Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Spirituality of Material Things
By Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99–c. 55 B.C.)
From ‘On the Nature of Things,’ Book Sixth: Translation of Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro

IN the first place, from all things whatsoever which we see, there must incessantly stream and be discharged and scattered abroad such bodies as strike the eyes and provoke vision. Smells too incessantly stream from certain things; as does cold from rivers, heat from the sun, spray from the waves of the sea, that enter into walls near the shore. Various sounds, too, cease not to stream through the air. Then a moist salt flavor often comes into the mouth, when we are moving about beside the sea; and when we look on at the mixing of a decoction of wormwood, its bitterness affects us. In such a constant stream from all things the several qualities of things are carried and are transmitted in all directions round: and no delay, no respite in the flow, is ever granted; since we constantly have feeling, and may at any time see, smell, and hear the sound of everything.  1
  And now I will state once again how rare a body all things have; a question made clear in the first part of my poem also, although the knowledge of this is of importance in regard to many things, above all in regard to this very question which I am coming to discuss. At the very outset it is necessary to establish that nothing comes under sense save body mixed with void. For instance: in caves, rocks overhead sweat with moisture and trickle down in oozing drops. Sweat, too, oozes out from our whole body; the beard grows, and hairs over all our limbs and frame. Food is distributed through all the veins, gives increase and nourishment to the very extremities and nails. We feel too cold and heat pass through brass, we feel them pass through gold and silver, when we hold cups. Again, voices fly through the stone partitions of houses: smell passes through, and cold, and the heat of fire which is wont ay to pierce even the strength of iron, where the Gaulish cuirass girds the body round. And when a storm has gathered in earth and heaven, and when along with it the influence of disease makes its way in from without, they both withdraw respectively to heaven and earth and there work their wills, since there is nothing at all that is not of a rare texture of body.  2
  Furthermore, all bodies whatever which are discharged from things are not qualified to excite the same sensations, nor are adapted for all things alike. The sun for instance bakes and dries up the earth, but thaws ice, and forces the snows piled up high on the high hills to melt away beneath his rays; wax again turns to liquid when placed within reach of his heat. Fire also melts brass and fuses gold, but shrivels up and draws together hides and flesh.  3

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