Here you will find the Long Poem Book I - Part 06 - Confutation Of Other Philosophers of poet Lucretius

Book I - Part 06 - Confutation Of Other Philosophers

And on such grounds it is that those who held 
The stuff of things is fire, and out of fire 
Alone the cosmic sum is formed, are seen 
Mightily from true reason to have lapsed. 
Of whom, chief leader to do battle, comes 
That Heraclitus, famous for dark speech 
Among the silly, not the serious Greeks 
Who search for truth. For dolts are ever prone 
That to bewonder and adore which hides 
Beneath distorted words, holding that true 
Which sweetly tickles in their stupid ears, 
Or which is rouged in finely finished phrase. 
For how, I ask, can things so varied be, 
If formed of fire, single and pure? No whit 
'Twould help for fire to be condensed or thinned, 
If all the parts of fire did still preserve 
But fire's own nature, seen before in gross. 
The heat were keener with the parts compressed, 
Milder, again when severed or dispersed- 
And more than this thou canst conceive of naught 
That from such causes could become; much less 
Might earth's variety of things be born 
From any fires soever, dense or rare. 
This too: if they suppose a void in things, 
Then fires can be condensed and still left rare; 
But since they see such opposites of thought 
Rising against them, and are loath to leave 
An unmixed void in things, they fear the steep 
And lose the road of truth. Nor do they see, 
That, if from things we take away the void, 
All things are then condensed, and out of all 
One body made, which has no power to dart 
Swiftly from out itself not anything- 
As throws the fire its light and warmth around, 
Giving thee proof its parts are not compact. 
But if perhaps they think, in other wise, 
Fires through their combinations can be quenched 
And change their substance, very well: behold, 
If fire shall spare to do so in no part, 
Then heat will perish utterly and all, 
And out of nothing would the world be formed. 
For change in anything from out its bounds 
Means instant death of that which was before; 
And thus a somewhat must persist unharmed 
Amid the world, lest all return to naught, 
And, born from naught, abundance thrive anew. 
Now since indeed there are those surest bodies 
Which keep their nature evermore the same, 
Upon whose going out and coming in 
And changed order things their nature change, 
And all corporeal substances transformed, 
'Tis thine to know those primal bodies, then, 
Are not of fire. For 'twere of no avail 
Should some depart and go away, and some 
Be added new, and some be changed in order, 
If still all kept their nature of old heat: 
For whatsoever they created then 
Would still in any case be only fire. 
The truth, I fancy, this: bodies there are 
Whose clashings, motions, order, posture, shapes 
Produce the fire and which, by order changed, 
Do change the nature of the thing produced, 
And are thereafter nothing like to fire 
Nor whatso else has power to send its bodies 
With impact touching on the senses' touch. 

Again, to say that all things are but fire 
And no true thing in number of all things 
Exists but fire, as this same fellow says, 
Seems crazed folly. For the man himself 
Against the senses by the senses fights, 
And hews at that through which is all belief, 
Through which indeed unto himself is known 
The thing he calls the fire. For, though he thinks 
The senses truly can perceive the fire, 
He thinks they cannot as regards all else, 
Which still are palpably as clear to sense- 
To me a thought inept and crazy too. 
For whither shall we make appeal? for what 
More certain than our senses can there be 
Whereby to mark asunder error and truth? 
Besides, why rather do away with all, 
And wish to allow heat only, then deny 
The fire and still allow all else to be?- 
Alike the madness either way it seems. 
Thus whosoe'er have held the stuff of things 
To be but fire, and out of fire the sum, 
And whosoever have constituted air 
As first beginning of begotten things, 
And all whoever have held that of itself 
Water alone contrives things, or that earth 
Createth all and changes things anew 
To divers natures, mightily they seem 
A long way to have wandered from the truth. 

Add, too, whoever make the primal stuff 
Twofold, by joining air to fire, and earth 
To water; add who deem that things can grow 
Out of the four- fire, earth, and breath, and rain; 
As first Empedocles of Acragas, 
Whom that three-cornered isle of all the lands 
Bore on her coasts, around which flows and flows 
In mighty bend and bay the Ionic seas, 
Splashing the brine from off their gray-green waves. 
Here, billowing onward through the narrow straits, 
Swift ocean cuts her boundaries from the shores 
Of the Italic mainland. Here the waste 
Charybdis; and here Aetna rumbles threats