On the Nature of Things Hardcover – Aug 21 2012
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"Ensolen has focused on the poet, translating the Latin hexameters into accented pentameter in order to capture the dynamics, rhythms, and syntax of the original. The results are both satisfying and readable. Ensolen includes an elegant introduction on Lucretius, as well as useful notes. A valuable contribution to students of literature as well as philosophy." -- Library Journal
"Ensolen has focused on the poet, translating the Latin hexameters into accented pentameter in order to capture the dynamics, rhythms, and syntax of the original. The results are both satisfying and readable. Ensolen includes an elegant introduction on Lucretius, as well as useful notes. A valuable contribution to students of literature as well as philosophy." -- Library Journal --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From the Back Cover
Titus Lucretius Carus was probably born in the early first century B.C., and he died in the year 55. Writing in the waning days of the Roman Republic - as Rome's politics grew individualistic and treacherous, its high-life wanton, its piety introspective and morbid - Lucretius sets forth a rational and materialistic view of the world which offers a retreat into a quiet community of wisdom and friendship. Even to modern readers, the sweep of Lucretius's observations is remarkable. A careful observer of nature, he writes with an innocent curiosity into how things are put together - from the oceans, lands, and stars to a mound of poppy seeds, from the "applause" of a rooster's wings to the human mind and soul. Yet Lucretius is no romantic. Nature is what it is - fascinating, purposeless, beautiful, deadly. Once we understand this, we free ourselves of superstitious fears, becoming as human and as godlike as we can be. The poem, then, is about the universe and how human beings ought to live in it. Epicurean physics and morality converge. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Walter Englert is the Omar and Althea Hoskins Professor of Classical Studies at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He earned his PhD at Stanford University, and has published on aspects of Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Roman Philosophy.
This translation is an attempt to render Lucretius' powerful Latin philosophic poem into an English translation that reflects the philosophic clarity and poetic power of the original. I have tried to model my translation of Lucretius' epic poem on English translations of classical and medieval poems that I greatly admire, Richmond Lattimore's translations of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and Allen Mandelbaum's translations of Virgil's Aeneid and Dante's Divine Comedy. I have always been struck by the way Lattimore renders the beauty and clarity of Homer while remaining so faithful to the text, and by how Mandelbaum translates Virgil and Dante with such poetic force, accuracy, and humanitas. When I began this project I was convinced that what was needed for Lucretius was an English translation which would bring out the inseparable poetic qualities and philosophic clarity of the poem, and which could be used by students and general readers as an accurate guide to the original.
My interest in Lucretius first began when I read Lucretius as an undergraduate in the Integral Liberal Arts program at St. Mary's College of California. The seminars I had on Lucretius gave me my first glimpses of the poem's power and beauty. I first read Lucretius in Latin as a graduate student with Jo-Ann Shelton at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and I learned a great deal about reading Lucretius from her.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Astoundingly, much of this poem is consistent with scientific models today---invisible and minute atoms forever moving in a void under internal and external forces, joining together in various ways to form the visible objects of the world. The atoms themselves were eternal but the bodies came to an end and the atoms recycled into other bodies so that the mass of the world remains constant. He got it wrong about the speed of " heat atoms" being faster than the speed of "light atoms", but by and large this is the atomic theory of Maxwell and Boltzmann and later physicists, without the math of course.
While not denying the existence of gods of various sorts,Lucretias' view was that the universe goes on without their aid or attention. The world as we know it was brought into being and maintained by natural forces and follows natural laws, not in any degree by divine intervention. Since the world is a conglomerate of atoms and void, it is impermanent and must someday inevitably be destroyed, including the soul upon death. Seeing things thusly, there is no room for the afterlife, no need for gods major or minor, no reason to despair of death, and certainly no reason to forgo the pleasures of this world for a reward in the afterlife. What we see in this life is all there is and we should enjoy it. Small wonder that this view was not welcomed by the Church of Rome upon discovery of the poem.
Although he was basically right on the atoms, Lucretias' labored and today laughable explanations of the causes of physical phenomena in terms of the different properties of "smooth" or " rough" atoms, of differences in "heat" and "light" atoms, the flows of air, etc. only serve to illustrate the fallacies of pure reason without an anchor to empirical observation. Ironically, his Epicurean view of the things that could be seen was altogether wrong--earth, water, air and ether being the basic components of which everything was constituted, the motion of heavenly bodies on circular currents of ether, the size of the sun, moon and stars being as they seemed (totally lacking the concept of perspective that a little knowledge of the available mathematics would have given). It clearly never occurred to the thinkers of his age to check any of these postulated causes by comparison with experiment. However, the speculation on biological evolution through many failures is not far from the modern theory.