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The Nature of Things (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 18, 2007


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (December 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447962
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447965
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

One of the most extraordinary classical translations of recent times -- Peter Stothard Times Literary Supplement A.E. Stallings's brilliant recent translation -- Eric Orrmsby Wall Street Journal

About the Author

Titus Lucretius Carus (who died c.50 BC) was an Epicurean poet writing in the middle years of the first century BC. His six-book Latin hexameter poem De rerum natura survives virtually intact, although it is disputed whether he lived to put the finishing touches to it. As well as being a pioneering figure in the history of philosophical poetry, Lucretius has come to be our primary source of information on Epicurean physics, the official topic of his poem. A. E. Stallings was born in 1968. She grew up in Decatur, GA, and was educated at the University of Georgia and Oxford University in classics. Her poetry has appeared in The Best American Poetry (1994 and 2000) and has received numerous awards, including a Pushcart Prize (Pushcart Prize Anthology XXII), the 1997 Eunice Tietjens Prize from Poetry and the third annual James Dickey Prize from Five Points. Richard Jenkyns is Professor of the Classical Tradition, University of Oxford, a Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and author of a number of books including Dignity and Decadence: Some Classical Aspects of Victorian Art and Architecture and The Victorians and Ancient Greece.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Should be required reading.
coastalkate
I still read Latin well-enough to know this is an accurate as well as enjoyable translation.
B. F. Mooney
On the Nature of Things by Lucretius is an amazing work.
MDCRABGUY

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

257 of 262 people found the following review helpful By Owen Cramer on July 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lucretius missed being translated in full by any of the classic English early modern translators: Chapman, Dryden, Pope. (Dryden did tantalizing selections) So it's fitting that Stallings goes back to those roots with a translation in rhymed fourteeners (think ballad form: da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum/da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, in couplets). There are a number of reasonably good translations available, including Latham's reliable prose in the older Penguin Classics edition, but this is the most ambitious modern attempt at a full, poetic translation of what is both (in Latin) a marvelous, sonorous epic poem and a fascinating account of Epicurean philosophy (serious, scientific, respectful of the gods but the opposite of conventional piety, mordantly disrespectful of love and politics).
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195 of 202 people found the following review helpful By John Scott on April 30, 2010
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After reading the work in two other translations, I was very pleased to find this one. In my opinion, it's the best. The artistry is still there, but the meaning isn't being sacrificed for the sake of poetry. For me, that's important.
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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful By sojourner on January 20, 2012
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Lucretius' poem DE RERUM NATURA is still revolutionary, fundamental to a view of the world that is materialist, atheist and humanist at the same time. The text's influence on civilized thought has been immense and yet, somehow clandestine, not unlike a samizdat.
Ms. Stallings has translated the Latin into English rhyme with admirable ease and fluency; reading, I find passages enrapturing me; it is amazing how elegantly the English language lends itself to this transformation of Latin, as compared to the stiffness of my native German.
Readers who do not know Lucretius might learn the trick from him to look at life with cold yet loving eyes, at the same time enjoying the unique presentation of his ideas in rhyme of the most sophisticated kind, thanks to a superb translation.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By amk on April 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Mind-boggling. Jaw-dropping. Incredible. These are just some of the superlatives that come to mind when thinking back about what I had read in "On the Nature of Things." I first learned of the book's existence while listening to "Hmmm...", an NPR show hosted by Robert Krulwich. That episode featured Stephen Greenblatt, the author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, a book about how "On the Nature of Things" was rediscovered, put back out into the world, and how it influenced important historical figures, such as Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and Thomas Jefferson.

"On the Nature of Things" was written over 2,000 years ago by a philosopher who prescribed to the thoughts and beliefs of Epicurus. Epicurus believed that everything in this universe was made of atoms and that these atoms arranged and rearranged themselves into everything that we see and touch, without any help from the gods. I was continuously in shock when I read Lucretius touch upon natural selection, talk about how these atoms had to have arranged themselves into a planet with life on it in a distant part of the universe, and more.

Do yourselves a favor. Read this book and then read The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. Incredible.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Big John on March 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book in paperback, as a reference for an e-book. I now wish I'd gotten a Kindle version. The introduction is worth the price of the book. Reading the the translation requires patience, a good dictionary and perhaps a copy of Bullfinch. If that sounds appealing to you, go for it. I'm glad I did.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William A. Hudson on August 19, 2012
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My life is far richer for having met Lucretius, a Roman disciple of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. Reading Lucretius' great unfinished poem, The Nature of Things, I got to know a wonderfully curious, intelligent, and humane observer of nature. A.E. Stallings's fluent translation and delightful notes bring Lucretius' words to life while encouraging the reader to learn enough Latin to experience the original. Definitely one for your bucket list - but why wait? You will understand why Thomas Jefferson wrote toward the end of his life: "I TOO AM AN EPICUREAN. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing every thing rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lois-ellin Datta on February 27, 2014
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ABOUT DE RERUM NATURA--THE NATURE OF THINGS

Stephen Greenblatt, in "The Swerve: How the World Became Modern" re-ignited interest in a long poem by Titus Lucretius Carus, who lived around the time of Augustus. As Greenblatt tells the fascinating story, the papal secretary, Poggio, searching for old Latin and Greek manuscripts, found a tattered copy of the previously unknown De Rerum Natura in an alpine monastery.

Master of church theology, calligraphy and Latin, Poggio recognized the fiery nature of Lucretius' work and gave thought to the fiery nature of the Inquisition. Copies of the manuscript circulated at first only cautiously and only to a few trusted friends. Lucretius' ideas, expressed in noble poetry, challenged thinking of earth as divinely created for the use of man and of a Creator to be worshipped in awe, fear, and trembling.

Lucretius, following Greek philosopher Epicurus & his school, sees everything evolving from the dance of atoms, infinite in number in an infinite space. These irreducible entities cannot be divided, created, or destroyed. The atoms are unceasingly in random motion. Some collide & veer off; some collide and stick. These atomic clusters form other clusters; and over enough time and enough collisions, they form all we know, from galaxies, gastropods and us. When we die, the bonds dissolve, and the atoms continue the eternal dance of creation, evolution, dissolution.

There are, writes Lucretius, no gods and if there were or are, they have no interest in us. So there is no reason for us to sacrifice Iphegenias for fair winds so the Greek fleet can sail from Aulis to Troy, no reason to be afraid of or worshipful to the gods, and no reason, for ourselves to fear of death or anticipate some future mystic bliss.
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