Lucretius vs Intelligent Design

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Lucretius vs Intelligent Design

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Fev 3, 2010, 8:24am

I'm reading Lucretius' The Nature of things for class right now, and I have to say, some of the stuff he says just sounds strikingly modern. Everything from refuting the idea of gods taking an active role in humanity, to knocking the idea that the universe was created just for us, and even seemingly, the idea that it was created at all since, as he says, if it were created by supreme being(s), would it really be so flawed?

Anyway it's a good read so far. I recommend the A.E. Stallings translation from Penguin; she has managed to translate it in rhyming pairs of lines with 14 beats. Usually I find rhyming translations clunky and distracting, but not so with this version :-)

Fev 3, 2010, 9:42am

hmmm ... sounds interesting ... I only have 74 books in queue right now so maybe that can be 75 ...

Fev 3, 2010, 12:53pm

Well I get the feeling it's one of those books that you could be just as well served by reading a condensed version of it with just the juicy bits, since he does kind of repeat himself an awful lot. Still recommended either way :-D

Fev 3, 2010, 6:50pm

To Feicht:

I also find rhyming translations "clunky and distracting". An exception is John Dryden's Aeneid of Vergil. (Maybe it's just that I like 17th century English). So thanks for mentioning the Stallings translation; I''ll look into it, to see if it's another exc eption.

Fev 3, 2010, 6:57pm

That was why I originally read Homer in the Butler prose translation. I must say that re-reading it in Lattimore's verse on Feicht's recommendation is wonderful and Lattimore does not try to force the ancient Greek to rhyme in English, thank Zeus!

Editado: Fev 3, 2010, 7:16pm

I first encountered Homer in the Butler and --whoever it was-- translation (prose) of the Odyssey -- 9th grade. I could hardly,at the time, imagine any other translation. When I looked into the Lang ,Leaf and Myers Iliad}, I had a working knowledge of Homeric Greek and didn't so much need a translation, but thought it was as good as the Butler Odyssey. I also like A.T. Murray's Iliad in the Loeb Classical Library. Especially his t r. of what the first (adn only) instance of writing in Homer: "signs, full many and deadly" (semeata lugra, . . .polla , mal' ". I don;'t mind a little pseudo-archaism. One of my teachers, Cedric Whitman said, oseomewhat dispariginlgy, that these calssic Iliad/Odyssey translators were imitating the King James Bible, in style.

One thing the Butcher/Butler,Lang, Leaf, Myers Schol did get right was to call the Greek deities by their Greek names. Even Joyce, in writing Ulysses instead of "Odysseus" hadn't got that far. Almost anyone of the old translator's era would have called Poseidon "Neptune", Zeus "Jupiter", Athena "Minerva" and so on.

COrrection "Semeata" in the Iliad Quote, should be "semata" (and the e is an eta, not an epsilon; I cna't make macrons on this keyboard.)

Fev 3, 2010, 8:07pm

After class today, I learned that apparently my prof hates the translation of Lucretius we're using, haha. He claimed that the PREVIOUS Penguin edition (which didn't rhyme) was one of the best English translations of a Latin work ever.

But whatever, like I said, I do actually like the Stallings translation, so whaddya gonna do :-)

Fev 3, 2010, 8:26pm

When the professor states his preference for a translation, does he indicate that it is more literal, better conveys the sense, more readable in English?

Fev 3, 2010, 9:02pm

With this guy, I'm sure it's a combo of all three. Obviously if you have to force something in Latin to rhyme in English you're going to lose something, so I'm sure it has something to do with that, but he also claims most translations of anything are bad and should just be read in the original. In the main, I think he's right; but with the decline in quality of education over the last, I dunno, 50 years or so, that's not really a realistic option.

Fev 3, 2010, 10:31pm

Obviously if you have to force something in Latin to rhyme in English you're going to lose something, so I'm sure it has something to do with that

But don't you have Lucretius himself on your side for this one? I thought Epicurus said that his philosophy wasn't supposed to be described in poetry at all, because nuances could be lost by forcing the ideas to fit the meter, but Lucretius chose poetry anyway because expressing the ideas that way made them more memorable.

Fev 3, 2010, 10:39pm

He says himself in the poem (over and over....and over again) that he has rendered his thoughts on Epicurean philosophy into poetic form as a way to make the sour taste of a serious topic more palatable for most people; his favourite metaphor is that he is rubbing honey on the brim of the cup filled with foul tasting medicine.

Editado: Fev 5, 2010, 12:34pm

I'm reading the part now where Lucretius is talking about puberty and sex... mindblowing in its hilarity :-D

"For those in adolescence's riptide, when Manhood has made
Seed in their limbs for the first time--then images invade,
Images of some random body or other--bringing news
Of a lovely face and radiant complexion's rosy hues.
This irritates and goads the organs, swollen hard with seed--
Such that frequently, as if he'd really done the deed,
A youth floods forth a gush of semen and so he stains the sheet."


Fev 5, 2010, 1:05pm

et tu Brute.

Fev 5, 2010, 2:40pm

maybe that is how Homer became blind?

Fev 5, 2010, 2:40pm

On #12:

I don't recall the lLatin of this, but it's probably a good example of how trying to rhyme can make the translation awkward, or even make it inaccurate. at le times. (I don't think thiss one is inaccurate).

It is all the more interesting, if the reader remembers that "images" (simulacra) in Lucretius's philosophy did not mean something unreal, but, as dreams were, too, something no more nor no less r real than what we commonly call "reality.".

Fev 5, 2010, 8:22pm

Yeah I'm sure it's better in the Latin, but what can ya do? :-D

Speaking of simulcra, he also has a section in the same chapter I believe, where he asserts that dreams and other images we imagine are made of the same "atoms" as everything else is...essentially that they are real while they exist, and then die as soon as we stop thinking about them. Kind of an interesting take on the concept.

Fev 5, 2010, 9:26pm

#12 HAHA