Sunday, 1 December 2019

Lucretius I, 271-289: storm and rain.


It is now the first of December, start of the meteorological winter, the season of storms. With vivid imagination Lucretius describes the power of the wind, which he – rightly – saw as a stream of small particles and the force of swollen rivers. This text is best read in the evening at the fireplace with a glass of wine or whiskey and the windows closed. Preferably when it storms outside and heavy rain is lashing the streets. Better don’t leave your house!

Lucretius, De Rerum Naturae I, 271-289.

Principio venti vis verberat incita pontum
ingentisque ruit navis et nubila differt,
interdum rapido percurrens turbine campos
arboribus magnis sternit montisque supremos
silvifragis vexat flabris: ita perfurit acri               275
cum fremitu saevitque minaci murmure pontus.
sunt igitur venti ni mirum corpora caeca,
quae mare, quae terras, quae denique nubila caeli
verrunt ac subito vexantia turbine raptant,
nec ratione fluunt alia stragemque propagant               280
et cum mollis aquae fertur natura repente
flumine abundanti, quam largis imbribus auget
montibus ex altis magnus decursus aquai
fragmina coniciens silvarum arbustaque tota,
nec validi possunt pontes venientis aquai               285
vim subitam tolerare: ita magno turbidus imbri
molibus incurrit validis cum viribus amnis,
dat sonitu magno stragem volvitque sub undis
grandia saxa, ruit qua quidquid fluctibus obstat.


vis viris (f.): power
verbero (-are): to beat, strike
pontus: sea (some editions have corpus instead of pontum, like the one used for the translation below)
ingens entis: huge, vast
ingentis navis: acc pl! (= ingentes naves)
ruo rui rutum : to cast down with violence
differo distuli dilatum: to disperse, scatter
interdum: meanwhile
turbo turbinis (m.): whirlwind
campus: open country
sterno stravi stratum: to spread, scatter (cf. street)
montis = montes
supremos montes: mountain tops
silvifragus: crushing trees
vexo (-are): to shake
flabra –orum (n.pl.): blasts, winds
perfuro (-ere): to rage furiously
acri cum fremitus = cum acri fremitus
fremitus –us: loud noise
saevio saevii saevitum: to be fierce, rage
minax minacis: menacing
murmur murmeris (n.): murmer, roar
ni mirum: no wonder
venti is nom. pl. in apposition with corpora caeca: unseen particles
verro (-ere): to sweep
rapto (-are): to snatch, seize
nec ratione alia: nor with another intent = in the same way
strages –is (f.): massacre, destruction
propago (-are): to spread (cf. propaganda)
mollis aquae natura: quietly flowing water (aquae natura is water in Lucr.)
fertur: turns into
repente: suddenly
imber imbris (m.): heavy rain
augeo auxi auctum: to increase
decursus –us (m.): downward stream
aquai: old spelling for aquae
fragmen fragminis (n.): broken piece, fragment
coniciens: piling on each other
arbustum: wood
validus: strong
venientis: attacking
sub-eo –ii –itum: to come under
turbidus: disturbed, wild
molibus: against the piles of a bridge
amnis –is (m.): river
qua quidquid: where anything
obsto obstiti (-are) + dat: to oppose,, hinder

Translation by William Ellery Leonard (1916)

The winds infuriate lash our face and frame,
Unseen, and swamp huge ships and rend the clouds,
Or, eddying wildly down, bestrew the plains
With mighty trees, or scour the mountain tops
With forest-crackling blasts. Thus on they rave
With uproar shrill and ominous moan. The winds,
'Tis clear, are sightless bodies sweeping through
The sea, the lands, the clouds along the sky,
Vexing and whirling and seizing all amain;
And forth they flow and pile destruction round,
Even as the water's soft and supple bulk
Becoming a river of abounding floods,
Which a wide downpour from the lofty hills
Swells with big showers, dashes headlong down
Fragments of woodland and whole branching trees;
Nor can the solid bridges bide the shock
As on the waters whelm: the turbulent stream,
Strong with a hundred rains, beats round the piers,
Crashes with havoc, and rolls beneath its waves
Down-toppled masonry and ponderous stone,
Hurling away whatever would oppose.