On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura)
by Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99 - c. 55 BCE)
This abridged presentation of Lucretius' famous six-book poem on nature focuses mostly on those passages essential to Epicureanism based on translations by Sisson and Rouse. The contents of these files are not public domain, but appear by permission of the copyright holders mentioned in the notices at the bottom of each page -- all rights reserved. About 50% to 60% of the text from each book is represented here; breaks in the text are demarcated by a numeric heading which corresponds to the line number of the Latin manuscript.
An unabridged public-domain translation is also available at MIT.
Mother of all the Romans: moreover, everyone’s pleasure,
comfortable Venus: everything under the stars
—the sea that carries ships as well as the earth that bears crops—
is full of you: every living thing is conceived
by your methods and so comes into the daylight.
The winds elude you and the sky is apt to be cloudless
when your month comes, and under your feet the earth
sends up her lovely flowers, and the sea’s surfaces
glitter placidly as the light gleams from the sky.
As soon as the face of spring puts in an appearance
and the fertilizing wind blows in from the west,
the birds of the air are the first to notice your coming
and your effluence strikes at their very hearts;
The wild cattle jump about in their pastures,
they plunge and swim over the rivers, delight has taken them.
Then throughout the seas, on the mountains, in hungry rivers,
in the bird’s leafy recesses, on the verdant plains,
deep inside every creature appetite stirs
as you provoke them to natural propagation.
Since you alone guide the working of nature,
without you nothing can come to these shores of light
and nothing is glad or amiable without you,
I seek your assistance as I write these verses
in which I shall try to explain nature to Memmius,
my friend whom you, Goddess, have always distinguished
with the best gifts which can be found for anyone:
The more, Goddess, endow my words with beauty.
Bring it about meanwhile that military ferocity
on land and sea everywhere falls fast asleep.
It is only you who can bring men peace and quiet
for Mars is the one who manages these affairs
and he often throws himself on your belly,
conquered in turn because desire has wounded him.
He lies there with his handsome neck thrown back,
gaping at you and feeding on your looks,
his breath hangs on your lips as he falls back.
As he lies there on top of your holy body
allow your lips to speak gently to him, Goddess.
Ask him, lady, to give the Romans peace
for when the country is going through bad times
I cannot give my mind to my work and Memmius
cannot resist the temptation to make himself useful.
So, Memmius, give me your undivided attention,
turn from business and take a look at the truth.
What I am saying I say because I’ve considered it;
At least don’t turn it down till you’ve understood,
though it is, indeed, rather a large pretension
to explain all origins, universes, divinities—
to say how nature creates, increases, nourishes,
and how she disposes of bodies when they are done.
I shall call these things material, genetic bodies
or seminal, if you like, because they are sources,
or basic matter, as the first matter of all.
Divine nature cannot be other than nature
subsisting for endless time in an unspoiled peace
far away from ourselves and the things that touch us;
For deprived of pain, and also deprived of danger,
able to do what it wants, it does not need us,
nor understands our deserts, and it cannot be angry.
In the time when people felt the weight of religion,
wallowing upon the ground and—a ghastly spectacle—
heaven scowled down upon them and showed no mercy,
a Greek man was the first to raise his eyes,
daring to make a stand against it.
He took no notice at all of the thunder and lightning,
religious recitations merely incited him;
He said he would expose the secrets of nature
and so, by force of intelligence, and no other,
he pierced beyond the flaming walls of the world,
paraded up and down the whole immensity
and returned victoriously with explanations for everything
—what could happen, what not, and what were the limits,
all fixed and measured, of every nature and thing.
And so he had religion under his feet.
He won, and as a result we have no superiors.
The gods never made a single thing out of nothing.
Because, if one things frightens people, it is
that so much happens, on earth and out in space,
the reasons for which seem somehow to escape them,
and they fill in the gap by putting it down to the gods.
That is why, once we know that nothing can come from nothing,
we are on the right track already and likely to see
how everything starts and goes on in an ordered sequence
and nothing at all is merely the work of the gods.
there would be no such thing as the cycle of generation,
you could breed men from the sea, and the land would produce
all kinds of fishes and birds, and out of the sky
herds of cattle would come tumbling; wild animals would
turn up in deserts or farmyards without any reason;
You could not count on an apple-tree giving you apples,
but any sort of tree would produce any fruit.
If everything did not have its seminal elements
how would we ever know what anything comes from?
But, as it is, the origins are from fixed seeds
and everything comes to the shores of light
the moment its matter has reached the right point of development.
No question of undiscriminating creation
when everything has its seeds within itself.
Besides, have you thought why roses come in spring,
corn ripens in the heat, and the grapes in autumn?
It is because their seeds are so determined
and all creation happens when it must.
It needs only the season, and the vivid earth
as it were finds it safe to produce what it does.
If things came out of nothing, they would come from nothing,
turning up at odd times in a random way;
They would have no natures to hold them to their course
nor elements answering only to certain seasons.
There would be no question of interval after coition
before the child appeared, if we came from nothing.
Young men would disconcertingly spring up from cribs
And full-grown trees would appear in a flash from the ground.
As such things do not happen, but on the contrary
everything grows and changes little by little
and all growth follows the laws of particular species,
it proves that everything is made from its own material.
were really destroyed and all their matter consumed,
how would the animal world be saved from destruction,
as generation does save it? Or how would the earth
have ingenuity to continue to feed it?
How would the sea get fed by the springs and rivers?
Or how would the sky find food for its flocks of stars?
None of these things would happen, if mortal bodies
had been consumed by time in the infinite past.
But if, in the space of past and the time gone by,
there have always been elements ready for re-confection,
they are by nature immortal, that is certain
and that is why they cannot return to nothing.
All objects would be destroyed by a single cause
if there were not eternal matter to hold them together
more or less tightly, in various patterns or systems.
A touch would be enough to produce destruction.
If things were not composed of permanent elements,
any force would at once unravel the pattern.
As it is, patterns hold together in various ways
but substance is always identical and eternal
and so things hold until a force is encountered
which is just enough to rip their particular texture.
So you see once more that nothing returns to nothing:
What happens is that things revert to their common elements.
The rains are gone, when the upper air has thrown them
into the lap of our darling mother the Earth,
but the shining harvests come, the branches turn green,
the trees grow upwards, then are borne down by the fruit
and so our race is fed, and the animals too;
The happy cities flower with their crops of children,
the leafy woods sing out with the new year’s birds;
The well-fleshed herds sink down in the happy grass
and the udders swell to bursting with each day’s milk;
The lambs are driven to dance on their tottering legs
and play as if mothers’ milk had turned their brains.
Nothing indeed is lost of perceptible things.
One thing is made of another, and nature allows
no new creation except at the price of death.
You know I have said creation out of nothing
is nonsense and so is destruction of things to nothingness.
But since you may doubt the validity of a doctrine
requiring the existence of invisible elements [atoms],
I should like to draw your attention to certain bodies
which must be allowed to exist, although we can’t see them.
Think of the winds, which beat up the sea with their blows,
wrecking the largest vessels, scattering the clouds,
and sometimes driving a hurricane over the plains,
strewing great trees on the ground, and with shattering blasts
lashing the mountaintops: a roaring fury,
there is rage to come in their smallest menacing murmur.
No doubt at all, the winds are invisible bodies
which sweep across the sea, the earth and the sky
and toss the clouds and carry them off in a storm.
You may compare them and the damage they do
to what is done by water, whose nature is gentle—
yet when the rivers are swollen by terrible downpours
collected on mountain slopes and sent hurtling down,
they carry before them branches and even whole trees;
No bridges are strong enough for the sudden onrush: they crumple.
The river, carrying the rains in its arms,
crashes against the piers and pushes them forward;
They fall with a roar, and they are under the water,
immense blocks: nothing could stand against the river.
So with the winds; it must be, their action is similar
for like a river they lash wherever they choose,
overturning whatever impedes them in one or several assaults;
Sometimes they lift and carry things upwards in an eddying swirl.
It proves, it must prove, that winds are invisible bodies,
for by their action and habit they rival the rivers
which no one denies are made of a substance which is visible.
Or again, take smell. We perceive all manner of odors
but never observe one on its way to our noses.
Nor does sight communicate blazing heat or cold wither
or enable us to detect or distinguish a sound;
Yet the nature of all these things must of course be physical
since otherwise they could not impress our senses
—for impression means touch, and touch means the touch of bodies.
Then observe, if you hang clothes out where the waves are breaking,
they get wet, just as they dry if they’re spread in the sun.
Yet nobody ever saw how the damp gets into them
or how it gets out when the weather is hot.
It follows that moisture must be composed of particles
so small it is not possible they should be seen.
In the same way, if you wear a ring on your finger,
after many years it will wear perceptibly thin;
A drip will hollow a stone; the blade of a plow
in time will secretly wear away in the fields;
And paving-stones grow smooth and thin with crowds
who tread on them year by year; by a city gate you may see
a statue of bronze with the right hand worn
where travelers have kissed it as they went on their way.
These things diminish, we see, little bylittle,
but what is lost at any particular time
is something that nature does not allow us to see
any more than she allows us to see what is added
to bodies in the course of their natural growth.
The same is true of what is taken away
from bodies when they are wasted by time and age;
and there are half-eaten cliffs overhanging the sea,
but who ever saw the salt removing a mouthful?
Nature does all these things with invisible substances.
Not everywhere, however, is crowded with matter,
for nature is such that everything has its emptiness.
This is a necessary part of the lesson,
without which nature would continue to mystify you
and my theories would in fact be incomplete.
without which, clearly, nothing could ever move.
The function of matter is to get in the way;
If there were no space, nothing could ever move,
but everything would get in the way of everything else.
Nothing would ever give, and nothing would budge.
But in fact we see the seas move, the earth, the clouds,
the stars sweep by, and everything has its movement.
If there were no such thing as emptiness, none of this could happen,
nothing indeed could ever change or begin;
There would be closed-packed matter and that would be all.
The fact is, things which appear to us to be solid
are really made of somewhat rarefied stuff.
That is why water drips through the roof of a cave
and it looks as if thick slabs of rock had burst into tears;
That is how food distributes itself through a body;
Trees grow, and manage in time to produce fruit
because what they feed on is carried from roots to the trunk
and so in the end to the very tip of the branches.
Noises don’t stop at a wall but are carried right through—
it makes no difference that the house is shut up.
The cold gets into our bones: and none of these things
could happen, unless there were spaces matter could go through.
And why is it some things weigh a lot more than others
although the volume is exactly the same?
A lump of bread and a lump of wool, for example?
The difference must be in the proportion of matter.
The nature of matter is to press everything down
while the nature of void is to be without weight.
It follows that, with objects of equal volume,
the lighter must be the one which contains more emptiness
and the heavier must be the one which contains more matter
while the void it contains must be accordingly smaller.
This demonstrates that the composition of things
includes, as well as matter, some empty space.
Here I must warn you against a plausible theory
which some people have advanced, and which might mislead you.
Its proponents say that water gives way to the fish
as it swims, and opens a passage for it to pass,
because there is a space left behind the fish
into which the liquid can flow: and this, they say, demonstrates
how other things can change place, although space is full.
This explanation rests on erroneous reasoning,
for how, after all, can the fish find a way to move forward
if the water does not give way to it? And how can the water
give way to the fish, unless the fish can move forward?
For either one has to deny that bodies can move
or else admit they contain an empty element
which makes it possible for movement to begin.
And then, if two flat objects are brought together
and at once rebound, the space that is made between them
is filled up with air, but, however quickly the air moves,
it cannot fill up the whole space instantaneously:
The process of filling, though rapid, happens by stages.
If anyone should maintain, when the two bodies separate,
that condensation of air is what makes it possible,
he is wrong: for that would mean a vacuum created
where there wasn’t one before, while the vacuum which did exist
had somehow been filled up. Air cannot condense
in such a manner, I think, or if it were possible,
it would not be without the existence of space
in the air itself, into which its parts could withdraw
—so though you might hesitate at these objections,
you would have to admit that void does exist.
I could go on adding to the arguments I have adduced
if I felt I had to scrape together a proof,
but the indications I have given are enough
for so intelligent a reader as yourself.
Just as the dogs, merely by using their nose,
succeed in finding their quarry under a fern
once they have got the scent and can follow it up,
so you can find one consequence after another
in an inquiry like this, like following a thread
through every obscurity until you light on the truth.
Of course if you choose to dawdle or stray from the scent,
my dear Memmius, you can’t expect very much.
But here I am, gulping the stuff from the fountain
and willing to let it trickle out of my mouth;
My only fear is that age will come up behind us
and, with its scissors, snip our nervous connections,
before I can bring my metrical explanation
to any completeness at all on any one point
let alone give you the full weight of the argument.
The whole of nature consists of two elements:
There are material bodies, and there is the void
in which they are situated and through which they move.
The existence of material bodies is plain to the senses;
If we were not sure of that self-evident starting-point,
we would have no basis for more abstruse constructions.
For all proof rests in the end on a basis of sense.
As for void, or space, or if you will call it emptiness:
We know that this it exists because if it did not, bodies
could not be anywhere, nor would they be able to move
—a point I demonstrated a few lines back.
There is indeed nothing whatever of which you can say
that exists apart from matter and emptiness,
as if there were some third element in the universe.
For if there were, it would not exist without size
—how large or small, is a matter of indifference—
and if it were sensible, even to the lightest touch
it would be classified with material objects;
If it could not be touched it would be incapable
of offering the slightest resistance to any body,
which amounts to saying that it would be void.
Besides, if a thing exists it must either act
or else be acted upon by other agents,
or provide a space in which other things can exist.
But only material objects can act and be acted on,
and only void can provide a space.
there can be no third element in nature
—no third which could have an effect on our senses
or be the subject of any reasoning.
You will find that everything which can be named
is either inherent in the two basic elements
or is the effect of something that happens to them.
The inherent qualities are those which cannot be separated
without destroying the nature of the object:
As weight in rocks, heat in fire, and wetness in water,
or tangibility in material objects
and in space—or void—intangibility.
On the other hand, servitude, poverty and riches,
liberty, war, and settlements, and so on,
which leave material bodes unchanged in their nature
are things which happen to bodies—we might say, events.
Time has no existence by itself
and it is only from the perception of things
past, present, and future that the mind is aware of it.
There never was anyone who had even a glimpse of time
apart from the movement of things and the contrast of rest.
So it is absurd to suggest that the Trojan War
or the rape of Helen, has some sort of real existence
when the ages in which these notable things occurred
—like the people they happened to—have been swept away.
Whatever happened is no more than just a happening
—other places or times, perhaps it makes no difference.
For if there had been no matter to form the bodies
and no empty space in which they could perform,
Paris would not have been there to get excited
nor Helen in such a shape as to set him on
and the famous wars would not have happened at all.
No wooden horse could have turned out a load of Greeks
into the darkness, to set the town alight.
You can see from that, all that has gone on in the past
has no existence, as matter and void have,
but rather should be regarded as so many happenings
which have occurred to material bodies in space.
The bodies themselves are of two kinds:
Primary particles and complex bodies composed of primaries.
that no force can alter them or extinguish them.
It is not easy to imagine such a body
so full of itself as the be entirely solid:
For lightning travels with ease through the walls of houses
and so do all kinds of sound; iron glows in the fire
and even stones break up in a violent heat.
Gold, which seems hard enough, can grow liquid too,
and so can bronze, which falls like a block of ice.
Warmth goes through sliver, and so indeed does the cold
so that when we hold a sliver cup in our hands
we feel the iced wine rise as it is poured.
Enough to convince us that nothing is really solid.
Yet, if one thinks about it and looks at the evidence,
it does turn out, as I’ll explain in a very few verses,
that there are particles made of solid and changeless matter
which are the basic constituents of the universe
from which all things are made.
consisting of elements of quite different kinds:
Body, and space in which all events take place;
These two must be quite separate from each other.
For where there is space with nothing in it but void,
there can be no body there;
And where there is body,
there clearly cannot be void by any means.
So the particles are quite solid and have no space within them.
Since there is emptiness in created things,
it must be surrounded by something solid:
For how could things hide such emptiness in their interior
if there were no material around to hide it?
And what could this be except a collection of particles
arranged to form a sort of screen for the void?
Matter, consisting entirely of solid particles,
can be eternal, though everything made of it dies.
Then, if there were no such thing as empty space,
everything would be solid; on the other hand,
if there were not bodies which filled up all the space
they occupied so that nothing else could intrude,
the universe would be nothing but emptiness.
But matter and space, are in fact, alternatives:
They cannot be both in one place.
The world is neither made up entirely of the one nor of the other,
and this mixed nature of things would only be possible
if there were bodies which did not give way to the void.
These bodies—the particles—cannot break up at a blow,
nor can anything get past their outer defenses,
nor can they yield or give way to whatever may come
—all these are points that I have already made.
It is evident, therefore, that without an admixture of void,
nothing could crash or break or be split in two,
nor even get soaked, or penetrated by cold,
nor even eaten by fire, the general destroyer.
The more unoccupied space each object contains,
the more it will give way to the things which destroy it.
Besides, it is clear, if matter had not been eternal,
before now everything would have returned to nothing
and everything we now see would have come from nothing.
But I have already proved that nothing can be created
from nothing, nor can creation disintegrate into nothing.
There must be, therefore, immortal elements
into which all things in time can be dissolved
and from which all things can be renewed once again.
These elements must be of a solid simplicity
for how, otherwise, could they last through so many ages
and take part endlessly in the renewal of things?
And how, if nature had not provided some end
to the destruction of things, could matter have held
against the breaking up through so many ages,
or how could things be conceived and brought to maturity
in any measure of years, and last out their time?
For everything that we see is more easily broken
than put together again: the procession of days
and endless duration of all the time gone by
would surely have broken up everything, crushed and dissolved it,
so that nothing could be re-made in the time that remains.
But some end to destruction indeed has been fixed,
for do we not see that everything is renewed?
And definite times fixed for the life of everything,
and everything in due time arrives at its flower?
And this too: although you have the most solid material
in the basic particles, these can easily give you
the soft and fluid: as air, earth, water and mist.
How they are formed and behave is easy to see
once the existence of void is admitted,
but if you imagined the basic ingredients were soft,
how could you ever arrive at iron or flint?
You could not explain them: there would not be in all nature
the qualities out of which such stuff could be made.
So then: it is the strength of solid simplicity
lies a the root of creation; the more or less density
of basic particles makes up the strength of each object.
Since the limits of growth and living for every species
are fixed as if by an immutable law,
which also defines what they can and cannot do
and nothing is ever changed: but so fixed indeed
that all the different birds in a perfect order
show their unchangeable markings according to species;
Could these things happen without immutable matter?
For if the original particles were not stable
but liable to give way to modifications,
how could it be so determined what things are born?
Or how could there be the certain limits there are
to what each species can do and the turn of its nature?
And how could the generations bring back as they do
the character, movements and habits of those before them?
must have limits, which means: a series of points;
And these must be the smallest bodies in nature without parts;
Points moreover which never existed in isolation,
or never could so exist, since they are only parts of another body
—units which, joined together with others like them,
make up the bodies of the original particles.
And since these points have no existence apart,
they must remain eternally glued together.
So the particles are of solid and simple nature,
made up of crowded irreducible points
and not the product of any act of assembly,
but such that they have always existed in that conjunction:
No kind of separation or any subtraction
from the particles which are the seeds of everything.
For if there were no such thing as a minimal entity,
the smallest bodies would have infinite parts;
There would be no end to the foolish arithmetic
of dividing by half, by half, and by half again.
And in that case there would be no difference of size
between the smallest thing and the infinite universe,
Because however large you supposed the latter,
the former, just like it, would be made up of infinite parts.
This is something that reason simply cannot accept,
and the mind has no alternative but to admit
the existence of parts which cannot be further divided
—the minimal natural entities, finite points.
And since they exist, they must be solid and changeless.
Once may add, that if it had been the habit of nature
to reduce things to their irreducible parts,
nothing could ever again have been made form them;
For things which have not the benefit of any parts
would not have the qualities of productive matter
—the power of interaction and the movement which are
the normal ways in which things ever happen.
Now let us have a look at Anaxagoras,
whose theory goes by the name of homoeomeria,
for which there is no suitable expression in our language
though the thing itself is easy enough to explain.
For what he means by his homoeomeria
is that bones are made up of tiny pieces of bone,
flesh is made up of tiny pieces of flesh,
blood by the confluence of millions of drops of blood.
He thinks that lots of grains of gold will indeed make gold
and that earth is composed of lots of bits of earth,
that fire is made out of fires, and water from water,
and everything else is made in a similar manner.
Again, since the body grows with the food we eat,
it can be concluded that veins, and blood and bones
and nerves are made of matter which is unlike them.
Or if the contention is that all food is composite,
containing tiny packets of nerves and bones
—to say nothing of bits of veins and dollops of blood—
then you have to say that all food and drink is composed
of matter which bears no resemblance to food and drink,
in fact of bones, nerves and serum, all mixed up with blood.
And if everything which shoots up out of the earth
is in the earth to begin with, the earth must be
made up of the heterogeneous things which come out of it.
Apply this argument to whatever you like:
If flames and smoke and ash are hidden in wood,
the wood must consist of things unlike itself.
This leaves one way of getting out of the difficulty,
and Anaxagoras takes it; he contends
that every kind of thing is concealed in everything,
while the thing we see is simply the one which predominates
or has somehow come to the surface of the mixture;
but that opinion seems to me far from sensible.
For if it were true you might expect that corn,
as it was ground in the mill, would sometimes show traces of blood
or other components of the body it is to feed.
Likewise when we pound up herbs, blood would ooze out;
And you might expect the water drunk by the sheep
to taste a bit like the milk which comes from their udders;
Indeed you might expect, when soil is turned up,
to find in it traces of corn and all kinds of plants
which are supposed to be concealed there in miniature;
So ash and smoke, you might think, would be found in wood
when you break it up, and tiny pieces of fire.
As none of these things appears, it is fair to conclude
that things are not mixed up with each other like that,
but instead that the particles, mixed in various ways,
are all the same and common to many things.
You may say that in the forests which cover the mountains
it often happens that, under the stress of great winds,
the branches of neighboring trees will rub together
and suddenly fire break out like a monstrous flower:
Yes, quite so: but that doesn’t mean there is fire in timber;
It simply means there are inflammable elements
which rubbing together will bring into closer contact,
and this is enough to set the forest on fire.
If the wood in fact contained a ready-made flame,
it would never be possible to conceal the fire;
the forests would all burn up the trees disappear.
Now perhaps you will see—as I have already explained it—
why it matters so much how the particles lie,
in what position, or how they push one another?
With very small changes, the identical particles
make wood or fire, just as you may say the same letters
—or almost the same—will produce the words fir or fire,
with different sounds and certainly different meanings.
Indeed, if you take the view that the visible universe
cannot be created without recourse to elements
which have the nature of sensible things themselves,
you might as well give up all idea of elements.
You will find yourself next with particles shaking with laughter
or others standing by with tears in their eyes.
Better listen instead to what I have to say.
I am not under any illusion that it is easy
but I have the support of my passion for reputation,
I can even claim a certain addiction to poetry
and—what does not always go with it—some mental energy.
Thus equipped, I am not afraid of unpromising country;
I reckon to find enough springs and pick enough flowers,
and if I achieve anything it will be on a subject
which has not been a favorite with poets before:
and any subject which matters is rather unusual.
Mine is to extricate the mind from the knots of religion.
Moreover, in writing on this difficult subject,
I aim at lucid and even agreeable verse,
and that should not be considered an extravagance.
It is rather as doctors, when they want to give children
some nasty medicine, give it a flavor of honey
which is held to be a legitimate trick upon innocence
and persuade the children—perhaps—to swallow the stuff
and by such means be restored to gain health.
So, since what I have to say is unpleasant
to people who haven’t given the subject a thought,
and can produce a revulsion in ordinary men,
I attempt to give it a touch of aesthetic coating
and hope you may recognize sweetness when you taste it:
If I can hold your attention by such devices
so that you read to the end, you will find you have swallowed.
My whole account, so to speak, of the nature of nature.
My theory is that bodies of solid matter
—the particles—move through the ages and are indestructible.
The question now is: are they of limited number?
And is place, void, space, in which everything must happen,
finite itself, or does it stretch out without limit
in all directions without any end at all?
for if it had it would have to have an outside.
Nothing can have an outside unless there is something beyond it;
So the point can be seen at which it ceases to be
and beyond which the senses could not follow it.
There can be no such point for the whole creation;
If one thinks of the whole there can be nothing outside it,
it can have no limit or measure, you could not conceive it.
It does not matter what position you occupy,
space must stretch an infinite distance in every direction.
Let us suppose for a moment that space is finite;
Then let someone proceed to the furthest boundaries
and throw a spear beyond the point where he is.
You then have to choose whether you think it will travel
in the direction he sends it, as far as you like,
or whether you think that something will get in the way.
With neither answer can you avoid the conclusion
that the universe stretches out on all sides forever,
for whether the spear finds something in the way
and cannot proceed, or whether the way is open,
the point it started from is not the end of the universe.
In this manner one can go on, and wherever you put the limit
I shall ask: Now, where is the spear?
There is no point at which you can set a boundary;
The more space you give the spear, the further it goes.
If indeed the sum of total existing space
were bounded in fact by limits on every side,
matter would then fall down and lie on the floor of the universe
and this indeed would have happened long ago
and there would have been no events at all after that.
There would not even be sky, or the light of the sun
for all the matter there is would stay piled up
in a heap produced by endless ages of sinking.
However, as things are, the particles have no rest
and we may be sure there is no bottom of things
on which they could settle down and take their rest.
Always and everywhere, there is ceaseless motion,
as hurtling particles of eternal matter
supply what is need out of infinite space.
they did not work out what they were going to do,
but because many of them by many chances
struck one another in the course of infinite time
and encountered every possible form and movement,
that they found at last the disposition they have,
and that is how the universe was created:
Particles, kept together for so many years,
when by a chance they had found harmonious movements,
brought it about that rivers flow into the sea
to keep it going, while earth by the heat of the sun
renews its products, and living creatures breed on
and the gliding lights in the sky are never put out.
Certainly none of these things could do as they do
if there were not an infinite store of matter
from which they could make up their losses whenever they need.
For just as an animal cannot live without food
since his flesh will waste away; so it is with all things
which must replenish their matter or disappear.
If you learn these things, which requires no great labor
since one thing follows quite simply from another,
then you will not stumble—nor the secrets of nature
shall be dark to you. One thing lights up another.