DE RERUM NATURA


Prolog to Book I


The brilliant Prolog to the first book of Lucretius' remarkable and beautiful poem on Epicurean Science and Philosophy, is something which every serious student of Latin should read, but the Latin text is not readily available. I have included it here for two purposes, first as a foretaste of Lucretius' style and language, and second as a passage which should be read while you are working with Vergil. Vergil owes so much to Lucretius, not only the sense of grandeur of the dactylic lines, but also the sounds of Lucretius' vocabulary. Furthermore Vergil was devoted to Epicurean philosophy, althouogh there is a msitaken notion that he was as a Roman, a staunch Stoic.If Vergil ahs any mpoetic model before his eyes, it was Lucretius.

I suggest reading this passage carefully while lilsting to a recording of Stravinsky's Rite Of Spring, which is ideal background music for the driving, emotional and sexually procreative themes which the Rite and the Prolog evoke. If this sound like a strange suggestion, just try it and you will certainly se what I mean.


Aeneadum genetrix, hominum divomque voluptas,
alma Venus, caeli subter labentia signa
quae mare navigerum, quae terras frugiferentis
concelebras, per te quoniam genus omne animantum
concipitur visitque exortum lumina solis:
te, dea, te fugiunt venti, te nubila caeli
adventumque tuum, tibi suavis daedala tellus
summittit flores, tibi rident aequora ponti
placatumque nitet diffuso lumine caelum.
nam simul ac species patefactast verna diei
et reserata viget genitabilis aura favoni,
aeriae primum volucris te, diva, tuumque
significant initum perculsae corda tua vi.
inde ferae pecudes persultant pabula laeta
et rapidos tranant amnis: ita capta lepore
te sequitur cupide quo quamque inducere pergis.
denique per maria ac montis fluviosque rapacis
frondiferasque domos avium camposque virentis
omnibus incutiens blandum per pectora amorem
efficis ut cupide generatim saecla propagent.
quae quoniam rerum naturam sola gubernas
nec sine te quicquam dias in luminis oras
exoritur neque fit laetum neque amabile quicquam,
te sociam studeo scribendis versibus esse,
quos ego de rerum natura pangere conor
Memmiadae nostro, quem tu, dea, tempore in omni
omnibus ornatum voluisti excellere rebus.
quo magis aeternum da dictis, diva, leporem.
effice ut interea fera moenera militiai
per maria ac terras omnis sopita quiescant;
nam tu sola potes tranquilla pace iuvare
mortalis, quoniam belli fera moenera Mavors
armipotens regit, in gremium qui saepe tuum se
reiicit aeterno devictus vulnere amoris,
atque ita suspiciens tereti cervice reposta
pascit amore avidos inhians in te, dea, visus
eque tuo pendet resupini spiritus ore.
hunc tu, diva, tuo recubantem corpore sancto
circum fusa super, suavis ex ore loquellas
funde petens placidam Romanis, incluta, pacem;
nam neque nos agere hoc patriai tempore iniquo
possumus aequo animo nec Memmi clara propago
talibus in rebus communi desse saluti.
omnis enim per se divum natura necessest
immortali aevo summa cum pace fruatur
semota ab nostris rebus seiunctaque longe;
nam privata dolore omni, privata periclis,
ipsa suis pollens opibus, nihil indiga nostri,
nec bene promeritis capitur nec tangitur ira.

William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris