O WHO can build with puissant breast a song Worthy the majesty of these great finds? Or who in words so strong that he can frame The fit laudations for deserts of him Who left us heritors of such vast prizes, By his own breast discovered and sought out?— There shall be none, methinks, of mortal stock. For if must needs be named for him the name Demanded by the now known majesty Of these high matters, then a god was he,— Hear me, illustrious Memmius—a god; Who first and chief found out that plan of life Which now is called philosophy, and who By cunning craft, out of such mighty waves, Out of such mighty darkness, moored life In havens so serene, in light so clear. Compare those old discoveries divine Of others: lo, according to the tale, Ceres established for mortality The grain, and Bacchus juice of vine-born grape, Though life might yet without these things abide, Even as report saith now some peoples live. But man's well-being was impossible Without a breast all free. Wherefore the more That man doth justly seem to us a god, From whom sweet solaces of life, afar Distributed o'er populous domains, Now soothe the minds of men. But if thou thinkest Labours of Hercules excel the same, Much farther from true reasoning thou farest. For what could hurt us now that mighty maw Of Nemeaean Lion, or what the Boar Who bristled in Arcadia? Or, again, O what could Cretan Bull, or Hydra, pest Of Lerna, fenced with vipers venomous? Or what the triple-breasted power of her The three-fold Geryon... The sojourners in the Stymphalian fens So dreadfully offend us, or the Steeds Of Thracian Diomedes breathing fire From out their nostrils off along the zones Bistonian and Ismarian? And the Snake, The dread fierce gazer, guardian of the golden And gleaming apples of the Hesperides, Coiled round the tree-trunk with tremendous bulk, O what, again, could he inflict on us Along the Atlantic shore and wastes of sea?— Where neither one of us approacheth nigh Nor no barbarian ventures. And the rest Of all those monsters slain, even if alive, Unconquered still, what injury could they do? None, as I guess. For so the glutted earth Swarms even now with savage beasts, even now Is filled with anxious terrors through the woods And mighty mountains and the forest deeps— Quarters 'tis ours in general to avoid. But lest the breast be purged, what conflicts then, What perils, must bosom, in our own despite! O then how great and keen the cares of lust That split the man distraught! How great the fears! And lo, the pride, grim greed, and wantonness— How great the slaughters in their train! and lo, Debaucheries and every breed of sloth! Therefore that man who subjugated these, And from the mind expelled, by words indeed, Not arms, O shall it not be seemly him To dignify by ranking with the gods?— And all the more since he was wont to give, Concerning the immortal gods themselves, Many pronouncements with a tongue divine, And to unfold by his pronouncements all The nature of the world. ARGUMENT OF THE BOOK AND NEW PROEM AGAINST A TELEOLOGICAL CONCEPT And walking now In his own footprints, I do follow through His reasonings, and with pronouncements teach The covenant whereby all things are framed, How under that covenant they must abide Nor ever prevail to abrogate the aeons' Inexorable decrees,—how (as we've found), In class of mortal objects, o'er all else, The mind exists of earth-born frame create And impotent unscathed to abide Across the mighty aeons, and how come In sleep those idol-apparitions, That so befool intelligence when we Do seem to view a man whom life has left. Thus far we've gone; the order of my plan Hath brought me now unto the point where I Must make report how, too, the universe Consists of mortal body, born in time, And in what modes that congregated stuff Established itself as earth and sky, Ocean, and stars, and sun, and ball of moon; And then what living creatures rose from out The old telluric places, and what ones Were never born at all; and in what mode The human race began to name its things And use the varied speech from man to man; And in what modes hath bosomed in their breasts That awe of gods, which halloweth in all lands Fanes, altars, groves, lakes, idols of the gods. Also I shall untangle by what power The steersman nature guides the sun's courses, And the meanderings of the moon, lest we, Percase, should fancy that of own free will They circle their perennial courses round, Timing their motions for increase of crops And living creatures, or lest we should think They roll along by any plan of gods. For even those men who have learned full well That godheads lead a long life free of care, If yet meanwhile they wonder by what plan Things can go on (and chiefly yon high things Observed o'erhead on the ethereal coasts), Again are hurried back unto the fears Of old religion and adopt again Harsh masters, deemed almighty,—wretched men, Unwitting what can be and what cannot, And by what law to each its scope prescribed, Its boundary stone that clings so deep in Time. But for the rest,—lest we delay thee here Longer by empty promises—behold, Before all else, the seas, the lands, the sky: O Memmius, their threefold nature, lo, Their bodies three, three aspects so unlike, Three frames so vast, a single day shall give Unto annihilation! Then shall crash That massive form and fabric of the world Sustained so many aeons! Nor do I Fail to perceive how strange and marvellous This fact must strike the intellect of man,— Annihilation of the sky and earth That is to be,—and with what toil of words 'Tis mine to prove the same; as happens oft When once ye offer to man's listening ears Something before unheard of, but may not Subject it to the view of eyes for him Nor put it into hand—the sight and touch, Whereby the opened highways of belief Lead most directly into human breast And regions of intelligence. But yet I will speak out. The fact itself, perchance, Will force belief in these my words, and thou Mayst see, in little time, tremendously With risen commotions of the lands all things Quaking to pieces—which afar from us May she, the steersman Nature, guide: and may Reason, O rather than the fact itself, Persuade us that all things can be o'erthrown And sink with awful-sounding breakage down! But ere on this I take a step to utter Oracles holier and soundlier based Than ever the Pythian pronounced for men From out the tripod and the Delphian laurel, I will unfold for thee with learned words Many a consolation, lest perchance, Still bridled by religion, thou suppose Lands, sun, and sky, sea, constellations, moon, Must dure forever, as of frame divine— And so conclude that it is just that those, (After the manner of the Giants), should all Pay the huge penalties for monstrous crime, Who by their reasonings do overshake The ramparts of the universe and wish There to put out the splendid sun of heaven, Branding with mortal talk immortal things— Though these same things are even so far removed From any touch of deity and seem So far unworthy of numbering with the gods, That well they may be thought to furnish rather A goodly instance of the sort of things That lack the living motion, living sense. For sure 'tis quite beside the mark to think That judgment and the nature of the mind In any kind of body can exist— Just as in ether can't exist a tree, Nor clouds in the salt sea, nor in the fields Can fishes live, nor blood in timber be, Nor sap in boulders: fixed and arranged Where everything may grow and have its place. Thus nature of mind cannot arise alone Without the body, nor have its being far From thews and blood. Yet if 'twere possible?— Much rather might this very power of mind Be in the head, the shoulders, or the heels, And, born in any part soever, yet In the same man, in the same vessel abide But since within this body even of ours Stands fixed and appears arranged sure Where soul and mind can each exist and grow, Deny we must the more that they can dure Outside the body and the breathing form In rotting clods of earth, in the sun's fire, In water, or in ether's skiey coasts. Therefore these things no whit are furnished With sense divine, since never can they be With life-force quickened. Likewise, thou canst ne'er Believe the sacred seats of gods are here In any regions of this mundane world; Indeed, the nature of the gods, so subtle, So far removed from these our senses, scarce Is seen even by intelligence of mind. And since they've ever eluded touch and thrust Of human hands, they cannot reach to grasp Aught tangible to us. For what may not Itself be touched in turn can never touch. Wherefore, besides, also their seats must be Unlike these seats of ours,—even subtle too, As meet for subtle essence—as I'll prove Hereafter unto thee with large discourse. Further, to say that for the sake of men They willed to prepare this world's magnificence, And that 'tis therefore duty and behoof To praise the work of gods as worthy praise, And that 'tis sacrilege for men to shake Ever by any force from out their seats What hath been stablished by the Forethought old To everlasting for races of mankind, And that 'tis sacrilege to assault by words And overtopple all from base to beam,— Memmius, such notions to concoct and pile, Is verily—to dote. Our gratefulness, O what emoluments could it confer Upon Immortals and upon the Blessed That they should take a step to manage aught For sake of us? Or what new factor could, After so long a time, inveigle them— The hitherto reposeful—to desire To change their former life? For rather he Whom old things chafe seems likely to rejoice At new; but one that in fore-passed time Hath chanced upon no ill, through goodly years, O what could ever enkindle in such an one Passion for strange experiment? Or what The evil for us, if we had ne'er been born?— As though, forsooth, in darkling realms and woe Our life were lying till should dawn at last The day-spring of creation! Whosoever Hath been begotten wills perforce to stay In life, so long as fond delight detains; But whoso ne'er hath tasted love of life, And ne'er was in the count of living things, What hurts it him that he was never born? Whence, further, first was planted in the gods The archetype for gendering the world And the fore-notion of what man is like, So that they knew and pre-conceived with mind Just what they wished to make? Or how were known Ever the energies of primal germs, And what those germs, by interchange of place, Could thus produce, if nature's self had not Given example for creating all? For in such wise primordials of things, Many in many modes, astir by blows From immemorial aeons, in motion too By their own weights, have evermore been wont To be so borne along and in all modes To meet together and to try all sorts Which, by combining one with other, they Are powerful to create, that thus it is No marvel now, if they have also fallen Into arrangements such, and if they've passed Into vibrations such, as those whereby This sum of things is carried on to-day By fixed renewal. But knew I never what The seeds primordial were, yet would I dare This to affirm, even from deep judgments based Upon the ways and conduct of the skies— This to maintain by many a fact besides— That in no wise the nature of all things For us was fashioned by a power divine— So great the faults it stands encumbered with. First, mark all regions which are overarched By the prodigious reaches of the sky: One yawning part thereof the mountain-chains And forests of the beasts do have and hold; And cliffs, and desert fens, and wastes of sea (Which sunder afar the beaches of the lands) Possess it merely; and, again, thereof Well-nigh two-thirds intolerable heat And a perpetual fall of frost doth rob From mortal kind. And what is left to till, Even that the force of nature would o'errun With brambles, did not human force oppose,— Long wont for livelihood to groan and sweat Over the two-pronged mattock and to cleave The soil in twain by pressing on the plough. Unless, by the ploughshare turning the fruitful clods And kneading the mould, we quicken into birth, [The crops] spontaneously could not come up Into the free bright air. Even then sometimes, When things acquired by the sternest toil Are now in leaf, are now in blossom all, Either the skiey sun with baneful heats Parches, or sudden rains or chilling rime Destroys, or flaws of winds with furious whirl Torment and twist. Beside these matters, why Doth nature feed and foster on land and sea The dreadful breed of savage beasts, the foes Of the human clan? Why do the seasons bring Distempers with them? Wherefore stalks at large Death, so untimely? Then, again, the babe, Like to the castaway of the raging surf, Lies naked on the ground, speechless, in want Of every help for life, when nature first Hath poured him forth upon the shores of light With birth-pangs from within the mother's womb, And with a plaintive wail he fills the place,— As well befitting one for whom remains In life a journey through so many ills. But all the flocks and herds and all wild beasts Come forth and grow, nor need the little rattles, Nor must be treated to the humouring nurse's Dear, broken chatter; nor seek they divers clothes To suit the changing skies; nor need, in fine, Nor arms, nor lofty ramparts, wherewithal Their own to guard—because the earth herself And nature, artificer of the world, bring forth Aboundingly all things for all.