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T. Lucretius Carus de Rerum Natura. Buch III erklaert von Richard 
Heinze. Teubner, Leipzig, 1897. Pp. vi + 206. 

The edition of the third book of Lucretius which we have before us is 
the second volume in the new series of Wissenschaftliche Commentare pub- 
lished under the editorship of Professor Kaibel of Strassburg. It is a 
worthy successor to the inaugural volume of the series, the Electra of 
Sophocles, edited by Professor Kaibel himself. Like that work, it not only 
undertakes to present a new and more thoroughgoing interpretation of the 
text chosen, but it also stands for a theory of interpretation as yet but 
scantily represented. If I understand the purpose of the commentary 
aright, it assumes that there is much more in an ideal interpretation than 
an explanation of the difficulties of thought, language or text. It would 
seem to aim at something further — at illustration of the background of 
thought and the habit of language out of which the poet's work has pro- 
ceeded. Its effort is not only to explain difficulties, but in a manner to 
reproduce the creative atmosphere in which the poet wrought. It would 
substitute for mere explanation a background of consciousness. It may be 
that this is to put more into the editor's work than he himself felt, but if so, 
it is under the influence of the agreeable feeling that in this work we have 
a real approximation to a true interpretation, infinitely removed from the 
vast bulk of editions "with notes." 

In the brief but instructive preface the editor calls attention to the 
main directions of his effort. The task of the editor, he points out, consists 
in an explanation of the relation of the poet to his material, since the poet 
is only the interpreter of the teachings of another, and of the transforma- 
tion of this material from scientific prose to verse. The content of Lucre- 
tian verse therefore requires attention first of all. In this consists, I 
believe, the most original and positive contribution of the editor to the 
interpretation of Lucretius. The vast mass of scattered and fragmentary 
material relating to the philosophy of Epicurus has been brought to bear 
upon this portion of the de rerum natura with an insight before which many 
au obscurity has disappeared, and with a sureness of touch that reveals 
the master in the field of Greek philosophy, to one phase of which an 
earlier work of the editor was devoted (Xenocrates, Lpz. 1891). This 
material is presented not only current with the text, but in the introduc- 
tion to the commentary the psychology of Epicurus is presented briefly, 
but with great clearness, and in such a manner as to cast much light on a 
field in which the obscurity is not wholly the fault of a scanty tradition. 
In the whole matter of the relation of Lucretius to his sources, Heinze 
seems to have penetrated much further than his predecessors (notably, for 
example, in the arguments for the mortality of the soul), as was no more, to 
be sure, than could fairly be demanded with the results of much recent 
investigation in this field at hand (e. g. Usener's Epicurea), but still with 
an originality and breadth of grasp that deserve the fullest recognition. 

Closely connected with this subject is the question of terminology, to 
which the editor also calls attention in his preface. Here it has been his 
effort to ascertain in every case the equivalence of the terms chosen, and 


when the exactness of the Latin word employed might be questioned, the 
possibilities of expression at the disposal of the poet have been weighed. 
In this connection Munro's defence of the poet against his own complaint 
of the poverty of the Latin tongue and of the difficulty of giving expression 
to obscure ideas in a field of thought never before trodden by Roman bard, 
will be remembered (cf. Munro, Int. p. 11). Certainly in this well known 
passage Munro has given expression to the feelings of Lucretian scholars 
since Lachmann restored a legible text. For there is a confidence and 
sureness of movement in the language of the poet that does not leave 
room for much consciousness of the inadequacy of the language to the 
theme. But Heinze in his note on vss. 258-261, on the nature of the 
admixture of the elements of the soul, observes that no portion of the 
poem is more obscure, and furthermore that it is the only portion of the 
Epicurean doctrine which Lucretius greatly abridged. The causes of this 
he holds are therefore not only the obscurity of the subject-matter, but he 
believes that we must also give credence to the poet, whose complaint 
here is reiterated, that the language did not permit him to say what he 
gladly would. 

In the matter of the text the editor has been quite conservative. His 
own conjectures are not numerous, nor do they extend to changes that have 
a radical effect upon the thought. In vs. 58 (eripitur persona manare), 
where the Itali read manct res, he suggests mala re, but does not introduce 
the reading into his text, and wisely, since from no point of view does it 
seem so satisfactory as the correction of the It., which in turn we may still 
grant is not convincing. In vs. 194 constat for extat, a rather doubtful 
change in the interest of conventional phraseology. In vs. 337 praeterea 
is changed to propterea, as it seems to me correctly in view of the argu- 
ment. In vs. 394 quam sis = suis, attractive. In vs. 433 feruntur seems 
correctly restored for geruntur. That vs. 493 is hopelessly corrupt is not 
made convincing to me. In the matter of transposition and rearrange- 
ment (apart from single verses), which has been a favorite field for the dis- 
play of editorial ingenuity, the editor is very conservative, and has shown 
very clearly that most difficulties of this kind are to be removed by inter- 
pretation. Thus at vss. 417 and 526, the apprehension of the true dispo- 
sitio makes transposition quite superfluous. Indeed the editor's grasp of 
thought and arrangement reminds me not infrequently of the keen sense 
for psychological suggestion in explanation of transitions which Kiessling 
displays and was the first to apply with discernment to the interpretation 
of Horace. When it is remembered that Heinze has assumed the respon- 
sibility of revision for Kiessling's Horace, it is not unlikely that we have a 
clue to the source of the training which marks much of the characteristic 
quality of this work. 

It is a satisfaction to find so pervading a sympathy with all the moods 
and themes of the poet as the editor reveals, and one is pleased with his 
expression of the feeling that Lucretius has in most cases elevated the 
prosaic parts of his theme to the rank of true poetry. It used to be, and I 
think still is, commonly said (e. g. by Teuff el) that Lucretius was a great poet 


sadly astray in the choice of a subject. I am sure, however, that many a 
devotee of Lucretius will join with me in protest against this utterance. 
For when we consider the sort of work that was possible or that was likely 
to have challenged the attention of a Roman poet in the first century B. C. , 
we cannot, I believe, conceive of any theme that we should willingly 
exchange for the de rerum natura. What were an epic of any theme, 
mythological or national, or the Alexandrine sources of inspiration of his 
contemporaries, in comparison with a subject-matter which called forth a 
passionate intensity of feeling and devotion that we miss in all other 
Roman poetry? Of refined workmanship and rhetorical vigor there is no 
lack elsewhere in the higher poetry of Rome, but of feeling, verging at 
times to an almost unhealthy fervor, there is no other grandly sustained 
example, and let us not therefore complain of a subject-matter which was 
its inspiration. I know not if there is a statelier or simpler example of 
intense dramatic conception than the long cumulative enumeration of the 
considerations which show the mortality of the soul, summed up in those 
triumphant verses beginning Nil igitur ad nos mors est neque ptrtinet 
hilum. To the sagacious and sympathetic interpreter of this culminating 
book of Lucretius, scholars who have leisure to peruse his work will feel a 
sense of personal obligation. 

G. L. Hendrickson.