Of the Nature of Things

by Lucretius

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Book VI - Great Meteorological Phenomena, Etc.

And so in first place, then,
     With thunder are shaken the blue deeps of heaven,
     Because the ethereal clouds, scudding aloft,
     Together clash, what time 'gainst one another
     The winds are battling. For never a sound there comes
     From out the serene regions of the sky;
     But wheresoever in a host more dense
     The clouds foregather, thence more often comes
     A crash with mighty rumbling. And, again,
     Clouds cannot be of so condensed a frame
     As stones and timbers, nor again so fine
     As mists and flying smoke; for then perforce
     They'd either fall, borne down by their brute weight,
     Like stones, or, like the smoke, they'd powerless be
     To keep their mass, or to retain within
     Frore snows and storms of hail. And they give forth
     O'er skiey levels of the spreading world
     A sound on high, as linen-awning, stretched
     O'er mighty theatres, gives forth at times
     A cracking roar, when much 'tis beaten about
     Betwixt the poles and cross-beams. Sometimes, too,
     Asunder rent by wanton gusts, it raves
     And imitates the tearing sound of sheets
     Of paper—even this kind of noise thou mayst
     In thunder hear—or sound as when winds whirl
     With lashings and do buffet about in air
     A hanging cloth and flying paper-sheets.
     For sometimes, too, it chances that the clouds
     Cannot together crash head-on, but rather
     Move side-wise and with motions contrary
     Graze each the other's body without speed,
     From whence that dry sound grateth on our ears,
     So long drawn-out, until the clouds have passed
     From out their close positions.

                                    And, again,
     In following wise all things seem oft to quake
     At shock of heavy thunder, and mightiest walls
     Of the wide reaches of the upper world
     There on the instant to have sprung apart,
     Riven asunder, what time a gathered blast
     Of the fierce hurricane hath all at once
     Twisted its way into a mass of clouds,
     And, there enclosed, ever more and more
     Compelleth by its spinning whirl the cloud
     To grow all hollow with a thickened crust
     Surrounding; for thereafter, when the force
     And the keen onset of the wind have weakened
     That crust, lo, then the cloud, to-split in twain,
     Gives forth a hideous crash with bang and boom.
     No marvel this; since oft a bladder small,
     Filled up with air, will, when of sudden burst,
     Give forth a like large sound.

                                There's reason, too,
     Why clouds make sounds, as through them blow the winds:
     We see, borne down the sky, oft shapes of clouds
     Rough-edged or branched many forky ways;
     And 'tis the same, as when the sudden flaws
     Of north-west wind through the dense forest blow,
     Making the leaves to sough and limbs to crash.
     It happens too at times that roused force
     Of the fierce hurricane to-rends the cloud,
     Breaking right through it by a front assault;
     For what a blast of wind may do up there
     Is manifest from facts when here on earth
     A blast more gentle yet uptwists tall trees
     And sucks them madly from their deepest roots.
     Besides, among the clouds are waves, and these
     Give, as they roughly break, a rumbling roar;
     As when along deep streams or the great sea
     Breaks the loud surf. It happens, too, whenever
     Out from one cloud into another falls
     The fiery energy of thunderbolt,
     That straightaway the cloud, if full of wet,
     Extinguishes the fire with mighty noise;
     As iron, white from the hot furnaces,
     Sizzles, when speedily we've plunged its glow
     Down the cold water. Further, if a cloud
     More dry receive the fire, 'twill suddenly
     Kindle to flame and burn with monstrous sound,
     As if a flame with whirl of winds should range
     Along the laurel-tressed mountains far,
     Upburning with its vast assault those trees;
     Nor is there aught that in the crackling flame
     Consumes with sound more terrible to man
     Than Delphic laurel of Apollo lord.
     Oft, too, the multitudinous crash of ice
     And down-pour of swift hail gives forth a sound
     Among the mighty clouds on high; for when
     The wind hath packed them close, each mountain mass
     Of rain-cloud, there congealed utterly
     And mixed with hail-stones, breaks and booms...

     Likewise, it lightens, when the clouds have struck,
     By their collision, forth the seeds of fire:
     As if a stone should smite a stone or steel,
     For light then too leaps forth and fire then scatters
     The shining sparks. But with our ears we get
     The thunder after eyes behold the flash,
     Because forever things arrive the ears
     More tardily than the eyes—as thou mayst see
     From this example too: when markest thou
     Some man far yonder felling a great tree
     With double-edged ax, it comes to pass
     Thine eye beholds the swinging stroke before
     The blow gives forth a sound athrough thine ears:
     Thus also we behold the flashing ere
     We hear the thunder, which discharged is
     At same time with the fire and by same cause,
     Born of the same collision.

                                In following wise
     The clouds suffuse with leaping light the lands,
     And the storm flashes with tremulous elan:
     When the wind hath invaded a cloud, and, whirling there,
     Hath wrought (as I have shown above) the cloud
     Into a hollow with a thickened crust,
     It becomes hot of own velocity:
     Just as thou seest how motion will o'erheat
     And set ablaze all objects,—verily
     A leaden ball, hurtling through length of space,
     Even melts. Therefore, when this same wind a-fire
     Hath split black cloud, it scatters the fire-seeds,
     Which, so to say, have been pressed out by force
     Of sudden from the cloud;—and these do make
     The pulsing flashes of flame; thence followeth
     The detonation which attacks our ears
     More tardily than aught which comes along
     Unto the sight of eyeballs. This takes place—
     As know thou mayst—at times when clouds are dense
     And one upon the other piled aloft
     With wonderful upheavings—nor be thou
     Deceived because we see how broad their base
     From underneath, and not how high they tower.
     For make thine observations at a time
     When winds shall bear athwart the horizon's blue
     Clouds like to mountain-ranges moving on,
     Or when about the sides of mighty peaks
     Thou seest them one upon the other massed
     And burdening downward, anchored in high repose,
     With the winds sepulchred on all sides round:
     Then canst thou know their mighty masses, then
     Canst view their caverns, as if builded there
     Of beetling crags; which, when the hurricanes
     In gathered storm have filled utterly,
     Then, prisoned in clouds, they rave around
     With mighty roarings, and within those dens
     Bluster like savage beasts, and now from here,
     And now from there, send growlings through the clouds,
     And seeking an outlet, whirl themselves about,
     And roll from 'mid the clouds the seeds of fire,
     And heap them multitudinously there,
     And in the hollow furnaces within
     Wheel flame around, until from bursted cloud
     In forky flashes they have gleamed forth.

     Again, from following cause it comes to pass
     That yon swift golden hue of liquid fire
     Darts downward to the earth: because the clouds
     Themselves must hold abundant seeds of fire;
     For, when they be without all moisture, then
     They be for most part of a flamy hue
     And a resplendent. And, indeed, they must
     Even from the light of sun unto themselves
     Take multitudinous seeds, and so perforce
     Redden and pour their bright fires all abroad.
     And therefore, when the wind hath driven and thrust,
     Hath forced and squeezed into one spot these clouds,
     They pour abroad the seeds of fire pressed out,
     Which make to flash these colours of the flame.
     Likewise, it lightens also when the clouds
     Grow rare and thin along the sky; for, when
     The wind with gentle touch unravels them
     And breaketh asunder as they move, those seeds
     Which make the lightnings must by nature fall;
     At such an hour the horizon lightens round
     Without the hideous terror of dread noise
     And skiey uproar.

                         To proceed apace,
     What sort of nature thunderbolts possess
     Is by their strokes made manifest and by
     The brand-marks of their searing heat on things,
     And by the scorched scars exhaling round
     The heavy fumes of sulphur. For all these
     Are marks, O not of wind or rain, but fire.
     Again, they often enkindle even the roofs
     Of houses and inside the very rooms
     With swift flame hold a fierce dominion.
     Know thou that nature fashioned this fire
     Subtler than fires all other, with minute
     And dartling bodies,—a fire 'gainst which there's naught
     Can in the least hold out: the thunderbolt,
     The mighty, passes through the hedging walls
     Of houses, like to voices or a shout,—
     Through stones, through bronze it passes, and it melts
     Upon the instant bronze and gold; and makes,
     Likewise, the wines sudden to vanish forth,
     The wine-jars intact,—because, ye see,
     Its heat arriving renders loose and porous
     Readily all the wine—jar's earthen sides,
     And winding its way within, it scattereth
     The elements primordial of the wine
     With speedy dissolution—process which
     Even in an age the fiery steam of sun
     Could not accomplish, however puissant he
     With his hot coruscations: so much more
     Agile and overpowering is this force.

     Now in what manner engendered are these things,
     How fashioned of such impetuous strength
     As to cleave towers asunder, and houses all
     To overtopple, and to wrench apart
     Timbers and beams, and heroes' monuments
     To pile in ruins and upheave amain,
     And to take breath forever out of men,
     And to o'erthrow the cattle everywhere,—
     Yes, by what force the lightnings do all this,
     All this and more, I will unfold to thee,
     Nor longer keep thee in mere promises.

     The bolts of thunder, then, must be conceived
     As all begotten in those crasser clouds
     Up-piled aloft; for, from the sky serene
     And from the clouds of lighter density,
     None are sent forth forever. That 'tis so
     Beyond a doubt, fact plain to sense declares:
     To wit, at such a time the densed clouds
     So mass themselves through all the upper air
     That we might think that round about all murk
     Had parted forth from Acheron and filled
     The mighty vaults of sky—so grievously,
     As gathers thus the storm-clouds' gruesome might,
     Do faces of black horror hang on high—
     When tempest begins its thunderbolts to forge.
     Besides, full often also out at sea
     A blackest thunderhead, like cataract
     Of pitch hurled down from heaven, and far away
     Bulging with murkiness, down on the waves
     Falls with vast uproar, and draws on amain
     The darkling tempests big with thunderbolts
     And hurricanes, itself the while so crammed
     Tremendously with fires and winds, that even
     Back on the lands the people shudder round
     And seek for cover. Therefore, as I said,
     The storm must be conceived as o'er our head
     Towering most high; for never would the clouds
     O'erwhelm the lands with such a massy dark,
     Unless up-builded heap on lofty heap,
     To shut the round sun off. Nor could the clouds,
     As on they come, engulf with rain so vast
     As thus to make the rivers overflow
     And fields to float, if ether were not thus
     Furnished with lofty-piled clouds. Lo, then,
     Here be all things fulfilled with winds and fires—
     Hence the long lightnings and the thunders loud.
     For, verily, I've taught thee even now
     How cavernous clouds hold seeds innumerable
     Of fiery exhalations, and they must
     From off the sunbeams and the heat of these
     Take many still. And so, when that same wind
     (Which, haply, into one region of the sky
     Collects those clouds) hath pressed from out the same
     The many fiery seeds, and with that fire
     Hath at the same time inter-mixed itself,
     O then and there that wind, a whirlwind now,
     Deep in the belly of the cloud spins round
     In narrow confines, and sharpens there inside
     In glowing furnaces the thunderbolt.
     For in a two-fold manner is that wind
     Enkindled all: it trembles into heat
     Both by its own velocity and by
     Repeated touch of fire. Thereafter, when
     The energy of wind is heated through
     And the fierce impulse of the fire hath sped
     Deeply within, O then the thunderbolt,
     Now ripened, so to say, doth suddenly
     Splinter the cloud, and the aroused flash
     Leaps onward, lumining with forky light
     All places round. And followeth anon
     A clap so heavy that the skiey vaults,
     As if asunder burst, seem from on high
     To engulf the earth. Then fearfully a quake
     Pervades the lands, and 'long the lofty skies
     Run the far rumblings. For at such a time
     Nigh the whole tempest quakes, shook through and through,
     And roused are the roarings,—from which shock
     Comes such resounding and abounding rain,
     That all the murky ether seems to turn
     Now into rain, and, as it tumbles down,
     To summon the fields back to primeval floods:
     So big the rains that be sent down on men
     By burst of cloud and by the hurricane,
     What time the thunder-clap, from burning bolt
     That cracks the cloud, flies forth along. At times
     The force of wind, excited from without,
     Smiteth into a cloud already hot
     With a ripe thunderbolt. And when that wind
     Hath splintered that cloud, then down there cleaves forthwith
     Yon fiery coil of flame which still we call,
     Even with our fathers' word, a thunderbolt.
     The same thing haps toward every other side
     Whither that force hath swept. It happens, too,
     That sometimes force of wind, though hurtled forth
     Without all fire, yet in its voyage through space
     Igniteth, whilst it comes along, along,—
     Losing some larger bodies which cannot
     Pass, like the others, through the bulks of air,—
     And, scraping together out of air itself
     Some smaller bodies, carries them along,
     And these, commingling, by their flight make fire:
     Much in the manner as oft a leaden ball
     Grows hot upon its aery course, the while
     It loseth many bodies of stark cold
     And taketh into itself along the air
     New particles of fire. It happens, too,
     That force of blow itself arouses fire,
     When force of wind, a-cold and hurtled forth
     Without all fire, hath strook somewhere amain—
     No marvel, because, when with terrific stroke
     'Thas smitten, the elements of fiery-stuff
     Can stream together from out the very wind
     And, simultaneously, from out that thing
     Which then and there receives the stroke: as flies
     The fire when with the steel we hack the stone;
     Nor yet, because the force of steel's a-cold,
     Rush the less speedily together there
     Under the stroke its seeds of radiance hot.
     And therefore, thuswise must an object too
     Be kindled by a thunderbolt, if haply
     'Thas been adapt and suited to the flames.
     Yet force of wind must not be rashly deemed
     As altogether and entirely cold—
     That force which is discharged from on high
     With such stupendous power; but if 'tis not
     Upon its course already kindled with fire,
     It yet arriveth warmed and mixed with heat.

     And, now, the speed and stroke of thunderbolt
     Is so tremendous, and with glide so swift
     Those thunderbolts rush on and down, because
     Their roused force itself collects itself
     First always in the clouds, and then prepares
     For the huge effort of their going-forth;
     Next, when the cloud no longer can retain
     The increment of their fierce impetus,
     Their force is pressed out, and therefore flies
     With impetus so wondrous, like to shots
     Hurled from the powerful Roman catapults.
     Note, too, this force consists of elements
     Both small and smooth, nor is there aught that can
     With ease resist such nature. For it darts
     Between and enters through the pores of things;
     And so it never falters in delay
     Despite innumerable collisions, but
     Flies shooting onward with a swift elan.
     Next, since by nature always every weight
     Bears downward, doubled is the swiftness then
     And that elan is still more wild and dread,
     When, verily, to weight are added blows,
     So that more madly and more fiercely then
     The thunderbolt shakes into shivers all
     That blocks its path, following on its way.
     Then, too, because it comes along, along
     With one continuing elan, it must
     Take on velocity anew, anew,
     Which still increases as it goes, and ever
     Augments the bolt's vast powers and to the blow
     Gives larger vigour; for it forces all,
     All of the thunder's seeds of fire, to sweep
     In a straight line unto one place, as 'twere,—
     Casting them one by other, as they roll,
     Into that onward course. Again, perchance,
     In coming along, it pulls from out the air
     Some certain bodies, which by their own blows
     Enkindle its velocity. And, lo,
     It comes through objects leaving them unharmed,
     It goes through many things and leaves them whole,
     Because the liquid fire flieth along
     Athrough their pores. And much it does transfix,
     When these primordial atoms of the bolt
     Have fallen upon the atoms of these things
     Precisely where the intertwined atoms
     Are held together. And, further, easily
     Brass it unbinds and quickly fuseth gold,
     Because its force is so minutely made
     Of tiny parts and elements so smooth
     That easily they wind their way within,
     And, when once in, quickly unbind all knots
     And loosen all the bonds of union there.

     And most in autumn is shaken the house of heaven,
     The house so studded with the glittering stars,
     And the whole earth around—most too in spring
     When flowery times unfold themselves: for, lo,
     In the cold season is there lack of fire,
     And winds are scanty in the hot, and clouds
     Have not so dense a bulk. But when, indeed,
     The seasons of heaven are betwixt these twain,
     The divers causes of the thunderbolt
     Then all concur; for then both cold and heat
     Are mixed in the cross-seas of the year,
     So that a discord rises among things
     And air in vast tumultuosity
     Billows, infuriate with the fires and winds—
     Of which the both are needed by the cloud
     For fabrication of the thunderbolt.
     For the first part of heat and last of cold
     Is the time of spring; wherefore must things unlike
     Do battle one with other, and, when mixed,
     Tumultuously rage. And when rolls round
     The latest heat mixed with the earliest chill—
     The time which bears the name of autumn—then
     Likewise fierce cold-spells wrestle with fierce heats.
     On this account these seasons of the year
     Are nominated "cross-seas."—And no marvel
     If in those times the thunderbolts prevail
     And storms are roused turbulent in heaven,
     Since then both sides in dubious warfare rage
     Tumultuously, the one with flames, the other
     With winds and with waters mixed with winds.

     This, this it is, O Memmius, to see through
     The very nature of fire-fraught thunderbolt;
     O this it is to mark by what blind force
     It maketh each effect, and not, O not
     To unwind Etrurian scrolls oracular,
     Inquiring tokens of occult will of gods,
     Even as to whence the flying flame hath come,
     Or to which half of heaven it turns, or how
     Through walled places it hath wound its way,
     Or, after proving its dominion there,
     How it hath speeded forth from thence amain,
     Or what the thunderstroke portends of ill
     From out high heaven. But if Jupiter
     And other gods shake those refulgent vaults
     With dread reverberations and hurl fire
     Whither it pleases each, why smite they not
     Mortals of reckless and revolting crimes,
     That such may pant from a transpierced breast
     Forth flames of the red levin—unto men
     A drastic lesson?—why is rather he—
     O he self-conscious of no foul offence—
     Involved in flames, though innocent, and clasped
     Up-caught in skiey whirlwind and in fire?
     Nay, why, then, aim they at eternal wastes,
     And spend themselves in vain?—perchance, even so
     To exercise their arms and strengthen shoulders?
     Why suffer they the Father's javelin
     To be so blunted on the earth? And why
     Doth he himself allow it, nor spare the same
     Even for his enemies? O why most oft
     Aims he at lofty places? Why behold we
     Marks of his lightnings most on mountain tops?
     Then for what reason shoots he at the sea?—
     What sacrilege have waves and bulk of brine
     And floating fields of foam been guilty of?
     Besides, if 'tis his will that we beware
     Against the lightning-stroke, why feareth he
     To grant us power for to behold the shot?
     And, contrariwise, if wills he to o'erwhelm us,
     Quite off our guard, with fire, why thunders he
     Off in yon quarter, so that we may shun?
     Why rouseth he beforehand darkling air
     And the far din and rumblings? And O how
     Canst thou believe he shoots at one same time
     Into diverse directions? Or darest thou
     Contend that never hath it come to pass
     That divers strokes have happened at one time?
     But oft and often hath it come to pass,
     And often still it must, that, even as showers
     And rains o'er many regions fall, so too
     Dart many thunderbolts at one same time.
     Again, why never hurtles Jupiter
     A bolt upon the lands nor pours abroad
     Clap upon clap, when skies are cloudless all?
     Or, say, doth he, so soon as ever the clouds
     Have come thereunder, then into the same
     Descend in person, that from thence he may
     Near-by decide upon the stroke of shaft?
     And, lastly, why, with devastating bolt
     Shakes he asunder holy shrines of gods
     And his own thrones of splendour, and to-breaks
     The well-wrought idols of divinities,
     And robs of glory his own images
     By wound of violence?

                          But to return apace,
     Easy it is from these same facts to know
     In just what wise those things (which from their sort
     The Greeks have named "bellows") do come down,
     Discharged from on high, upon the seas.
     For it haps that sometimes from the sky descends
     Upon the seas a column, as if pushed,
     Round which the surges seethe, tremendously
     Aroused by puffing gusts; and whatso'er
     Of ships are caught within that tumult then
     Come into extreme peril, dashed along.
     This haps when sometimes wind's aroused force
     Can't burst the cloud it tries to, but down-weighs
     That cloud, until 'tis like a column from sky
     Upon the seas pushed downward—gradually,
     As if a Somewhat from on high were shoved
     By fist and nether thrust of arm, and lengthened
     Far to the waves. And when the force of wind
     Hath rived this cloud, from out the cloud it rushes
     Down on the seas, and starts among the waves
     A wondrous seething, for the eddying whirl
     Descends and downward draws along with it
     That cloud of ductile body. And soon as ever
     'Thas shoved unto the levels of the main
     That laden cloud, the whirl suddenly then
     Plunges its whole self into the waters there
     And rouses all the sea with monstrous roar,
     Constraining it to seethe. It happens too
     That very vortex of the wind involves
     Itself in clouds, scraping from out the air
     The seeds of cloud, and counterfeits, as 'twere,
     The "bellows" pushed from heaven. And when this shape
     Hath dropped upon the lands and burst apart,
     It belches forth immeasurable might
     Of whirlwind and of blast. Yet since 'tis formed
     At most but rarely, and on land the hills
     Must block its way, 'tis seen more oft out there
     On the broad prospect of the level main
     Along the free horizons.

                             Into being
     The clouds condense, when in this upper space
     Of the high heaven have gathered suddenly,
     As round they flew, unnumbered particles—
     World's rougher ones, which can, though interlinked
     With scanty couplings, yet be fastened firm,
     The one on other caught. These particles
     First cause small clouds to form; and, thereupon,
     These catch the one on other and swarm in a flock
     And grow by their conjoining, and by winds
     Are borne along, along, until collects
     The tempest fury. Happens, too, the nearer
     The mountain summits neighbour to the sky,
     The more unceasingly their far crags smoke
     With the thick darkness of swart cloud, because
     When first the mists do form, ere ever the eyes
     Can there behold them (tenuous as they be),
     The carrier-winds will drive them up and on
     Unto the topmost summits of the mountain;
     And then at last it happens, when they be
     In vaster throng upgathered, that they can
     By this very condensation lie revealed,
     And that at same time they are seen to surge
     From very vertex of the mountain up
     Into far ether. For very fact and feeling,
     As we up-climb high mountains, proveth clear
     That windy are those upward regions free.
     Besides, the clothes hung-out along the shore,
     When in they take the clinging moisture, prove
     That nature lifts from over all the sea
     Unnumbered particles. Whereby the more
     'Tis manifest that many particles
     Even from the salt upheavings of the main
     Can rise together to augment the bulk
     Of massed clouds. For moistures in these twain
     Are near akin. Besides, from out all rivers,
     As well as from the land itself, we see
     Up-rising mists and steam, which like a breath
     Are forced out from them and borne aloft,
     To curtain heaven with their murk, and make,
     By slow foregathering, the skiey clouds.
     For, in addition, lo, the heat on high
     Of constellated ether burdens down
     Upon them, and by sort of condensation
     Weaveth beneath the azure firmament
     The reek of darkling cloud. It happens, too,
     That hither to the skies from the Beyond
     Do come those particles which make the clouds
     And flying thunderheads. For I have taught
     That this their number is innumerable
     And infinite the sum of the Abyss,
     And I have shown with what stupendous speed
     Those bodies fly and how they're wont to pass
     Amain through incommunicable space.
     Therefore, 'tis not exceeding strange, if oft
     In little time tempest and darkness cover
     With bulking thunderheads hanging on high
     The oceans and the lands, since everywhere
     Through all the narrow tubes of yonder ether,
     Yea, so to speak, through all the breathing-holes
     Of the great upper-world encompassing,
     There be for the primordial elements
     Exits and entrances.

                          Now come, and how
     The rainy moisture thickens into being
     In the lofty clouds, and how upon the lands
     'Tis then discharged in down-pour of large showers,
     I will unfold. And first triumphantly
     Will I persuade thee that up-rise together,
     With clouds themselves, full many seeds of water
     From out all things, and that they both increase—
     Both clouds and water which is in the clouds—
     In like proportion, as our frames increase
     In like proportion with our blood, as well
     As sweat or any moisture in our members.
     Besides, the clouds take in from time to time
     Much moisture risen from the broad marine,—
     Whilst the winds bear them o'er the mighty sea,
     Like hanging fleeces of white wool. Thuswise,
     Even from all rivers is there lifted up
     Moisture into the clouds. And when therein
     The seeds of water so many in many ways
     Have come together, augmented from all sides,
     The close-jammed clouds then struggle to discharge
     Their rain-storms for a two-fold reason: lo,
     The wind's force crowds them, and the very excess
     Of storm-clouds (massed in a vaster throng)
     Giveth an urge and pressure from above
     And makes the rains out-pour. Besides when, too,
     The clouds are winnowed by the winds, or scattered
     Smitten on top by heat of sun, they send
     Their rainy moisture, and distil their drops,
     Even as the wax, by fiery warmth on top,
     Wasteth and liquefies abundantly.
     But comes the violence of the bigger rains
     When violently the clouds are weighted down
     Both by their cumulated mass and by
     The onset of the wind. And rains are wont
     To endure awhile and to abide for long,
     When many seeds of waters are aroused,
     And clouds on clouds and racks on racks outstream
     In piled layers and are borne along
     From every quarter, and when all the earth
     Smoking exhales her moisture. At such a time
     When sun with beams amid the tempest-murk
     Hath shone against the showers of black rains,
     Then in the swart clouds there emerges bright
     The radiance of the bow.

                             And as to things
     Not mentioned here which of themselves do grow
     Or of themselves are gendered, and all things
     Which in the clouds condense to being—all,
     Snow and the winds, hail and the hoar-frosts chill,
     And freezing, mighty force—of lakes and pools
     The mighty hardener, and mighty check
     Which in the winter curbeth everywhere
     The rivers as they go—'tis easy still,
     Soon to discover and with mind to see
     How they all happen, whereby gendered,
     When once thou well hast understood just what
     Functions have been vouchsafed from of old
     Unto the procreant atoms of the world.
     Now come, and what the law of earthquakes is
     Hearken, and first of all take care to know
     That the under-earth, like to the earth around us,
     Is full of windy caverns all about;
     And many a pool and many a grim abyss
     She bears within her bosom, ay, and cliffs
     And jagged scarps; and many a river, hid
     Beneath her chine, rolls rapidly along
     Its billows and plunging boulders. For clear fact
     Requires that earth must be in every part
     Alike in constitution. Therefore, earth,
     With these things underneath affixed and set,
     Trembleth above, jarred by big down-tumblings,
     When time hath undermined the huge caves,
     The subterranean. Yea, whole mountains fall,
     And instantly from spot of that big jar
     There quiver the tremors far and wide abroad.
     And with good reason: since houses on the street
     Begin to quake throughout, when jarred by a cart
     Of no large weight; and, too, the furniture
     Within the house up-bounds, when a paving-block
     Gives either iron rim of the wheels a jolt.
     It happens, too, when some prodigious bulk
     Of age-worn soil is rolled from mountain slopes
     Into tremendous pools of water dark,
     That the reeling land itself is rocked about
     By the water's undulations; as a basin
     Sometimes won't come to rest until the fluid
     Within it ceases to be rocked about
     In random undulations.

                               And besides,
     When subterranean winds, up-gathered there
     In the hollow deeps, bulk forward from one spot,
     And press with the big urge of mighty powers
     Against the lofty grottos, then the earth
     Bulks to that quarter whither push amain
     The headlong winds. Then all the builded houses
     Above ground—and the more, the higher up-reared
     Unto the sky—lean ominously, careening
     Into the same direction; and the beams,
     Wrenched forward, over-hang, ready to go.
     Yet dread men to believe that there awaits
     The nature of the mighty world a time
     Of doom and cataclysm, albeit they see
     So great a bulk of lands to bulge and break!
     And lest the winds blew back again, no force
     Could rein things in nor hold from sure career
     On to disaster. But now because those winds
     Blow back and forth in alternation strong,
     And, so to say, rallying charge again,
     And then repulsed retreat, on this account
     Earth oftener threatens than she brings to pass
     Collapses dire. For to one side she leans,
     Then back she sways; and after tottering
     Forward, recovers then her seats of poise.
     Thus, this is why whole houses rock, the roofs
     More than the middle stories, middle more
     Than lowest, and the lowest least of all.

     Arises, too, this same great earth-quaking,
     When wind and some prodigious force of air,
     Collected from without or down within
     The old telluric deeps, have hurled themselves
     Amain into those caverns sub-terrene,
     And there at first tumultuously chafe
     Among the vasty grottos, borne about
     In mad rotations, till their lashed force
     Aroused out-bursts abroad, and then and there,
     Riving the deep earth, makes a mighty chasm—
     What once in Syrian Sidon did befall,
     And once in Peloponnesian Aegium,
     Twain cities which such out-break of wild air
     And earth's convulsion, following hard upon,
     O'erthrew of old. And many a walled town,
     Besides, hath fall'n by such omnipotent
     Convulsions on the land, and in the sea
     Engulfed hath sunken many a city down
     With all its populace. But if, indeed,
     They burst not forth, yet is the very rush
     Of the wild air and fury-force of wind
     Then dissipated, like an ague-fit,
     Through the innumerable pores of earth,
     To set her all a-shake—even as a chill,
     When it hath gone into our marrow-bones,
     Sets us convulsively, despite ourselves,
     A-shivering and a-shaking. Therefore, men
     With two-fold terror bustle in alarm
     Through cities to and fro: they fear the roofs
     Above the head; and underfoot they dread
     The caverns, lest the nature of the earth
     Suddenly rend them open, and she gape,
     Herself asunder, with tremendous maw,
     And, all confounded, seek to chock it full
     With her own ruins. Let men, then, go on
     Feigning at will that heaven and earth shall be
     Inviolable, entrusted evermore
     To an eternal weal: and yet at times
     The very force of danger here at hand
     Prods them on some side with this goad of fear—
     This among others—that the earth, withdrawn
     Abruptly from under their feet, be hurried down,
     Down into the abyss, and the Sum-of-Things
     Be following after, utterly fordone,
     Till be but wrack and wreckage of a world.

     In chief, men marvel nature renders not
     Bigger and bigger the bulk of ocean, since
     So vast the down-rush of the waters be,
     And every river out of every realm
     Cometh thereto; and add the random rains
     And flying tempests, which spatter every sea
     And every land bedew; add their own springs:
     Yet all of these unto the ocean's sum
     Shall be but as the increase of a drop.
     Wherefore 'tis less a marvel that the sea,
     The mighty ocean, increaseth not. Besides,
     Sun with his heat draws off a mighty part:
     Yea, we behold that sun with burning beams
     To dry our garments dripping all with wet;
     And many a sea, and far out-spread beneath,
     Do we behold. Therefore, however slight
     The portion of wet that sun on any spot
     Culls from the level main, he still will take
     From off the waves in such a wide expanse
     Abundantly. Then, further, also winds,
     Sweeping the level waters, can bear off
     A mighty part of wet, since we behold
     Oft in a single night the highways dried
     By winds, and soft mud crusted o'er at dawn.
     Again, I've taught thee that the clouds bear off
     Much moisture too, up-taken from the reaches
     Of the mighty main, and sprinkle it about
     O'er all the zones, when rain is on the lands
     And winds convey the aery racks of vapour.
     Lastly, since earth is porous through her frame,
     And neighbours on the seas, girdling their shores,
     The water's wet must seep into the lands
     From briny ocean, as from lands it comes
     Into the seas. For brine is filtered off,
     And then the liquid stuff seeps back again
     And all re-poureth at the river-heads,
     Whence in fresh-water currents it returns
     Over the lands, adown the channels which
     Were cleft erstwhile and erstwhile bore along
     The liquid-footed floods.

                               And now the cause
     Whereby athrough the throat of Aetna's Mount
     Such vast tornado-fires out-breathe at times,
     I will unfold: for with no middling might
     Of devastation the flamy tempest rose
     And held dominion in Sicilian fields:
     Drawing upon itself the upturned faces
     Of neighbouring clans, what time they saw afar
     The skiey vaults a-fume and sparkling all,
     And filled their bosoms with dread anxiety
     Of what new thing nature were travailing at.

     In these affairs it much behooveth thee
     To look both wide and deep, and far abroad
     To peer to every quarter, that thou mayst
     Remember how boundless is the Sum-of-Things,
     And mark how infinitely small a part
     Of the whole Sum is this one sky of ours—
     O not so large a part as is one man
     Of the whole earth. And plainly if thou viewest
     This cosmic fact, placing it square in front,
     And plainly understandest, thou wilt leave
     Wondering at many things. For who of us
     Wondereth if some one gets into his joints
     A fever, gathering head with fiery heat,
     Or any other dolorous disease
     Along his members? For anon the foot
     Grows blue and bulbous; often the sharp twinge
     Seizes the teeth, attacks the very eyes;
     Out-breaks the sacred fire, and, crawling on
     Over the body, burneth every part
     It seizeth on, and works its hideous way
     Along the frame. No marvel this, since, lo,
     Of things innumerable be seeds enough,
     And this our earth and sky do bring to us
     Enough of bane from whence can grow the strength
     Of maladies uncounted. Thuswise, then,
     We must suppose to all the sky and earth
     Are ever supplied from out the infinite
     All things, O all in stores enough whereby
     The shaken earth can of a sudden move,
     And fierce typhoons can over sea and lands
     Go tearing on, and Aetna's fires o'erflow,
     And heaven become a flame-burst. For that, too,
     Happens at times, and the celestial vaults
     Glow into fire, and rainy tempests rise
     In heavier congregation, when, percase,
     The seeds of water have foregathered thus
     From out the infinite. "Aye, but passing huge
     The fiery turmoil of that conflagration!"
     So sayst thou; well, huge many a river seems
     To him that erstwhile ne'er a larger saw;
     Thus, huge seems tree or man; and everything
     Which mortal sees the biggest of each class,
     That he imagines to be "huge"; though yet
     All these, with sky and land and sea to boot,
     Are all as nothing to the sum entire
     Of the all-Sum.

                     But now I will unfold
     At last how yonder suddenly angered flame
     Out-blows abroad from vasty furnaces
     Aetnaean. First, the mountain's nature is
     All under-hollow, propped about, about
     With caverns of basaltic piers. And, lo,
     In all its grottos be there wind and air—
     For wind is made when air hath been uproused
     By violent agitation. When this air
     Is heated through and through, and, raging round,
     Hath made the earth and all the rocks it touches
     Horribly hot, and hath struck off from them
     Fierce fire of swiftest flame, it lifts itself
     And hurtles thus straight upwards through its throat
     Into high heav'n, and thus bears on afar
     Its burning blasts and scattereth afar
     Its ashes, and rolls a smoke of pitchy murk
     And heaveth the while boulders of wondrous weight—
     Leaving no doubt in thee that 'tis the air's
     Tumultuous power. Besides, in mighty part,
     The sea there at the roots of that same mount
     Breaks its old billows and sucks back its surf.
     And grottos from the sea pass in below
     Even to the bottom of the mountain's throat.
     Herethrough thou must admit there go...

     And the conditions force [the water and air]
     Deeply to penetrate from the open sea,
     And to out-blow abroad, and to up-bear
     Thereby the flame, and to up-cast from deeps
     The boulders, and to rear the clouds of sand.
     For at the top be "bowls," as people there
     Are wont to name what we at Rome do call
     The throats and mouths.

                            There be, besides, some thing
     Of which 'tis not enough one only cause
     To state—but rather several, whereof one
     Will be the true: lo, if thou shouldst espy
     Lying afar some fellow's lifeless corse,
     'Twere meet to name all causes of a death,
     That cause of his death might thereby be named:
     For prove thou mayst he perished not by steel,
     By cold, nor even by poison nor disease,
     Yet somewhat of this sort hath come to him
     We know—And thus we have to say the same
     In divers cases.

                       Toward the summer, Nile
     Waxeth and overfloweth the champaign,
     Unique in all the landscape, river sole
     Of the Aegyptians. In mid-season heats
     Often and oft he waters Aegypt o'er,
     Either because in summer against his mouths
     Come those northwinds which at that time of year
     Men name the Etesian blasts, and, blowing thus
     Upstream, retard, and, forcing back his waves,
     Fill him o'erfull and force his flow to stop.
     For out of doubt these blasts which driven be
     From icy constellations of the pole
     Are borne straight up the river. Comes that river
     From forth the sultry places down the south,
     Rising far up in midmost realm of day,
     Among black generations of strong men
     With sun-baked skins. 'Tis possible, besides,
     That a big bulk of piled sand may bar
     His mouths against his onward waves, when sea,
     Wild in the winds, tumbles the sand to inland;
     Whereby the river's outlet were less free,
     Likewise less headlong his descending floods.
     It may be, too, that in this season rains
     Are more abundant at its fountain head,
     Because the Etesian blasts of those northwinds
     Then urge all clouds into those inland parts.
     And, soothly, when they're thus foregathered there,
     Urged yonder into midmost realm of day,
     Then, crowded against the lofty mountain sides,
     They're massed and powerfully pressed. Again,
     Perchance, his waters wax, O far away,
     Among the Aethiopians' lofty mountains,
     When the all-beholding sun with thawing beams
     Drives the white snows to flow into the vales.

     Now come; and unto thee I will unfold,
     As to the Birdless spots and Birdless tarns,
     What sort of nature they are furnished with.
     First, as to name of "birdless,"—that derives
     From very fact, because they noxious be
     Unto all birds. For when above those spots
     In horizontal flight the birds have come,
     Forgetting to oar with wings, they furl their sails,
     And, with down-drooping of their delicate necks,
     Fall headlong into earth, if haply such
     The nature of the spots, or into water,
     If haply spreads thereunder Birdless tarn.
     Such spot's at Cumae, where the mountains smoke,
     Charged with the pungent sulphur, and increased
     With steaming springs. And such a spot there is
     Within the walls of Athens, even there
     On summit of Acropolis, beside
     Fane of Tritonian Pallas bountiful,
     Where never cawing crows can wing their course,
     Not even when smoke the altars with good gifts,—
     But evermore they flee—yet not from wrath
     Of Pallas, grieved at that espial old,
     As poets of the Greeks have sung the tale;
     But very nature of the place compels.
     In Syria also—as men say—a spot
     Is to be seen, where also four-foot kinds,
     As soon as ever they've set their steps within,
     Collapse, o'ercome by its essential power,
     As if there slaughtered to the under-gods.
     Lo, all these wonders work by natural law,
     And from what causes they are brought to pass
     The origin is manifest; so, haply,
     Let none believe that in these regions stands
     The gate of Orcus, nor us then suppose,
     Haply, that thence the under-gods draw down
     Souls to dark shores of Acheron—as stags,
     The wing-footed, are thought to draw to light,
     By sniffing nostrils, from their dusky lairs
     The wriggling generations of wild snakes.
     How far removed from true reason is this,
     Perceive thou straight; for now I'll try to say
     Somewhat about the very fact.

                                    And, first,
     This do I say, as oft I've said before:
     In earth are atoms of things of every sort;
     And know, these all thus rise from out the earth—
     Many life-giving which be good for food,
     And many which can generate disease
     And hasten death, O many primal seeds
     Of many things in many modes—since earth
     Contains them mingled and gives forth discrete.
     And we have shown before that certain things
     Be unto certain creatures suited more
     For ends of life, by virtue of a nature,
     A texture, and primordial shapes, unlike
     For kinds alike. Then too 'tis thine to see
     How many things oppressive be and foul
     To man, and to sensation most malign:
     Many meander miserably through ears;
     Many in-wind athrough the nostrils too,
     Malign and harsh when mortal draws a breath;
     Of not a few must one avoid the touch;
     Of not a few must one escape the sight;
     And some there be all loathsome to the taste;
     And many, besides, relax the languid limbs
     Along the frame, and undermine the soul
     In its abodes within. To certain trees
     There hath been given so dolorous a shade
     That often they gender achings of the head,
     If one but be beneath, outstretched on the sward.
     There is, again, on Helicon's high hills
     A tree that's wont to kill a man outright
     By fetid odour of its very flower.
     And when the pungent stench of the night-lamp,
     Extinguished but a moment since, assails
     The nostrils, then and there it puts to sleep
     A man afflicted with the falling sickness
     And foamings at the mouth. A woman, too,
     At the heavy castor drowses back in chair,
     And from her delicate fingers slips away
     Her gaudy handiwork, if haply she
     Hath got the whiff at menstruation-time.
     Once more, if thou delayest in hot baths,
     When thou art over-full, how readily
     From stool in middle of the steaming water
     Thou tumblest in a fit! How readily
     The heavy fumes of charcoal wind their way
     Into the brain, unless beforehand we
     Of water 've drunk. But when a burning fever,
     O'ermastering man, hath seized upon his limbs,
     Then odour of wine is like a hammer-blow.
     And seest thou not how in the very earth
     Sulphur is gendered and bitumen thickens
     With noisome stench?—What direful stenches, too,
     Scaptensula out-breathes from down below,
     When men pursue the veins of silver and gold,
     With pick-axe probing round the hidden realms
     Deep in the earth?—Or what of deadly bane
     The mines of gold exhale? O what a look,
     And what a ghastly hue they give to men!
     And seest thou not, or hearest, how they're wont
     In little time to perish, and how fail
     The life-stores in those folk whom mighty power
     Of grim necessity confineth there
     In such a task? Thus, this telluric earth
     Out-streams with all these dread effluvia
     And breathes them out into the open world
     And into the visible regions under heaven.

     Thus, too, those Birdless places must up-send
     An essence bearing death to winged things,
     Which from the earth rises into the breezes
     To poison part of skiey space, and when
     Thither the winged is on pennons borne,
     There, seized by the unseen poison, 'tis ensnared,
     And from the horizontal of its flight
     Drops to the spot whence sprang the effluvium.
     And when 'thas there collapsed, then the same power
     Of that effluvium takes from all its limbs
     The relics of its life. That power first strikes
     The creatures with a wildering dizziness,
     And then thereafter, when they're once down-fallen
     Into the poison's very fountains, then
     Life, too, they vomit out perforce, because
     So thick the stores of bane around them fume.

     Again, at times it happens that this power,
     This exhalation of the Birdless places,
     Dispels the air betwixt the ground and birds,
     Leaving well-nigh a void. And thither when
     In horizontal flight the birds have come,
     Forthwith their buoyancy of pennons limps,
     All useless, and each effort of both wings
     Falls out in vain. Here, when without all power
     To buoy themselves and on their wings to lean,
     Lo, nature constrains them by their weight to slip
     Down to the earth, and lying prostrate there
     Along the well-nigh empty void, they spend
     Their souls through all the openings of their frame.

     Further, the water of wells is colder then
     At summer time, because the earth by heat
     Is rarefied, and sends abroad in air
     Whatever seeds it peradventure have
     Of its own fiery exhalations.
     The more, then, the telluric ground is drained
     Of heat, the colder grows the water hid
     Within the earth. Further, when all the earth
     Is by the cold compressed, and thus contracts
     And, so to say, concretes, it happens, lo,
     That by contracting it expresses then
     Into the wells what heat it bears itself.

     'Tis said at Hammon's fane a fountain is,
     In daylight cold and hot in time of night.
     This fountain men be-wonder over-much,
     And think that suddenly it seethes in heat
     By intense sun, the subterranean, when
     Night with her terrible murk hath cloaked the lands—
     What's not true reasoning by a long remove:
     I' faith when sun o'erhead, touching with beams
     An open body of water, had no power
     To render it hot upon its upper side,
     Though his high light possess such burning glare,
     How, then, can he, when under the gross earth,
     Make water boil and glut with fiery heat?—
     And, specially, since scarcely potent he
     Through hedging walls of houses to inject
     His exhalations hot, with ardent rays.
     What, then's, the principle? Why, this, indeed:
     The earth about that spring is porous more
     Than elsewhere the telluric ground, and be
     Many the seeds of fire hard by the water;
     On this account, when night with dew-fraught shades
     Hath whelmed the earth, anon the earth deep down
     Grows chill, contracts; and thuswise squeezes out
     Into the spring what seeds she holds of fire
     (As one might squeeze with fist), which render hot
     The touch and steam of the fluid. Next, when sun,
     Up-risen, with his rays has split the soil
     And rarefied the earth with waxing heat,
     Again into their ancient abodes return
     The seeds of fire, and all the Hot of water
     Into the earth retires; and this is why
     The fountain in the daylight gets so cold.
     Besides, the water's wet is beat upon
     By rays of sun, and, with the dawn, becomes
     Rarer in texture under his pulsing blaze;
     And, therefore, whatso seeds it holds of fire
     It renders up, even as it renders oft
     The frost that it contains within itself
     And thaws its ice and looseneth the knots.
     There is, moreover, a fountain cold in kind
     That makes a bit of tow (above it held)
     Take fire forthwith and shoot a flame; so, too,
     A pitch-pine torch will kindle and flare round
     Along its waves, wherever 'tis impelled
     Afloat before the breeze. No marvel, this:
     Because full many seeds of heat there be
     Within the water; and, from earth itself
     Out of the deeps must particles of fire
     Athrough the entire fountain surge aloft,
     And speed in exhalations into air
     Forth and abroad (yet not in numbers enow
     As to make hot the fountain). And, moreo'er,
     Some force constrains them, scattered through the water,
     Forthwith to burst abroad, and to combine
     In flame above. Even as a fountain far
     There is at Aradus amid the sea,
     Which bubbles out sweet water and disparts
     From round itself the salt waves; and, behold,
     In many another region the broad main
     Yields to the thirsty mariners timely help,
     Belching sweet waters forth amid salt waves.
     Just so, then, can those seeds of fire burst forth
     Athrough that other fount, and bubble out
     Abroad against the bit of tow; and when
     They there collect or cleave unto the torch,
     Forthwith they readily flash aflame, because
     The tow and torches, also, in themselves
     Have many seeds of latent fire. Indeed,
     And seest thou not, when near the nightly lamps
     Thou bringest a flaxen wick, extinguished
     A moment since, it catches fire before
     'Thas touched the flame, and in same wise a torch?
     And many another object flashes aflame
     When at a distance, touched by heat alone,
     Before 'tis steeped in veritable fire.
     This, then, we must suppose to come to pass
     In that spring also.

                         Now to other things!
     And I'll begin to treat by what decree
     Of nature it came to pass that iron can be
     By that stone drawn which Greeks the magnet call
     After the country's name (its origin
     Being in country of Magnesian folk).
     This stone men marvel at; and sure it oft
     Maketh a chain of rings, depending, lo,
     From off itself! Nay, thou mayest see at times
     Five or yet more in order dangling down
     And swaying in the delicate winds, whilst one
     Depends from other, cleaving to under-side,
     And ilk one feels the stone's own power and bonds—
     So over-masteringly its power flows down.

     In things of this sort, much must be made sure
     Ere thou account of the thing itself canst give,
     And the approaches roundabout must be;
     Wherefore the more do I exact of thee
     A mind and ears attent.

                            First, from all things
     We see soever, evermore must flow,
     Must be discharged and strewn about, about,
     Bodies that strike the eyes, awaking sight.
     From certain things flow odours evermore,
     As cold from rivers, heat from sun, and spray
     From waves of ocean, eater-out of walls
     Along the coasts. Nor ever cease to seep
     The varied echoings athrough the air.
     Then, too, there comes into the mouth at times
     The wet of a salt taste, when by the sea
     We roam about; and so, whene'er we watch
     The wormwood being mixed, its bitter stings.
     To such degree from all things is each thing
     Borne streamingly along, and sent about
     To every region round; and nature grants
     Nor rest nor respite of the onward flow,
     Since 'tis incessantly we feeling have,
     And all the time are suffered to descry
     And smell all things at hand, and hear them sound.

     Now will I seek again to bring to mind
     How porous a body all things have—a fact
     Made manifest in my first canto, too.
     For, truly, though to know this doth import
     For many things, yet for this very thing
     On which straightway I'm going to discourse,
     'Tis needful most of all to make it sure
     That naught's at hand but body mixed with void.
     A first ensample: in grottos, rocks o'erhead
     Sweat moisture and distil the oozy drops;
     Likewise, from all our body seeps the sweat;
     There grows the beard, and along our members all
     And along our frame the hairs. Through all our veins
     Disseminates the foods, and gives increase
     And aliment down to the extreme parts,
     Even to the tiniest finger-nails. Likewise,
     Through solid bronze the cold and fiery heat
     We feel to pass; likewise, we feel them pass
     Through gold, through silver, when we clasp in hand
     The brimming goblets. And, again, there flit
     Voices through houses' hedging walls of stone;
     Odour seeps through, and cold, and heat of fire
     That's wont to penetrate even strength of iron.
     Again, where corselet of the sky girds round

     And at same time, some Influence of bane,
     When from Beyond 'thas stolen into [our world].
     And tempests, gathering from the earth and sky,
     Back to the sky and earth absorbed retire—
     With reason, since there's naught that's fashioned not
     With body porous.

                      Furthermore, not all
     The particles which be from things thrown off
     Are furnished with same qualities for sense,
     Nor be for all things equally adapt.
     A first ensample: the sun doth bake and parch
     The earth; but ice he thaws, and with his beams
     Compels the lofty snows, up-reared white
     Upon the lofty hills, to waste away;
     Then, wax, if set beneath the heat of him,
     Melts to a liquid. And the fire, likewise,
     Will melt the copper and will fuse the gold,
     But hides and flesh it shrivels up and shrinks.
     The water hardens the iron just off the fire,
     But hides and flesh (made hard by heat) it softens.
     The oleaster-tree as much delights
     The bearded she-goats, verily as though
     'Twere nectar-steeped and shed ambrosia;
     Than which is naught that burgeons into leaf
     More bitter food for man. A hog draws back
     For marjoram oil, and every unguent fears
     Fierce poison these unto the bristled hogs,
     Yet unto us from time to time they seem,
     As 'twere, to give new life. But, contrariwise,
     Though unto us the mire be filth most foul,
     To hogs that mire doth so delightsome seem
     That they with wallowing from belly to back
     Are never cloyed.

                      A point remains, besides,
     Which best it seems to tell of, ere I go
     To telling of the fact at hand itself.
     Since to the varied things assigned be
     The many pores, those pores must be diverse
     In nature one from other, and each have
     Its very shape, its own direction fixed.
     And so, indeed, in breathing creatures be
     The several senses, of which each takes in
     Unto itself, in its own fashion ever,
     Its own peculiar object. For we mark
     How sounds do into one place penetrate,
     Into another flavours of all juice,
     And savour of smell into a third. Moreover,
     One sort through rocks we see to seep, and, lo,
     One sort to pass through wood, another still
     Through gold, and others to go out and off
     Through silver and through glass. For we do see
     Through some pores form-and-look of things to flow,
     Through others heat to go, and some things still
     To speedier pass than others through same pores.
     Of verity, the nature of these same paths,
     Varying in many modes (as aforesaid)
     Because of unlike nature and warp and woof
     Of cosmic things, constrains it so to be.

     Wherefore, since all these matters now have been
     Established and settled well for us
     As premises prepared, for what remains
     'Twill not be hard to render clear account
     By means of these, and the whole cause reveal
     Whereby the magnet lures the strength of iron.
     First, stream there must from off the lode-stone seeds
     Innumerable, a very tide, which smites
     By blows that air asunder lying betwixt
     The stone and iron. And when is emptied out
     This space, and a large place between the two
     Is made a void, forthwith the primal germs
     Of iron, headlong slipping, fall conjoined
     Into the vacuum, and the ring itself
     By reason thereof doth follow after and go
     Thuswise with all its body. And naught there is
     That of its own primordial elements
     More thoroughly knit or tighter linked coheres
     Than nature and cold roughness of stout iron.
     Wherefore, 'tis less a marvel what I said,
     That from such elements no bodies can
     From out the iron collect in larger throng
     And be into the vacuum borne along,
     Without the ring itself do follow after.
     And this it does, and followeth on until
     'Thath reached the stone itself and cleaved to it
     By links invisible. Moreover, likewise,
     The motion's assisted by a thing of aid
     (Whereby the process easier becomes),—
     Namely, by this: as soon as rarer grows
     That air in front of the ring, and space between
     Is emptied more and made a void, forthwith
     It happens all the air that lies behind
     Conveys it onward, pushing from the rear.
     For ever doth the circumambient air
     Drub things unmoved, but here it pushes forth
     The iron, because upon one side the space
     Lies void and thus receives the iron in.
     This air, whereof I am reminding thee,
     Winding athrough the iron's abundant pores
     So subtly into the tiny parts thereof,
     Shoves it and pushes, as wind the ship and sails.
     The same doth happen in all directions forth:
     From whatso side a space is made a void,
     Whether from crosswise or above, forthwith
     The neighbour particles are borne along
     Into the vacuum; for of verity,
     They're set a-going by poundings from elsewhere,
     Nor by themselves of own accord can they
     Rise upwards into the air. Again, all things
     Must in their framework hold some air, because
     They are of framework porous, and the air
     Encompasses and borders on all things.
     Thus, then, this air in iron so deeply stored
     Is tossed evermore in vexed motion,
     And therefore drubs upon the ring sans doubt
     And shakes it up inside....

     In sooth, that ring is thither borne along
     To where 'thas once plunged headlong—thither, lo,
     Unto the void whereto it took its start.

     It happens, too, at times that nature of iron
     Shrinks from this stone away, accustomed
     By turns to flee and follow. Yea, I've seen
     Those Samothracian iron rings leap up,
     And iron filings in the brazen bowls
     Seethe furiously, when underneath was set
     The magnet stone. So strongly iron seems
     To crave to flee that rock. Such discord great
     Is gendered by the interposed brass,
     Because, forsooth, when first the tide of brass
     Hath seized upon and held possession of
     The iron's open passage-ways, thereafter
     Cometh the tide of the stone, and in that iron
     Findeth all spaces full, nor now hath holes
     To swim through, as before. 'Tis thus constrained
     With its own current 'gainst the iron's fabric
     To dash and beat; by means whereof it spues
     Forth from itself—and through the brass stirs up—
     The things which otherwise without the brass
     It sucks into itself. In these affairs
     Marvel thou not that from this stone the tide
     Prevails not likewise other things to move
     With its own blows: for some stand firm by weight,
     As gold; and some cannot be moved forever,
     Because so porous in their framework they
     That there the tide streams through without a break,
     Of which sort stuff of wood is seen to be.
     Therefore, when iron (which lies between the two)
     Hath taken in some atoms of the brass,
     Then do the streams of that Magnesian rock
     Move iron by their smitings.

                                 Yet these things
     Are not so alien from others, that I
     Of this same sort am ill prepared to name
     Ensamples still of things exclusively
     To one another adapt. Thou seest, first,
     How lime alone cementeth stones: how wood
     Only by glue-of-bull with wood is joined—
     So firmly too that oftener the boards
     Crack open along the weakness of the grain
     Ere ever those taurine bonds will lax their hold.
     The vine-born juices with the water-springs
     Are bold to mix, though not the heavy pitch
     With the light oil-of-olive. And purple dye
     Of shell-fish so uniteth with the wool's
     Body alone that it cannot be ta'en
     Away forever—nay, though thou gavest toil
     To restore the same with the Neptunian flood,
     Nay, though all ocean willed to wash it out
     With all its waves. Again, gold unto gold
     Doth not one substance bind, and only one?
     And is not brass by tin joined unto brass?
     And other ensamples how many might one find!
     What then? Nor is there unto thee a need
     Of such long ways and roundabout, nor boots it
     For me much toil on this to spend. More fit
     It is in few words briefly to embrace
     Things many: things whose textures fall together
     So mutually adapt, that cavities
     To solids correspond, these cavities
     Of this thing to the solid parts of that,
     And those of that to solid parts of this—
     Such joinings are the best. Again, some things
     Can be the one with other coupled and held,
     Linked by hooks and eyes, as 'twere; and this
     Seems more the fact with iron and this stone.
     Now, of diseases what the law, and whence
     The Influence of bane upgathering can
     Upon the race of man and herds of cattle
     Kindle a devastation fraught with death,
     I will unfold. And, first, I've taught above
     That seeds there be of many things to us
     Life-giving, and that, contrariwise, there must
     Fly many round bringing disease and death.
     When these have, haply, chanced to collect
     And to derange the atmosphere of earth,
     The air becometh baneful. And, lo, all
     That Influence of bane, that pestilence,
     Or from Beyond down through our atmosphere,
     Like clouds and mists, descends, or else collects
     From earth herself and rises, when, a-soak
     And beat by rains unseasonable and suns,
     Our earth hath then contracted stench and rot.
     Seest thou not, also, that whoso arrive
     In region far from fatherland and home
     Are by the strangeness of the clime and waters
     Distempered?—since conditions vary much.
     For in what else may we suppose the clime
     Among the Britons to differ from Aegypt's own
     (Where totters awry the axis of the world),
     Or in what else to differ Pontic clime
     From Gades' and from climes adown the south,
     On to black generations of strong men
     With sun-baked skins? Even as we thus do see
     Four climes diverse under the four main-winds
     And under the four main-regions of the sky,
     So, too, are seen the colour and face of men
     Vastly to disagree, and fixed diseases
     To seize the generations, kind by kind:
     There is the elephant-disease which down
     In midmost Aegypt, hard by streams of Nile,
     Engendered is—and never otherwhere.
     In Attica the feet are oft attacked,
     And in Achaean lands the eyes. And so
     The divers spots to divers parts and limbs
     Are noxious; 'tis a variable air
     That causes this. Thus when an atmosphere,
     Alien by chance to us, begins to heave,
     And noxious airs begin to crawl along,
     They creep and wind like unto mist and cloud,
     Slowly, and everything upon their way
     They disarrange and force to change its state.
     It happens, too, that when they've come at last
     Into this atmosphere of ours, they taint
     And make it like themselves and alien.
     Therefore, asudden this devastation strange,
     This pestilence, upon the waters falls,
     Or settles on the very crops of grain
     Or other meat of men and feed of flocks.
     Or it remains a subtle force, suspense
     In the atmosphere itself; and when therefrom
     We draw our inhalations of mixed air,
     Into our body equally its bane
     Also we must suck in. In manner like,
     Oft comes the pestilence upon the kine,
     And sickness, too, upon the sluggish sheep.
     Nor aught it matters whether journey we
     To regions adverse to ourselves and change
     The atmospheric cloak, or whether nature
     Herself import a tainted atmosphere
     To us or something strange to our own use
     Which can attack us soon as ever it come.

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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