But if anyone were to conduct his life by reason He would find great riches in living a peaceful life And being contented; one is never short of a little But men want always to be powerful and famous So that their fortune rests on a solid foundation And they can spend a placid life in opulence. There isn't a hope of it; to attain great honours You have to struggle along a dangerous way And even when you reach the top there is envy Which can strike you down like lightning into Tartarus. For envy, like lightning, generally strikes at the top Or any point which sticks out from the ordinary level.
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Fear in sooth holds so in check all mortals, becasue thay see many operations go on in earth and heaven, the causes of which they can in no way understand, believing them therefore to be done by power divine. for these reasons when we shall have seen that nothing can be produced from nothing, we shall then more correctly ascertain that which we are seeking, both the elements out of which every thing can be produced and the manner in which every thing can be produced in which all things are done without the hands of the gods.
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Tempests, and bright lightnings, are to be sung; their nature is to be told, and from what cause they pursue their course; lest, having foolishly divided the heaven into parts, you should be anxious as to the quarter from which the flying flame may come, or to what region it may betake itself; and tremble to think how it penetrates through walled enclosures, and how, having exercised its power, it extricates itself from them. Of which phenomena the multitude can by no means see the causes, and think that they are accomplished by supernatural power.
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Assuredly whatsoever things are fabled to exist in deep Acheron, these all exist in this life. There is no wretched Tantalus, fearing the great rock that hangs over him in the air and frozen with vain terror. Rather, it is in this life that fear of the gods oppresses mortals without cause, and the rock they fear is any that chance may bring.
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What came from the earth returns back to the earth, and the spirit that was sent from heaven, again carried back, is received into the temple of heaven.[Lat., Cedit item retro, de terra quod fuit ante,In terras; et, quod missum est ex aetheris oreis,Id rursum caeli relatum templa receptant.]
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The gods and their tranquil abodes appear, which no winds disturb, nor clouds bedew with showers, nor does the white snow, hardened by frost, annoy them; the heaven, always pure, is without clouds, and smiles with pleasant light diffused.[Lat., Apparet divom numen, sedesque quietae;Quas neque concutiunt ventei, nec nubila nimbeis.Aspergunt, neque nex acri concreta pruinaCana cadens violat; semper sine nubibus aetherInteger, et large diffuso lumine ridet.]
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For it is unknown what is the real nature of the soul, whether it be born with the bodily frame or be infused at the moment of birth, whether it perishes along with us, when death separates the soul and body, or whether it visits the shades of Pluto and bottomless pits, or enters by divine appointment into other animals.[Lat., Ignoratur enim, quae sit natura animai;Nata sit, an contra nascentibus insinuetur;Et simul intereat nobiscum, morte diremta,An tenebras Orci visat, vastasque lacunas:An pecudes alias divinitus insinuet se.]
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Many animals even now spring out of the soil, Coalescing from the rains and the heat of the sun. Small wonder, then, if more and bigger creatures, Full-formed, arose from the new young earth and sky. The breed, for instance, of the dappled birds Shucked off their eggshells in the springtime, as Crickets in summer will slip their slight cocoons All by themselves, and search for food and life. Earth gave you, then, the first of mortal kinds, For all the fields were soaked with warmth and moisture.
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And many kinds of creatures must have died, Unable to plant out new sprouts of life. For whatever you see that lives and breathes and thrives Has been, from the very beginning, guarded, saved By it's trickery for its swiftness or brute strength. And many have been entrusted to our care, Commended by their usefulness to us. For instance, strength supports a savage lion; Foxes rely on their cunning; deer their flight.
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It was certainly not by design that the particles fell into order, they did not work out what they were going to do, but because many of them by many chances struck one another in the course of infinite time and encountered every possible form and movement, that they found at last the disposition they have, and that is how the universe was created.
And since the mind is of a man one part, Which in one fixed place remains, like ears, And eyes, and every sense which pilots life; And just as hand, or eye, or nose, apart, Severed from us, can neither feel nor be, But in the least of time is left to rot, Thus mind alone can never be, without The body and the man himself, which seems, As 'twere the vessel of the same- or aught Whate'er thou'lt feign as yet more closely joined: Since body cleaves to mind by surest bonds.
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Why shed tears that you must die? For if your past life has been one of enjoyment, and if all your pleasures have not passed through your mind, as through a sieve, and vanished, leaving not a rack behind, why then do you not, like a thankful guest, rise cheerfully from life's feast, and with a quiet mind go take your rest.
Vineyards and shining harvests, pastures, arbors, And all this our very utmost toil Can hardly care for, we wear down our strength Whether in oxen or in men, we dull The edges of our ploughshares, and in return Our fields turn mean and stingy, underfed, And so today the farmer shakes his head, More and more often sighing that his work, The labour of his hands, has come to naught.
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I return to the newborn world, and the soft-soil fields, What their first birthing lifted to the shores Of light, and trusted to the wayward winds. First the Earth gave the shimmer of greenery And grasses to deck the hills; then over the meadows The flowering fields are bright with the color of springtime, And for all the trees that shoot into the air.
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When the supreme violence of a furious wind upon the sea sweeps over the waters the chief admiral of a fleet along with his mighty legions, does he not crave the gods' peace with vows and in his panic seek with prayers the peace of the winds and favouring breezes. Nonetheless, he is caught up in the furious hurricane and driven upon the shoals of death.
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Poor humanity, to saddle the gods with such a responsibility and throw in a vindictive temper. What griefs they hatch for themselves, what festering sores for us, what tears for our prosperity! This is not piety, this oft-repeated show of bowing a veiled head before a graven image; this bustling to every altar; this kow-towing and prostration on the ground with palms outspread before the shrines of the gods; this deluging of vow on vow. True piety lies rather in the power to contemplate the universe with a quiet mind.
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Mother of Rome, delight of Gods and men, Dear Venus that beneath the gliding stars Makest to teem the many-voyaged main And fruitful lands- for all of living things Through thee alone are evermore conceived, Through thee are risen to visit the great sun- Before thee, Goddess, and thy coming on, Flee stormy wind and massy cloud away, For thee the daedal Earth bears scented flowers, For thee waters of the unvexed deep Smile, and the hollows of the serene sky Glow with diffused radiance for thee!
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I prove the supreme law of Gods and sky, And the primordial germs of things unfold, Whence Nature all creates, and multiplies And fosters all, and whither she resolves Each in the end when each is overthrown. This ultimate stock we have devised to name Procreant atoms, matter, seeds of things, Or primal bodies, as primal to the world.
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For as children tremble and fear everything in the blind darkness, so we in the light sometimes fear what is no more to be feared than the things children in the dark hold in terror and imagine will come true. This terror therefore and darkness of mind must be dispelled not by the rays of the sun and glittering shafts of day, but by the aspect and law of nature.
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At this stage you must admit that whatever is seen to be sentient is nevertheless composed of atoms that are insentient. The phenomena open to our observation so not contradict this conclusion or conflict with it. Rather they lead us by the hand and compel us to believe that the animate is born, as I maintain, of the insentient.