Page:EB1911 - Volume 17.djvu/124

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he applies analogies, by the clearness and keenness of his observation, by the fulness of matter with which his mind is stored, and by the consecutive force, the precision and distinctness of his style, when employed in the processes of scientific exposition. The first two books enable us better than anything else in ancient literature to appreciate the boldness and, on the whole, the reasonableness of the ancient mind in forming hypotheses on great matters that still occupy the investigations of physical science. The third and fourth books give evidence of acuteness in psychological analysis; the fourth and sixth of the most active and varied observation of natural phenomena; the fifth of original insight and strong common sense in conceiving the origin of society and the progressive advance of man to civilization. But the chief value of Lucretius as a thinker lies in his firm grasp of speculative ideas, and in his application of them to the interpretation of human life and nature. All phenomena, moral as well as material, are contemplated by him in their relation to one great organic whole, which he acknowledges under the name of “ Natura daedala rerum, ” and the most beneficent manifestations of which he seems to symbolize and almost to deify in the “ Alma Venus, ” whom, in apparent contradiction to his denial of a divine interference with human afiairs, he invokes with prayer in the opening lines of the poem. In this conception of nature are united the conceptions of law and order, of ever-changing life and interdependence, of immensity, individuality, and all-pervading subtlety, under which the universe is apprehended both by his intelligence and his imagination. Nothing can be more unlike the religious and moral attitude of Lucretius than the old popular conception of him as an atheist and a preacher of the doctrine of pleasure. It is true that he denies the doctrines of a supernatural government of the world and of a future life. But his arguments against the first are really only valid against the limited and unworthy conceptions of divine agency involved in the ancient religions; his denial of the second is prompted by his vital realization of all that is meant by the arbitrary infliction of eternal torment after death. His War with the popular beliefs of his time is waged, not in the interests of licence, but in vindication of the sanctity of human feeling. The cardinal line of the poem,

“ Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum, ”

is elicited from him as his protest against the sacrifice of Iphigenia by her father. But in his very denial of a cruel, limited and capricious agency oi the gods, and in his imaginative recognition of an orderly, all-pervading, all-regulating power, we find at least a nearer approach to the higher conceptions of modern theism than in any of the other imaginative conceptions of ancient poetry and art. But his conception even of the ancient gods and of their indirect influence on human life is more worthy than the popular one. He conceives of them as living a life of eternal peace and exemption from passion, in a world of their own; and the highest ideal of man is, through the exercise of his reason, to realize an image of this life. Although they are conceived of as unconcerned with the interest of our world, yet influences are supposed to emanate from them which the human heart is capable of receiving and assimilating. The effect of unworthy conceptions of the divine nature is that they render a man incapable of visiting the temples of the gods in a calm spirit, or of receiving the emanations that “ announce the divine peace ” in peaceful tranquillity. The supposed “ atheism ” of Lucretius proceeds from a more deeply reverential spirit than that of the majority of professed believers in all times. His moral attitude is also far removed from that of ordinary ancient Epicureanism or of modern materialism. Though he acknowledges pleasure to be the law of life, yet he is far from regarding its attainment as the end of life. What man needs is not enjoyment, but “ peace and a pure heart.” The victory to be won by man is the triumph over fear, ambition, passion, luxury. With the conquest over these nature herself supplies all that is needed for happiness. Self-control and renunciation are the lessons which he preaches.

It has been doubted whether Cicero) in his short criticism in the letter already referred to, concedes to Lucretius both the gifts of genius and the accomplishment of art or only one of them. Readers of a later time, who could compare his work with the finished works of the Augustan age, would certainly disparage his art rather than his power. But with Cicero it was different. He greatly admired, or professed to admire, the genius of the early Roman poets, while he shows indifference to the poetical genius of his younger contemporaries. Yet he could not have been insensible to the immense superiority in rhythmical smoothness which the hexameter of Lucretius has over that of Ennius and Lucilius. And no reader of Lucretius can doubt that he attached the greatest importance to artistic execution, and that he took a great pleasure, not only in “ the long roll of his hexameter, ” but also in producing the effects of alliteration, assonance &c., which are so marked a peculiarity in the style of Plautus and the earlier Roman poets. He allows his taste for these tricks of style to degenerate into mannerism. And this is the only drawback to the impression of absolute spontaneity which his style produces. He was unfortunate in living before the natural rudeness of Latin art had been successfully grappled with. His only important precursors in serious poetry were Ennius and Lucilius, and, though he derived from the first of these an impulse to shape the Latin tongue into a fitting vehicle for the expression of elevated emotion and imaginative conception, he could find in neither a guide to follow in the task he set before himself. The difficulty and novelty of his task enhances our sense of his power. His finest passages are thus characterized by a freshness of feeling and enthusiasm of discovery. But the result of these conditions and of his own inadequate conception of the proper limits of his art is that his best poetry is clogged with a great mass of alien matter, which no treatment in the world could have made poetically endurable. (W. Y. S.) Authorities.*Th€ two most ancient manuscripts of Lucretius, O and Q, are both at Leiden, one being a folio (obtongus) and the other a 'quarto (quadratus). Upon these alone the modern texts are founded. The scientific editing of the text began with C. C. Lachmann (1852) whose work still holds the field. The most important commentary is that of H. A. ]. Munro (4th ed., 1886) with a prose translation. For the earlier editions it is sufficient to refer to the account in Munro's Introduction, vol. i. pp. 3 sqq. Giussani's complete edition (with Italian notes, 1896) and R. Heinze's edition of book iii. (1 891) are also of value. So too are A. Brieger's numerous contributions 1n German periodicals and his text in the Teubner series (znd ed., 1899).

The philosophy of Lucretius has been much studied in recent times. Amongst special treatises may be mentioned K. H. Usener's Epicurea (1887); J. Woltjer's Lucretii phitosophia cum fontibus comparata (1877); John Masson's Atomic Theory of Lucretius (1884) and Lucretius: Epicurean and Poet (1909); and several papers and treatises by Brieger and Giussani.

On the characteristics of the poet as a whole, C. Martha's Le Poeme de Lucréce (4th ed., Paris, 1885) and W. Y. Sellar in chaps. xi. sqq. of the Roman Poets of the Republic, may be consulted. There are useful bibliographies in W. S. Te'uffel's History of Roman Literature (English trans. by G. C. W. Warr) and Martin v. chanz's Geschichte der rbmischen Litteratur.

The following translations into English verse are known: T. Creech (1683), ]. M. Good (1805), T. Busby (1813), C. F.Johnson (New York, 1872), T. C. Barmg (1884). There is also a translation by Cyril Bailey (Oxford, 1910).

LUCRINUS LACUS, or LUCRINE LAKE, a lake of Campania, Italy, about é m. to the N. of Lake Avernus, and only separated from the sea (Gulf of Pozzuoli) by a narrow strip of land, traversed by the coast road, Via Herculanea, which runs on an embankment, the construction of which was traditionally attributed to Heracles in Strabo's time-and the modern railway. Its size has been much reduced by the rise of the crater of the Montenuovo in 1538. Its greatest depth is about IS ft. In Roman days its fisheries were important and were let out by the state

1/ld Q. Fratr. ii. 9 (11), 13. Both sense and words have been much disputed. The general sense is probably that given by the following restoration, “ Lucretii poemata, ut scribis, ita sunt multis ho minibus ingenii multae etiam (MSS. tamen) artis, sed cum ad umbilicus (omitted in MSS.) veneris, virum te putabo, si Sallustii Empedoclea legeris, hominem non putabo.” This would concede Lucretius both genius and art, but imply at the same time that he was not easy reading.