A Little Poem by Leo the Philosopher

This poem is a little strange and might not really project Epicurean beliefs…but I like it any way.


“Fortune, you kindly grant me Epicurus’
sweetest leisure and his delightful peace.
Why do I need the many-pained business of men?
I don’t want wealth, a blind, unstable friend,
Nor honors—human honors are a feeble dream.
Go to hell, Kirkê’s dusky cave: for I am ashamed
To eat the acorns of beasts when I am born from gods.
I hate the sweet, amnesiac fruit of the Lotus-eaters,
And I reject the seduction of the Sirens as an enemy’s song.
But I hope to obtain from the gods the soul-saving bloom,
Moly, an antidote against evil beliefs. And my ears,
I will block firmly with wax to escape innate compulsion.
May I reach the end of my life, saying and writing these things.”

Εὖγε, Τύχη, με ποεῖς ἀπραγμοσύνῃ μ’ ᾿Επικούρου
ἡδίστῃ κομέουσα καὶ ἡσυχίῃ τέρπουσα.
τίπτε δέ μοι χρέος ἀσχολίης πολυκηδέος ἀνδρῶν;
οὐκ ἐθέλω πλοῦτον, τυφλὸν φίλον, ἀλλοπρόσαλλον,
οὐ τιμάς· τιμαὶ δὲ βροτῶν ἀμενηνὸς ὄνειρος·
ἔρρε μοι, ὦ Κίρκης δνοφερὸν σπέος· αἰδέομαι γὰρ
οὐράνιος γεγαὼς βαλάνους ἅτε θηρίον ἔσθειν·
μισῶ Λωτοφάγων γλυκερὴν λιπόπατριν ἐδωδήν,
Σειρήνων τε μέλος καταγωγὸν ἀναίνομαι ἐχθρῶν·
ἀλλὰ λαβεῖν θεόθεν ψυχοσσόον εὔχομαι ἄνθος,
μῶλυ, κακῶν δοξῶν ἀλκτήριον· ὦτα δὲ κηρῷ
ἀσφαλέως κλείσας προφυγεῖν γενετήσιον ὁρμήν.
ταῦτα λέγων τε γράφων τε πέρας βιότοιο κιχείην.

Leo the Philosopher is from the 8th century CE! He is also called Leo the Mathematician.


There Must Be Other Worlds, Apart from Ours

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.1048-1066

“To begin: in all directions around us—
Including both sides, above and below, everywhere,
There is no end; as I have explained and as the truth itself
declares on its own and the nature of this depth shines through.
There is then no way it can be considered probable—
When there is empty space without limit to all sides
And where the seeds of creation spread in uncountable numbers
In every direction speeding in a timeless motion—
That ours is the only round earth and sky that has been made,
That so many bodies of material in space do nothing.
This is especially true since this world was made by nature,
Since the seeds of everything by their own will came together
Driven in many different ways, in vain, in frustration,
Until that point when some gathered together which, when connected,
Will always form the core of magnificent things,
Of the earth, sea, the sky and the species of life.
Therefore, I say again and again that you must admit
That there are other collocations of life elsewhere,
Such as this of ours which the hungry sky holds in place.”

Principio nobis in cunctas undique partis
et latere ex utroque supterque per omne
nulla est finis; uti docui, res ipsaque per se 1050
vociferatur, et elucet natura profundi.
nullo iam pacto veri simile esse putandumst,
undique cum vorsum spatium vacet infinitum
seminaque innumero numero summaque profunda
multimodis volitent aeterno percita motu, 1055
hunc unum terrarum orbem caelumque creatum,
nil agere illa foris tot corpora materiai;
cum praesertim hic sit natura factus et ipsa
sponte sua forte offensando semina rerum
multimodis temere in cassum frustraque coacta 1060
tandem coluerunt ea quae coniecta repente
magnarum rerum fierent exordia semper,
terrai maris et caeli generisque animantum.
quare etiam atque etiam talis fateare necesse est
esse alios alibi congressus materiai, 1065
qualis hic est, avido complexu quem tenet aether.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1. 1164-1174: Entropy Strikes! (slowly)

Some more Lucretius to lighten a day’s burden:

“Now as he shakes his head slowly the ancient plowman
whispers that his great labors have amounted to nothing
and when he compares his life’s work to former times
he often praises the good fortunes of his father.
It is sad but true: the caretaker of the shriveled vine
blames the passage of time and carps about his generation,
complaining how the older world so full of devotion
managed to support life with much slighter means,
when each man was apportioned a smaller bit of land.
He does not understand that all things deteriorate over time
in the approach to the journey’s end, worn out by the ancient span of years.”


iamque caput quassans grandis suspirat arator
crebrius, in cassum magnos cecidisse labores,               
et cum tempora temporibus praesentia confert
praeteritis, laudat fortunas saepe parentis.
tristis item vetulae vitis sator atque <vietae>
temporis incusat momen saeclumque fatigat,
et crepat, antiquum genus ut pietate repletum               
perfacile angustis tolerarit finibus aevom,
cum minor esset agri multo modus ante viritim;
nec tenet omnia paulatim tabescere et ire
ad capulum spatio aetatis defessa vetusto.