased by sudden rain, and swelled by torrents pouring from the hills, the effect of driving showers, is born along, rending the limbs of trees, and then whole woods: Nor can the strongest bridges bear the force, so sudden, of the rushing flood; the stream, made mad by hasty rains, beats on the dams with force impetuous, swells through the breach with horrid noise, and rolls the massy stones under its waves, and breaks what stops its tide. Just so the hurricanes of wind drive on which way they point their blasts, like mighty floods, force all before them, beat with frequent strokes; sometimes they snatch with rapid turns, and while things as they roll in eddies through the air. These winds, 'tis plain, are bodies still unseen, since by their furious blasts they rival in their force the largest streams, which bodies are we own.

[298] Besides, we feel the various smells of things, but can't discern how they affect the nose; nor can we see the raging heat, nor with our eyes perceive the cold, nor can we see a voice; all which by nature are of bodies formed, because they make an impression on the sense, for nothing but body can be touched, or touch.

[306] Again, a garment hung up nigh the shore, that breaks the waves, grows wet, and, to the Sun expanded, dries; yet no one ever saw how the moist vapor fix'd, or how again it fled before the heat; the watery drops must be dissolved into small parts too subtle to be at all discovered by the eye.

[312] But further, after circling many years, a ring upon the finger wears away, the fall of dropping water hollows stones, the crooked plough-share, though of iron, wastes in the fields insensibly by use; we see the streets, paved with hard stones, worn out by frequent tread of passengers; the brazen statues nigh the gates shew their right hands made less by many a kiss of those who worship, or who pass along. These things we see shew less and less, and wear; but what a share of matter every time is brushed off, nature in envy to us has not indulged the faculty to see.

[323] Lastly, what every day and nature do bestow on beings, to make them grow by just degrees, not the most piercing eye could ever find, nor yet the particles that fly and waste by age or by decay; nor can you see by what degrees the rocks are eaten through by the corroding salt of dashing waves: thus Nature works by bodies not discerned.

[330] And yet all beings are not formed of close and solid parts; in things there is a void, which in your searches into nature will be of use to know. This will preserve your wandering mind from doubt, prevent your constant toil by judging right of nature's laws, and make my words believed.

[335] Wherefore there is a place we call a void, an empty space intangible, or else no bodies could be moved, or stir; the quality all bodies have to stop and to oppose does never fail, so that to move would be in vain to try, no body first by yielding would give way. But now we see before our eyes that things move various ways in seas, in Earth, and in the heaven above; but where there no void, they would not be deprived of that activity of motion only, but would not be at all; for matter wedged and crowded close on every side had ever been at rest.

[347] Besides, though things appear of solid parts composed, yet you will find them, in some measure, formed of bodies that are rare; the liquid moisture of the water sweats through rocks and stones, and all things weep with drops abundand; the food that every creature eats disperses through the body; the trees increase and grow and in due season shew their fruit; because the juice is from the lowe roots spread through the trunk, and over all the boughs. Sounds pass through strong partitions, and fly quick through walls of houses, and the piercing cold srikes through the very bones; but were no void, no empty space, that bodies ever should pass, you'd find a thing impossible to prove.

[359] Again, why do we see some things exceed others in weight, though of equal size? For if as much of body went to form a ball of wool as made a ball of lead, their weight would be the same; for the quality of body is to press downward: but a perfect void by nature has no weight; so that a body of equal size, but lighter in is weight, proves it has more of empty space. So again, the heavier body has more of solid parts 'tis plain, and has within it less of void. And this is doubtless what with reason's searching eye we look for, mixed with things; we call it space.

[371] But I am forced to step before, and answer what some pretend, lest you should be seduced from truth: They say the waters yield to fish making their way, and open their liquid paths; for when the fish have left a space, that instant thither the yielding waters circling flow. By the same rule, all beings may be moved among themselves, and change their former place, though all things should be full: but this, 'tis plain, is false throughout; for how could fish advance at all, unless the waters gave them way? And whither should the waves retire, if the fish did not move, and leave a space behind? So that all bodies must be deprived of motion, or you must say a void is mixed with every thing from whence each being first derives a power to move.

[385] Lastly, if two broad bodies meet, and instantly are separated again, the air must needs fill up the void that is between; but this air, though it should hurry with its swiftest powers, it cannot all at once fill up the space these bodies will disclose at parting; first the nearest part will be filled up, and then the more remote, until the whole be full.

[391] If one should say when these flat bodies meet the air is condensed, but when they part the air is rarified, 'tis a mistake; for then here must be void where there was none before, and that void that was before must now be full; in such a case, the air can't be condensed; and if it could, it can't without a void contract itself, and so reduce its parts into a closer space. Wherefore, perplex the matter as you please, you must confess in things there is a void.

[401] I could by many arguments confirm this system of a void, and fix your faith to what I say, but these small tracks I have drawn, to such a searching mind, will be enough; the rest you may find out without a guide. For as staunch hounds, once put upon the foot, will be nose soon rouse the mountain game from their thick covers, so you, in things like these, will one thing by another trace, will hunt for truth in every dark recess, and draw her thence.

[411] But if you doubt, or in the least object to what I say, I freely promise this, my Memmius, my tuneful tongue shall, from the mighty store that fills my heart, pour out such plenteous draughts from the deep springs, that tardy age I fear will first creep through my limbs, and quite break down the gates of life, before I can explain in verse the many arguments that give a light to one particular. But now I shall go on to finish regularly what I begun.

[420] All nature therefore, in itself considered, is one of these, is body or is space, in which all things are placed, and from which the various motions of all beings spring. That there is body common sense will show, this as a fundamental truth must be allowed, or there is nothing we can fix as certain in our pursuit of hidden things, by which to find the Truth, or prove it when 'tis found. Then if there were no place or space, we call it void, bodies would have no where to be, nor could they move at all, as we have fully proved to you before.

[431] Besides, there is nothing you can strictly say, “It is neither body nor void,” which you may call a third degree of things distinct from these. For every being must in quantity be more or less; and if it can be touched, though ne'er so small or light, it must be body, and so esteemed; but if it can't be touched, and has not in itself a power to stop the course of other bodies as they pass, this is the void we call an empty space.

[439] Again, whatever is must either act itself, or be by other agents acted on; or must be something in which other bodies must have a place and move; but nothing without body can act, or be acted on; and where can this be done, but in a vacuum or empty space? Therefore, beside what body is or space, no third degree in nature can be found, nothing that ever can affect our sense, or by the power of thought can be conceived. All other things you'll find essential conjuncts, or else the events or accidents of these. I call essential conjunct what's so joined to a thing that it cannot, without fatal violence, be forced or parted from it; is weight to stones, to fire heat, moisture to the Sea, touch to all bodies, and not to be touched essential is to void. But, on the contrary, Bondage, Liberty, Riches, Poverty, War, Concord, or the like, which not affect the nature of the thing, but when they come or go, the thing remains entire; these, as it is fit we should, we call Events.

[460] Time likewise of itself is nothing; our sense collects from things themselves what has been done long since, the thing that present is, and what's to come. For no one, we must own, ever thought of Time distinct from things in motion or at rest.

[465] For when the poets sing of Helen's rape, or of the Trojan State subdued by war, we must not say that these things do exist now in themselves, since Time, irrevocably past, has long since swept away that race of men that were the cause of those events; for every act is either properly the event of things, or of the places where those things are done.

[472] Further, if things were not of matter formed, were there no place or space where things might act, the fire that burned in Paris' heart, blown up by love of Helen's beauty, had never raised the famous contests of a cruel war; nor had the wooden horse set Troy on fire, discharging from his belly in the night the armed Greeks: from whence you plainly see that actions do not of themselves subsist, as bodies do, nor are in nature such as is a void, but rather are more justly called the events of body, and of space, where things are carried on.

[484] Lastly, bodies are either the first seeds of things, or formed by the uniting of those seeds. The simple seeds of things no force can strain, their solid parts will never be subdued. Though it is difficult, I own, to think that any thing in nature can be found perfectly solid; for heaven's thunder passes through the walls of houses, just as sound or words; iron in the fire grows hot, and burning stones fly into pieces by the raging heat; the stiffness of the gold is loosed by fire, and made to run; the hard and solid brass, subdued by flames, dissolves; the heat and piercing cold passes through silver; both of these we find as in our hand we hold a cup, and at the top pour water hot or cold: so nothing wholly solid seems to be found in nature. But because reason and the fixed state of things oblige me, here, I beg, while in few verses we evince that there are beings that consist of solid and everlasting matter which we call the seeds, the first principles of things, from whence the whole of things begin to be.

[504] And, first, because we find two sorts of things unlike in nature, in themselves distinct, body and space, 'tis necessary each should be entire, and separate in itself; for where there is a space which we call void, there nothing is of body; so were body is, there nothing is of empty space: and therefore such things are as solids and first seeds, which nothing in them can admit of void.

[512] Besides, because in all created things there is a void, 'tis necessary some solid matter should still include this void; nor can you prove, bu any rule of reason, that any thing contains within itself an empty space, unless you will allow what holds it in is perfect solid; and this is nothing else but the close union of the first seeds, which bind and do confine within themselves this void. Matter therefore composed of solid parts eternal is, when all things else must die.

[520] Further, if there was no such thing as we call void, every thing would be solid; then again, unless there were some things solid to fill up the space they hold, all would be empty space. Body from space therefore is in itself distinct; for all is neither full, nor is all void; and therefore there are solid seeds which make a difference between full and space.

[525] These solid seeds by no force from without can be dissolved, nor can they be destroyed by being pierced within, nor made to yield by any other means, as proved before. For nothing can be bruised without a void, or broken or by force be cleft in two, or receive moisture, or the piercing cold, or searching fire which all things else destroys. And the more of void the solid seeds confine, the sooner when they are struck will they dissolve and fall to pieces; therefore, if these first seeds are solid, free from void, they, as I said, must be eternal, and from death secure.

[541] Again, if matter had not been eternal, long before now all beings had returned to nothing, and each being we behold again had been restored from nothing; but, as before I proved, nothing from nothing can be made, and what was once in being can never to nothing be reduced; it follows, those first seeds must be composed of principles immortal, into which at last each being must dissolve, and thence supply an everlasting stock of matter to repair the things decayed. These first seeds therefore are solid and simple, else they could not last entire through ages pas and infinite, to repair beings perished and dissolved.

[552] But still, if nature had prefixed no bounds in breaking things to pieces, the parts of matter, broken by every passing age, had been reduced so small that nothing could of them be formed tha would in any time become mature; for things we see much sooner are dissolved than are again restored; and therefore what an infinite tract of ages past has broken, and separated and dissolved, in future time can never be repaired; so that certain bounds of breaking and dividing must be set, because we see each being is repaired, and stated times are fixed to ever thing in which it feels the flower of its age.

[566] And yet, though the first seeds of things are solid, all beings that are compounded, such as air and water, earth and fire, may be soft, (however made, or by what power formed) and from them be produced, because there is a void still mixed with things; and, on the contrary, if these first seeds were soft, what reason can there be assigned whence hardened flints and iron could be formed, for nature would want the proper principles to work upon; and therefore these first seeds must simple solids be, by whose union close and compact all things are bound up firm, and so display their strength and hardy force.

[578] Again, because each being in its kind has certain bounds prefixed to its increase, and to the preservation of its life, and since by nature's laws it is ordained to each how far their powers to act or not extend; since nothing changes, and every thing goes on as it began, each kind of birds, most steady in their course, shew the same colors painted on their wings, the principles of matter whence they spring must be fixed and unchangeable; if the seeds of things could change by any means, it would be unknown what could be formed, what not; by what means every being is limited, and stops short within the bounds it cannot break; nor could the course of time in every age, the nature, motion, diet, and the manners of the old sire impress upon the young.

[593] Besides, because the utmost point or the extreme of every body something is the eye cannot discern, it is not made of parts, but is in nature what we call the least; which never exists of itself, divided from body, nor ever can, because it is the very first and last of something else. For 'tis by heaping up such parts as these, one by another, that complete the being of every body. Since then they can't subsist apart, and separate, they must needs stick close, nor be divided by the utmost force. These seeds therefore are in their nature solid, and simple, formed of smallest parts bound close; not tied together by united seeds of various kinds, but in themselves entire, eternally unmixed and pure, from which nature will suffer nothing to be forced or lessened, reserving them as first seeds, to form and to repair those things that die.

[609] Again, suppose there was no least, the smallest bodies must be composed of parts boundless and infinite; the half of every being must then contain another half, so there would be no end of still dividing; and where would be the difference between the smallest and the largest bodies? None in the least; for though the whole be entirely infinite, yet bodies that are smallest would contain infinite parts alike, which, since true reason exclaims against, nor will allow the mind to give assent, you must, convinced, profess that there are bodies which are void of parts, and are by nature least; since such there are, you must admit them solid and eternal.

[621] Lastly, if nature, parent of things, had not compelled all things that perish then to be resolved into least parts, she could from them repair nothing that dies; for bodies that are formed of various parts can never be endued with properties, which the first seeds of things ought to possess, as union, weight, and force, agreement, motion, by which all things act.

[627] And yet, suppose that nature had allowed no end to bodies being divided, yet some bodies from eternity must have been, which by no force could ever be subdued. But bodies that are formed of brittle seeds, and to be broken, could not have remained for ages infinite, vexed as they have been with endless blows, but must have been dissolved.

[635] Wherefore, those sages who have thought that fire is the first principle of things, and from that alone the whole is formed, do greatly erro from the true rule of reason. The champion of these, Heraclitus, enters first the lists, more famed for dark expression among empty Greeks than with the wise, who search for truth; for none but fools admire, and love what they see couched in words abstruse; and that they take for truth which quaintly moves the ear, and painted over affecs by witty jingling of the sound.

[646] For how such various beings could arise, I ask, if formed from pure and real fire? To say, that the hot fire is now condensed, and sometimes rarified, would nought avail; the several parts must still retain the nature of fire, the same which the fire had when whole; the heat would be more fierce, the parts condensed, more languid when divided and made rare. There's nothing more than this you can derive from causes such as these; much less so great variety of things can be produced from fire or flame, condensed or made rare.

[656] Indeed, would they admit in things a void, fire then might be condensed or rarified; but this, because it contradicts their other schemes, they murmur at, and will allow in things no empty space: So, while they fear to grant this difficult truth, they lose the way that's right, nor do they see, by not allowing there is in things a void, all bodies would be dense, and out of all one only would be made, which could by force emit nothing without itself, as the hot fire emits both light and heat, which shews it is not composed of crowded parts, without a void.

[666] But if they think that a fire in all its parts may be extinguished, and so its body change; if they insist that this may once be done, then the whole fire must be resolved to nothing, and things new-form from nothing must arise; for whatsoever is changed, and breaks the bounds of its first nature, dies, and is no more what must still remain whole and unhurt, lest things to nothing should perfectly return; and then revive, and should again from nothing be restored.

[676] But now, since there remain some certain seeds that keep their nature still the same, whose absence or their presence, and their change of order change the nature of compound bodies, you must not think that these first seeds are fiery; if they were, what would it signify what seeds are absent, or what retire, what others take their place, how others may their rank and order change, since all would still be in their nature fire, and beings formed from them must wholly be of fire? But, as I think, the case is thus: some certain seeds there are by whose concussion, motion, order, site, and figure, fire is formed; and when their order is changed, they change the nature of this fire; but these first seeds have nothing fiery in themselves, nor of such a nature are they as to send forth bodies to be perceived by sense, or be the object of our touch.

[691] And now to say that every thing is fire, and no true thing in nature does exist but fire, as this man does, is madness all; he contradicts his senses by his sense, and overthrows those tests of truth by which all things are known: for 'tis by them we know what thing which he calls fire, and this sense concludes, it truly knows the nature of this fire; but then all other things it will deny, which equally are true. This is to me a vain and foolish way to judge; for to what shall we apply? And what can be more sure than our senses to us, by which we fully know falsehood and truth?

[702] Besides, why any one should all things else disclaim, and only fire allow, or say there's no such thing as fire, and all things else allow, either of this is in vain, and equal madness to believe.

[706] Wherefore, those sages who contend that fire is the first principle, and that of fire all things consist, and those who make he air the first seeds of bodies, and such who lay the water is the sole cause of beings, or that the Earth all things creates, and can infuse itself into the nature of all things, do strangely err, and wander wide from the truth.

[713] And so do those who doubt the first elements of things, and to produce all beings, join the air to fire, the earth to water, or believe that from all four all beings are produced, and spring from air, and water, earth and fire.

[716] The chief of these we rank Empedocles of Agrigentum, born in Sicily, the island famed for its three promontories, whose sides the Ionian sea flows all around, with mighty windings, from whose coast the sea, by a narrow Frith, divides the bounds of Italy. Here is the fierce Charybdis, here Aetna roars, and threatens loud to suck in flames of vengeance, with greater force to belch them out again, burst from his jaws, and throw the flashing fire high as he sky. This island, though renowned by men for many things, and worth their sight, rich in the best advantages of life, by mighty men defended, yet produced nothing more glorious than this one great man, nothing more venerable, admired, and dear. Besides his verse, that from his soul divine flows sweetly, so clearly proves, and so explains the noble secrets he has found, he seems scarce born of human race, but from the gods.

[735] Yet he, with others inferior note we named before, remarkably, by great degrees, and uch below him, though these have succeeded well in their search, and many things have found as if inspired, and have pronounced their oracles (from the most close recesses of their souls) much more divine, and founded more on reason than Pythia, sacred prophetess, from Tripod, or from Apollo's laurel ever spoke. Yet they have made sad havoc, when they search into the principles of things and fell with this great man's mistakes together with him.

[743] And first, because, denying there is void in bodies, they admit of motion, and allow that things are soft or rare; as the air, the sun, the fire, the earth, the creatures, fruits, and yet will mix no empty space in the contexture of bodies that are formed.

[747] And then they set no bounds to bodies being divided, nor will admit an end to blows that break their frame; nor will they grant that such a thing as least is found in bodies, when we plainly see that every being has a part, a point that utmost lies, and obvious to our sense, which is the least of all; and thence conclude, that utmost pointis that same least in things too small to be discovered by the sight.

[754] Besides, these men make their principles of things consist in soft seeds, which we see are born, and altogether mortal in their frame; if so, the whole of things must have returned to nothing, and be again from thence restored; how distant both from truth you have heard before.

[760] And then such seeds are many times at war among themselves, and poison to each other, and so will perish in the attack, or fly scattered, as in a tempest we observe the thunder, and the showers and wind disperse.

[764] Lastly, if all things from four elements are formed, and into them are finally dissolved, why should they rather the first principles of things be called, than things the principles of them? For they are produced alternately, are ever changing their form and their whole nature mutually into each other; but if by chance you think the body of the fire and earth is joined, that air is joined to water, and this united, each element preserves its nature still entire; nothing from seeds like these could have been formed, not men, nor things inanimate, as trees: for every element in this various heap of matter, ever changing, would display its proper nature still; you'd see air mixed with the earth, and fire and water joined. But the first principles whence things are formed should be in nature close and undiscerned, that nothing might appear which should oppose or jar, and thus prevent the compound body from being uniform, and make it consist of parts dissimilar, confused and void.

[782] Besides, philosophers like these derive their transmutation from celestial fire; and first, they make this fire change to air, from air is water formed, the earth from water; and then again, from earth these elements return, first water, then the air, then last the fire. Nor do these constant changes ever cease among themselves, but still proceed from heaven to earth, from earth to stars, that light the world. But the first seeds of things must by no means be thus disposed; for something immutable must needs remain, lest things should utterly to nothing be reduced: For whatsoever suffers change, by passing over the bounds of its first nature, dies, and is no more what it first was. Those elements therefore, which, as we said above, admit of change, must needs consist of other seeds which never can change at all, lest things should utterly to nothing be reduced: Then rather say, there are some certain principles in nature which are the seeds of fire, suppose, and some of these being taken away, or else by adding more, by changing of their order or their motion, they compose the air, and so all other beings may be produced by changes such as these.

[803] But you say, that common fact does clearly show that all things grow and rise into the air and are supported by the earth; and unless the season, in happy time, indulges rain, and shakes the trees with driving showers, unless the sun, on his part, cherishes and gives his heat, nor fruits, nor trees, nor creatures could increase. 'Tis true, but these are not first seeds; and we likewise, unless dry food and kindly juice preserve our bodies, they must perish, and every spark of life, out of our nerves and bones, must be extinct. We are upheld, no doubt, and nourished by certain means; and other things are staid by certain others; for many common principles of many things are mixed in each. And therefore, the various kinds of things we find supported in a different manner; but yet it much concerns with what, and in what order, these first seeds unite, and what motion they give and take among themselves; for the same seeds compose heaven, earth, the sea, the rivers, and the sun, the same compose the creatures, fruits, and trees, they differ only as they are moved by others, and as their mixture differs in themselves.

[823] So, in these lines of mine, the many letters you see are common to the make and form of many words; and yet, you must confess, the verses and the words are much unlike in sense and sound: Such is the force of letters, by change of order only. But the first seeds of things being more, must needs admit of changes more different; from whence proceeds that great variety of things we see produced.

[829]Now, let us inquire into the homoeomery of Anaxagorus, the Greeks so call it, but the poverty of the Latin tongue will not allow us to express it; but yet, by a short periphrasis, we can explain that thing when he calls homoeomery, and makes the principle of bodies. For instance, bones proceed from small and little bones; and flesh is made of small and little bits of flesh; and blood is formed of many drops of blood flowing together; and gold, he thinks, consists of little grains of gold; and Earch grows firm by particles of earth; fire is made of fire; water from water springs; and all things else, he thinks, from causes such as these arise.

[843] And yet this man in no case will allow in things a void, nor that there is an end to bodies being divided: he equally mistakes in both, and so do those sages spoken of before.

[847] Besides, the seeds he chose are much too weak, if of the same frail nature they consist, as do the things themselves, they equally fall to decay, and perish, nothing hinders them from death: for which of these can long hold out against the fierce jaws of death, and so escape destruction, crushed between his very teeth? Can fire? Can Air? Can water? Which of these? Can blood? Can bone? In my opinion none. All things in nature then would be equally liable to death, as are such things we see before our eyes by any force destroyed. But this, I think, is fully proved before, that nothing can fall to nothing, or from nothing rise.

[859] Besides, since food increases and supports the body, then we know the veins, the blood, the bones, consist of heterogeneous and parts dissimilar, as does our food. But if they say all food consists of parts various and mixed, and in itself contains the little strings of nerves and bones, and all the veins and parts of blood, then all dry meat and drink must needs consist of parts dissimilar, of bones, of nerves, of veins, and mingled blood.

[867] Further, if all things which grow from the Earth are in the Earth contained, the earth must consist of parts dissimilar, as do those things from which the earth arise. Now change the theme, but keep the terms the same; in wood if flame and smoke, and ashes lay concealed, then wood must needs consist of parts of different frame.

[874] But here a thin evasion seems to shake this argument a little; and Anaxagorus himself makes use of it: he thinks all things are mixed with all things and lie hid, but that one thing only appears, of which it most abounds, and on the surface lies; but this reply is vain, and wide from truth, for then the little grains of corn, when ground, would show some signs of blood, or of some other parts which form our bodies; and when we wear the stones, the blood would flow. But the like reason herbs would sweat sweet drops of liquor, so delightful to the taste as flow from dugs of woolly sheep, and clods of crumbled earth would show the various kinds of fruits and herbs, and leaves distinct and hid in smallest particles within the earth; And then, in wood divided, might be seen concealed ashes and smoke, and smallest parts of fire. But since experience shows nothing of this appears, we must conclude there's no such mixture as this in things; but say, that common seeds of many things in various order joined, are mixed in every thing, and lie concealed.

[894] But oft, you say, upon the mountain tops, the heads of lofty trees that grow together are by the violent blasts of forcing winds so rubbed by close collision that they soon are all on fire, and flames shine out. 'Tis true, and yet there's no actual fire within the wood, but many seeds of fire, which by hard rubbing ignite, and so the wood is all in flames. For if so much of fire had lain concealed within the wood, this fire would have appeared immediately, and so consumed the wood entirely, and burnt its root branches to the ground.

[906] You see therefore of what concern it is, as we observed before, with what first principles those seeds are joined, and in what order placed, and what the motions are they give and take among themselves, and how the seeds remaining ever the same, but yet their order changed, produce a fire from wood; just as we write ignis and lignum, though quite different words, they are yet composed of letters much the same.

[914] Lastly, if things most obvious to the sense, you think, cannot be formed unless you make their seeds consist of principles the same in nature, those principles would be destroyed; you'd see some seeds would shake their little sides with laughing, and some bedew their face with tears.

[920] Now, what remains observe, attend me close; I know my theme is dark, but the great love of praise pricks on my heart with sharpest spurs, and strikes my soul at once with sweet desire of the most tuneful Nine; but this urged on, my mind in rapture, I haunt the Muses' seats, of difficult access, and yet untrod; I love to approach the purest springs, and thence to draw large draughts. I love to crop fresh flowers, and make a noble garland for my head; from thence, where yet the Muses never bound another's temples with a crown like mine. And first, I write of lofty things, and strive to free the mind from the severest bonds of when men call religion; then my verse I frame so clear, although my theme be dark, seasoning my lines with the poetic sweets of fancy, and reason justifies the method. For as the physicians, when they would prevail on children to take down a bitter draught of wormwood, first tinge the edges of the cup, that so the childrens unsuspecting age may be deceived, at least their lips, and take the bitter juice, thus harmlessly betrayed, but not abused, they have their health restored: So I, because this system seems severe and harsh, to such who have not yet discerned its truth, and the common herd are utterly averse to this philosophy, I thought it fit to show the rigid principles in verse smooth and alluring, and tinge them, as it were, with sweet poetic honey, thus to charm thy mind with my soft numbers, till you view the nature of all things clearly, and perceive the figure and order they display.

[950] But since I taught the principles of matter are solid, are eternal, evermoving, nor are destroyed; now, come, let us inquire whether they have an end, or are by nature infinite: and since we have found a void or place, or space in which all things are moved, let us now see whether the universe, made up of void and body, be circumscribed, or does to a profound immensity extend.

[957] This All, therefore, does not admit of bounds; for if it did, then it must have something extreme: Now, no extreme can be, unless it lies beyond those things whose bounds, or whose extreme it is, from whence they may be seen, and beyond which our faculty of sight can reach no further. Now since we must own, that nothing can be beyond the All, this All has therefore no extreme, it has no ends, no bounds; nor does it signify what spot of this great All you stand upon; for on what part soever you are fixed, you have a wide and infinite space around you every way.

[966] But if this wide extent of space be finite and circumscribed, let a man stand upon the utmost verge, and from thence throw a dart, whether you choose this dart, with mighty force thus cast, should reach the mark designed, and fly swift on, or whether you think that something should hinder or oppose its flight, and one of these you must confess; now either way you are caught, and can't escape: You are forced to own this All lies wide extended without bounds. For whether there be something that does hinder and stop its flight, so that it cannot reach the mark designed, and there rest still and fixed; or whether it flies forward, there this end you cannot fix: for if it stops, then something must lie beyond the utmost verge; and if it flies, there is a space beyond the extremist brink. And thus I follow close, and wheresoever you place the extremes bounds, I still demand what comes of your dart? So that no bounds can anywhere be fixed, but space immense will always give a passage to its flight.

[983] Besides, were this All's extended space shut up by certain bounds in every side, and was by nature finite, then this mass of matter, pressed by its solid weight, had long ere now sunk to the lowest place, and therefore nothing under the vault of heaven could have a being, nor could there be heavens at all, or the sun's light. For then the seeds of things that had been sinking from all eternity would in confusion lie on heaps; by now the principles of bodies having no rest at all, are ever moving, because there's no such thing as lowest place, to which they may descend, no fixed abode where they should rest; but things are ever carried by motion never-ending, through every part of this vast All, from whence the active seeds of things arise, and are eternally supplied.

[997] Further, we see one thing bounds another; the air bounds in the hills, the hills the air, the earth shuts up the sea, and then again the sea surrounds the earth; but this great All nothing exterior to itself can bind. For the nature of this place, this empty space, is such, that rivers of the swiftest stream, were they to run for ages infinite, with a perpetual current, could not run through it, or ever by their running prove that they had less of their course to run; so vastly wide this mighty space of things extended lies on all sides, every way, without all bounds.

[1006] Besides, the laws of nature do provide, that this universe of things will not admit of limits to itself, because body is bound to void, and void a bound to body; and by this mutual termination is is, that this great All becomes immense; for were not each a bound until the other, were body not a limit set to void, the void would be infinite, and all finite bodies would be dissolved, and so nor sea, nor earth, nor the bright heavens, nor mortal race of men, nor sacred bodies of gods could be one moment of an hour; for the seeds of bodies being disunited in themselves, would fly, and quite dissolved, be carried through the void; or rather, being never joined, had formed no being; for once scattered through this space, they could not be compelled to join again.

[1020] For certainly the principles of things could never range themselves in form or order, by counsel, or by wisdom of the mind, nor any compact make how each should move; but being changed in various forms, and struck with many blows, they are driven through this void for many ages, and having tried all kinds of motion, and of union, they at length by chance are so disposed to frame those bodies of which this Universe of things consists. And these seeds once thrown into convenient motions, and keeping in the same for many ages, is the true cause that rivers, with a large supply of waters from their streams, fill up the greedy sea, and the earth, supported by the sun's heat, renews the fruits, and the race of living creatures flourish, and the rolling stars of heaven are kept alive; all which could never be, if from this infinite mass a supply of seeds flowed not, from whence decaying things might rise, and live, and be from age to age repaired.

[1037] For as the animal creation, deprived of food, must perish, and their bodies be quite destroyed, so things must be dissolved as soon as matter, turning from its course, fails to afford supply, and save the whole.

[1041] Nor, as some may object, can outward blows on all sides given, preserve this All of things we see compounded, from falling into pieces: They may indeed beat thick, and stay some part, till other atoms come, and so supply the universe. But often they are compelled to bound, and leap back, and so afford the seeds both time and place to fly away, and thus to get their former liberty again. Therefore, 'tis fit that many seeds should still arise, from time to time, for a supply; and that these blows might never cease to beat, the force of matter must be on all sides infinite.

[1051] In these inquiries see that you avoid, my Memmius, to believe with some that say, all bodies strive to reach the middle place of this great All, and so the nature of the world stands fixed, not struck at all by outward blows; nor can the upper or lower parts be scattered any way abroad, since all things by nature to the center tend (as if you could believe that any thing could stay and rest upon itself, that heavy bodies tend upwards, and fix their rest upon the surface of the earth opposite to us, just as we see the images of bodies show themselves in water.) By the same reason they contend that creatures walk underneath, as we above; nor can they fall into the regions of the air below, than can our bodies naturally fly upwards to Heaven; and when they see the sun, we view the stars of night, and so by turns they share with us the seasons of the heavens, and with us still divide night and days.

[1067] But vain mistake hath formed this scheme for fools, who judge perversely of the seeds of things. For there can be no Middle, where there is a void or space that's infinite; or if there was, can bodies, for this reason, rather stop their course in this medium, than take up their abode in any part of space that's further off. For place, or empty space, which we call void, must equally give way to heavy movements through a medium, or through none, which way soever their motions tend; nor is there any place where bodies, when they come, throw off their weight, and stand fixed in a void, and take their rest. Nor can a void support the weight of bodies, but must by its own nature still give way. It follows then that things are not preserved or held together by this means, as if they fondly strove to reach a middle space.

[1082] Besides, all bodies, they pretend, do not incline towards the center, but those of earth and water, the sea, the rivers rolling from the hills, and those that are composed of earthy parts. But the thin air, they say, and the hot fire are carried upwards from the middle; and hence it is the sky spangled every way with stars, and the sun's flame in his celestial course is fed, because the fire flying from the center there binds up all its heat; (so from the earth all mortal things are fed, nor can the trees adorn their lofty heads with leaves unless the earth to every kind affords its due support.) They say a sort of heavenly canopy above covers the whole, and holds it in; lest the world's walls, their parts being all dissolved, should instantly be scattered through the void, like swiftest flames, and all things be overwhelmed in this great ruin; lest the thundering vaults of heaven should tumble from above, and earth should fail our trembling feet, and the whole race of men, their bodies broken and dissolved, should wander through the boundless void, amidst these mingles ruins of the earth and heavens; and in a moment nothing would be left but desert empty space, and senseless seeds. For in whatever part you will suppose the seeds to separate, here will be the gate of death to bodies; for matter through the breach will rush abroad, and press with mighty force.

[1107] If this you thoroughly know, and little pains will serve (for one thing by another you'll explain) no more shall darkness interrupt your way, but you shall view the utmost depths of nature, for things will show themselves by mutual light.

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