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implores her to intercede with the god of war, to restore peace and quiet to his native country.
Hunc tu diva, tua rccubantem eorpore sancto
Tallibus in rebus communi desse faluti.
Lucr. lib. i. v. 39.
These are yet some other accounts given of the time and manner of his death; but since in so great a variety of opinions we can fix on no certainty, nor determine which of them is true, it would be loss of time to dwell any longer upon them.
The only remains this great wit has left os, are his fix books of the Nature of Things, which contain an exact system of the Epicurean philosophy. They were read and admired by the ancients; aud if Ovid could presage,
Carolina sublimis tune sunt peritura Lucrcti,
Lucretius' lofty song shall live in deathless fame,-
But because some are in doubt concerning the number of books written by Lucretius, and believe that he writ more than fix, it will not be improper to convince them of their error. They ground their opinion chiefly on a passage in VarTo, which, fay they, make it evident that Lucretius left one and twenty books, and that this is rot the beginning of his poem which is commonly taken to be so, since Varro cites a quite different verse as the beginning of it.
The passage of Varro, which they allege in favour of their opinion, is in his fourth book, De lingua Latlna, where we find these words:
Loca secundum antiquam divisionem prima.duo, cerium et terra: i qua bipartita divisione Lucretius suorum unius et viginti librorum initium fecit hoc:
Ætheris et terra; genitabile quscrere tempus.'' These words, indeed, are very plain and positive; nevertheless, I insist, that unless there were another poet Lucretius among the ancients, who was author of the one and twenty books, spoken of in that passage of Varro: and that there was 1 own, no mention is made in any of the records of antiquity, I insist, I fay, that there must be a fault in the above passage of that author, and believe, that instead of Lucretius, it was formerly written Lunlius. Whoever reflects on the following reasons, will, if I mistake not, be of my opinion.
In the first place, it is believed upon good grounds^that Varro writ that treatise of the Latin tongue, about the time that Cæsar was dicta tor. or rather a little before: if so, it is highly probable that copies of Lucretius could not so loon be got abroad, for he died but in the fourth year before .tbe dictatorship of Cajsar; and after
his death, his poem of the Nature of Things, wij first begun to be corrected by his intimate friend Tnlly, a talk which may seem to require some time; and, it may be, even a longer than that which passed from the death of Lucretius to the writing of the treatise by Terentius Varro.
Moreover, faults of the like nature were very frequent in the writings of the ancients, where Lucilius, Lucretius, and Lncullus, in like manner as Cælius and Cccilius, and the like, were often put by mistake one for another. Thus, for example. Priscian, lib. xviii. observes, that in Sallust, Hist lib. v. there was a mistake of this nature: "At Lucilius audito Marium regem proconfulem per Lycaoniam cum tribus Legionibus in CiHciam tenderc," &c. which that grammarian thus corrects: "At Luculius audit" Marium regera proconsulem," &c.; for Salhist there treated of the war that Luculius was carrying on against Mithridates. In like manner, Macrobius, lib. hi. Saturnal. cap. xv. M M. Vajro in lib. de agricultura refert M. Catonem, qui Utica: periit, cam haeres testameuto Lucilii esset relictus," &c f read, fays he," Testamento Luculli," &c Macrobius, nevertheless is there mistaken in one thing, for, as Plutarch witnesses, Lucullua left not Cato his heir, but only appointed him to be guardian of his son, as being his uncle. And many the like instances might tnsily he produced.
But to remove all manner of objections concerning the beginning of this poem, and to evince beyond reply the first book now extant to be the first book Lucretius writ, besides the invocation, with which, according to the custom of all pocti, he begins his poem, I will, in opposition to the above passage of Varro, produce the authority of old Priscian, whp, after having said that words of the first declension form the geniti»e plural in inn, and by contraction in y/w, by way of elample, adds atnpharum for ampljorarum. entzim for entadamm. For ib, fays he, Lucretius has it in his first verse :"" Ita enim Lucretius in primo versu."
Æneaduni genitrix, hominum divsimq voluptai.
Besides, is there the least ground of probability that Lucretius ever writ above fix books, since not one of the ancient grammarians, or other writers, neither Festus, Nonius, Diomcdes. Priscian, Frobus, Carisius, Donatus, Servius, Tertullian, Arnobius. nor Lactantius. who so frequently bring quotations from the fifth, sixth, and all the foregoing boohs of this poet, ever cite so much as one single verse from the seventh, eighth, Ac This, morally speaking, would be impossible, had Lucretius written fifteen books, of the Nature of Things, more than are now extant. This roakei me the rather wonder at the poCtivenefi with which some assert, that the seventh book of Lacretius is praised in Priscian, who, nevertheless, does not so much as mention any such book.
Moreover, in my opinion, Lucretius hinvMf sufficiently determines this controversy, for, "> his sixth book, reminding his reader of what h: had been treating of in the first, he fays,
JCimc amnes repetam quatn daro coi-pore fint res Commcmorare, quod in primo quoque carmine claret. Lucrtt. lit, vi. v. 936.
This sufficiently proves the first of the books now extant to be the first he writ, since in that he has endeavoured to evince," omnes—quam claro corpore sint res," that no bodies are so solid as not to contain some void; "quod in primo qooejae carmine claret." See Book I. ver. 404. Aud he stem* expressly to call the sixth book his last, in these excellent verses,
To mini suprenue præscripta ad Candida calcis Current! se-itiuni prxmonstra, callida musa, CiiU pe, requies hominum, divnmque voluptas, Tc duce ut iiisigni capiam cum iaude coronam.
Laurel, lii. V(. 91.
From whence we may easily infer, that he never so much as proposed to himself to write above six cooks, since he tells us he is now hastening, "ad przfcripta Candida supreme calcis," to the end of the race he had determined with himself to run; and therefore le invokes his muse,
To lead him on, and show the path to gain
Lastly, To strengthen all the foregoing arguments, we may observe, that in these six books only is contained the whole doctrine, and all the philosophy of Epicurus, in as much as it relates to the explication of nature, or natural causes and eff.cts; and there is nothing left for any one to lay farther upon that subject.
Add to this the manifest and pertinent connection rf one book to another, the judicious method be has observed to handling the several subjects of which he treats, aad his artfulness in the disposition of them. They seem naturally to follow one another. In the first book, he treats of the principle* of things; in the last, of meteors and of the heavens. Has not this method been constantly practised by all who have treated of the knowledge of nature? Even Epicurus himself observed the very lame disposition, as appears by the few surviving remains of that philosopher, hit three epistles to Herodotus, Mœnecœus, and Pythocles.
But as, for the reasons above alleged, I am verily persuaded that Lucretius never writ more than these six books es the Nature os Things; so,
on the other hand, I am readily jnclined to believe, that some of his verses are,' perhaps, wanting; for, as with almost all the ancient authors, so more especially with this poet, some have assumed to themselves too great a liberty, and altered, added, or taken away many things, as we have made it appear in several places in oar notes. Servius cites this fragment from Lucretius:
——Super! spoliatus luminis aer.
which may perhaps have been his, though it be no where found in any of his books; nor can it easily be discovered where it has been left out. To restore it to its due place, would require an accurateness of judgment as great, if poflible, as was their disingenuity who first left it out.
I now return to Lucretius, who, as Eufebiuj declares, wrote these six books of Epicurean philosophy, in hi» lucid intervals, when the strength of nature had thrown off all the disturbing particles, and his mind, as it is observed of madmen, was sprightly and vigorous. Then, in a poetical rapture, he could fly with his Epicurus beyond the flaming limits of this world; frame and dissolve seas and heavens in an instant. and, by some unusual sallies, be the strongest argument of his own opinion; for it seems impossible that some things which he delivers should proceed from reason and judgment, or from any other cause but chance, and unthinking fortune.
Aster hi; death, as I hinted before, Cicero, as Euscbius witnesses, revised and corrected his writings. Lambinus contradicts this; but the arguments he brings against the assertion of Euscbius are but weak, and of little validity.
Virgil, who was eager and assiduous in the study of them, has borrowed from him in many places: as both Macrobius and Gellius testify: the last of whom calls him "Pne'tam ingenio et facundia "prxcellcntem;" and Cornelius Nepos has placed him *' inter elegantissimos poe'ras." So that if some great divines have given him the ill name of Cams, it was not for any rudeness in his verse, but due rather to his Grecian master; the eternity df matter, and the like absurd assertions, having corrupted most of the philosophies of Athens. • As a corollary to these few remaining memoirs) of the life of Lucretius, I will here give the opinions of several learned men, concerning him and his writings.
34» ■ TESTIMONIES OF AUTHORS CONCERNING LUCRETIUS, &c.
TESTIMONIES OF ANCIENT AND MODERN LEARNED MEN, CONCERNING LUCRETIUS AND HIS WRITINGS.
&f. ClUro to bit Brother 9, Cicero, look ii. episi. 11. 1 He poems of Lucretius, as yon observe, are not written with much brightness of wit, but with a great deal of art.
Upon which passage of Cicero, the learned P. Victorius, in his Castigations on Tully's Epistles, makes the following remark:
If any one, fays he, thinks it strange that some have been of opinion, that the poems of the most elegant and excellent poet Lucretius, are written •with no great brightness of wit, let him blame the judgment >« Quinctus; fur we may reasonably mistrust, that, since M. Cicero defends and commends him in the manner he docs, he was not al-, together of his brother's opinion, though he seems indeed, to cmfirai it; but that he would not thwart a testy man, who, perhaps, because he writ verses himself, was blinded with envy, and did not perceive the truth: Besides, he might be of that oiiinion, because Lucrcrius composed not his poem to boast his shining wit, hut to explain, with his utmost art and industry, the whole philosophy of jV.picurus.
The same Vi&triovt Var. Led, lib. xvii. cap. I 6. The copiousness and purity of the Latin tongue, appear chiefly in Luerctius.
Jkf> Vitrvvivt, in hit Treatise os Arcbiteflure, bcoi ix. thafi. 3.
Those, whose minds arc instructed with the delights of learning, cannot, but with veneration, carry in their breasts, as they do the images of the gods, so, too, that of the poet Ennius. Those, who arc pleasingly diverted with the poems of Attius, stem to have ptesent with them, not only his virtues, but his figure and rt semblance likewise. Id Jike manner, many will, in after agc«, s;em to dispute, as it were, fare to face with Lucretius, concerning the Nature of Things, a9 they will with Cicero, ot the Art of Rhetoric,
£)uint\liin, bcoi X. For Macer and Lucretius are, indeed, worth the reading: but not as if they contained the whole body of eloquence. Each of them is elegant in the subject he treats os; but the one is low, the other crabbed and obscure.
Us on which passage es ^uintilian, Gisanittj shut: This opinion-of Quintilun is, the greatest part •f it, unanimously condemned by the ancients aud
There are many things in Lucretius, that are not to be found elsewhere.
The fame Author. So great is the beauty of the pure and simple, that is to fay, of the ancient, and almost only L»tinity, that it easily prevails with intelligent readers, and such a« are not superstitious, to contemn, in comparison of it, the . borrowed charms of a gaudy and painted diction. This comes into my mind, chiefly when I read the poems of Catullus and Lucretius; for, of all the Latin poets, who have survived to our days, these two deserve the preference; and, therefore, no diligence can be misemployed, no pain nor study superfluous, that may tend to the right understanding of them, or to prevent their being corrupted.'
All the errors that Lucretius advances, were long before asserted by Epicurus. . .
T. Lucretius Carus is believed to be descended of the family of the Lucretii, which, at Rome, was held to be very ancient and noble. He wa«i little older than Tcrentius Varro, and Marcus Cicero, as some have written: this is the rather to be taken notice of, because in the annals which we have from the Greeks, there are many things erroneously related, and perversely set down, contrary to the truth of chronology. He is represented to have been a man of a vast and soaring wit, in writing of verses. He was wont to apply himself to the muses at several intervals of time; not without a certain fury and rupture of mind, as the authors of antiquity deliver. Quintiltan witnelfes, that Æmilius Macer, and Titus Lucretius, eiccl in elegance of style; but that the poem of Lucretius is very difficult and obscure: this was occasioned not only by the subject itself, but by reason of the poorness of the tongue, and the rewnefs of the doctrine he taught, as he himself testifies. He writ fix bocks of the Nature of Things; in which he has followed the doctrine of Epicurus, and the example of the poet Empedocles, whose wit and poetry he praises with admiration. There are some who write, that the poem rf Lucretius was corrected by fully: it is not, therefore, improbable, that, by reason of his sudden death, he left ic incorrect and imperfect. Quinctus, the brother of Cicero, held in high esteem tit poetry of Lucretius; and allows his work to have a great deal of artfulness and wit: besides, that it ought not to be wondered at, that some of his verses seem rough, and almost like prole. This was peculiar to the age in which he writ, as Furius Alkinus fully witnesses in Macrobius, whose words are as follows: No man ought to have the worse esteem for the ancient poets upon this account, because their verses seem to be scabrous; sor that style was then in greatest vogue; and the following age had much ado to bring themselves at length to relish this smoother diction. Thcrejbre, even in the days of the emperors the VcfpaCans, there were not wanting some, who chose to read Lucretius rather than Virgil, and Lucilius than Horace.
Franciscut Floridui Sabinut. T. Lucretius was an excellent philosopher, and often gives very satisfactory reasons of the things that seem to happen contrary to nature.
Hicromymut Afcrcurialii. Lucretius was the first who explained the Nature of Things in the Roman tongue ; and he burrowed many things from Democritus, Epicurus, and Hippocrates.
yu/ii/j Scaligtr. Lucretius was a divine man, and an incomparable poet.
Lucretius is the best author of the Latin tongue. Jujlut Lipstui.
There are some antiquated, and almost obsolete words to be sound in Lucretius, Ennius, and other ancients; but, though they are now out of use, and banished from our present way of speaking, yet, out of the respect due to antiquity, they ought to be carefully retained, and religiously preserved in the writings of the aucients.
J\fcLbier jsuniui. The diction of Lucretius is pure, plain, and elegant, tbuugh he defends the opimous of Epicurus.
Lucrctiu», even in the judgment of the ancients, is both a very great poet and philosopher, but full of lies; for, having followed the Epicurean sect, kit opinions concerning Ood, and of the creation of things, are quite different from the doctrine of Plato, and of the other academics; for which reason, some believe that he ought not to be read by Christians, who adore and worship the true Pod. But since truth, the more it is inquired into, shines the more bright, and appears the more venerable, Lucretius, and all that are like Lucretius, even though they be liars, as they certainly are, oughts hi my opinion, to he read.
AJrianut Tvrnihut. Lucretius, in his plcaGng poem, has seasoned his series with a certain delightful relish oi anti
Dionjstut Lmabhui, in bit Epiftlt Dedicatory H Clarlt' IX. the Most Christian King. If among the few remains of the writings of the ancients, which have escaped as from a shipwreck, there be any sort of learning, from whence many and great advantages have accrued to us, it is from their poems, &c. But you will fay, that Lucretius argues against the immortality of the soul, denies the providence of the gods, overthrows all religion, and places the chief good in pleasure. This is not the fault of Lucretius, but of Epicuru,, whose doctrines Lucretius followed. His poem, though he advances in it some opinions that are repugnant to our religion, is, nevertheless, a poem; nay, and a beautiful noble poem too, distinguished, illustrated, and adorned with all the brightness of wit, ttx.—What though Epicurus and Lucretius were impious; are we, who read them, therefore impious too? How many assertions are there in this poem, that are consentaneous to the opinions and maxims of the other philosophers I How many probable! How many excellent and almost divine! These let us lay hold on; these let us seize; these let us approve of.— Besides, are we so credulous and easy of faith as to believe, that what assertions soever all manner t>£ writers have left recorded in their works, are as true as if they had been pronounced from the o. racle of Apollo? And since we daily read many things that are sabulous, incredible, and false, either to give some respite to our minds, or t<i make us the more willingly acquiesce in, and the most constantly adhere to such as are uncontro^vertibly ttue; what reason is there, that we should contemn or neglect Lucretius, a most elegant and beautiful poet} &c.—1 return to our great and excellent poet Lucretius, the most polite, most ancient, and most elegant of all the Latin writers; from whom Virgil and Horace have in many places borrowed not half, but whole verse;. He, when he disputes of the indivisible corpuscles, or first principles of things; of their motion, and of their various figuration; of the void; of the images, or tenuitous membranes that fly off from the surface of all bodies; of the nature of the mind and foul; of the rising and setting of the planets; of the eclipse of the fun a: d moon; of the nature of lightning; of the rainbow; of the Averni; of the causes of diseases, aud of many other things, is learned, witty, judicious, and elegant. In the introductions to his books; in his Comparisons; in his examples; in his disputatious against the fear of death; concerning the inconveniences and harms of love; of steep and of dreams, he is copious, discreet, eloquent, knowing, and sublime.—We not only read Homer, but even get him by heart, because, under the veils of fables, partly obscene, and partly absurd, he it, deemed to have included the knowledge of ail natural and human things. Shall we not then hear Lucretias, who, without the disguise of fablefc, and such trifles, rot truly indeed, nor piously, but plainly and openly, and as an Epicurean, ingeniously, wittily, and learnedly, and in the most corrtct and purest of styles, disputes of the prin
ciplcs and causes of things; of the universe ; of the parts of the world; of a happy life; and of things celestial and tcrrcilrial- And, though in many places lie dissent from Plato, though he advance many assertions that are repugnant to our religion, we ought not therefore to despise and set at nought those opinions of his, in which not only the autieut philosophers, but we who profess Christianity aorec w'tn him. How admirably docs he dispute of the restraining os pleasures, of the bridling the passions, and of the attaining tranquillity of mind! how wittily does he rebuke and confute those who affirm, that nothing can be perceived and nothing known; and who lay that the senses are fallacious! H>w fully he defends the senses! &c.—How beautiful are his descriptions! How graceful, as the Greeks call them, his episodes! How fine arc his disputations of colours, of mirrors, of the loadstone, and of the Averni! How serious and awful are his exhortations to live continently, justly, temperately, and innocently'. What shall we say of his dicti:n; than which nothing can be said or imagined to be more pure, more correct, more clear, or more elegant? I :..>.: not the least seruplc to assirm, that in alsthe Latin tongue, no author speaks Latin better than Lucretius; and that the diction neither of Cicero :;ur of Cæsar is more pure.
Qbtrius Gifjnius in the Lift cf Lucretius. 1 have retained the common title, of the Nature of Things : for,besides that the ancient copies have i: so, and that Scsipather in the second book of his Gram, mentions the third bock of Lucretius of Natural Things; our poet himself confirms it in Look v. verse 381, where he fays,
These truth'., this rise of things we lately know
Lucretius is in the right to fay this of himself: for he was the first, who in the Latin tongue, writ of the Nature of Things; though afterwards many others followed his example; as C. Amasiuiu* Catius M. Cicero Varro, and Ignatius: of the last of w hom Aur. Macrobius cites the thifd book. But the fame subject had, many ages before, been treated of in Greek by Empedodes, whom Lucretius held in great veneration, as appears by the following elegy, which he gives of him in his first book, where, speaking of Sicily, he fays, that that island,
Though rich with tr en and fruit, has rarely shown A thing more glorious than this single one: His verse, compoi'd of Bature's work', declare 1 lis wit was strong, and his invention rare J His judgment deep and found; whence seme be gan,
.■\!)d julily too, to think him more than man.
Creech, £. i. T>. 748.
Him, therefore, our poet carefully imitated: For, * li Aristotle fays of Empedccht, that he writ in
the fame style as Homer, and was a great maft-r of his own language, as being full us metaphors, and making use of all other advantages that might conduce to the beauty of hii poetry ; all these perfections, I fay, though they are scarce to be sound in any other of the Latin poets, manifestly discover themselves in Lucretius: for he excels all the rest in purity of diction; and, if I may use the expression, in sublimity of eloquence: beside», he has adorned his whole poem with an infinite number Of excellent metaphors, as with so many badges of distinction aud honour. Tully, oho was well able to judge, calls him a very artful poet: and. would I had leisure enough to (hon, not only what he has borrowed from Homer and others, but chiefly from Ennius, whom of all the Latin poets he most admired, and studied to imitate, but what Virgil likewise has taken from Lucretius : for that would make manifest what I have offen said, that Ennius is the grandfather, Lucretius the father, and Virgil the son, they being the most illustrious triumvirate of the epic Latin poets.
The fame Gifanius in his Preface to Satnlacus. Some there are, who w ill chiefly blame me (j bestowing so much labour on an impious poet; for this, will they fay, is the very Lucretius, who endeavours to evince that the soul is mortal; and thus takes away .all hope of our salvation, arid of a happy futurity; wbo denies the providence of God! which is the main basis aud lupport of the Christian reiigun: and, lastly, who asserts in his poem that most absurd doctrine of Deniocritui and Epicurus, concerning the indivisible corpuscles or principles of all things. This being a grievous accusation, did indeed at first very much startle me; but having maturely weighed thit objection, I was persuaded -hat it was not of such moment as to make us neglect the labours of tbii most excellent poet, or suffer them to be totally lost: For, by the fame reason, we ought to condemn many of the writings of Cicero; since in them as well as in this poem, the fame doctrine of the providence of God, of the nature of the soul; but above all of the atoms, is proposed, and often strenuously defended; nay, we must in that case be obliged to neglect almost all the writen of antiquity.—And, to fay all in a word, almost all the authors of the preceding ages, the poets, the historians, the orators, and the philosopher), must all be laid aside, is their writings were once to be tried by the standard of our religion, and by the precepts of Christianity.—The aslertions we find in Lucretius that are contrary to the Christian faith, are indeed of the greatest moment: but then they arc so evidently false, that they can by no means lead a Christian io'o error.—What danger can accrue to us from the ridiculous doctrine of his atoms, since it is so easy to be refuted? On the contrary, we may from thence reap this great advantage, that, having discovered the falsity os his assertions concerning the Nature of Things, we shall be the more diligent to find out the truth ; and, having found it, to retain