“apparently bent on oblivion, his poem abruptly changed course and found its way back”

by gertekoo

I like Sarah Bakewell’s article on Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, perhaps because my thinking about life and its meaning have been deeply influenced by both Lucretius and Michel de Montaigne. Bakewell’s biography of Montaigne,  How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer, is apparently well reviewed, and definitely next on my reading list.

Every year, I find delight in annoying my engineering students by reading aloud, in Lucretius’s beautiful Latin, a number of lines relevant to Brownian motion during my lectures on probability:

contemplator enim, cum solis lumina cumque
inserti fundunt radii per opaca domorum:
multa minuta modis multis per inane videbis
corpora misceri radiorum lumine in ipso
et velut aeterno certamine proelia pugnas
edere turmatim certantia nec dare pausam
conciliis et discidiis exercita crebris, …

Annoying, well perhaps not, my hope is that at least some feel the attraction of the sounds and cadence, and the lure of ideas barely making it through the centuries, to be taken up and given new vigor when the time is right for them.

Update: I’m thinking “Lucretius’s” to be one of those cases where the “s” in “s’s” should be dropped, because it really sounds too ugly.