Body into Body: Lucretius De Rerum Natura 4.1096-1120

Just as when a thirsty man, in his sleep, attempts to take a drink but the moisture needed to extinguish the fire in his limbs is no where to be found; so instead he looks for images of liquids and struggles in vain and drinking in the middle of a roaring river he is still thirsty.   In the same way, Venus, in matters of the heart, teases lovers with images; and these lovers, even when face to face and looking at one another’s actual bodies, can’t satisfy themselves; and even when their hands are wandering  hesitantly over one another’s body they are not able to scrape off anything of  their lover’s tender limbs.  And when, at last, with limbs entwined, they enjoy the fruit of their age, and when their bodies are on the point of ecstasy, and Venus is on the edge of sowing the woman’s field,  they greedily join their bodies and mix together the saliva of their mouths, and breathing into each other they press teeth on mouths. But all this is in vain since they are still not able to scrape off anything from each other, or to penetrate one another or to enter completely into one another—body into body; they often seem to not only want this but they also struggle to do this. And so they longingly cling together in the bonds of Love and, shaken by the force of their pleasure, their limbs melt away.  Finally, when the desire, mounting from their pleasure, bursts forth, there is a brief pause in this violent passion at least for a little.  But once again, this same madness returns and that fury revisits them.  When they are desirous and look to hold onto something—but they aren’t sure what—they are unable to find  a way to conquer the ache.  And so,uncertain, they waste away from this mysterious wound.


My reading of Sade and a recent thread from @Noxrpm on Twitter inspired me to spend some time translating this section of De Rerum Natura.



Filed under Classics

6 responses to “Body into Body: Lucretius De Rerum Natura 4.1096-1120

  1. I really enjoyed this, and the marvellous e e cummings drawing too. I read Lucretius (in English, I’m afraid) as a student and really enjoyed it. As always, your translations make me want to look at the Latin; I’d never seen any Lucretius in Latin before and some of it is very strange, particularly the verbs ending in -ast. Is this variety, alternative usage or change over time?


  2. Bianca

    I don’t possess a Twitter account but continue to read your feed. I’d like to recommend a Cixous book I am currently reading and continue to be thunderstruck by: Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing. A book for writers. And readers. What I especially love is the way Cixous engages other authors: Lispector, Bachmann and especially Kafka. I am reminded of A Lover’s Discourse.

    A passage:

    “Those I love go in the direction of what they call the last hour—what Clarice Lispector calls, “the hour of the star,” “the hour of relinquishing all the lies that have helped us live.

    Writing or saying the truth is equivalent to death, since we cannot tell the truth. It is forbidden because it hurts everyone. We never say the truth, we must lie, mostly as a result of our two needs: our need for love and cowardice.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. alilauren1970

    Oh, I love this, Melissa. Posts like these remind me that I want to return to Latin at some point. I have too much going on in my life right now, but I hope in the next few years (or maybe when I retire in 20 some years), I can thoroughly review my old Wheelock and start translating Latin like I did in the past. I can’t believe at one point I could actually read Tacitus, Vergil, and Ovid in the original–and that I didn’t continue to pursue Latin.

    I just listed to the In Our Time episode on Catullus that was released this past Thursday. It probably contains information that is not new to you, but I enjoyed listening to it.

    Also I just saw one of the comments about the person not having a Twitter account (I don’t either). But I read your feed and know you wanted to read about music. You might want to check out West’s The Fountain Overflows. It might not fit into your project, but it does explore music through the lens of fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I use Wheelock to teach! It is really the best book you can learn from. I hope you do return to it at some point. So rewarding!

      I’m glad that even people who don’t have a Twitter look at my feed. That’s one nice thing about Twitter is that my blog readers can look at that too. Although, in addition to books, there are lots of photos of my kitties Henry and Rufus!


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