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On the nature of things by Lucretius (1919) PDF book by Robert Andrew Allison

On the nature of things

On the nature of things by Lucretius

Excerpt from the book introduction:

Titus Lucretius Carus, one of the world's great poets, we know hardly anything. One of the maxims which his beloved Master, Epicurus, impressed upon his followers was, ' Hide thyself, and pass through life unknown'; and so successfully has his pupil followed his advice, that no details of his life and works have come down to us. Although the contemporary of Cicero and Catullus, we know nothing of him beyond the fact, which Mr. Monro thinks certain, that he was born at Rome in 99 B.C., and died at the age of forty-four in 55 b.c. A story is told, on which Tennyson has founded his poem on Lucretius, how, after being driven mad by a love potion administered by a jealous woman, possibly his wife, he committed suicide in the forty-fourth year of his age.


The story, originating as it does some three or four centuries later, and otherwise unsupported, may be distressed. On the same authority, we are informed that Cicero edited his unfinished work. We have indeed a letter* from the great orator to his brother Quintus, written a few months after the poet's death, in which he says (I follow the rendering of Mr. Shuckburgh): 'The poems of Lucretius are, as you say, full of brilliant flashes of genius, yet very technical.'


In these words he is probably contrasting the fine poetical passages with the dry details of the long philosophical disquisitions with which the poets work abounds, which have led some to assert that out of the twelve thousand lines, seven hundred only can be termed poetry r] But there is nothing to lead us to suppose he edited it, and indeed it seems unlikely he should edit a work which in its main doctrines conflicts so strongly with his own on the existence of the Gods, and the fear of death. In one of his letters, he calls Epicureanism 'the philosophy of the kitchen.' That Lucretius left his work unfinished and without his final revision is certain, and there are passages in the poem which seem to render it not impossible that he died by his own hand. Thus in his third book (iii. 941) he says:
"if life itself disgusts Why seek to add to it, to lose again And perish all in vain? Why not prefer To make an end of life and labor too?'


Author: Lucretius
Translator: Robert Andrew Allison

 Publication Date:1919 


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