Monday, February 4, 2013


My Twelve year olf grand daughter gave me a book for Christmas. The Swerve, How the Renaissance Began by Stephen Greenblatt (Vintage) ISBN9780099572442 tells about the poem by Lucretius, a Roman Poet who died in 55BC called On the Nature of Things.Greenblatt tells a rivetting story about a fifteenth century book hunter,Poggio Bracciolini, seeking old manuscripts in a monastery in Germany.  When he finds an ancient parchment he recognises it as a copy of A Roman poem which St Jerome tried to supress in the 4th century, yet it was known and quoted in spite of the Inquisition.

According to the ba ck cover Poggio found 'a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas - that the universe functioned without the aid og gods, that religioud fear was damaging human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion. These ideas fuelled the Renaissance, inspiring Boticelly, shaping the thought of Montaigne, Darwin (his grandfather owned a copy) and Einstein.

)f course, after reading 'The Swerve' which is a superb stue story that reads like high quality fiction, I had to get 'On the Nature of Things'.  My copy, translated by Sir Robert Allison, was published by Arghur L Humphries in 1919.

Books 1 and 2, Atoms and the Void. Spenser translated whole chunks of it into The Faerie Queen.So did Shakespeare and Byron. . Lucretius rather contradicts the Big Bang, and intelligent design. There are atoms of infinite shape and number, and the void Over enormous stretches of time atoms swerve and meet and form new shapes, thus the universe evolves.

Books 3 and 4 Psychology, Sensation and Thought. Lucretius was a believer in  the teachings of Epicurus. .This life is all we have, there is  no afterlife.

If you are wondering how all this knowledge was lost for so many centuries ask the Pope, he and his precedents have a great deal to answer for.

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