Hum-121: Roman poetry, pg. 1
(c. 99–55 BCE)
From Book III of
De Rerum Natura
(“The Nature of Things”)
Death, then, is nothing to us; it does not touch us
A bit, because we know the soul is mortal.
Just as when we felt no anguish, long ago,
When Carthage came attacking us on all sides,
When the world trembled, shivering beneath
The deep sky borders, struck by the rattling clash
Of war, and no one knew to which side luck
Would fall to rule mankind and earth and sea,
Thus, when we are no more, when there has been
A splitting of soul and body, out of which
Our selves were put together, clearly then
No thing can touch us or can make us feel
When we are nothing – no, not even if
Earth be mixed up with sea, and sea with sky!
Even if power to feel remained in soul
Or spirit, after it is torn away
From body, this would not pertain to us,
exist only when soul and body
Unite and join together in a self.
Even if Time should gather all our atoms
After our death and put them back together
Just as they are today, and once again
The light of life were given, even this
Would not affect us, once our consciousness
Was interrupted. Now, we are not touched
By any former selves which used to be,
Nor do we feel distress because of them.
When you consider all the boundless length
Of time which has passed by, and all the motions
Of matter every which way, you might find
It easy to imagine that our seeds
Have often been arranged as they are now
In times before; but nonetheless, we cannot
Grasp with our memories those former lives.