Durius

630

Et genus humanum multo fuit illud in arvis
durius, ut decuit, tellus quod dura creasset,
et maioribus et solidis magis ossibus intus
fundatum, validis aptum per viscera nervis,
nec facile ex aestu nec frigore quod caperetur
nec novitate cibi nec labi corporis ulla.
multaque per caelum solis volventia lustra
volgivago vitam tractabant more ferarum.
nec robustus erat curvi moderator aratri
quisquam, nec scibat ferro molirier arva
nec nova defodere in terram virgulta neque altis
arboribus veteres decidere falcibus ramos.
quod sol atque imbres dederant, quod terra crearat
sponte sua, satis id placabat pectora donum.
glandiferas inter curabant corpora quercus
plerumque; et quae nunc hiberno tempore cernis
arbita puniceo fieri matura colore,
plurima tum tellus etiam maiora ferebat.
multaque praeterea novitas tum florida mundi
pabula dura tulit, miseris mortalibus ampla.
at sedare sitim fluvii fontesque vocabant,
ut nunc montibus e magnis decursus aquai
claricitat late sitientia saecla ferarum.
denique nota vagis silvestria templa tenebant
nympharum, quibus e scibant umore fluenta
lubrica proluvie larga lavere umida saxa,
umida saxa, super viridi stillantia musco,
et partim plano scatere atque erumpere campo.
(Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.925-952)

Man lived in the open then, a harsher breed
by far, of course, for a harsh earth gave him birth.
The bones of his frame were heavier far, and longer;
the muscles, fast to his inner parts, were strong.
He didn’t succumb with ease to heat or cold
or to strange foods or physical weaknesses.
Through many a cycle the sun made through the heavens,
he lived like a wild beast, wandering far and wide.
There was no sturdy guider of the plow,
and no one knew to soften the soil with steel,
or to plant young saplings in the earth, or cut
dead branches from the trees with pruning hooks.
What sun and rain produced, what earth created
naturally, man took, to his heart’s content.
With oak and acorn he cared for creature needs,
mostly; the arbutes that in wintertime
we now see ripen and turn bright scarlet red,
the earth then bore abundantly, and larger.
Besides, the world, then fresh and green, produced
much coarse foodstuffs, ample for sorry souls.
But springs and rivers bade men slake their thirst,
as now bright waters, racing down the mountains,
call clear and far to the thirsting animal-kinds.
And men in their ramblings found the sylvan haunts
of nymphs, from which they learned that streams of water
flowed smooth and abundant, with cool, wet stones awash
(cool, wet stones, green-curtained with dripping moss)
learned, too, where they bubbled and burst from open fields.
(tr. Frank O. Copley)

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