Monday, 28 February 2011

Lucretius on love

At a hard time in my life, I remember reading the prose version over and over again.
Lucretius is just superb. Clarity from the obscurity of  99-55 BC .

"For to shun
A fall into the hunting-snares of love
Is not so hard, as to get out again,
When tangled in the very nets, and burst
The stoutly-knotted cords of Aphrodite.
Yet even when there enmeshed with tangled feet,
Still canst thou scape the danger-lest indeed
Thou standest in the way of thine own good,
And overlookest first all blemishes
Of mind and body of thy much preferred,
Desirable dame. For so men do,
Eyeless with passion, and assign to them
Graces not theirs in fact. And thus we see
Creatures in many a wise crooked and ugly
The prosperous sweethearts in a high esteem;
And lovers gird each other and advise
To placate Venus, since their friends are smit
With a base passion—miserable dupes
Who seldom mark their own worst bane of all."

He only published one work, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things).
You can read the whole thing here if you would like to.

Given some quotes of the time, it is possible he died suddenly just before it was published.
Some people claimed he'd died of a love-potion, which seems deeply unlikely for a pragmatic
Epicurean. He was incredibly unusual for his time compared to the great swathes of
terrified narcissists that tend to thrive and enslave  throughout the ages.
He argued against fear of death, pointing out the mind could not exist after the body
disintegrates, and used an early form of physics to explore and understand the natural world.
Overall he saw himself as a doctor liberating people from the shackles of fear,
deliberately using verse form and beautiful language to make bitter truths- or medicines- palatable.