On Lucretius by MONICA R. GALE

By MONICA R. GALE

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82–3. 931–50 in ‘Lucretius’ Honeyed Muse: the History and Meaning of a Simile’, in A. ] 12 ‘East Coker’ II, in T. S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays (New York, 1934), 125. The Sources of Lucretius’ Inspiration 29 a method in his shifts from ‘poetry’ to its underlying ratio. 25); pernosces perductus (‘you will recognize, led on . 14 As men commonly conceive of them, the gods do not exist. 28). 651; cf. 26–7). 1058). 15 If this is our Venus, and if Bacchus, Neptune, and Ceres are abusive descriptions of wine, the sea, and grain, Lucretius’ reader is brought to ask: what then are our Muses?

Whether she can give him the peace that can make it possible for him to regard the devastation of human achievement which he encounters at the end of the poem is the Wnal problem of the poem itself. Gods live without disturbance; they are remote from human aVairs and are indiVerent to men. They can truly be called quietos (‘undisturbed’). It is a part of true piety to describe 29 Consider the commentary of Leo Strauss (1968), 134, on the eclipse of Venus by Calliope. The reader who wants to discover the diVerence between uoluptas (‘pleasure’) and requies (‘repose’) and in part the diVerence between gods and men can Wnd no help in either the commentaries of Ernout-Robin or Bailey.

Since the universe is now as it always was and always will be, the philosopher who understands its eternal laws becomes, like Calchas and the Muses, a prophet. And here again the ancient themes of poetry and inspiration are comprehended within a new philosophy and a new philosophical poetry. INVENTION In antiquity, poets were makers, not Wnders. But invention Wgures importantly in Lucretius’ conception of his own poetry and in his statements about the sources of his inspiration. 22 Another is Lucretius’ sense of being at once Epicurus’ follower and the Wrst to reveal adequately to the Roman reader Epicurus’ discovery of the nature of things.

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