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Browne 1743 Edition - Book 1
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 MOTHER of Rome, Delight of Men and Gods, Sweet Venus; who with vital power dost fill the sea bearing the ships, the fruitful Earth, all things beneath the rolling signs of Heaven; for ‘tis by Thee creatures of every kind conceive, rise into life, and view the Sun’s bright beams. Thee Goddess, Thee the winds avoid; the clouds fly Thee, and thy approach; with various art the Earth for Thee affords her sweetest flowers; for Thee the sea’s rough waves put on their smiles, and the smooth sky shines with diffused light. For when the buxom Spring leads on the year, and genial gales of western winds blow fresh, unlock’d from Winter’s cold, the airy birds first feel Thee Goddess, and express thy power; thy active flame strikes though their very souls. And then the savage beasts, with wanton play, frisk o’er the cheerful fields, and swim the rapid streams. So pleased with thy sweetness, so transported by thy soft charms, all living Nature strives, with sharp desire, to follow Thee, her Guide, where Thou art pleased to lead. In short, Thy power, inspiring every breast with tender love, drives every creature on with eager heat, in seas, in mountains, and in swiftest floods, in leafy forests, and in verdant plains, to propagate their kind from age to age.
 Since Thou alone dost govern Nature’s laws, and nothing without Thee can rise to light, without Thee nothing can look gay or lovely; I beg Thee a companion to my lays, which now I sing of Nature, I devote to my dear Memmius, whom Thou art ever pleased, sweet Goddess, to adorn with every grace; for him, kind Deity, inspire my song, and give immortal beauty to my verse. Mean time, the bloody tumults of the war by sea and land compose, and lay asleep. For Thou alone mankind with quiet peace canst bless; because ‘tis Mars Armipotent that rules the bloody tumults of the war, and He by everlasting pains of love bound fast, tastes in Thy lap most sweet repose, turns back his smooth long neck, and views thy charms, and greedily sucks love at both his eyes. Supinely as he rests his very soul hangs on thy lips; this God dissolv’d in ease, in the soft moments when thy heavenly limbs cling round him, melting with eloquence caress, great Goddess, and implore a peace for Rome.
 For neither can I write with cheerful strains, in times so sad, nor can the noble House of Memmius desert the common good in such distress of things. The hours you spare apply with close attention to my verse, and free from care receive true reason’s rules; nor these my gifts, prepared with faithful pains, reject with scorn before they are understood. For I begin to write of lofty themes, of Gods, and of the motions of the sky, the rise of things, how all things Nature forms, and how they grow, and to perfection rise, and into what, by the same Nature’s laws, those things resolve and die; which as I write I call by various names; sometimes ‘tis matter, or the first principles or seeds of things, or first of bodies, whence all else proceed.
 For the whole nature of the Gods must spend an Immortality in softest peace, removed from our affairs, and separated by distance infinite; from sorrow free; secure from danger; in its own happiness sufficient, and nought of ours can want, is neither pleased with good, nor vexed with Ill.
 Indeed mankind, in wretched bondage held, lay groveling on the ground, galled with the yoke of what is called Religion; from the sky this tyrant shewed her head, and with grim looks hung over us poor mortals here below; until a man of Greece with steady eyes dared look her in the face, and first opposed her power. Him not the fame of Gods nor thunder’s roar kept back, nor threatening tumults of the sky; but still the more they roused the active virtue of his aspiring soul, as he pressed forward first to break thro’ Nature's scanty bounds. His mind’s quick force prevailed; and so he passed by far the flaming limits of this world, and wander’d with his comprehensive soul o’er all the mighty space; from thence returned triumphant; told us what things may have a being, and what cannot; and how a finite power is fixed to each; a bound it cannot break; and so Religion, which we feared before, by him subdued, we tread upon in turn; his conquest makes us equal to the Gods.
But in these things I fear you will suspect you are learning impious rudiments of reason, and entering in a road of wickedness. So far from this, reflect what sad flagitious deeds Religion has produced; by her inspired the Grecian chiefs, the first of men, at Aulis, Diana’s altar shamefully defiled with with Iphigenia’s blood; her virgin hair a fillet bound, which hung in equal length on either side of her face; she saw her father, cover’d with sorrow, stand before the altar; for pity to his grief the butchering priests concealed the knife; the city at the sight o’erflowed with tears; the virgin, dumb with fear; fell low upon her knees on the hard Earth; in vain the wretched princess in distress pleaded that she first gave the honored name of Father to the King; but hurried off, and dragged by wicked hands, she trembling stood before the altar: Alas! not as a virgin, the solemn forms being duly done, is drawn with pleasing force to Hymen’s noble rites, but a chaste maid, just ripe for nuptial joy, falls a sad victim by a father’s hand, only to beg a kind propitious gale for Grecian ships; such Scenes of villainy Religion could inspire!
But still I fear your caution will dispute the maxims I lay down, who all your life have trembled at the poets' frightful tales. Alas! I could even-now invent such dreams as would pervert the steadiest rules of reason, and make your fortunes tremble to the bottom. No wonder! But if Men were once convinced that death was the sure end of all their pains, they might with reason then resist the force of all Religion, and contemn the threats of poets. Now we have no sense, no power, to strive against prejudice, because we fear a scene of endless torments after death.
And yet the nature of the soul we know not, whether formed with the body, or at the birth infused; and then, by death cut off, she perishes as bodies do; or whether she descends to the dark caves and dreadful lakes of Hell; or, after death, inspired with heavenly Instinct, she retires into the Brutes, as our great Ennius sung, who first a crown of laurels ever green brought down from Helicon; which gained him fame through all the Italian Coasts. And yet this man, in never-dying numbers, describes the stately Palaces of Acheron, where nor our souls or bodies ever come, but certain spectres strange and wond’rous pale; from whence he tells how Homer’s ever celebrated shade appeared, and how his eyes began to flow with briny tears, as in immortal verse he sung of Nature and her secret laws.
Wherefore, I shall not only accurately write of things above, as how the Sun and Moon their courses run, and by what power beings in Earth and Heaven are formed, but chiefly search with nicest care into the soul and what her Nature is. What ‘tis that meets our wakeful eyes, and frights the mind; and how, by sickness or by sleep oppressed, we think we see, or hear the voice of those who died long since, whose mould’ring bones rot in the cold embraces of the grave.
I know ‘tis hard to explain in Latin verse the dark and mystic notions of the Greeks, (for I have things to say require new words) because the tongue is poor, the subject new. But your virtue, and the pleasures I expect from tender friendship, makes me bear the toil, and spend the silent night with wakeful eyes, studious of words and numbers I shall use, to open your minds such scenes of light, which shew the hidden qualties of things unknown.
These terrors of the mind, this darkness then, not the Sun’s beams, nor the bright rays of day, can e’er dispel, but Nature’s light and reason; Whose first of principles shall be my guide: Nothing was by the Gods of nothing made. For hence it is that fear disturbs the mind, that strange events in Earth and Heaven are seen, whose causes cannot appear by reason’s eye, and then we say they were from Powers Divine. But when we rest convinced that nothing can arise from nothing, then the way is clear to our pursuit; we distinctly see whence every thing comes into being, and how things are formed without the help and trouble of the Gods.
If things proceed from nothing, every thing might spring from any thing, and want no seed; Men from the sea might first arise, and fish and birds break from the Earth, and herds and tender flocks drop from the sky, and every kind of beast fix’d to no certain place, might find a being in deserts or in cultivated fields: Nor the same fruit on the same trees would grow, but would be chang’d, and all things all things bear. For had not every thing its genial seed, how is it that every thing derives its birth from causes still the same? But now, since things are formed from certain seeds, and first rise into light, where every being has its principles and matter fitly framed, from hence we see that all things cannot spring from every thing, since each has certain secret properties peculiar to itself.
Besides, why do we see the rose adorn the Spring, the fruits in Summer, and the sweaty Autumn pressing the vine, unless the fixed seeds of things, uniting in their proper times, give life to beings, each in its stated season, while Mother Earth can trust her tender offspring with safety to the air. But if things proceed from nothing, in a moment they might spring at times uncertain, at quarters of the year unfit, and there would be no proper seeds, whose kindly influence might check their growth at seasons that would kill them in the bud.
Again, if things could spring from nought, what need of time for bodies to fulfill their growth by accession of new matter? An infant then might instantly become a youth, and trees start up in full perfection from the Earth. But ‘tis not so, ‘tis plain; for things, we know, grow by degrees from certain seeds, and still as they grow keep their kind; and thus you find each being rise into bulk, and thrives from seed and matter proper to itself.
Nor likewise can the Earth produce her fruits to cheer the heart, unless with timely showers impregnated; nor can creatures, blessed with life, deprived of food, e’er propagate their kind, or save their own lifes; and so you safer say that certain fixed principles belong to certain things, as letters form our words, than that from nothing any thing can rise.
Further, whence is it that Nature cannot shew men so gigantic as on foot to wade through seas, or with their hands to tear up mighty hills, or to surpass the common bounds of life, by many ages, but that certain seeds are fixed to all things, whence they must arise? And so we must confess that nothing springs from nothing, since each kind must proceed from seed, the principle whence every creature derives its life, and feels the gentle air.
Besides, because we find the Earth, improved by care, exceeds the uncultivated soil, and by turning up the fruitful clods, by ploughing, and, by breaking up the ground, we force to spring, but then, if no such seeds lay there, the fruits, without our labor would of their own accord improve, and of themselves prevent our care.
Add here, that Nature does dissolve all bodies into their principles again, nor can reduce things into nothing.
For if every being was liable to death through all its substance, snatched from our eyes, it would directly perish; no need of violence to make a breach in all its parts, and loose the vital bands. But now since things are formed from eternal seeds, Nature wills that nothing be destroyed unless some force prevails, which beats with blows its outward form, or pierces through the pores with subtle art and so dissolves the frame.
Besides, such things as are removed by age, if time destroys them quite in all its parts, whence does the Power of Love restore to light the several race of beings? Whence the Earth, with nicest art, does nourish them when born, and makes them grow, and feeds with proper food each its kind? Whence do the bounteous springs and rivers, with their wandering streams from far, supply the sea? The air whence feed the stars? For that vast tract of time already past had long ago consumed things that were formed from mortal seed; but if those bodies which compose this universe of things were still supplied through all that space and periods of time that passed long since, they must surely consist of an immortal nature, and from death secure, can never into nothing fall.
Again, the same violence would everywhere destroy all beings, if the eternal power of matter did not hold fast their close compacted frame in bonds more strong or weak; a single touch would surely be the cause of death, for things formed out of mortal seed by any force must perish, and their frame be quite dissolved; but now, because the union of seeds of bodies differs, which consist of matter eternal in its nature, every being is safe from danger til some proper force, proportioned to its texture, makes the assault. So nothing can return to nothing; every thing resolves by separation of its parts into its principles from whence it spring.
Lastly, the rains that Father Aether pours into the womb of mother earth do seem to perish there, but strait fair fruits spring up; the boughs grow green upon the trees, their limbs increase, and bend beneath a load of fruit; hence all living race of men and beasts are fed, our gallant cities filled with youth, our leafy woods resound with songs of birds new fledged; the weary flocks grow fat, repose their bodies on the fertile plains, while the white milky humour from their dugs distended flows; and hence their sprightly young, in wanton play, frisk with their tender limbs over the soft grass, cheering their little hearts with the pure milk; and therefore things we see do not entirely die. Nature still renews one being by another, nor does she suffer one thing to be unless supplied with matter from something else that was dissolved before.
And now, since I have taught that nothing can proceed from nothing, nor can things, once formed, to nothing be reduced, lest you by chance should doubt my reasons, since the seeds of things cannot be seen with naked eyes; hear further, that there are seeds of bodies (and you must confess there are) impervious to the sight.
And first, the raging force of winds does lash the sea, o'erthrow vast ships, and chase the clouds; sometimes they scour the plains with furious storms, and spread them o'er with tallest trees, and vex the lofty hills with blasts that rend the woods. And so they bluster with a dreadful sound, and roar with threatening noise through the air. These winds are therefore bodies to the eyes unseen, which scour the sea, the lands, the clouds, and toss them, thus tormented, with their blasts. They act the same, and spread destruction round as a still stream, increased by sudden rain, and swelled by torrents pouring from the hills, the effect of driving showers, is born along, rending the limbs of trees, and then whole woods: Nor can the strongest bridges bear the force, so sudden, of the rushing flood; the stream, made mad by hasty rains, beats on the dams with force impetuous, swells through the breach with horrid noise, and rolls the massy stones under its waves, and breaks what stops its tide. Just so the hurricanes of wind drive on which way they point their blasts, like mighty floods, force all before them, beat with frequent strokes; sometimes they snatch with rapid turns, and while things as they roll in eddies through the air. These winds, 'tis plain, are bodies still unseen, since by their furious blasts they rival in their force the largest streams, which bodies are we own.
Besides, we feel the various smells of things, but can't discern how they affect the nose; nor can we see the raging heat, nor with our eyes perceive the cold, nor can we see a voice; all which by nature are of bodies formed, because they make an impression on the sense, for nothing but body can be touched, or touch.
Again, a garment hung up nigh the shore, that breaks the waves, grows wet, and, to the Sun expanded, dries; yet no one ever saw how the moist vapor fix'd, or how again it fled before the heat; the watery drops must be dissolved into small parts too subtle to be at all discovered by the eye.
But further, after circling many years, a ring upon the finger wears away, the fall of dropping water hollows stones, the crooked plough-share, though of iron, wastes in the fields insensibly by use; we see the streets, paved with hard stones, worn out by frequent tread of passengers; the brazen statues nigh the gates shew their right hands made less by many a kiss of those who worship, or who pass along. These things we see shew less and less, and wear; but what a share of matter every time is brushed off, nature in envy to us has not indulged the faculty to see.
Lastly, what every day and nature do bestow on beings, to make them grow by just degress, not the most piercing eye could ever find, nor yet the particles that fly and waste by age or by decay; nor can you see by what degrees the rocks are eaten through by the corroding salt of dashing waves: thus Nature works by bodies not discerned.
And yet all beings are not formed of close and solid parts; in things there is a void, which in your searches into nature will be of use to know. This will preserve your wandering mind from doubt, prevent your constant toil by judging right of nature's laws, and make my words believed.
Wherefore there is a place we call a void, an empty space intangible, or else no bodies could be moved, or stir; the quality all bodies have to stop and to oppose does never fail, so that to move would be in vain to try, no body first by yielding would give way. But now we see before our eyes that things move various ways in seas, in Earth, and in the heaven above; but where there no void, they would not be deprived of that activity of motion only, but would not be at all; for matter wedged and crowded close on every side had ever been at rest.
Besides, though things appear of solid parts composed, yet you will find them, in some measure, formed of bodies that are rare; the liquid moisture of the water sweats through rocks and stones, and all things weep with drops abundand; the food that every creature eats disperses through the body; the trees increase and grow and in due season shew their fruit; because the juice is from the lowe roots spread through the trunk, and over all the boughs. Sounds pass through strong partitions, and fly quick through walls of houses, and the piercing cold srikes through the very bones; but were no void, no empty space, that bodies ever should pass, you'd find a thing impossible to prove.
Again, why do we see some things exceed others in weight, though of equal size? For if as much of body went to form a ball of wool as made a ball of lead, their weight would be the same; for the quality of body is to press downward: but a perfect void by nature has no weight; so that a body of equal size, but lighter in is weight, proves it has more of empty space. So again, the heavier body has more of solid parts 'tis plain, and has within it less of void. And this is doubtless what with reason's searching eye we look for, mixed with things; we call it space.
But I am forced to step before, and answer what some pretend, lest you should be seduced from truth: They say the waters yield to fish making their way, and open their liquid paths; for when the fish have left a space, that instant thither the yielding waters circling flow. By the same rule, all beings may be moved among themselves, and change their former place, though all things should be full: but this, 'tis plain, is false throughout; for how could fish advance at all, unless the waters gave them way? And whither should the waves retire, if the fish did not move, and leave a space behind? So that all bodies must be deprived of motion, or you must say a void is mixed with every thing from whence each being first derives a power to move.
Lastly, if two broad bodies meet, and instantly are separated again, the air must needs fill up the void that is between; but this air, though it should hurry with its swiftest powers, it cannot all at once fill up the space these bodies will disclose at parting; first the nearest part will be filled up, and then the more remote, until the whole be full.
If one should say when these flat bodies meet the air is condensed, but when they part the air is rarified, 'tis a mistake; for then here must be void where there was none before, and that void that was before must now be full; in such a case, the air can't be condensed; and if it could, it can't without a void contract itself, and so reduce its parts into a closer space. Wherefore, perplex the matter as you please, you must confess in things there is a void.
I could by many arguments confirm this system of a void, and fix your faith to what I say, but these small tracks I have drawn, to such a searching mind, will be enough; the rest you may find out without a guide. For as staunch hounds, once put upon the foot, will be nose soon rouse the mountain game from their thick covers, so you, in things like these, will one thing by another trace, will hunt for truth in every dark recess, and draw her thence.
But if you doubt, or in the least object to what I say, I freely promise this, my Memmius, my tuneful tongue shall, from the mighty store that fills my heart, pour out such plenteous draughts from the deep springs, that tardy age I fear will first creep through my limbs, and quite break down the gates of life, before I can explain in verse the many arguments that give a light to one particular. But now I shall go on to finish regularly what I begun.
All nature therefore, in itself considered, is one of these, is body or is space, in which all things are placed, and from which the various motions of all beings spring. That there is body common sense will show, this as a fundamental truth must be allowed, or there is nothing we can fix as certain in our pursuit of hidden things, by which to find the Truth, or prove it when 'tis found. Then if there were no place or space, we call it void, bodies would have no where to be, nor could they move at all, as we have fully proved to you before.