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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 it the more strongly in our memory. It cannot be denied but that Lucretius it a sage and discreet writer; nor is there in all his poem any token or footstep of intemperance: nay, there are many excellent things contained in it, and many that well deserve to be read and remembered: for, in the first place, he teaches that they only are sit to be trnfied with the administration of the government, who excel others in prudence, wisdom, and moderation. How discreetly and strongly too does he argue for the restraint of ambition, and for avoiding the miseries of intestine divisions and civil wars; the calamities that in his days afflicted the republics Rome! He extols philosophy, and the studio of the wise in a style incredibly sublime. How beautiful is his poetry when he treats of serenity of ir.ind, and of the contempt of death! In how many ph:e>, and in how excellent and almost divine a diction, does he confute the superstition of the vu'jir, and their fabulous belief of the torments of hell! How elegantly does he detect the frauds, and deride the vanity of astrologers: Not to mention with how great severity he dissuades from atarice, and shows the many ills that arise from the greediness of riches; nor how wholesome are his inSnjfiiocs concerning temperance, frugality of li'ing, and modesty of apparel. As to what relates to the restraints of the other cupidities of the mind, and fordid pleasures of the flesh, so excellent indeed are the instructions he gives us, that what Diogenes writes of Epicurus seems to be true, that he was fiil'ely accused by some for indulging himself too much in pleasure and voluptuousness; and that it was a downright calumny in them to wrest his meaning, and interpret what he meant of the tranquillity (f the mind, as if it had been spoken cf the pleasures of the body; of which likewise our s«t most excellently Gngs in the beginning of the Sith book Concerning some of the phenomenon* of the heavens, he advances indeed several epiaioDs that are false, or rather ridiculous j but Jet they we consonant to the Epicurean doctrine: ud, on the other hand, how true are many of his assertions concerning thunder, the nature, force, ■1 swiftness of lightning; the magnitude of the sea; the winds, and many other things of the liV: nature! With how wonderful a sweetness does he sing the first rife of the world, of the orth, of the heavens, and of all the several kinds of animals. As likewise the origin of speech, of rvemmeot, of laws, and of all the arts. How fsiland satisfactory are hisdisputationsof the flames Amount Ætna, of the Averni, and of the causes ■ diseases. How excellently has he described, as it were in a picture, that memorable and dreadful plague, which desolated Athens, and the whole country of Attica.
Ybomat Scauranm, Cams alone, of all the Ausonian bards, in search of troth employed his painful muse, greedy to v'tw the secret holds of nature, aud towering, soar even to the immortal gods: but oft, alas! he »»<««, by thee misled, O Epicurus, from the pHfljof truth.
^ji'nto Serenut in hit Poem of Ph^ic.
If, after many years of kind endeavours, n» tender off-pring bless the nuptial joys; whether the female or the male be cursed with barrenness, shall be unsung by me: The fourth os great Lucretius solves the doubt.
Michael Du Fay in bit Epistle Dedicators to the Dju~ fbin of France, only Son to the jydofl Christian King Le-wit Xiy.
Though in the writings of Lucretius there are some opinions that disagree with the doctrine of the Christian religion; yet, of all the Latin authors, he is esteemed to be the most judicious and elegant. For, laying aside the veil of fables, \v dilputes,plainly, accurately, and with great strength, of wit,concerning the whole Nature of Things: his language is entirely correct and pure, his diction exceeding elegant, his style plain and easy, though at the same time domestic and sublime: his poem abounds with a wonderful plenty of moral sentences; and the admirable connection observed through the whole, is indeed surprising: By the lecture of it, not to mention the other advantages, we may acquire a nobler magnanimity against the blows of fortune, a greater fortitude against the fear of death, a stronger constancy against superstition, and a more constant temperance against the burning rage of lust. Add to this, that, excepting a few foolish assertions and impieties, he delivers many things that are consonant to truth and reason; more, to good manners; and that some of his disputations are almost divine. As bees, therefore, gather from each flower only what is useful and proper to make honey ; so too, most judicious prince, do you accurately and diligently collect from this author, only what seems to conduce to the knowledge of things, and to the acquiring aa elegance of style.
Mr. Dry Jen in bit Preface to the second Vdume of Poetical Miscellaniet.
I have, in the next place, to consider the genius
of Lucretius. If he was not of the best age of
Roman poetry, he was at least of that which preceded it; and he himself refined it to that degree of perfection, both in thelanguageandthcthoughts, that he lest an easy task to Virgil, who, as he succeeded him in time, so he copied his excellencies: for the method of the Gcorgics is plainly derived from him.
Lucretius had chosen asubject naturally crabbed; he therefore adorned it with poetical descriptions, and precepts of morality in the beginning and ending of his books', which you fee Virgil has imitated with great success in those four books, which, in my opinion, are more perfect in their kind than even his divine Æneids. The turn of his verses he hatlikewisesollowedin those places which Lucretius has most laboured, and some of his very lines he has transplanted into his own works, without much variation.
If I am "not mistaken, the distinguishing character of Lucretius, I mean his l'uul and genius, is a certain kind of noble pride and positive assertion of his own opinion*. He is every where confident of his own reason, and assuming an absolute command, not only over his vulgar readers, but even his patron Mcmmius. For he is always bidding him attend, as if he had the rod over him, and using a magisterial authority, while he instructs him. From his time to ours, I know none so like him, as our poet and philosopher of Malmsbury. This is that perpetual dictatorship, which is exercised by Lucretius; who, though often in the wrong, yet seems to deal bonaJtiie with his reader, and tells him nothing but what he thinks; in which plain sincerity, I believe he differs from our Hobbcs; who could Bot but be convinced, or at least doubt of some eternal truths which he has opposed: but for Lucretius, he seems to disdain all manner of replies, and is so confident of his cause, that he is beforehand with hi, antagonists; urging for them whatever he imagined they could fay ; ar.d leaving them, as he supposes, without an objection for the future. All this too with so much scorn and indignation, as if he were assured of the triumph, before he entered into the lists.
From this sublime and daring genius of his, it must of necessity come to pass, that his thoughts mult be masculine, full of argumentation, and that sufficiently warm: from the same licry temper proceeds the loftiness of his expressions, and the perpetual torrent of his verse, where the barrenness of his subjects does not too much constrain the quickness of his fancy ; for there is no doubt to be made, but that he could have been every where as poetical as he is in his descriptions, and in the moral part of his philosophy, if he had not aimed more to instruct in his system of nature than to delight. But he W38 bent upon making Memmiua a materialist, and teaching him to defy an invisible power; in short, he was so much an Atheist, that he forgot sometimes to be a poet.
These are the considerations which I had of that author before 1 attempted to translate some parts of him, and, accordingly, I laid by my natural diffidence and scepticism fora while, to take Up that dogmatical way of his, which, as I said, is so much his character, as to make him that individual poet.
As for his opinion' concerning the mortality of the foul, they are so absurd, that I cannot, if I would, beiieve them. I thiok a future state demonstrable even by natural arguments; at least, to take away rewards and punishments, is only a pleasing prospect to a man who resolves beforehand not to live morally; but, on the other side, the thought of beirg nothing after death, is a harden insupportable to a virtuous man, even though a heathen. We naturally aim at happii»rsrt, and cannot bear to have it confined to the shortness of our present being, especially when j we consider that virtue is generally unhappy in I this wot Id, and vice fortunate: so that it is hope , of futurity alone that makes this life tolerable in o^c-laion of a Ijetter, Who would not commit I
all the excesses to which he is prompted by hit natural inclinations, if he may do them with security while he is alive, and be uncapable of punishment after he is dead! If he be cunning and secret enough to avoid the laws, there is no band of morality to restrain him; for fame and reputation are weak tics: Many men have not the least fense os them; powerful men are only awed by them, as they conduce to their interest, and that nut always when a passion is predominant; and no man will be contained within the bounds of duty when he may safely transgress them. These are my thoughts abstractedly, and without entering into the notions of our common faith, which is the proper business of divines.
But there are other arguments in this poem which I have turned into English, not belonging to the mortality of the foul, which are ftroog enough to a reasonable man, to make him less in love with life, and consequently in less apprehensions of death. Such are the natural satiety proceeding from a perpetual enjoyment of the same things, the inconveuiencies of old age, which make him incapable of corporeal pleasures, the dee iy of understanding and memory, which render him cohtcmptible and useless to others. These, and many other reasons, so pathetically urged, so beautifully expressed, so adorned with examples, and so admirably raised by the prosopopeia os nature, who is brought in speaking to her children, with so much authority and vigour, deserve the pains 1 have taken with them.
It is true there is something, and that of some moment, to be objected against my Englishing the nature of love, from the fourth book of Lucretius; and I can less easily answer why I translated it, than why I thus translated it. The objection arises from the obscenity of the subject, which is aggravated by the too lively and alluring delicacy of the verses. In the first place, without the least formality of an excuse, I own it pleased me; and let my enemies make the worst: they can of this confession. I am not yet so secure from that p-ssion but that I want my author's antidote against it. He has given the truest and molt philosophical account both of the disease and remedy which I ever found in any author, for which reasons I translated him. But it will be asked why I turned him into this luscious Ei>2hih, for I will not give it a worse word? Instead of an answer, I could ask again of my supetcilious adversaries, whether I am not bound, when I translate an author, to do him all the right I can, and to translate him to the1>est advantage.' If to mince hi-, meaning, which I am satisfied was honest and instructive, I had either omitted some part os what he said, or taken from the strength of his expression, I certainly had wronged him; and that freeness of thought and words being thus cashiered in my hands, he had no longer been Lucretius. If nothing of this kind be to be read, physicians must not study nature, anatomies most not be seen, and somewhat I could say of particular passages in books, which, to avoid profanencss, L do not, name ,- but the intention <Jui
lines the act ; and both mine and my author's ncre to instruct as well as please. It is most certain, that bare faced bawdery is the poorest pretence to wit imaginable But neither Lucretius nor ( have used the grossest words but the cleanliest metaphors we could find, to palliate the broadness of the meaning; and, to Conclude, have carried the poetical part no farther than the philosophical exacted.
Mr. DryJen't opinion of the following Translation of Lvcrttiuj, by Mr. Creech, taken from bit Preface to the second Volume of Poetical Misccllaiiet.
I now call to mind what I owe to the ingenious and learned translator of Lucretius. I have not here designed to rob him of any part of that jon which he has so justly acquired by
the whole author, whose fragments only fall to my portion. The ways of our translation are very disscrent; he follows him more closely than 1 have done, which became an interpreter of the whole poem. I take more liberty, because it belt suited with my design, which was to make him as pleasing as 1 cnuld. He had been too voluminous had he used my method in so long a workv and 1 had certainly taken hi*, had 1 made it my business to translate the whole. The preference then is justly his; and I join with Mr. Evelyn in the confession of it, with this additional advantage to him, that his reputation is already established in this poet, n ine is to make its furtune in the world. If I have been any where obscure in following our common author, or if Lucretius himlelf is to be condemned, I refer myself to his excellent annotations, which I have often read, and always with some new pleasure.
T. LUCRETIUS CJRUS.
OF THE NATURE OF THINGS.
I. The poet invokes Venus. IT Then, from ver. 64. to ver. ipr, he dedicates to Memmios his boots of the Nature of Things, praises Epicurus, whose philosophy he follows, endeavours to clear hii doctrine from the chaise of impiety ; and briefly proposes the arguments of this and the following books. III. He enters upon his subject, and, from ver. 192. to ver. 31 j, teaches, that nothiDg can be made of nothing, and that nothing can be red'i td into nothing. IV. From ver. 315. to ver 380, that there are some little bodies, which though imperceptible to the eye, may be conceived by the mind, and of which all things are made. V. I'o these corpuscles from ver. 380 to ver. 479, he subjoins a void or an empty space. A id, VI. From ver. 479. to ver. 526, he proves that thereii nothing but body and void: and that all the nher things which seem to be, as weight, heat, poverty. war, &c, arc only conjunct? or events, properties or accidents, of body and void. VII From ver. 526. to* ver. 573, he teach(_s, that the first little bodies or principles of things, are perfect solids and consequently, from ver. 373. to ver. 667, that they are indivisible leasts (for body cannot b: divided into infinite), and eternal. VIII. In the next place, from ver. 667. to ver. 719, he confutes the opinion of Hcraclitus, who held that Ere i= the principle of all things; and of others who besieved the like of air, water, or earth. IX. Then, from ver. 719. to ver. 840, he proves against Empedodes, that things are not composed of the four elements. X. From ver. 840. to ver. 916, he refutes Anaxigora*. XI. Lastly, From ver. 926. to ver. IC49. he teaches, that the universe ii infinite on all fid' * , .hit the corpuscles arc infinite in number, and that the void cannot be induced in any bound". X' I. And from ver. 1049. to the end of ihi- book, he laughs at those who believe tliere is a centre in ;lie universe, down to which all heavy things are continually striving, while the light work upwards of their own accord.
Kind Venus, glory of the blest abodes,
When first the gentle spring begins t' inspire
They greedily their tuneful voice employ
With wanton play, all run to meet their loves: