"Pleasure" and the opening line of Lucretius

  • As far as I can tell the Latin is: Aeneadum genetrix, hominum divomque voluptas, alma Venus, caeli subter labentia signa....

    Now every translation I can find uses another word, but the word is in fact VOLUPTAS which we translate as PLEASURE ..... Correct? I know that poetic translators, and even the narrative versions, like to substitute another word, but given the philosophical significance of the issue, it seems to me that we ought to make note that the word involved is "Pleasure" which presumably is the closest Latin translation of Hedone -- rather than some euphemism. The latin dictionaries use "delight" as a second meaning, but would Lucretius have used any other word for the Greek concept we translate into English as "pleasure" if he were trying to be precise?

    How to say pleasure in Latin
    Latin words for pleasure include voluptas, delectatio, luxuriosi,, luxuriosi and delectationis. Find more Latin words at wordhippo.com!

    pleasure | Etymology, origin and meaning of pleasure by etymonline
    PLEASURE Meaning: "source of enjoyment, pleasing quality or thing, that which pleases or gratifies the senses or the… See origin and meaning of pleasure.


    Brown: MOTHER of Rome, Delight of Men and Gods, Sweet Venus; who with vital power

    Munro: MOTHER of the Aeneadae, darling of men and gods, increase-giving Venus,

    Bailey: MOTHER of Aeneas’s sons, joy of men and gods, Venus the life-giver,

    Humphries: Creatress, mother of the Roman line, Dear Venus, joy of earth and joy of heaven,

    Leonard: Mother of Rome, delight of Gods and men, Dear Venus that beneath the gliding stars

    MF Smith: Mother of Aeneas’ people, delight of human beings and the gods,

  • Voluptas was also a goddess, signifying sensual pleasure, granddaughter of Venus--alternatively, an aspect of Venus herself--and her Greek equivalent was Hedone.

    Delight makes for a good English translation in part because it is 'higher in tone'--more suited to an archaic form like Latin epic verse. It has the same Latin root as 'delectable', and there are also metrical considerations. "de-LIGHT of GODS and MEN" is iambic, the standard English poetic foot. Delight of gods and men...the darling buds of May.

    Pleasure breaks up the flow. This is true even in prose, though it wouldn't be as strongly felt.

  • "DELIGHT of Humane kind, and Gods above,

    Parent of Rome; Propitious Queen of Love,

    Whose vital pow’r, Air, Earth, and Sea supplies,

    And breeds what e’r is born beneath the rowling Skies:

    For every kind, by thy prolifique might,

    Springs, and beholds the Regions of the light."

    John Dryden translation in heroic couplets; rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter. Dryden is already taking liberties with the meter in the second line, bit he nails the first line and that sets the tone.

  • Don looking at the above Latin Dictionary entry for "voluptas" -- it occurs to me that delight sounds like a mental pleasure, and where as plain old "pleasure" is in the body.

    (Just my take on it).

  • Don looking at the above Latin Dictionary entry for "voluptas" -- it occurs to me that delight sounds like a mental pleasure, and where as plain old "pleasure" is in the body.

    I guess you could say it's all bodily in some ways since the mind resides in the body?

  • We also have to consider the motives of the early translators. Most of them in their frontmatter went to great lengths to disavow the main tenets of the poem. One published anonymously, another vowed that she would feed it to the fire if she still had it in her hands. Delight is a gray area. Pleasure is subversive.

  • I don't know if this helps, but I'm checking some translations into Spanish.

    Abbe Marchena (1791): Engendradora del romano pueblo / placer de hombres y dioses, alma Venus (Marchena's translation is the most popular.)

    Francisco Socas (2003): Engendradora de los Enéadas, placer de hombres y dioses, nutricia Venus

    Victoria Pégolo et. al. (2020): Engendradora de los Enéadas, impulso vital de los hombres y de los dioses, nutricia Venus

    In Spanish is a little more frequent the use of the word "pleasure /placer", although it's interesting that an abbe in a catholic country like Spain in XVIII century used that word.