On the Nature of Things

Author: Lucretius  | Date: 50 BC



In chief, men marvel Nature renders not

Bigger and bigger the bulk of ocean, since

So vast the down-rush of the waters be,

And every river out of every realm

Cometh thereto; and add the random rains

And flying tempests, which spatter every sea

And every land bedew; add their own springs:

Yet all of these unto the ocean’s sum

Shall be but as the increase of a drop.

Wherefore ’tis less a marvel that the sea,

The mighty ocean, increaseth not. Besides,

Sun with his heat draws off a mighty part:

Yea, we behold that sun with burning beams

To dry our garments dripping all with wet;

And many a sea, and far out-spread beneath,

Do we behold. Therefore, however slight

The portion of wet that sun on any spot

Culls from the level main, he still will take

From off the waves in such a wide expanse

Abundantly. Then, further, also winds,

Sweeping the level waters, can bear off

A mighty part of wet, since we behold

Oft in a single night the highways dried

By winds, and soft mud crusted o’er at dawn.

Again, I’ve taught thee that the clouds bear off

Much moisture too, up-taken from the reaches

Of the mighty main, and sprinkle it about

O’er all the zones, when rain is on the lands

And winds convey the aery racks of vapour.

Lastly, since earth is porous through her frame,

And neighbours on the seas, girdling their shores,

The water’s wet must seep into the lands

From briny ocean, as from lands it comes

Into the seas. For brine is filtered off,

And then the liquid stuff seeps back again

And all re-poureth at the river-heads,

Whence in fresh-water currents it returns

Over the lands, adown the channels which

Were cleft erstwhile and erstwhile bore along

The liquid-footed floods.

And now the cause

Whereby athrough the throat of Aetna’s Mount

Such vast tornado-fires out-breathe at times,

I will unfold: for with no middling might

Of devastation the flamy tempest rose

And held dominion in Sicilian fields:

Drawing upon itself the upturned faces

Of neighbouring clans, what time they saw afar

The skiey vaults a-fume and sparkling all,

And filled their bosoms with dread anxiety

Of what new thing Nature were travailing at.

In these affairs it much behooveth thee

To look both wide and deep, and far abroad

To peer to every quarter, that thou mayst

Remember how boundless is the Sum-of-Things,

And mark how infinitely small a part

Of the whole Sum is this one sky of ours-

O not so large a part as is one man

Of the whole earth. And plainly if thou viewest

This cosmic fact, placing it square in front,

And plainly understandest, thou wilt leave

Wondering at many things. For who of us

Wondereth if some one gets into his joints

A fever, gathering head with fiery heat,

Or any other dolorous disease

Along his members? For anon the foot

Grows blue and bulbous; often the sharp twinge

Seizes the teeth, attacks the very eyes;

Out-breaks the sacred fire, and, crawling on

Over the body, burneth every part

It seizeth on, and works its hideous way

Along the frame. No marvel this, since, lo,

Of things innumerable be seeds enough,

And this our earth and sky do bring to us

Enough of bane from whence can grow the strength

Of maladies uncounted. Thuswise, then,

We must suppose to all the sky and earth

Are ever supplied from out the infinite

All things, O all in stores enough whereby

The shaken earth can of a sudden move,

And fierce typhoons can over sea and lands

Go tearing on, and Aetna’s fires o’erflow,

And heaven become a flame-burst. For that, too,

Happens at times, and the celestial vaults

Glow into fire, and rainy tempests rise

In heavier congregation, when, percase,

The seeds of water have foregathered thus

From out the infinite. "Aye, but passing huge

The fiery turmoil of that conflagration!"

So sayst thou; well, huge many a river seems

To him that erstwhile ne’er a larger saw;

Thus, huge seems tree or man; and everything

Which mortal sees the biggest of each class,

That he imagines to be "huge"; though yet

All these, with sky and land and sea to boot,

Are all as nothing to the sum entire

Of the all-Sum.

But now I will unfold

At last how yonder suddenly angered flame

Out-blows abroad from vasty furnaces

Aetnaean. First, the mountain’s nature is

All under-hollow, propped about, about

With caverns of basaltic piers. And, lo,

In all its grottos be there wind and air-

For wind is made when air hath been uproused

By violent agitation. When this air

Is heated through and through, and, raging round,

Hath made the earth and all the rocks it touches

Horribly hot, and hath struck off from them

Fierce fire of swiftest flame, it lifts itself

And hurtles thus straight upwards through its throat

Into high heav’n, and thus bears on afar

Its burning blasts and scattereth afar

Its ashes, and rolls a smoke of pitchy murk

And heaveth the while boulders of wondrous weight

Leaving no doubt in thee that ’tis the air’s

Tumultuous power. Besides, in mighty part,

The sea there at the roots of that same mount

Breaks its old billows and sucks back its surf.

And grottos from the sea pass in below

Even to the bottom of the mountain’s throat.

Herethrough thou must admit there go...

And the conditions force the water and air

Deeply to penetrate from the open sea,

And to out-blow abroad, and to up-bear

Thereby the flame, and to up-cast from deeps

The boulders, and to rear the clouds of sand.

For at the top be "bowls," as people there

Are wont to name what we at Rome do call

The throats and mouths.

There be, besides, some thing

Of which ’tis not enough one only cause

To state- but rather several, whereof one

Will be the true: lo, if thou shouldst espy

Lying afar some fellow’s lifeless corse,

’Twere meet to name all causes of a death,

That cause of his death might thereby be named:

For prove thou mayst he perished not by steel,

By cold, nor even by poison nor disease,

Yet somewhat of this sort hath come to him

We know- And thus we have to say the same

In divers cases.

Toward the summer, Nile

Waxeth and overfloweth the champaign,

Unique in all the landscape, river sole

Of the Aegyptians. In mid-season heats

Often and oft he waters Aegypt o’er,

Either because in summer against his mouths

Come those north winds which at that time of year

Men name the Etesian blasts, and, blowing thus

Upstream, retard, and, forcing back his waves,

Fill him o’erfull and force his flow to stop.

For out of doubt these blasts which driven be

From icy constellations of the pole

Are borne straight up the river. Comes that river

From forth the sultry places down the south,

Rising far up in midmost realm of day,

Among black generations of strong men

With sun-baked skins. ’Tis possible, besides,

That a big bulk of piled sand may bar

His mouths against his onward waves, when sea,

Wild in the winds, tumbles the sand to inland;

Whereby the river’s outlet were less free,

Likewise less headlong his descending floods.

It may be, too, that in this season rains

Are more abundant at its fountain head,

Because the Etesian blasts of those north winds

Then urge all clouds into those inland parts.

And, soothly, when they’re thus foregathered there.

Urged yonder into midmost realm of day,

Then, crowded against the lofty mountain sides,

They’re massed and powerfully pressed. Again,

Perchance, his waters wax, O far away,

Among the Aethiopians’ lofty mountains,

When the all-beholding sun with thawing beams

Drives the white snows to flow into the vales.

Now come; and unto thee I will unfold,

As to the Birdless spots and Birdless tarns,

What sort of nature they are furnished with.

First, as to name of "birdless,"- that derives

From very fact, because they noxious be

Unto all birds. For when above those spots

In horizontal flight the birds have come,

Forgetting to oar with wings, they furl their sails,

And, with down-drooping of their delicate necks,

Fall headlong into earth, if haply such

The nature of the spots, or into water,

If haply spreads there under Birdless tarn.

Such spot’s at Cumae, where the mountains smoke,

Charged with the pungent sulphur, and increased

With steaming springs. And such a spot there is

Within the walls of Athens, even there

On summit of Acropolis, beside

Fane of Tritonian Pallas bountiful,

Where never cawing crows can wing their course,

Not even when smoke the altars with good gifts-

But evermore they flee- yet not from wrath

Of Pallas, grieved at that espial old,

As poets of the Greeks have sung the tale;

But very nature of the place compels.

In Syria also- as men say- a spot

Is to be seen, where also four-foot kinds,

As soon as ever they’ve set their steps within,

Collapse, o’ercome by its essential power,

As if there slaughtered to the under-gods.

Lo, all these wonders work by natural law,

And from what causes they are brought to pass

The origin is manifest; so, haply,

Let none believe that in these regions stands

The gate of Orcus, nor us then suppose,

Haply, that thence the under-gods draw down

Souls to dark shores of Acheron- as stags,

The wing-footed, are thought to draw to light,

By sniffing nostrils, from their dusky lairs

The wriggling generations of wild snakes.

How far removed from true reason is this,

Perceive thou straight; for now I’ll try to say

Somewhat about the very fact.

And, first,

This do I say, as oft I’ve said before:

In earth are atoms of things of every sort;

And know, these all thus rise from out the earth-

Many life-giving which be good for food,

And many which can generate disease

And hasten death, O many primal seeds

Of many things in many modes- since earth

Contains them mingled and gives forth discrete.

And we have shown before that certain things

Be unto certain creatures suited more

For ends of life, by virtue of a nature,

A texture, and primordial shapes, unlike

For kinds alike. Then too ’tis thine to see

How many things oppressive be and foul

To man, and to sensation most malign:

Many meander miserably through ears;

Many in-wind athrough the nostrils too,

Malign and harsh when mortal draws a breath;

Of not a few must one avoid the touch;

Of not a few must one escape the sight;

And some there be all loathsome to the taste;

And many, besides, relax the languid limbs

Along the frame, and undermine the soul

In its abodes within. To certain trees

There hath been given so dolorous a shade

That often they gender achings of the head,

If one but be beneath, outstretched on the sward.

There is, again, on Helicon’s high hills

A tree that’s wont to kill a man outright

By fetid odour of its very flower.

And when the pungent stench of the night-lamp,

Extinguished but a moment since, assails

The nostrils, then and there it puts to sleep

A man afflicted with the falling sickness

And foamings at the mouth. A woman, too,

At the heavy castor drowses back in chair,

And from her delicate fingers slips away

Her gaudy handiwork, if haply she

Hath got the whiff at menstruation-time.

Once more, if thou delayest in hot baths,

When thou art over-full, how readily

From stool in middle of the steaming water

Thou tumblest in a fit! How readily

The heavy fumes of charcoal wind their way

Into the brain, unless beforehand we

Of water ’ve drunk. But when a burning fever,

O’ermastering man, hath seized upon his limbs,

Then odour of wine is like a hammer-blow.

And seest thou not how in the very earth

Sulphur is gendered and bitumen thickens

With noisome stench. What direful stenches, too,

Scaptensula out-breathes from down below,

When men pursue the veins of silver and gold,

With pick-axe probing round the hidden realms

Deep in the earth?- Or what of deadly bane

The mines of gold exhale? O what a look,

And what a ghastly hue they give to men!

And seest thou not, or hearest, how they’re wont

In little time to perish, and how fail

The life-stores in those folk whom mighty power

Of grim necessity confineth there

In such a task? Thus, this telluric earth

Out-streams with all these dread effluvia

And breathes them out into the open world

And into the visible regions under heaven.

Thus, too, those Birdless places must up-send

An essence bearing death to winged things,

Which from the earth rises into the breezes

To poison part of skiey space, and when

Thither the winged is on pennons borne,

There, seized by the unseen poison, ’tis ensnared,

And from the horizontal of its flight

Drops to the spot whence sprang the effluvium.

And when ’thas there collapsed, then the same power

Of that effluvium takes from all its limbs

The relics of its life. That power first strikes

The creatures with a wildering dizziness,

And then thereafter, when they’re once down-fallen

Into the poison’s very fountains, then

Life, too, they vomit out perforce, because

So thick the stores of bane around them fume.

Again, at times it happens that this power,

This exhalation of the Birdless places,

Dispels the air betwixt the ground and birds,

Leaving well-nigh a void. And thither when

In horizontal flight the birds have come,

Forthwith their buoyancy of pennons limps,

All useless, and each effort of both wings

Falls out in vain. Here, when without all power

To buoy themselves and on their wings to lean,

Lo, Nature constrains them by their weight to slip

Down to the earth, and lying prostrate there

Along the well-nigh empty void, they spend

Their souls through all the openings of their frame.

Further, the water of wells is colder then

At summer time, because the earth by heat

Is rarefied, and sends abroad in air

Whatever seeds it peradventure have

Of its own fiery exhalations.

The more, then, the telluric ground is drained

Of heat, the colder grows the water hid

Within the earth. Further, when all the earth

Is by the cold compressed, and thus contracts

And, so to say, concretes, it happens, lo,

That by contracting it expresses then

Into the wells what heat it bears itself.

’Tis said at Hammon’s fane a fountain is,

In daylight cold and hot in time of night.

This fountain men be-wonder over-much,

And think that suddenly it seethes in heat

By intense sun, the subterranean, when

Night with her terrible murk hath cloaked the lands-

What’s not true reasoning by a long remove:

I’ faith when sun o’erhead, touching with beams

An open body of water, had no power

To render it hot upon its upper side,

Though his high light possess such burning glare,

How, then, can he, when under the gross earth,

Make water boil and glut with fiery heat?-

And, specially, since scarcely potent he

Through hedging walls of houses to inject

His exhalations hot, with ardent rays.

What, then, the principle? Why, this, indeed:

The earth about that spring is porous more

Than elsewhere the telluric ground, and be

Many the seeds of fire hard by the water;

On this account, when night with dew-fraught shades

Hath whelmed the earth, anon the earth deep down

Grows chill, contracts; and thuswise squeezes out

Into the spring what seeds she holds of fire

(As one might squeeze with fist), which render hot

The touch and steam of the fluid. Next, when sun,

Up-risen, with his rays has split the soil

And rarefied the earth with waxing heat,

Again into their ancient abodes return

The seeds of fire, and all the Hot of water

Into the earth retires; and this is why

The fountain in the daylight gets so cold.

Besides, the water’s wet is beat upon

By rays of sun, and, with the dawn, becomes

Rarer in texture under his pulsing blaze;

And, therefore, whatso seeds it holds of fire

It renders up, even as it renders oft

The frost that it contains within itself

And thaws its ice and looseneth the knots.

There is, moreover, a fountain cold in kind

That makes a bit of tow (above it held)

Take fire forthwith and shoot a flame; so, too,

A pitch-pine torch will kindle and flare round

Along its waves, wherever ’tis impelled

Afloat before the breeze. No marvel, this:

Because full many seeds of heat there be

Within the water; and, from earth itself

Out of the deeps must particles of fire

Athrough the entire fountain surge aloft,

And speed in exhalations into air

Forth and abroad (yet not in numbers enow

As to make hot the fountain). And, moreo’er,

Some force constrains them, scattered through the water,

Forthwith to burst abroad, and to combine

In flame above. Even as a fountain far

There is at Aradus amid the sea,

Which bubbles out sweet water and disparts

From round itself the salt waves; and, behold,

In many another region the broad main

Yields to the thirsty mariners timely help,

Belching sweet waters forth amid salt waves.

Just so, then, can those seeds of fire burst forth

Athrough that other fount, and bubble out

Abroad against the bit of tow; and when

They there collect or cleave unto the torch,

Forthwith they readily flash aflame, because

The tow and torches, also, in themselves

Have many seeds of latent fire. Indeed,

And seest thou not, when near the nightly lamps

Thou bringest a flaxen wick, extinguished

A moment since, it catches fire before

’Thas touched the flame, and in same wise a torch?

And many another object flashes aflame

When at a distance, touched by heat alone,

Before ’tis steeped in veritable fire.

This, then, we must suppose to come to pass

In that spring also.

Now to other things!

And I’ll begin to treat by what decree

Of Nature it came to pass that iron can be

By that stone drawn which Greeks the magnet call

After the country’s name (its origin

Being in country of Magnesian folk).

This stone men marvel at; and sure it oft

Maketh a chain of rings, depending, lo,

From off itself! Nay, thou mayest see at times

Five or yet more in order dangling down

And swaying in the delicate winds, whilst one

Depends from other, cleaving to under-side,

And ilk one feels the stone’s own power and bonds-

So over-masteringly its power flows down.

In things of this sort, much must be made sure

Ere thou account of the thing itself canst give,

And the approaches roundabout must be;

Wherefore the more do I exact of thee

A mind and ears attent.

First, from all things

We see soever, evermore must flow,

Must be discharged and strewn about, about,

Bodies that strike the eyes, awaking sight.

From certain things flow odours evermore,

As cold from rivers, heat from sun, and spray

From waves of ocean, eater-out of walls

Along the coasts. Nor ever cease to seep

The varied echoings athrough the air.

Then, too, there comes into the mouth at times

The wet of a salt taste, when by the sea

We roam about; and so, whene’er we watch

The wormwood being mixed, its bitter stings.

To such degree from all things is each thing

Borne streamingly along, and sent about

To every region round; and Nature grants

Nor rest nor respite of the onward flow,

Since ’tis incessantly we feeling have,

And all the time are suffered to descry

And smell all things at hand and hear them sound.

Now will I seek again to bring to mind

How porous a body all things have- a fact

Made manifest in my first canto, too.

For truly, though to know this doth import

For many things, yet for this very thing

On which straightway I’m going to discourse,

’Tis needful most of all to make it sure

That naught’s at hand but body mixed with void.

A first ensample: in grottos, rocks o’erhead

Sweat moisture and distil the oozy drops;

Likewise, from all our body seeps the sweat;

There grows the beard, and along our members all

And along our frame the hairs. Through all our veins

Disseminates the foods, and gives increase

And aliment down to the extreme parts,

Even to the tiniest finger-nails. Likewise,

Through solid bronze the cold and fiery heat

We feel to pass; likewise, we feel them pass

Through gold, through silver, when we clasp in hand

The brimming goblets. And, again, there flit

Voices through houses’ hedging walls of stone;

Odour seeps through, and cold, and heat of fire

That’s wont to penetrate even strength of iron.

Again, where corselet of the sky girds round

And at same time, some Influence of bane,

When from Beyond ’thas stolen into our world.

And tempests, gathering from the earth and sky,

Back to the sky and earth absorbed retire-

With reason, since there’s naught that’s fashioned not

With body porous.

Furthermore, not all

The particles which be from things thrown off

Are furnished with same qualities for sense,

Nor be for all things equally adapt.

A first ensample: the sun doth bake and parch

The earth; but ice he thaws, and with his beams

Compels the lofty snows, up-reared white

Upon the lofty hills, to waste away;

Then, wax, if set beneath the heat of him,

Melts to a liquid. And the fire, likewise,

Will melt the copper and will fuse the gold,

But hides and flesh it shrivels up and shrinks.

The water hardens the iron just off the fire,

But hides and flesh (made hard by heat) it softens.

The oleaster-tree as much delights

The bearded she-goats, verily as though

’Twere nectar-steeped and shed ambrosia;

Than which is naught that burgeons into leaf

More bitter food for man. A hog draws back

For marjoram oil, and every unguent fears

Fierce poison these unto the bristled hogs,

Yet unto us from time to time they seem,

As ’twere, to give new life. But, contrariwise,

Though unto us the mire be filth most foul,

To hogs that mire doth so delightsome seem

That they with wallowing from belly to back

Are never cloyed.

A point remains, besides,

Which best it seems to tell of, ere I go

To telling of the fact at hand itself.

Since to the varied things assigned be

The many pores, those pores must be diverse

In nature one from other, and each have

Its very shape, its own direction fixed.

And so, indeed, in breathing creatures be

The several senses, of which each takes in

Unto itself, in its own fashion ever,

Its own peculiar object. For we mark

How sounds do into one place penetrate,

Into another flavours of all juice,

And savour of smell into a third. Moreover,

One sort through rocks we see to seep, and, lo,

One sort to pass through wood, another still

Through gold, and others to go out and off

Through silver and through glass. For we do see

Through some pores form-and-look of things to flow,

Through others heat to go, and some things still

To speedier pass than others through same pores.

Of verity, the nature of these same paths,

Varying in many modes (as aforesaid)

Because of unlike nature and warp and woof

Of cosmic things, constrains it so to be.

Wherefore, since all these matters now have been

Established and settled well for us

As premises prepared, for what remains

’Twill not be hard to render clear account

By means of these, and the whole cause reveal

Whereby the magnet lures the strength of iron.

First, stream there must from off the lode-stone seeds

Innumerable, a very tide, which smites

By blows that air asunder lying betwixt

The stone and iron. And when is emptied out

This space, and a large place between the two

Is made a void, forthwith the primal germs

Of iron, headlong slipping, fall conjoined

Into the vacuum, and the ring itself

By reason thereof doth follow after and go

Thuswise with all its body. And naught there is

That of its own primordial elements

More thoroughly knit or tighter linked coheres

Than nature and cold roughness of stout iron.

Wherefore, ’tis less a marvel what I said,

That from such elements no bodies can

From out the iron collect in larger throng

And be into the vacuum borne along,

Without the ring itself do follow after.

And this it does, and followeth on until

’Thath reached the stone itself and cleaved to it

By links invisible. Moreover, likewise,

The motion’s assisted by a thing of aid

(Whereby the process easier becomes)-

Namely, by this: as soon as rarer grows

That air in front of the ring, and space between

Is emptied more and made a void, forthwith

It happens all the air that lies behind

Conveys it onward, pushing from the rear.

For ever doth the circumambient air

Drub things unmoved, but here it pushes forth

The iron, because upon one side the space

Lies void and thus receives the iron in.

This air, whereof I am reminding thee,

Winding athrough the iron’s abundant pores

So subtly into the tiny parts thereof,

Shoves it and pushes, as wind the ship and sails.

The same doth happen in all directions forth:

From whatso side a space is made a void,

Whether from crosswise or above, forthwith

The neighbour particles are borne along

Into the vacuum; for of verity,

They’re set a-going by poundings from elsewhere,

Nor by themselves of own accord can they

Rise upwards into the air. Again, all things

Must in their framework hold some air, because

They are of framework porous, and the air

Encompasses and borders on all things.

Thus, then, this air in iron so deeply stored

Is tossed evermore in vexed motion,

And therefore drubs upon the ring sans doubt

And shakes it up inside....

In sooth, that ring is thither borne along

To where ’thas once plunged headlong- thither, lo,

Unto the void whereto it took its start.

It happens, too, at times that nature of iron

Shrinks from this stone away, accustomed

By turns to flee and follow. Yea, I’ve seen

Those Samothracian iron rings leap up,

And iron filings in the brazen bowls

Seethe furiously, when underneath was set

The magnet stone. So strongly iron seems

To crave to flee that rock. Such discord great

Is gendered by the interposed brass,

Because, forsooth, when first the tide of brass

Hath seized upon and held possession of

The iron’s open passage-ways, thereafter

Cometh the tide of the stone, and in that iron

Findeth all spaces full, nor now hath holes

To swim through, as before. ’Tis thus constrained

With its own current ’gainst the iron’s fabric

To dash and beat; by means whereof it spews

Forth from itself- and through the brass stirs up-

The things which otherwise without the brass

It sucks into itself. In these affairs

Marvel thou not that from this stone the tide

Prevails not likewise other things to move

With its own blows: for some stand firm by weight,

As gold; and some cannot be moved forever,

Because so porous in their framework they

That there the tide streams through without a break,

Of which sort stuff of wood is seen to be.

Therefore, when iron (which lies between the two)

Hath taken in some atoms of the brass,

Then do the streams of that Magnesian rock

Move iron by their smitings.

Yet these things

Are not so alien from others, that I

Of this same sort am ill prepared to name

Ensamples still of things exclusively

To one another adapt. Thou seest, first,

How lime alone cementeth stones: how wood

Only by glue-of-bull with wood is joined-

So firmly too that oftener the boards

Crack open along the weakness of the grain

Ere ever those taurine bonds will lax their hold.

The vine-born juices with the water-springs

Are bold to mix, though not the heavy pitch

With the light oil-of-olive. And purple dye

Of shell-fish so uniteth with the wool’s

Body alone that it cannot be ta’en

Away forever- nay, though thou gavest toil

To restore the same with the Neptunian flood,

Nay, though all ocean willed to wash it out

With all its waves. Again, gold unto gold

Doth not one substance bind, and only one?

And is not brass by tin joined unto brass?

And other ensamples how many might one find!

What then? Nor is there unto thee a need

Of such long ways and roundabout, nor boots it

For me much toil on this to spend. More fit

It is in few words briefly to embrace

Things many: things whose textures fall together

So mutually adapt, that cavities

To solids correspond, these cavities

Of this thing to the solid parts of that,

And those of that to solid parts of this-

Such joinings are the best. Again, some things

Can be the one with other coupled and held,

Linked by hooks and eyes, as ’twere; and this

Seems more the fact with iron and this stone.

Now, of diseases what the law, and whence

The Influence of bane upgathering can

Upon the race of man and herds of cattle

Kindle a devastation fraught with death,

I will unfold. And, first, I’ve taught above

That seeds there be of many things to us

Life-giving, and that, contrariwise, there must

Fly many round bringing disease and death.

When these have, haply, chanced to collect

And to derange the atmosphere of earth,

The air becometh baneful. And, lo, all

That Influence of bane, that pestilence,

Or from Beyond down through our atmosphere,

Like clouds and mists, descends, or else collects

From earth herself and rises, when, a-soak

And beat by rains unseasonable and suns,

Our earth hath then contracted stench and rot.

Seest thou not, also, that whoso arrive

In region far from fatherland and home

Are by the strangeness of the clime and waters

Distempered?- since conditions vary much.

For in what else may we suppose the clime

Among the Britons to differ from Aegypt’s own

(Where totters awry the axis of the world),

Or in what else to differ Pontic clime

From Gades’ and from climes adown the south,

On to black generations of strong men

With sun-baked skins? Even as we thus do see

Four climes diverse under the four main-winds

And under the four main-regions of the sky,

So, too, are seen the colour and face of men

Vastly to disagree, and fixed diseases

To seize the generations, kind by kind:

There is the elephant-disease which down

In midmost Aegypt, hard by streams of Nile,

Engendered is- and never otherwhere.

In Attica the feet are oft attacked,

And in Achaean lands the eyes. And so

The divers spots to divers parts and limbs

Are noxious; ’tis a variable air

That causes this. Thus when an atmosphere,

Alien by chance to us, begins to heave,

And noxious airs begin to crawl along,

They creep and wind like unto mist and cloud,

Slowly, and everything upon their way

They disarrange and force to change its state.

It happens, too, that when they’ve come at last

Into this atmosphere of ours, they taint

And make it like themselves and alien.

Therefore, asudden this devastation strange,

This pestilence, upon the waters falls,

Or settles on the very crops of grain

Or other meat of men and feed of flocks.

Or it remains a subtle force, suspense

In the atmosphere itself; and when therefrom

We draw our inhalations of mixed air,

Into our body equally its bane

Also we must suck in. In manner like,

Oft comes the pestilence upon the kine,

And sickness, too, upon the sluggish sheep.

Nor aught it matters whether journey we

To regions adverse to ourselves and change

The atmospheric cloak, or whether Nature

Herself import a tainted atmosphere

To us or something strange to our own use

Which can attack us soon as ever it come.


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Chicago: Lucretius, "Extraordinary and Paradoxical," On the Nature of Things, trans. William Ellery Leonard Original Sources, accessed March 20, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8DIIK6UCC34PBB4.

MLA: Lucretius. "Extraordinary and Paradoxical." On the Nature of Things, translted by William Ellery Leonard, Original Sources. 20 Mar. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8DIIK6UCC34PBB4.

Harvard: Lucretius, 'Extraordinary and Paradoxical' in On the Nature of Things, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 20 March 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8DIIK6UCC34PBB4.