This terror, then, this darkness of the mind,
Not sunrise with its flaring spokes of light,
Nor glittering arrows of morning can disperse,
But only Nature’s aspect and her law,
Which, teaching us, hath this exordium:
Nothing from nothing every yet was born.
Fear holds dominion over mortality
Only because, seeing in land and sky
So much the cause whereof no wise they know,
Men think Divinities are working there.
Meantime, when once we know from nothing still
Nothing can be create, we shall divine
More clearly what we seek: those elements
From which alone all things created are,
And how accomplished by no tool of Gods.
Suppose all sprang from all things: any kind
Might take its origin from any thing,
No fixed seed required….
But, since produced from fixed seeds are all,
Each birth goes forth upon the shores of light
From its own stuff, from its own primal bodies.
And all from all cannot become, because
In each resides a secret power its own. — On the Nature of Things, Book I, 146-passim.
Titus Lucretius Carus (ca. 99 BC–ca. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher. Perhaps in imitation of the early pre-Socratic philosophers, Lucretius wrote his major philosophical treatise, De rerum natura (“The Nature of Things”) in verse. His only work to survive antiquity, this poem outlined in vivid and even dramatic details the materialist hows and whys of the universe according to the Epicurean view of things. His work greatly influenced the Augustan poets, especially Virgil and Horace.