Poetry in Honor of Epicureanism

  • I've been trying out ChatGPT and used it to create this song (sorry the alignment of the lines are off):

    Write a song about Epicurus and how friendship dances round the world, and that pleasure is the highest goal, but be wary of pleasures which later bring too much pain, and how Epicurean philosophy makes us wise and brings us together into a beloved community

    Verse 1: Epicurus, oh Epicurus, philosopher so wise Taught us how to live with pleasure, but caution in our eyes Friendship, oh friendship, dances round the world Bonding us together, in a love that's ever swirled

    Chorus: We sing of Epicurus, who made us wise And brought us all into a beloved community Through his philosophy, we live our lives With pleasure as our goal, but with care and unity

    Verse 2: Epicurean pleasure, the highest of all aims But beware the pain that comes, when pleasure turns to flames The wise man knows, what pleasures to pursue And which to avoid, so happiness rings true

    Chorus: We sing of Epicurus, who made us wise And brought us all into a beloved community Through his philosophy, we live our lives With pleasure as our goal, but with care and unity

    Verse 3: Epicurean friends, in our hearts and minds Together we journey, to a life that's kind Sharing food and laughter, as we walk along Treasuring the moments, before they're gone

    Chorus: We sing of Epicurus, who made us wise And brought us all into a beloved community Through his philosophy, we live our lives With pleasure as our goal, but with care and unity

    Outro: Epicurus, oh Epicurus, we thank you for your light Guiding us to happiness, with pleasure shining bright Friendship, oh friendship, we dance to your beat Together we're stronger, in a love that's ever sweet.

  • But beware the pain that comes, when pleasure turns to flames

    I really like this! The line above is my favorite, along with "sharing food and laughter." It works almost as a hymn. Thank you. :)

    I wanted to repeat: it rings like an Epicurean hymn.

  • I wanted to include a few classical references (or direct theft) of Epicurus. We'll start with Virgil's ode:

    "He sung the secret seeds of Nature's frame –
    How seas, and earth, and air, and active flame
    Fell through the mighty void, and in their fall
    Were blindly gathered in this goodly ball.
    The tender soil then stiffening by degrees
    Shut from the bounding Earth the bounding seas.
    Then earth and ocean various forms disclose,
    And a new sun to a new world arose.
    And mists condensed to cloud obscure the sky:
    And clouds dissolved the thirsty ground supply.
    The rising trees the lofty mountains grace,

    The lofty mountains feed the savage race,
    Yet few, and strangers in the unpeople place.
    From hence the birth of man the song pursued,
    And how the world was lost and how renewed.
    " (Virgil, Eclogues, vi.31)

    Following this (much, much later), Edmond Halley wrote an ode to Newton in the forward of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Matematica (1687). While it is not necessarily Epicurean, the historical link is interesting:

    "...Then ye who now on heavenly nectar fare,

    Come celebrate with me in song the name

    Of Newton, to the Muses dear; for he

    Unlocked the hidden treasuries of Truth:

    So richly through his mind had Phoebus cast

    The radiance of his own divinity.

    Nearer the gods no mortal may approach." (Edmund Halley, Ode To Isaac Newton)

    And I may as mention Horace, since Virgil made the list:

    "Treat every day that dawns for you as the last.
    The unhoped-for hours' ever welcome when it comes.
    When you want to smile then visit me: sleek, and fat
    I'm a hog, well cared-for, one of Epicurus' herd.
    " (Horace, The Epistles 1.4.13-16)

    Next, Edmund Spenser steals Lucretius' invocation to Venus from the beginning of Book I, and then, later, in the same poem, makes an allusion to DRN V:747.

    "Great Venus, Queene of beautie and of grace,
    The ioy of the Gods and men, that vnder skie
    Doest fayrest shrine, and most adorne thy place,
    That with they smyling looke doest pacifie
    The raging seas, and makst the stormes to flie;
    Thee goddesse, thee the winds, the clouds doe feare,
    And when though spreadst thy mantle forth on hie,
    The waters play and pleasant lands appeare,
    And heauens laugh, & al the world shrews ioyous cheare.
    " (Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene 4.10.44)

    "Lastly, came Winter cloathed in all frize,
    Chattering his teeth for cold that did him chill.
    " (Spenser, The Faerie Queene

    The following is Lord Byron's rendering of DRN I-33-41:

    "In all thy perfect goddess-ship, when lies

    Before thee thy own vanquished Lord of War?

    And gazing in thy face as toward a star,

    Laid on thy lap, his eyes to thee upturn,

    Feeding on thy sweet cheek! while thy lips are

    With lava kisses melting while they burn,

    Showered on his eyelids, brow, and mouth, as from an urn!" (Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage 4.51)

    I am now convinced that Shakespeare was quite familiar with ancient Greek philosophy:

    "LEAR: Why, no, boy: nothing can be made out of nothing." (King Lear 1:4.106)

    "MERCUTIO: She is the faeries' midwife, and she comes
    In shape no bigger than agate-stone
    On the forefinger of an alderman,
    Drawn with a team of little atomi
    Over men's noses as they lie asleep.
    " (Romeo and Juliet 1.4.52-56)

    "CELIA: It is as easy to count atomies as to resolve the
    propositions of a lover. But take a taste of my
    finding him, and relish it with good observance. I
    found him under a tree like a dropped acorn.
    " (As You Like It 3.2.1332-1335)

    "OTHELLO: ...like to the Pontick Sea,
    Whose icy current and compulsive course
    Ne'er feels retiring ebb, but keeps due on
    To the Propontick at Hellesport.
    " (Othello 3.3.453-456; allusion to DRN V:506-508)

    There are a number of contemporary thinkers who have translated parts of DRN into English prose. For example, the French metaphysician Gilles Deleuze translates lines 633-634 from De Rerum Natura:

    "...out of connections, densities, shocks, encounters, occurrences, and motions." (Deleuze [1990a] 267)

    In The Advancement of Education the English philosopher Francis Bacon translated DRN II:1-10:

    "In is a view of delight ... to stand of walke vpon the shoare side, and to see a shippe tossed with tempest vpon the sea; or to bee in a fortified Tower, and to see two Battailes ioyie vppon a plaine. But is a pleasure incomparable for the minde of man to be setled, landed, and fortified in the certaintie of truth; and from thence to descrie and behould the errours, perterbations, labours, and wanderings up and downe of other men." (1605)

    Of special note, French philosophy Denis Diderot invoked a line from De Rerum Natura as his personal motto. He paraphrases DRN IV:338 as an emblematic, rallying cry for the entire Enlightenment period:

    "Now we see out of the dark what is in the light." (Philosophical Thoughts 1746)

    While they do not provide direct translation, we have notable reflections on Lucretian evolution from Erasmus Darwin (the less-famous grandfather of Charles) in The Temple of Nature, or the Origin of Society (1803) as well as David Hume in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779), regarding the poetry of DRN V:772-878.

    Even one of my personal heroes, Carl Sagan makes commentary on DRN II:1090-1092.

    "As Lucertius summarize [the Ionian philosophers'] views, 'Nature free at once and rid of her haughty lords is seen to do all things spontaneously of herself without the meddling of the gods." (Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World)

    The English poet George Sandys offers a translation of DRN II:14-19.

    "O wretched minds of men! Depriued of light!
    Through what great dangers, o[n] hou dark a night,
    Force you your weary lives! and cannot see
    How Nature onely craues a body free
    From hated paine; a chearefulle Mind possest
    Of safe delights, by care not feare opprest.
    " (1632)

    Of the beginning Book III, Frederick II is posthumously recorded as having said that "There are no better remedies for maladies of the mind." We then note that Lord Tennyson translated DRN III:18-24.

    "...The Gods, who haunt
    The lucid interspace of world and world,
    Where never creeps a cloud, or moves a wind,
    Nor ever falls the least white star of snow,
    Nor ever lowest roll of thunder moans,
    Nor sound of human sorrow mounts to mar
    Their sacred, everlasting calm
    !" (Lord Tennyson, Lucretius 104-110)

    England's first Poet Laureate, John Dryden provides a brief reflection of DRN III:831.

    "What has this Bugbear death to frighten Man,
    If Souls can die, as well as Bodies can?

    The poet Thomas Grey seems to appropriate the tone and imagery of DRN III:895-897.

    "For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,

    Or busy housewife ply her evening care:

    No children run to lisp their sire's return,

    Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share." (Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard 21-24)

    The poet Percy Shelley provides a beautiful rendition of DRN IV:415-420.

    "We paused beside the pools that lie
    Under the forest bough,
    Each seemed as 'twere a little sky
    Gulfed in a world below;
    A firmament of purple light
    Which in the dark earth lay.
    " (Shelley, To Jane: The Recollections 53-58)

    William Wordsworth provides us with a version of DRN V:222-227.

    "Like a shipwrecked Sailor tost
    By rough waves on a perilous coast
    Lies the babe, in helplessness
    And in tenderest nakedness
    Flung by laboring Nature forth
    Upon the mercies of the earth
    Can its eye beseech? No more
    Than the hands are free to implore:

    Voice but serves for one brief cry;
    Plaint was it? or prophesy
    Of sorrow that will surely come?
    Omen of man's grievous doom!
    " (William Wordsworth, To-Upon the Birthday of Her First-Born Child 1-12)

    In Book VII of Paradise Lost, John Milton elaborates on Lucretian evolution from DRN V:772-878. I recommend reading further in Book VII because Milton (to my surprise) appropriates a significant amount of Lucretian imagery.

    "Then Herbs of every leaf, that sudden flour'd
    Op'ning thir various colours, and made gay
    Her bosom smelling sweet...
    " (Paradise Lost, Book VII)

    Diogenes of Oinoanda borrows heavily, directly from Lucretius. While he does not write in verse, the fact that he cites lines from DRN justify to me that he should be included in this list.I will just list the connections:

    - Diogenes' fr. 47.III.10-IV.2 corresponds with Lucretius' DRN III:953-955

    - Diogenes' NF 126-127.VI-IX, fr. 20 corresponds with DRN V:156-173
    - Diogenes' fr. 12.II.11-V.14 corresponds with DRN V around line 1040.

    This is what I have compiled in terms of Lucretian references in my most recent read-through.

    There was one other discovery I wanted to share (somewhat off-topic, but just humor me...). In Book VI, Lucretius alludes to the largest seismic event in Antiquity (besides the earlier eruption of Mt. Etna and the later eruption of Mt. Vesuvius). This event occured on the North side of the Peloponnesian peninsula, almost directly West of Athens. Presumably, a number of Athenians would have experienced this event ... Athenians like Plato. This occured in c. 373 BCE, and lead to the complete destruction of the ancient city of Helike as well as all of its inhabitants. So what exactly happened? From records, ancient authors describe what we might call as a "collapse" of a plate. In this instance, such an event would lead to the complete collapse of land above the event. Uniquely, it would have appeared that an entire mass of land fell straight downward, dozens of feet over the duration of only a few seconds. As I mentioned, we would have expected Athenians (like Plato), who were just East of this event, to have been very aware of it. Exactly 13 years later, Plato published his dialogue Timaeus in which he (and he alone) describes the fabled allegory of Atlantis, which collapses into the sea.

    Coincidence? I propose that the destruction of the fictional city of Atlantis was inspired by the collapse of Helike.

    Edited 3 times, last by Nate ().

  • That's great Nate! That post ought to maybe be the beginning of another project or article - we can't keep it buried here. i am sorry I have been very busy today and haven't yet absorbed what this is - is it the beginning of a collection of classical poetry related to Epicurus? I would think Joshua has his own such collection especially with the Shakespeare material?

  • We do have this thread going, which is an excellent resource, and great for compiling this kind of information. I generally like to keep tidy formatting there and limited conversation, but Nate, your post would be a great addition.

  • We do have this thread going, which is an excellent resource, and great for compiling this kind of information. I generally like to keep tidy formatting there and limited conversation, but Nate, your post would be a great addition.

    Thanks, Joshua ! I will do that. I thought you had a post like this around here somewhere...

  • Ah another aspect of our less-than-optimum organization. I need to put more time into that and I especially appreciate the time that Kalosyni has put into it recently. That thread probably needs to be added to the "Special Resources" List currently on the front page.

  • 590.jpg?GarlicBraidjpg499

    A Whimsical Tribute to Garlic

    Garlic, they say, keeps pale vampires at bay –

    nose-drip sneezes and varied diseases.

    It’s tang on the tongue is piquant and young,

    though lovers beware it’s bouquet in the air.

    With cel’ry and onion glazed, by creole chefs praised:

    flavors wed with wine, baptized “holy trine.”

    Of our garden’s harvest, they were far best

    – with peppers – fat from dark soil, sans hard toil.

    Bulbs braided with care were hung in the stair,

    their cloves minced for stews to thwart winter blues.

    Today storebought and to our pantry brought:

    still a staple taste never gone to waste.

    ~ ~ ~

    To Royal pursuit ye cooks I recruit:

    Order o’ th’ Garlic Creed, harken to this rede –

    “A garlic a day wards doldrums away.

    ‘Too much’ is a myth – hale health is its pith.”


    “rede”: an archaic word meaning counsel, guidance or guiding rule.

    Years ago, a friend of mine discovered a hobo cookbook with a recipe for potato soup. Included was this: “The phrase ‘too much garlic’ has no meaning.” I have fantasized of starting an order – the Royal Order of Garlic Eaters (ROGE) – with that statement being the official credo …

  • 209.jpg?Tookmanjpg893

    Urban Hobbit

    Truth is, I’m just a hermit hobbit whose home

    is a burrow into imaginal

    adventurous realms—without the danger

    or hardship real ranger-journeys entail—

    and fantastical elfin bailiwicks

    here and gone in a pungent pinch of snuff,

    before fierce hordes can supper interrupt.

    (As Chesterton once said: Home again safe

    from afar—with steak, wine and good cigar.)

    Lately I have taken, in elder age,

    to going barefoot through our small smial

    in this urban shire we now inhabit;

    peeking out only to stock the wine rack,

    ice box and pantry: hearty, simple fare

    in our narrow galley to be prepared

    with oregano and parsley from pots

    set out on the sunny south balcony

    overlooking the rumbling interstate.

    (A hobbit-hole can be hewed anywhere.)

    ~ ~ ~

    Fat I have grown since the bramble-wild years

    of unravelling rusty barbed-wire fence

    on swelter-heat days, with gloves and long sleeves

    to keep the frail skin unsliced and unscarred;

    the time I stranded our stout pickup truck

    midstream on bedrock of Terrapin Creek,

    or lost the chimney-brush down the dark flue;

    years since autumn splitting of hickory

    to stack in the shed for winter burning;

    or braided garlic in the stairwell hung,

    from compass-pointed kitchen-garden beds

    that burgeoned with sweet onions, bell peppers

    and roma tomatoes thick on the vine—

    our brick burrow tucked against the steep ridge

    we called the feng shui turtle at our back,

    defending against tree-breaking stormwinds;

    and the rough-cut, weather-black oaken bridge,

    laid board-by-board, hammered by calloused hand:

    single dry way down the chert-gravel lane.

    Sixty rustic reclusive seasons spent

    in that untamed tract: spading earth in spring,

    tending through summer, harvesting in fall,

    feasting o’er snowtime by hickory fire.

    ~ ~ ~

    Though our cubbyhole city apartment

    is far from that rugged country cottage,

    I chose the whimsical name of Tookman:

    a hobbity-homey son of a Took.


    Hobbits and rangers are, of course, Tolkien characters.

    smial: a hobbit-hole dwelling.

    ice box: just an anachronism.

    Tookman: My pseudonym on a site where I publish my poetry. Also a whimsical play on an old family name on one side of my ancestry, which meant a person dwelling near a body of water or a depression in the earth.

    “son of a Took”: One of Tolkien’s hobbits was Peregrine Took (aka Pippin). Also, "the Old Took."

    Photo: Me during those “wildy garden” years.

  • This is great, Pacatus!

    I recall a running gag among my friends in high school about a book I was (not) writing called A Discourse on the Various Pastas.

    Stephen Greenblatt cites the following passage from Montaigne--a great lover of On the Nature of Things--as evidence that the rediscovery of classical thought made it possible to turn our attention from heaven back to earth, and find even the little things about ourselves worthy of interest and comment.


    I am not excessively fond either of salads or fruits, except melons. My father hated all sorts of sauces; I love them all. Eating too much hurts me; but, as to the quality of what I eat, I do not yet certainly know that any sort of meat disagrees with me; neither have I observed that either full moon or decrease, autumn or spring, have any influence upon me. We have in us motions that are inconstant and unknown; for example, I found radishes first grateful to my stomach, since that nauseous, and now again grateful. In several other things, I find my stomach and appetite vary after the same manner; I have changed again and again from white wine to claret, from claret to white wine.


    It connects us also to the prehistory of our species, when, by noticing the pleasures and pains induced by what they ate, they spared themselves and their progeny the misfortune of dying by wolfsbane and poison hemlock--and also of living "by bread alone". Our ancestors found the grape and the milk sweet, and left us also the wine and the cheese.

    Incidentally, my father really doesn't like garlic, while I like it very much! De gustibus non est disputandum--there is, sometimes, no accounting for taste.

  • Post by Pacatus ().

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