Finally, we all arise from seed celestial,
Because the same sky overhead is father of us all.
From him our nurturing mother, Earth, receives the rain's moist drops,
And gravid, she brings forth the joyful trees and gleaming crops,
And the human race as well, and every stripe of wild beast,
Since she provides the nourishment on which their bodies feast
And by which means they live sweet life, and bring their young to birth,
And therefore 'Mother' is a name that's fitting for the Earth.
For what arises from the earth falls back to earth once more,
And that which was sent down to earth from heaven's aethereal shore
Is taken up again into the quarters of the sky.
Nor does Death demolish anything so utterly
That it annihilates the very atoms of its matter;
It only makes the combination of the atoms scatter.
From these it joins one particle with another—this is how
All things transform their shape and alter in their colour, now
Receiving sensation, and in an instant, yielding it up again.
That's how you know how much depends on the configuration
Of atoms, how they're held together, and in what position,
What motions they impart to one another or receive,
And that's the reason you should not mistakenly believe
Atoms permanently retain those qualities we see
Sliding across the surfaces of things, both suddenly
Coming into being and of a sudden passing away.
Moreover, it is vital in what order I array
The different letters that make up my lines, in what position,
Because the sky, the sea, the soil, the streams, the shining sun,
Are drawn from a single pool of letters, and one alphabet
Spells barley, bushes, beasts, words not identical, and yet
With certain letters shared in common, for what really matters,
What makes a world of difference, is the arrangement of the letters.
The same goes for the physical. For when you rearrange
Atoms, their order, shapes and motions, then you also change
What they compose.
Now I need your full attention here—
A revolutionary thing strives hard to reach your ear,
A new side of the universe struggles to come to light—
For no fact is so simple we believe it at first sight,
And there is nothing that exists so great or marvellous
That over time mankind does not admire it less and less.
Behold the pure blue of the heavens, and all that they possess,
The roving stars, the moon, the sun's light, brilliant and sublime—
Imagine if these were shown to men now for the first time,
Suddenly and with no warning. What could be declared
More wondrous than these miracles no one before had dared
Believe could even exist? Nothing. Nothing could be quite
As remarkable as this, so wonderful would be the sight.
Now, however, people hardly bother to lift their eyes
To the glittering heavens, they are so accustomed to the skies.
That's why you should let go of any terror of the new.
But don't spit out my reason. Weigh with care. If it seems true,
What I'm about to say, then throw your hands up in surrender;
But if it should seem false, then arm yourself as truth's defender.
The mind seeks explanation. Since the universe extends
Forever out beyond those ramparts at which our world ends,
The mind forever yearns to peer into infinity,
To project beyond and outside of itself, and there soar free.
First, stretching all around us, limitless on every side,
Above, below, the universe extends out far and wide
Just as I've shown before, and as the fact itself cries out,
And the nature of the fathomless Deep illuminates past doubt.
Since empty space is limitless on all sides and the amount
Of atoms meandering in the measureless universe, past count,
All flitting about in many different ways, endlessly hurled
In restless motion, it is most unlikely that this world,
This sky and rondure of the earth, was made the only one,
And all those atoms outside of our world get nothing done;
Especially since this world is the product of Nature, the happenstance
Of the seeds of things colliding into each other by pure chance
In every possible way, no aim in view, at random, blind,
Till sooner or later certain atoms suddenly combined
So that they laid the warp to weave the cloth of mighty things:
Of earth, of sea, of sky, of all the species of living beings.
That's why I say you must admit that there are other cases
Of congregations of matter that exist in other places
Like this one here of ours the aether ardently embraces.
Besides, when matter is available in great supply,
Where there is space at hand, and nothing to be hindered by,
Things must happen and come to pass. That is a certainty.
And if there are so many atoms now no one could count,
In all the time Life has existed for, the full amount,
If the same Force and the same Nature abide everywhere
To throw together atoms just as they're united here,
You must confess that there are other worlds with other races
Of people and other kinds of animals in other places.
Moreover, nothing in creation is the only one.
Nothing is born unique, to grow up, by itself, alone,
Without a species, but as one of a number of its kind.
Put the example of the animals before your mind
And you will see it's so, with every mountain-prowling brute,
With Man's twin offspring, man and woman, with the scaled and mute
Nations of fish, with every feather of creature that can fly.
Therefore you must confess the same is true for earth and sky,
Sun and moon and sea and all the rest—none is the only
One of its kind, but there are countless others—they are rife,
For they too have a deep-set limit to their span of life;
They also have a body that's the product of a birth
Just as any teeming breed of creature here on earth.
If you possess a firm grasp of these tenets, you will see
That Nature, rid of harsh taskmasters, all at once is free,
And everything she does, does on her own, so that gods play
No part. For by the holy hearts of gods, who while away
Their tranquil immortality in peace!—who can hold sway
Over the measureless universe? Who is there who can keep
Hold of the reins that curb the power of the fathomless deep:
Who can juggle all the heavens? And with celestial flame
Warm worlds to fruitfulness? And be all places at the same
Time for all eternity, to cast a shadow under
Dark banks of clouds, or quake a clear sky with the clap of thunder?
What god would send down lightning to rend his own shrines asunder?
Or withdraw to rage in desert wastes, and there let those bolts fly
That often slay the innocent and pass the guilty by?
And since the start of time, the day the world was first begun,
The birthday of the sea and earth, the dawning of the sun,
Many atoms have been added on from every side,
Collected by the mighty universe's heaving tide,
So land and sea might grow from these, and the ceiling of the sky
Increase its loftiness and raise its rafters up on high,
And air might tower overhead. The atoms that compose
Each substance are apportioned to it by the rain of blows
From every direction, being drawn to what's the same:
Water adds to water, earth increases earth, and flame
Forges flame, air, air; till Nature, Maker of Things, brings each
To the zenith of its growth, the upper limit it can reach,
That stage when no more can be added to the vital veins
Than that which flows already in them, and now ebbs and drains.
And at this point, the lifespan of all things must reach its height,
And Nature checks the reins of growth and pulls with all her might.
For everything that grows with giddy increase that you see
Scaling, by degrees, the ladder of maturity,
Assimilates more matter than it loses, just as long
As nourishment can be distributed with ease among
All its veins, and while there is not so much matter lost
Through its sprawling openings that it cannot make up the cost,
At its age, by feeding. We must concede, without a doubt,
That many particles are ebbing and are flowing out,
But atoms must be entering in greater numbers still,
Until the object finally attains the pinnacle
Of growth. Then from that moment, little by little, over time,
Age breaks down the oak-strength and the vigour of its prime
And slides into decay. Indeed, once growth has reached its peak,
The larger and wider something is, the more that thing will leak,
Scattering bodies in all directions, nor can it sustain
The easy flow of nutrients it needs through every vein,
Nor is the supply of nutrients sufficient to restore
The waves of matter as they're gushing out. It is, therefore,
No wonder that things pass away, seeing how they become
Enfeebled by the ebb of atoms, and since all succumb
To outside blows. At length, with age, the food supply will fail,
And lethal particles with their external blows assail
Ceaselessly, and pound things to submission and decay.
Indeed, the ramparts of the mighty world, in the same way,
Stormed from all sides, will tumble into crumbling ruin too.
For it is food that has to remake everything anew.
Food is what must prop things up, and food is what sustains
Everything. Yet it is a lost cause, because the veins
Cannot supply, and Nature is unable to provide,
The quantities of matter required for anything to abide.
Even now, the world is past its prime, and the spent Earth
Can hardly fashion the scrawniest creatures, when she once gave birth
To all kinds, and the bodies of monstrous beasts. I cannot hold
The race of mortal beings was lowered on a rope of gold
To the fields down from the lofty heavens, nor that mortals came
From the sea, nor from the waves that smash the rocks. It's from the same
Earth that feeds them from her body now that they were born.
Besides, she was the first who volunteered the gleaming corn
For Man, and joyful vines, sweet fruits and the green fields which now
Can scarce be made to yield despite the salt-sweat of our brow.
We grind down oxen, the strength of farmers, the iron of the plough,
And still we barely eke a living from the fields—the soil,
So stingy with its fruits, has grown so greedy for our toil.
Now the old farmer shakes his head and groans again and again
That the hard labours of his hands have turned out all in vain.
He rails against the present, while he has nothing but praise
For the fortunes of his father—yes, those were the good old days!
And the planter of the spent and shrivelled vine-stock heaves a sigh,
Harps upon the times and shakes his fist against the sky.
He mutters how, in olden days, when men obeyed the gods,
Folk could easily make a living from their narrow plots,
Seeing how, before, the farmers had much smaller lots.
He doesn't know that all things dwindle away, stage by stage.
All list towards the Rocks exhausted by the course of Age.