Welcome to Episode Seventy-Four of Lucretius Today. I am your host Cassius, and together with my panelists from the EpicureanFriends.com forum, we’ll walk you through the six books of Lucretius’ poem, and discuss how Epicurean philosophy can apply to you today. We encourage you to study Epicurus for yourself, and we suggest the best place to start is the book, “Epicurus and His Philosophy” by Canadian professor Norman DeWitt.
For anyone who is not familiar with our podcast, please check back to Episode One for a discussion of our goals and our ground rules. If you have any questions about those, please be sure to contact us at EpicureanFriends.com for more information. In this Episode 74 we will read approximately Latin line 705-820 of Book Five. We will talk about the initial phases of life on earth. Now let’s join Don reading today’s text.
Lastly, why may not a moon be created new every day, and be distinguished by regular phases, and certain forms of light? And this new orb die, and be succeeded the next day by another, that should supply its place in the same part and quarter of the heavens? It is difficult to assign a reason, and to prove the contrary, especially since we observe so many things are formed, and succeed one another in regular order. And first the spring begins, and Venus enters, with her harbingers (the winged Zephyrs) marching by her side; then mother Flora spreads the way before with flowers of richest dye, and fills the air with sweetest odors; and next advance the scorching summer, and her companion the dusty harvest, and the Etesian Blasts of Northern Winds; and then comes autumn, and jolly Bacchus steps along; now follow ruffling storms and boisterous winds, the roaring southeast, and the sultry south full fraught with thunder; at last the cold brings on the snow and chilling frost, and then creeps winter, all benumbed, and chattering with his teeth. It is the less wonder then that the moon should be formed anew at certain times, and at fixed seasons again expire, since so many things are so regularly produced, and succeed one another.
The eclipses of the sun and moon may proceed, you may suppose, from many causes, for why should the moon deprive the earth of the sun’s light, and as she shines above oppose her body to him, and stop his burning rays by thrusting her dark orb between; and not another body, wholly dark, be thought to interpose at such a time, and produce the same effect? And why may not the sun grow faint, and deaden his light at a certain time, and renew it again when he has passed certain regions of the air that are enemies to his beams, and destroy and extinguish his fires? And then again, while the moon in her monthly course passes by the rigid shadow of the earth, which is of a conic figure, why should the earth rob the moon of light, and being above the sun, hold his rays shut in; and why many not another body at the same time move below the moon, and pass above the body of the sun, that may intercept his rays and stop his spreading fires? And yet, if the moon be allowed to shine with her own beams, why may not her brightness decay in certain parts of the world, as she passes through places that are enemies to her light?
And now, since I have explained from what causes proceed the motions of all the celestial bodies, and given you a rule to know what force, what power, dries on the various courses of the sun, and the wanderings of the moon; in what manner their several rays are intercepted, and the earth is covered over with surprising darkness, as if they winked, and how again they spread open their beams, and visit the world with shining light: I now return to the new-formed earth, and her tender soil, to find what kind of beings she first raised into the light, what offspring she first ventured to commit to the faithless winds.
And first the Earth produced the herbs, and spread a gay verdure over all the hills, and the gaudy fields shone all around with green; and nature gave the several trees a power to raise themselves, and grow up with their spreading branches into the air. As feathers, and hair, and bristles, were at first produced from the limbs of beasts and the bodies of birds, so the new earth first bore the herbs and the trees, and then she formed many kinds of living creatures, for various ends, and after a different manner: For the race of animals did not originally fall down from the skies, nor could terrestrial beings rise out of the salt sea; and therefore we say that the Earth justly obtained the name of Mother, because out of her all things were formed. Even no many animals rise from the earth, and are produced by moisture and the heat of the sun; and therefore the wonder is the less that many more should have been created in the beginning of the world, and of a larger size, when the earth was fresh as a young bride, and her husband Aether in the flower of his age. Of all the animal creation, the feathered kind, and various breeds of birds, first broke through the prison of the egg in time of spring; as grasshoppers in the summer now burst their curious little bags, and of themselves know how to seek their food and preserve their life. And the earth next produced the race of men and beasts, for then there was abundance of vital heat and moisture in the soil, and where the place was proper, a sort of womb group up, fixed and sticking in the earth by their roots. These the infants ripe for birth broke through they left their moist enclosure, and sprung out into the air. In those places nature prepared the pores of the earth, and forced her to pour from her open veins a liquor like milk; as a woman after delivery is full of sweet milk, because the principal juices of her food fly into her breasts. The earth gives nourishment to the infant, the warmth of the sun is instead of clothes, and the grass abounding with plenty of soft down affords the bed. But this new world produced no chilling cold, nor too much heat, nor force of rushing winds, for things increased and grew violent by degrees. And therefore by the strictest laws of justice does the Earth claim the name of Mother, because in this manner, for some time, she herself produced mankind, and formed every savage beast that wildly roars upon the mountaintops, and the great variety of birds, distinguished by the beauty of their feathers.