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T. LUCRETI CARI

DE RERUM NATURA

A SELECTION FROM THE FIFTH BOOK

(783–1457)

EDITED

· WITH INTRODUCTION, ANALYSES AND NOTES

BY

W. D. LOWE, M.A.

FORMERLY SCHOLAR OF PEMBROKE COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE

JUNIOR CENSOR, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, DURHAM
EDITOR OF 'THE CENA TRIMALCHIONIS OF PETRONIUS ARBITER'

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PREFACE

This edition has been prepared in the hope that with its help some of the finest and most vivid Latin poetry that survives may in the future be read in lower forms than has been hitherto usual.

There is a natural objection to reading part of a poem or to beginning in the middle of a book, and it is hoped that an edition which omits the preceding eight hundred lines, a long and difficult passage with no particular connexion with this selection, and which so presents a subject of more reasonable length for a middle form, will virtually if not actually remove such hesitation.

Though a selection, it is totus teres atque rotundus and forms a complete epic in itself. Lucretius is generally considered to be a difficult author and is reserved for the higher forms, but it is believed that this selection will, with the aid of the notes, be found to present little difficulty to the average boy, and it will certainly give him an intensely graphic picture of the development of civilization as conceived by the most imaginative genius among Latin writers. Every edition of Lucretius is based on Munro's great work, and this one owes much to Mr. Duff's admirable edition. I also offer my sincere thanks to the reader of the Clarendon Press for many instances of suggestive advice. The text of the Clarendon Press has been followed practically throughout.

W. D. LOWE. THE CASTLE,

DURHAM, 1906.

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INTRODUCTION

THE LIFE OF LUCRETIUS The life of Lucretius, as it is usually accepted, is given here without any examination of the conflicting accounts and theories put forward by different editors.

Titus Lucretius Carus was born probably B.C. 99 and died October 15, B.C. 55. The statement that his death was due to suicide during madness brought on by drugs must be viewed with suspicion. He was a man of good family. He had literary tastes and showed no inclination for a political life, more especially during the troublous times of the struggles between Pompey and Caesar. He lived the life of a student and devoted himself to the philosophy of Epicurus : the result of his lifework is the presentation of that philosophy in the didactic poem De Rerum Natura in six books, a work that is not the production of a madman, whatever defects it may contain. Moreover, as Mr. Mackail in his Latin Literature says: “Many of the most important physical discoveries of modern times are hinted at or even expressly stated by Lucretius.' Indeed his theories of the atomic doctrine, of light, of evolution and of the ultimate constitution of atoms have won the admiration of modern scientists.

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THE STYLE OF LUCRETIUS Lucretius was, at any rate in literature, laudator temporis acti. He admired and imitated the older poets : Homer and Empedocles among the Greeks, Ennius and the older tragedians among the Latin poets, were studied diligently by him and influenced his language and turn of expression strongly. He is fond of using old and half-forgotten forms of words: he uses and invents compound adjectives of a Greek type, such as vulgivagus, levisomnus, anguimanus, pennipotens, bucerus: alliteration and assonance, a characteristic feature in the early period of the literature of any nation, play a prominent part, especially where the poet wishes to drive a point home.

The Lucretian hexameter is distinctly in advance of that of Ennius, yet it is closer to the rugged verse of the older poet than to the smoothness and elaboration of the Vergilian line. He is ready to use spondaic endings, archaic terminations of substantives and verbs: he makes free use of elision and frequently marks off the

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