Of the Nature of Things

by Lucretius

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Book V - The World Is Not Eternal

And first,
     Since body of earth and water, air's light breath,
     And fiery exhalations (of which four
     This sum of things is seen to be compact)
     So all have birth and perishable frame,
     Thus the whole nature of the world itself
     Must be conceived as perishable too.
     For, verily, those things of which we see
     The parts and members to have birth in time
     And perishable shapes, those same we mark
     To be invariably born in time
     And born to die. And therefore when I see
     The mightiest members and the parts of this
     Our world consumed and begot again,
     'Tis mine to know that also sky above
     And earth beneath began of old in time
     And shall in time go under to disaster.

     And lest in these affairs thou deemest me
     To have seized upon this point by sleight to serve
     My own caprice—because I have assumed
     That earth and fire are mortal things indeed,
     And have not doubted water and the air
     Both perish too and have affirmed the same
     To be again begotten and wax big—
     Mark well the argument: in first place, lo,
     Some certain parts of earth, grievously parched
     By unremitting suns, and trampled on
     By a vast throng of feet, exhale abroad
     A powdery haze and flying clouds of dust,
     Which the stout winds disperse in the whole air.
     A part, moreover, of her sod and soil
     Is summoned to inundation by the rains;
     And rivers graze and gouge the banks away.
     Besides, whatever takes a part its own
     In fostering and increasing [aught]...

     Is rendered back; and since, beyond a doubt,
     Earth, the all-mother, is beheld to be
     Likewise the common sepulchre of things,
     Therefore thou seest her minished of her plenty,
     And then again augmented with new growth.

     And for the rest, that sea, and streams, and springs
     Forever with new waters overflow,
     And that perennially the fluids well,
     Needeth no words—the mighty flux itself
     Of multitudinous waters round about
     Declareth this. But whatso water first
     Streams up is ever straightway carried off,
     And thus it comes to pass that all in all
     There is no overflow; in part because
     The burly winds (that over-sweep amain)
     And skiey sun (that with his rays dissolves)
     Do minish the level seas; in part because
     The water is diffused underground
     Through all the lands. The brine is filtered off,
     And then the liquid stuff seeps back again
     And all regathers at the river-heads,
     Whence in fresh-water currents on it flows
     Over the lands, adown the channels which
     Were cleft erstwhile and erstwhile bore along
     The liquid-footed floods.

                               Now, then, of air
     I'll speak, which hour by hour in all its body
     Is changed innumerably. For whatso'er
     Streams up in dust or vapour off of things,
     The same is all and always borne along
     Into the mighty ocean of the air;
     And did not air in turn restore to things
     Bodies, and thus recruit them as they stream,
     All things by this time had resolved been
     And changed into air. Therefore it never
     Ceases to be engendered off of things
     And to return to things, since verily
     In constant flux do all things stream.

     The abounding well-spring of the liquid light,
     The ethereal sun, doth flood the heaven o'er
     With constant flux of radiance ever new,
     And with fresh light supplies the place of light,
     Upon the instant. For whatever effulgence
     Hath first streamed off, no matter where it falls,
     Is lost unto the sun. And this 'tis thine
     To know from these examples: soon as clouds
     Have first begun to under-pass the sun,
     And, as it were, to rend the rays of light
     In twain, at once the lower part of them
     Is lost entire, and earth is overcast
     Where'er the thunderheads are rolled along—
     So know thou mayst that things forever need
     A fresh replenishment of gleam and glow,
     And each effulgence, foremost flashed forth,
     Perisheth one by one. Nor otherwise
     Can things be seen in sunlight, lest alway
     The fountain-head of light supply new light.
     Indeed your earthly beacons of the night,
     The hanging lampions and the torches, bright
     With darting gleams and dense with livid soot,
     Do hurry in like manner to supply
     With ministering heat new light amain;
     Are all alive to quiver with their fires,—
     Are so alive, that thus the light ne'er leaves
     The spots it shines on, as if rent in twain:
     So speedily is its destruction veiled
     By the swift birth of flame from all the fires.
     Thus, then, we must suppose that sun and moon
     And stars dart forth their light from under-births
     Ever and ever new, and whatso flames
     First rise do perish always one by one—
     Lest, haply, thou shouldst think they each endure

                Again, perceivest not
     How stones are also conquered by Time?—
     Not how the lofty towers ruin down,
     And boulders crumble?—Not how shrines of gods
     And idols crack outworn?—Nor how indeed
     The holy Influence hath yet no power
     There to postpone the Terminals of Fate,
     Or headway make 'gainst Nature's fixed decrees?
     Again, behold we not the monuments
     Of heroes, now in ruins, asking us,
     In their turn likewise, if we don't believe
     They also age with eld? Behold we not
     The rended basalt ruining amain
     Down from the lofty mountains, powerless
     To dure and dree the mighty forces there
     Of finite time?—for they would never fall
     Rended asudden, if from infinite Past
     They had prevailed against all engin'ries
     Of the assaulting aeons, with no crash.

     Again, now look at This, which round, above,
     Contains the whole earth in its one embrace:
     If from itself it procreates all things—
     As some men tell—and takes them to itself
     When once destroyed, entirely must it be
     Of mortal birth and body; for whate'er
     From out itself giveth to other things
     Increase and food, the same perforce must be
     Minished, and then recruited when it takes
     Things back into itself.

                            Besides all this,
     If there had been no origin-in-birth
     Of lands and sky, and they had ever been
     The everlasting, why, ere Theban war
     And obsequies of Troy, have other bards
     Not also chanted other high affairs?
     Whither have sunk so oft so many deeds
     Of heroes? Why do those deeds live no more,
     Ingrafted in eternal monuments
     Of glory? Verily, I guess, because
     The Sum is new, and of a recent date
     The nature of our universe, and had
     Not long ago its own exordium.
     Wherefore, even now some arts are being still
     Refined, still increased: now unto ships
     Is being added many a new device;
     And but the other day musician-folk
     Gave birth to melic sounds of organing;
     And, then, this nature, this account of things
     Hath been discovered latterly, and I
     Myself have been discovered only now,
     As first among the first, able to turn
     The same into ancestral Roman speech.
     Yet if, percase, thou deemest that ere this
     Existed all things even the same, but that
     Perished the cycles of the human race
     In fiery exhalations, or cities fell
     By some tremendous quaking of the world,
     Or rivers in fury, after constant rains,
     Had plunged forth across the lands of earth
     And whelmed the towns—then, all the more must thou
     Confess, defeated by the argument,
     That there shall be annihilation too
     Of lands and sky. For at a time when things
     Were being taxed by maladies so great,
     And so great perils, if some cause more fell
     Had then assailed them, far and wide they would
     Have gone to disaster and supreme collapse.
     And by no other reasoning are we
     Seen to be mortal, save that all of us
     Sicken in turn with those same maladies
     With which have sickened in the past those men
     Whom nature hath removed from life.

     Whatever abides eternal must indeed
     Either repel all strokes, because 'tis made
     Of solid body, and permit no entrance
     Of aught with power to sunder from within
     The parts compact—as are those seeds of stuff
     Whose nature we've exhibited before;
     Or else be able to endure through time
     For this: because they are from blows exempt,
     As is the void, the which abides untouched,
     Unsmit by any stroke; or else because
     There is no room around, whereto things can,
     As 'twere, depart in dissolution all,—
     Even as the sum of sums eternal is,
     Without or place beyond whereto things may
     Asunder fly, or bodies which can smite,
     And thus dissolve them by the blows of might.
     But not of solid body, as I've shown,
     Exists the nature of the world, because
     In things is intermingled there a void;
     Nor is the world yet as the void, nor are,
     Moreover, bodies lacking which, percase,
     Rising from out the infinite, can fell
     With fury-whirlwinds all this sum of things,
     Or bring upon them other cataclysm
     Of peril strange; and yonder, too, abides
     The infinite space and the profound abyss—
     Whereinto, lo, the ramparts of the world
     Can yet be shivered. Or some other power
     Can pound upon them till they perish all.
     Thus is the door of doom, O nowise barred
     Against the sky, against the sun and earth
     And deep-sea waters, but wide open stands
     And gloats upon them, monstrous and agape.
     Wherefore, again, 'tis needful to confess
     That these same things are born in time; for things
     Which are of mortal body could indeed
     Never from infinite past until to-day
     Have spurned the multitudinous assaults
     Of the immeasurable aeons old.

     Again, since battle so fiercely one with other
     The four most mighty members the world,
     Aroused in an all unholy war,
     Seest not that there may be for them an end
     Of the long strife?—Or when the skiey sun
     And all the heat have won dominion o'er
     The sucked-up waters all?—And this they try
     Still to accomplish, though as yet they fail,—
     For so aboundingly the streams supply
     New store of waters that 'tis rather they
     Who menace the world with inundations vast
     From forth the unplumbed chasms of the sea.
     But vain—since winds (that over-sweep amain)
     And skiey sun (that with his rays dissolves)
     Do minish the level seas and trust their power
     To dry up all, before the waters can
     Arrive at the end of their endeavouring.
     Breathing such vasty warfare, they contend
     In balanced strife the one with other still
     Concerning mighty issues,—though indeed
     The fire was once the more victorious,
     And once—as goes the tale—the water won
     A kingdom in the fields. For fire o'ermastered
     And licked up many things and burnt away,
     What time the impetuous horses of the Sun
     Snatched Phaethon headlong from his skiey road
     Down the whole ether and over all the lands.
     But the omnipotent Father in keen wrath
     Then with the sudden smite of thunderbolt
     Did hurl the mighty-minded hero off
     Those horses to the earth. And Sol, his sire,
     Meeting him as he fell, caught up in hand
     The ever-blazing lampion of the world,
     And drave together the pell-mell horses there
     And yoked them all a-tremble, and amain,
     Steering them over along their own old road,
     Restored the cosmos,—as forsooth we hear
     From songs of ancient poets of the Greeks—
     A tale too far away from truth, meseems.
     For fire can win when from the infinite
     Has risen a larger throng of particles
     Of fiery stuff; and then its powers succumb,
     Somehow subdued again, or else at last
     It shrivels in torrid atmospheres the world.
     And whilom water too began to win—
     As goes the story—when it overwhelmed
     The lives of men with billows; and thereafter,
     When all that force of water-stuff which forth
     From out the infinite had risen up
     Did now retire, as somehow turned aside,
     The rain-storms stopped, and streams their fury checked.
     But in what modes that conflux of first-stuff
     Did found the multitudinous universe
     Of earth, and sky, and the unfathomed deeps
     Of ocean, and courses of the sun and moon,
     I'll now in order tell. For of a truth
     Neither by counsel did the primal germs
     'Stablish themselves, as by keen act of mind,
     Each in its proper place; nor did they make,
     Forsooth, a compact how each germ should move;
     But, lo, because 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: because of this
     It comes to pass that those primordials,
     Diffused far and wide through mighty aeons,
     The while they unions try, and motions too,
     Of every kind, meet at the last amain,
     And so become oft the commencements fit
     Of mighty things—earth, sea, and sky, and race
     Of living creatures.

                         In that long-ago
     The wheel of the sun could nowhere be discerned
     Flying far up with its abounding blaze,
     Nor constellations of the mighty world,
     Nor ocean, nor heaven, nor even earth nor air.
     Nor aught of things like unto things of ours
     Could then be seen—but only some strange storm
     And a prodigious hurly-burly mass
     Compounded of all kinds of primal germs,
     Whose battling discords in disorder kept
     Interstices, and paths, coherencies,
     And weights, and blows, encounterings, and motions,
     Because, by reason of their forms unlike
     And varied shapes, they could not all thuswise
     Remain conjoined nor harmoniously
     Have interplay of movements. But from there
     Portions began to fly asunder, and like
     With like to join, and to block out a world,
     And to divide its members and dispose
     Its mightier parts—that is, to set secure
     The lofty heavens from the lands, and cause
     The sea to spread with waters separate,
     And fires of ether separate and pure
     Likewise to congregate apart.

                                  For, lo,
     First came together the earthy particles
     (As being heavy and intertangled) there
     In the mid-region, and all began to take
     The lowest abodes; and ever the more they got
     One with another intertangled, the more
     They pressed from out their mass those particles
     Which were to form the sea, the stars, the sun,
     And moon, and ramparts of the mighty world—
     For these consist of seeds more smooth and round
     And of much smaller elements than earth.
     And thus it was that ether, fraught with fire,
     First broke away from out the earthen parts,
     Athrough the innumerable pores of earth,
     And raised itself aloft, and with itself
     Bore lightly off the many starry fires;
     And not far otherwise we often see

     And the still lakes and the perennial streams
     Exhale a mist, and even as earth herself
     Is seen at times to smoke, when first at dawn
     The light of the sun, the many-rayed, begins
     To redden into gold, over the grass
     Begemmed with dew. When all of these are brought
     Together overhead, the clouds on high
     With now concreted body weave a cover
     Beneath the heavens. And thuswise ether too,
     Light and diffusive, with concreted body
     On all sides spread, on all sides bent itself
     Into a dome, and, far and wide diffused
     On unto every region on all sides,
     Thus hedged all else within its greedy clasp.
     Hard upon ether came the origins
     Of sun and moon, whose globes revolve in air
     Midway between the earth and mightiest ether,—
     For neither took them, since they weighed too little
     To sink and settle, but too much to glide
     Along the upmost shores; and yet they are
     In such a wise midway between the twain
     As ever to whirl their living bodies round,
     And ever to dure as parts of the wide Whole;
     In the same fashion as certain members may
     In us remain at rest, whilst others move.
     When, then, these substances had been withdrawn,
     Amain the earth, where now extend the vast
     Cerulean zones of all the level seas,
     Caved in, and down along the hollows poured
     The whirlpools of her brine; and day by day
     The more the tides of ether and rays of sun
     On every side constrained into one mass
     The earth by lashing it again, again,
     Upon its outer edges (so that then,
     Being thus beat upon, 'twas all condensed
     About its proper centre), ever the more
     The salty sweat, from out its body squeezed,
     Augmented ocean and the fields of foam
     By seeping through its frame, and all the more
     Those many particles of heat and air
     Escaping, began to fly aloft, and form,
     By condensation there afar from earth,
     The high refulgent circuits of the heavens.
     The plains began to sink, and windy slopes
     Of the high mountains to increase; for rocks
     Could not subside, nor all the parts of ground
     Settle alike to one same level there.

     Thus, then, the massy weight of earth stood firm
     With now concreted body, when (as 'twere)
     All of the slime of the world, heavy and gross,
     Had run together and settled at the bottom,
     Like lees or bilge. Then ocean, then the air,
     Then ether herself, the fraught-with-fire, were all
     Left with their liquid bodies pure and free,
     And each more lighter than the next below;
     And ether, most light and liquid of the three,
     Floats on above the long aerial winds,
     Nor with the brawling of the winds of air
     Mingles its liquid body. It doth leave
     All there—those under-realms below her heights—
     There to be overset in whirlwinds wild,—
     Doth leave all there to brawl in wayward gusts,
     Whilst, gliding with a fixed impulse still,
     Itself it bears its fires along. For, lo,
     That ether can flow thus steadily on, on,
     With one unaltered urge, the Pontus proves—
     That sea which floweth forth with fixed tides,
     Keeping one onward tenor as it glides.

     And that the earth may there abide at rest
     In the mid-region of the world, it needs
     Must vanish bit by bit in weight and lessen,
     And have another substance underneath,
     Conjoined to it from its earliest age
     In linked unison with the vasty world's
     Realms of the air in which it roots and lives.
     On this account, the earth is not a load,
     Nor presses down on winds of air beneath;
     Even as unto a man his members be
     Without all weight—the head is not a load
     Unto the neck; nor do we feel the whole
     Weight of the body to centre in the feet.
     But whatso weights come on us from without,
     Weights laid upon us, these harass and chafe,
     Though often far lighter. For to such degree
     It matters always what the innate powers
     Of any given thing may be. The earth
     Was, then, no alien substance fetched amain,
     And from no alien firmament cast down
     On alien air; but was conceived, like air,
     In the first origin of this the world,
     As a fixed portion of the same, as now
     Our members are seen to be a part of us.

     Besides, the earth, when of a sudden shook
     By the big thunder, doth with her motion shake
     All that's above her—which she ne'er could do
     By any means, were earth not bounden fast
     Unto the great world's realms of air and sky:
     For they cohere together with common roots,
     Conjoined both, even from their earliest age,
     In linked unison. Aye, seest thou not
     That this most subtle energy of soul
     Supports our body, though so heavy a weight,—
     Because, indeed, 'tis with it so conjoined
     In linked unison? What power, in sum,
     Can raise with agile leap our body aloft,
     Save energy of mind which steers the limbs?
     Now seest thou not how powerful may be
     A subtle nature, when conjoined it is
     With heavy body, as air is with the earth
     Conjoined, and energy of mind with us?

     Now let us sing what makes the stars to move.
     In first place, if the mighty sphere of heaven
     Revolveth round, then needs we must aver
     That on the upper and the under pole
     Presses a certain air, and from without
     Confines them and encloseth at each end;
     And that, moreover, another air above
     Streams on athwart the top of the sphere and tends
     In same direction as are rolled along
     The glittering stars of the eternal world;
     Or that another still streams on below
     To whirl the sphere from under up and on
     In opposite direction—as we see
     The rivers turn the wheels and water-scoops.
     It may be also that the heavens do all
     Remain at rest, whilst yet are borne along
     The lucid constellations; either because
     Swift tides of ether are by sky enclosed,
     And whirl around, seeking a passage out,
     And everywhere make roll the starry fires
     Through the Summanian regions of the sky;
     Or else because some air, streaming along
     From an eternal quarter off beyond,
     Whileth the driven fires, or, then, because
     The fires themselves have power to creep along,
     Going wherever their food invites and calls,
     And feeding their flaming bodies everywhere
     Throughout the sky. Yet which of these is cause
     In this our world 'tis hard to say for sure;
     But what can be throughout the universe,
     In divers worlds on divers plan create,
     This only do I show, and follow on
     To assign unto the motions of the stars
     Even several causes which 'tis possible
     Exist throughout the universal All;
     Of which yet one must be the cause even here
     Which maketh motion for our constellations.
     Yet to decide which one of them it be
     Is not the least the business of a man
     Advancing step by cautious step, as I.

     Nor can the sun's wheel larger be by much
     Nor its own blaze much less than either seems
     Unto our senses. For from whatso spaces
     Fires have the power on us to cast their beams
     And blow their scorching exhalations forth
     Against our members, those same distances
     Take nothing by those intervals away
     From bulk of flames; and to the sight the fire
     Is nothing shrunken. Therefore, since the heat
     And the outpoured light of skiey sun
     Arrive our senses and caress our limbs,
     Form too and bigness of the sun must look
     Even here from earth just as they really be,
     So that thou canst scarce nothing take or add.
     And whether the journeying moon illuminate
     The regions round with bastard beams, or throw
     From off her proper body her own light,—
     Whichever it be, she journeys with a form
     Naught larger than the form doth seem to be
     Which we with eyes of ours perceive. For all
     The far removed objects of our gaze
     Seem through much air confused in their look
     Ere minished in their bigness. Wherefore, moon,
     Since she presents bright look and clear-cut form,
     May there on high by us on earth be seen
     Just as she is with extreme bounds defined,
     And just of the size. And lastly, whatso fires
     Of ether thou from earth beholdest, these
     Thou mayst consider as possibly of size
     The least bit less, or larger by a hair
     Than they appear—since whatso fires we view
     Here in the lands of earth are seen to change
     From time to time their size to less or more
     Only the least, when more or less away,
     So long as still they bicker clear, and still
     Their glow's perceived.

                          Nor need there be for men
     Astonishment that yonder sun so small
     Can yet send forth so great a light as fills
     Oceans and all the lands and sky aflood,
     And with its fiery exhalations steeps
     The world at large. For it may be, indeed,
     That one vast-flowing well-spring of the whole
     Wide world from here hath opened and out-gushed,
     And shot its light abroad; because thuswise
     The elements of fiery exhalations
     From all the world around together come,
     And thuswise flow into a bulk so big
     That from one single fountain-head may stream
     This heat and light. And seest thou not, indeed,
     How widely one small water-spring may wet
     The meadow-lands at times and flood the fields?
     'Tis even possible, besides, that heat
     From forth the sun's own fire, albeit that fire
     Be not a great, may permeate the air
     With the fierce hot—if but, perchance, the air
     Be of condition and so tempered then
     As to be kindled, even when beat upon
     Only by little particles of heat—
     Just as we sometimes see the standing grain
     Or stubble straw in conflagration all
     From one lone spark. And possibly the sun,
     Agleam on high with rosy lampion,
     Possesses about him with invisible heats
     A plenteous fire, by no effulgence marked,
     So that he maketh, he, the Fraught-with-fire,
     Increase to such degree the force of rays.

     Nor is there one sure cause revealed to men
     How the sun journeys from his summer haunts
     On to the mid-most winter turning-points
     In Capricorn, the thence reverting veers
     Back to solstitial goals of Cancer; nor
     How 'tis the moon is seen each month to cross
     That very distance which in traversing
     The sun consumes the measure of a year.
     I say, no one clear reason hath been given
     For these affairs. Yet chief in likelihood
     Seemeth the doctrine which the holy thought
     Of great Democritus lays down: that ever
     The nearer the constellations be to earth
     The less can they by whirling of the sky
     Be borne along, because those skiey powers
     Of speed aloft do vanish and decrease
     In under-regions, and the sun is thus
     Left by degrees behind amongst those signs
     That follow after, since the sun he lies
     Far down below the starry signs that blaze;
     And the moon lags even tardier than the sun:
     In just so far as is her course removed
     From upper heaven and nigh unto the lands,
     In just so far she fails to keep the pace
     With starry signs above; for just so far
     As feebler is the whirl that bears her on,
     (Being, indeed, still lower than the sun),
     In just so far do all the starry signs,
     Circling around, o'ertake her and o'erpass.
     Therefore it happens that the moon appears
     More swiftly to return to any sign
     Along the Zodiac, than doth the sun,
     Because those signs do visit her again
     More swiftly than they visit the great sun.
     It can be also that two streams of air
     Alternately at fixed periods
     Blow out from transverse regions of the world,
     Of which the one may thrust the sun away
     From summer-signs to mid-most winter goals
     And rigors of the cold, and the other then
     May cast him back from icy shades of chill
     Even to the heat-fraught regions and the signs
     That blaze along the Zodiac. So, too,
     We must suppose the moon and all the stars,
     Which through the mighty and sidereal years
     Roll round in mighty orbits, may be sped
     By streams of air from regions alternate.
     Seest thou not also how the clouds be sped
     By contrary winds to regions contrary,
     The lower clouds diversely from the upper?
     Then, why may yonder stars in ether there
     Along their mighty orbits not be borne
     By currents opposite the one to other?

     But night o'erwhelms the lands with vasty murk
     Either when sun, after his diurnal course,
     Hath walked the ultimate regions of the sky
     And wearily hath panted forth his fires,
     Shivered by their long journeying and wasted
     By traversing the multitudinous air,
     Or else because the self-same force that drave
     His orb along above the lands compels
     Him then to turn his course beneath the lands.
     Matuta also at a fixed hour
     Spreadeth the roseate morning out along
     The coasts of heaven and deploys the light,
     Either because the self-same sun, returning
     Under the lands, aspires to seize the sky,
     Striving to set it blazing with his rays
     Ere he himself appear, or else because
     Fires then will congregate and many seeds
     Of heat are wont, even at a fixed time,
     To stream together—gendering evermore
     New suns and light. Just so the story goes
     That from the Idaean mountain-tops are seen
     Dispersed fires upon the break of day
     Which thence combine, as 'twere, into one ball
     And form an orb. Nor yet in these affairs
     Is aught for wonder that these seeds of fire
     Can thus together stream at time so fixed
     And shape anew the splendour of the sun.
     For many facts we see which come to pass
     At fixed time in all things: burgeon shrubs
     At fixed time, and at a fixed time
     They cast their flowers; and Eld commands the teeth,
     At time as surely fixed, to drop away,
     And Youth commands the growing boy to bloom
     With the soft down and let from both his cheeks
     The soft beard fall. And lastly, thunder-bolts,
     Snow, rains, clouds, winds, at seasons of the year
     Nowise unfixed, all do come to pass.
     For where, even from their old primordial start
     Causes have ever worked in such a way,
     And where, even from the world's first origin,
     Thuswise have things befallen, so even now
     After a fixed order they come round
     In sequence also.

                       Likewise, days may wax
     Whilst the nights wane, and daylight minished be
     Whilst nights do take their augmentations,
     Either because the self-same sun, coursing
     Under the lands and over in two arcs,
     A longer and a briefer, doth dispart
     The coasts of ether and divides in twain
     His orbit all unequally, and adds,
     As round he's borne, unto the one half there
     As much as from the other half he's ta'en,
     Until he then arrives that sign of heaven
     Where the year's node renders the shades of night
     Equal unto the periods of light.
     For when the sun is midway on his course
     Between the blasts of northwind and of south,
     Heaven keeps his two goals parted equally,
     By virtue of the fixed position old
     Of the whole starry Zodiac, through which
     That sun, in winding onward, takes a year,
     Illumining the sky and all the lands
     With oblique light—as men declare to us
     Who by their diagrams have charted well
     Those regions of the sky which be adorned
     With the arranged signs of Zodiac.
     Or else, because in certain parts the air
     Under the lands is denser, the tremulous
     Bright beams of fire do waver tardily,
     Nor easily can penetrate that air
     Nor yet emerge unto their rising-place:
     For this it is that nights in winter time
     Do linger long, ere comes the many-rayed
     Round Badge of the day. Or else because, as said,
     In alternating seasons of the year
     Fires, now more quick, and now more slow, are wont
     To stream together,—the fires which make the sun
     To rise in some one spot—therefore it is
     That those men seem to speak the truth [who hold
     A new sun is with each new daybreak born].

     The moon she possibly doth shine because
     Strook by the rays of sun, and day by day
     May turn unto our gaze her light, the more
     She doth recede from orb of sun, until,
     Facing him opposite across the world,
     She hath with full effulgence gleamed abroad,
     And, at her rising as she soars above,
     Hath there observed his setting; thence likewise
     She needs must hide, as 'twere, her light behind
     By slow degrees, the nearer now she glides,
     Along the circle of the Zodiac,
     From her far place toward fires of yonder sun,—
     As those men hold who feign the moon to be
     Just like a ball and to pursue a course
     Betwixt the sun and earth. There is, again,
     Some reason to suppose that moon may roll
     With light her very own, and thus display
     The varied shapes of her resplendence there.
     For near her is, percase, another body,
     Invisible, because devoid of light,
     Borne on and gliding all along with her,
     Which in three modes may block and blot her disk.
     Again, she may revolve upon herself,
     Like to a ball's sphere—if perchance that be—
     One half of her dyed o'er with glowing light,
     And by the revolution of that sphere
     She may beget for us her varying shapes,
     Until she turns that fiery part of her
     Full to the sight and open eyes of men;
     Thence by slow stages round and back she whirls,
     Withdrawing thus the luminiferous part
     Of her sphered mass and ball, as, verily,
     The Babylonian doctrine of Chaldees,
     Refuting the art of Greek astrologers,
     Labours, in opposition, to prove sure—
     As if, forsooth, the thing for which each fights,
     Might not alike be true,—or aught there were
     Wherefore thou mightest risk embracing one
     More than the other notion. Then, again,
     Why a new moon might not forevermore
     Created be with fixed successions there
     Of shapes and with configurations fixed,
     And why each day that bright created moon
     Might not miscarry and another be,
     In its stead and place, engendered anew,
     'Tis hard to show by reason, or by words
     To prove absurd—since, lo, so many things
     Can be create with fixed successions:
     Spring-time and Venus come, and Venus' boy,
     The winged harbinger, steps on before,
     And hard on Zephyr's foot-prints Mother Flora,
     Sprinkling the ways before them, filleth all
     With colours and with odours excellent;
     Whereafter follows arid Heat, and he
     Companioned is by Ceres, dusty one,
     And by the Etesian Breezes of the north;
     Then cometh Autumn on, and with him steps
     Lord Bacchus, and then other Seasons too
     And other Winds do follow—the high roar
     Of great Volturnus, and the Southwind strong
     With thunder-bolts. At last earth's Shortest-Day
     Bears on to men the snows and brings again
     The numbing cold. And Winter follows her,
     His teeth with chills a-chatter. Therefore, 'tis
     The less a marvel, if at fixed time
     A moon is thus begotten and again
     At fixed time destroyed, since things so many
     Can come to being thus at fixed time.
     Likewise, the sun's eclipses and the moon's
     Far occultations rightly thou mayst deem

     As due to several causes. For, indeed,
     Why should the moon be able to shut out
     Earth from the light of sun, and on the side
     To earthward thrust her high head under sun,
     Opposing dark orb to his glowing beams—
     And yet, at same time, one suppose the effect
     Could not result from some one other body
     Which glides devoid of light forevermore?
     Again, why could not sun, in weakened state,
     At fixed time for-lose his fires, and then,
     When he has passed on along the air
     Beyond the regions, hostile to his flames,
     That quench and kill his fires, why could not he
     Renew his light? And why should earth in turn
     Have power to rob the moon of light, and there,
     Herself on high, keep the sun hid beneath,
     Whilst the moon glideth in her monthly course
     Athrough the rigid shadows of the cone?—
     And yet, at same time, some one other body
     Not have the power to under-pass the moon,
     Or glide along above the orb of sun,
     Breaking his rays and outspread light asunder?
     And still, if moon herself refulgent be
     With her own sheen, why could she not at times
     In some one quarter of the mighty world
     Grow weak and weary, whilst she passeth through
     Regions unfriendly to the beams her own?

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Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson