Friday Lucretiusblogging

by F.

From Lucretius (c. 99 B.C.- c. 55 B.C.):

Even the dumb beasts,
The inarticulate animals, make sounds
That indicate emotions, fear or pain,
Or even happiness. This is obvious.
Bloodhounds, when you annoy them, start by growling
Inside their jowls, or bare their teeth and snarl,
Crescendo to the loud full-throated bark.
Again, the sounds are different when they nuzzle
Their puppies, paw them around in play, pretend
To nip, or gobble them up, from when they howl
In some deserted house, or slink away
In terror of a whipping. Is there not
A difference in the whinny of a stallion
Loose with the mares, from when he snorts a challenge
To other studs, or makes a nickering sound
Just for the hell of it? Birds also wheel,
The hawks, the gulls, the ospreys, calling loud,
Skimming the waves in search of food, but giving
A different cry when they must fight to keep
Their prey from other birds. And weather, too,
Can make a difference–ravens and crows
Are not the same when prophesying rain
As when they summon wind. If animals,
Dumb beasts, can utter such dissimilar sounds
For different feelings, mortal man must be
At least able by his voice to mark
Distinctions between objects.

Tranlated by Rolfe Humphries.

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