‘Venus disarming Mars’. Studio of Peter Paul Rubens.
Today’s sharing from the Blue house of HYGEIA is the opening lines of Titus Lucretius Carus, a.k.a. Lucretius, influential masterpiece, ‘Of the nature of things’, (De Natura Rerum), in the 1851 translation by John Selby Watson as a suitable working basis, tentatively revised by us.
The opening is an evocation of Venus (considered as an Empedoclean Power, Love as opposite to Strife-here symbolized by Mars-and personification of the Epicurean ‘Summum Bonum’, pleasure-voluptas) followed by a vibrant plea for peace. Then the proper Epicurean substance of the poem unfolds by itself.
‘O Nurturing Venus, mother of Æneas, delight of gods and men, who, beneath the gliding constellations of heaven, filled with life the ship-bearing sea and the fruit-producing earth; since by your influence every kind of living creature is conceived, and, springing forth, hails the light of the sun.
At your approach, O goddess, the winds rush before you and the clouds of heaven disperse; the wonder-working earth puts forth her fragrant flowers in your honor; for you, the waters of the ocean smile and the appeased heaven beams with outpouring light.
For, as soon as the budding face of spring is unveiled, and, unconfined, the gentle breeze’s fertile breath exerts its power, O goddess, the birds of the air, announcing your arrival, spurt forth, struck in heart by your might.
Next, the wild herds bound over the joyous pastures, and swim across the rapid streams. So all kinds of living creatures, captivated by your charms, eagerly follow you wherever you wish to lead them. Finally, you are infusing balm-like love into the breasts of all, causing them willingly to propagate their races after their kind, throughout seas, mountains, and whelming rivers, the leafy abodes of birds and verdant plains.
Since you alone govern all things in nature, without you nothing rises into the ethereal realms of light, nor any thing becomes gentle or lovable; I call upon you to help me with my song I am composing about the NATURE OF THINGS, for the instruction of my friend Memmius, whom you, 0 goddess, have always wanted to see blessed and graced with many gifts.
Therefore, 0 goddess, may you infuse into my words an immortal charm.
Meanwhile, may you cause the fierce pursuits of war to cease, bringing them to rest throughout all seas and lands.
For you alone can bless mortals with stable peace; since Mars, the lord of arms, who controls the cruel tasks of war, often flings himself upon your lap, vanquished by the eternal wound of love; and thus, looking up, his round neck thrown back, he feasts his insatiable eyes with love, gazing intently upon you, 0 goddess, and his breath, as he reclines, hangs on your lips.
O goddess, as he reposes, may you embrace him with your sacred person;
O glorious divinity, may you lavish from your mouth sweet words, advocating sustainable peace for your Roman children.
For neither can I pursue my task with a serene mind during our country’s trying times; nor can the illustrious heir of the Memmii family, at such a crisis, desert the common interest.‘
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.’
Virgil apparently refers to Lucretius, in the second book of his Georgics. 2-490:
‘He who’s been able to learn the causes of things is happy,
and has set all fear, and unrelenting fate, and the noise
of greedy Acheron, under his feet.’
‘There is harmony in the tension of opposites, as in the case of the bow and the lyre’ Heraclitus.
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