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Repetition in Lucretius Author(s): Wayne B. Ingalls Source: Phoenix, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Autumn, 1971),

Repetition in Lucretius Author(s): Wayne B. Ingalls Source: Phoenix, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Autumn, 1971), pp. 227-236

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LUCRETIUS REPEATS HIMSELF more thando otherLatin poets. The

a numberof recentdis-

cussions. Rosamund Deutsch devotes much of her dissertation, The Pattern of Sound in Lucretius, to the various types of repetition the poet employs from simple alliterationto reiteratedlines and half-lines.,First

fact is well knownand has been dealt with in

of all she points out (85) the interestingway in which phrases are re- peated in close proximity, such as

at coria etcarnemtrahitet conducitin unum. umor aquae porroferrum conduratab igni, at coria et carnemmollit durata calore. [6.967-969]


also observesthat several verses may intervene, such as


et quibus



ille modisdivommetusinsinuarit

modis congressus materiai




monotony, as in

furthernotes (89) thatLucretiusoftenvarieshis repetitions to avoid

reddita corporibusprimisper inane profundum [2.96]

paucula quae porromagnumper inane vagantur multaquepraetereamagnumper inane vagantur




multa minutamodis multisper inane


Finally Dr Deutsch shows (98-100) how the poet, when

particular topic, frequently chooses a closely connected theme

whichis repeated severaltimesin thecourseofthediscussion.In


might components of what might

treatmentof colour in Book 2

twelveversesdevoted to the topic,twenty-two end with the word color

in the plural or in one of its

syllables oftheline.Two reiterated phrases accountforsixofthe twenty-

two verse-endings.They are tincta colore(736, 747, 776) and variantque colores (759)/variosque colores(783)/variovecolore(825). Anotherdiscussionof repetition in Lucretiusis foundin CyrilBailey's

Prolegomena to his editionof the De RerumNatura.2He largely follows

Deutsch but

Lucretiusoften repeats lineswhichare in effectthe axiomsof his theory

discussing a



add to her observationthat these themewords are oftenthe

be termed"theme phrases," as the poet's

will illustrate.Of the one hundredand

oblique cases, that is,

filling the finalthree

adds a fewmore types of repetition. He observes (163) that

'Rosamund E. Deutsch, The Pattern of Sound in Lucretius (Bryn Mawr 1939).

2Titi Lucreti Cari De Rerum Natura

ed. Cyril Bailey (Oxford 1947).


PHOENIX, Vol. 25 (1971) 3.

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when he wishes to referto them. Of this practice numerous examples may be found, such as

nam quodcumque suis mutatumfinibusexit,

continuohocmorsestillius quodfuit ante. [1.670-671 = 1.792-793= 2.753-754 = 3.519-520]


hunc igitur terroremanimi tenebrasque necessest nonradiisolisneque lucidateladiei discutiant, sednaturae speciesratioque. [1.146-148 = 2.59-61= 3.91-93= 6.39-41]

He further points out (145) that, like the regular successionof particles

argumentation,repeatedphrases frequently introduce

a new topic. For example,

in the sectionsof

the words


exhoc aptafdem ducat

quoniamdocui,pergam conectererem quae


introducethe proof that the numberof atomic shapes is finite.Further

on the poet uses the same wordswhen he that the numberof atoms of each shape is





infinite (2.522-523).

He also

(162) that Lucretius sometimes repeated abnormal idiomatic

He adduces the example of tanto

so much the more") whichis firstfoundat

5.343. It is difficult,however, to see how the


expressions to establish their usage.

quique magis (meaning"by


single repetition of this idiom approximately two thousand lines later

servesto establishits

establish the usage of idioms which might troublehis futureeditors.

and is repeated at

usage. Nor can I envisage the poet takingpains


S. Maguinness has also touched upon Lucretius'

repetition, though

he, like Dr Deutsch, deals primarily withthe repetition of single words.3

He thinksthat the poet's quest for clarity led him to repeat wordsand

phrases in a manneravoided by otherLatin writers.

each of thesescholarstakes a

Although titionin Lucretius, theirconclusionsare


the view current today:

slightly differentview of repe- fundamentally the same. The

fromDr Deutsch (46-47) seems a fair expression of

The same poetic device [repetition] is to be foundalso inother authors, bothLatinand


soundswhichare unrelatedin meaning showsthat the recurrenceof

but the reiterationsof Lucretiusservea special function.The repetition of


words, which

tones appealed to the poet's ear fortheirownsake.But therecurrenceof

is naturally made possibleby thesenseofthe passage in which theyrecur, is clearly a

3W. S. Maguinness, "The Language of Lucretius," in Lucretius ed. D. R. Dudley (London 1965) 73-75.

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didacticdeviceused by

to enforce upon a skeptical reader.

Lucretiusto emphasize the principles whichhe is attempting

In short, prevailingopinion holds that the poet employed repetition primarily fordidactic reasons.

F. M.

Smith,4 the most recent writerto considerLucretius' use of

repetition, likewisedraws attentionto its practical and propagandistic

value in

verbal echoes and

oftenreveal important themesand concepts whichwereidentifiedin the

poet's mind. For example, the verses

repetitions,though not always necessarilyconscious,

scientificand philosophicalexposition. He further suggests that

cumtameninterse prostrati in

propteraquae rivumsubramisarborisaltae


non magnisopibus iucundecorporacurant,

praesertim cum tempestas arridetetanni

temporaconspergunt viridantis floribus herbas.

are employed in the proem of the second book (29-33), wherethe poet


repeated in Book 5 (1392-1396) in the description of the amusementsof

primitive man. The poet's feeling that the ordinary diversionswhich

satisfied primitive man

is reflectedin the verbal


that simple pleasures ought to satisfy modern man, and are

ought to


adequate forhis modern counterpart


But Smith's discussion, like thoseof Deutsch, Bailey, and

on a

significantly alter

topic, Lucretian


treated only in a most

new facetofthe question, neverthelesstreats

although it sheds light

repetitiononly as part of a larger

Nor does it

phrases, has been

Yet Lucretius repeats himselfmuch more frequently than most com- mentatorsseem to realize, or at any rate to document.This assertion

may be proven by analysing a passage

mannersimilarto that

demonstratethat the Homeric


at the

have chosen as a typical random sample twenty-five verses


fact that repetition,especially of

perfunctory and casual manner.

of the De Rerum Natura in a

employedby Milman Parry in his endeavoursto

epics were oral verse compositions.' I



the same

first paragraph afterthe middle of the poem (4.322-323).

twenty-five lines are fairlytypical.

and words

In the

variety of passages in whichthe phrases are repeated has leftme satisfied

that these


withcontinuous underlining recureitherverbatimorwithsome

change, metrical position.

withbroken underlining have analogues in

4F. M. Smith, "Some Lucretian thoughtprocesses," Hermathena102 (1966) 77-82.

5Milman Parry,

"Studiesin the

Epic Technique of Oral Verse-making," HSCP 41

(1930) 73-147.See especially 118-120.

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Splendida porrooculi6 fugitantvitantque tueri.7

sol etiam caecats, contra si9 tendere propterea quia" vis magnast'2 ipsius pergas.0 et alte

aera per purumx3graviter simulacra feruntur14

et feriunt oculos'5 turbantia composituras.

praeterea splendor quicumque estl6 acer adurit'7

saepe oculosideo quod semina possidetignis

multa, doloremoculis quae gignunt"' insinuando.19 lurida praeterea fiunt quaecumque tuentur20

arquati, quia lurorisde corporeeorum2'1 semina multa22fluuntsimulacrisobvia rerum

multaque suntoculis23in eorumdeniquemixta,

quae contage sua palloribus omnia pingunt.24




'porro oculos-3.359.

7vitamquetueri-1.195, caeloque tuentur--1.152,4.434, 5.92, 6.50. Ssol etiamcaeli-2.210.




perge -2.347.


exsolvere pergo

inducere pergis -1.16. concedere pergat-1.1080, 2.237.

-1.932, 4.7.

"proptereaquia-1.631; 2.72, 232; 3.572; 4.186, 320, 338, 349, 1220; 5.558, 920, 1446;6.97,462, 1049.

12vismagna-6.530, 815.


aera per multumquia dum simulacra feruntur-4.358, aera per

multum-4.558, 5.580. "simulacraferuntur-4.164, 176, 210, 239, 358, 735; 6.76. 16feriantoculos-4.217, 257; 6.923,feriuntoculorum-4.691. 16quicumqueest-5.177; 6.502. "acer obhaesit-4.420.

Isquae gignatur--2.1078. '1gignere conveniundo-2.923.

orfient quaecumquecreantur-1.169, fieri caeloque tuentur-1.152, and cf.feri in terris caeloque tuentur--6.50. 2Ide corporeeorum-4.43, 5.154.

n2semina multa-5.658,

f nobis-5.860

mutaqusunt ignis-6.863



. -4.715



24 constant--1.588,2.337, 694, 724


debent -1.1039


possent -1.166

tollat -1.701

versat -2.882

reddat --1.1011






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E tenebris"6 autem quae suntin luce26tuemur

proptereaquia, cum propiorcaliginisaer27 aterinitoculos prior et posseditapertos,28 insequitur candensconfestimlucidus aers9 qui quasi purgateos ac nigrasdiscutitumbrasso aerisillius, nam multissx partibushic ests2

mobilior multisque minutioret magepollens. qui simul atque33 vias oculorum84lucereplevit" atquepatefecitquas anteobsederataer


continuorerumsimulacra sequuntur3

quae sita37suntin luces8, lacessuntqueut videamus."9 quod contra40facerein tenebrise luce nequimus"4 proptereaquia posteriorcaliginisaera




Two facts


at once fromthis


First, thereare no fewer


than I expected to

Secondly, most of the

C. Bailey too seemed aware of Lucretius' non-didactic repetition when

thirty verbatim repetitions in the twenty-fivelines, whichis more

find, and more, I think, than is generallyrealized.48

repetitions serve no apparent didactic function.

26e tenebris-3.1, in 26suntin luce-4.347.

7"cf. 4.349; proptereaquia cum-6.462.


tenebris-2.15, 54, 56, 58; 3.77, 88, 90; 4.231, 235, 348; 5.170; 6.38.









80abluit umbras-4.378.


32hic/haec est-2.1066, 3.992, 4.1089, 6.238.

33quod simul

uvias oculorum-4.351.

86luce repleta est-2.806.

s ( vocamus-4.30

atque-3.211, 4.1041; simul atque-1.777, 4.40.







vagari -4.724.

"7quae sita-2.802. s3sunt in luce-4.337. agutvideamus-4.245, 255, 633.

40quod contra--1.82,780; 2.280. 41intenebris-see note 25; cf. in tenebris, in luci-4.235, and in luce timemus-2.56,

3.88, 6.36.

4cf.line338 above. *sBailey, for example, ad loc.notesbutone.

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he wrote: "Sometimeswordswhichhe had already writtenseem to stay

in his mind and come out in the same collocationin


conscious running of phrases in an explanation forit. I thinkan

ifwe turnto

the first poet who employed repetitionextensively he did so.

Homer's reasonsfor employingrepetition were expoundedby Milman

Parry." According to him,

traditionwhich Homer, an oral poet, inheritedfromhis predecessors and

which provided him with a ready-made store of diction which would


express muchofwhat he wantedto say as he improvised his heroic

The formulae, in short, assisted Homer to compose. But formulaealso

made listening easier for the audience, since many of the repetitions,

used timeand

were to the poet himself. To returnto Lucretius, we can see at once an

his didactic use of repetition,especially

audience was not so very differentfromHomer's. As silent

virtually unknown in wouldhave heardthe

Lucretius' repeated lines and phrases

somewhat similarto that served

quite ." (145). Further on, Bailey calls this phenomenon the "semi-

the poet's mind," but he never offers

explanation can be given

and consider why

the repetitions were the formulaeof an oral

a different


would be almostas familiarto the audienceas they



if we realize that Lucretius'

reading was

antiquity, Lucretius' audience, like Homer's,


recitedorread aloud.45 Thus, forhis audience,


would have

served a purpose

Homer's formulae.

But what is more important is that the primary functionof Homer's

formulaealso servedLucretius. They helped him to compose. It cannot

be denied that Lucretius had

mentionsthe patrii sermonis egestas(1.832; 3.260),

preoccupation withhis effortsto set

"writings of our country's tongue"

exponere chartis [4.969-970]). Indeed,

of the poem, he remarks upon the difficulty of words

the task in the famous


his poem. He twice

and revealshisconstant

forth"the natureof things" in the




before beginning thefirst argument

Nec me animifallit Graiorumobscura reperta

dificile inlustrareLatinisversibus esse, multanovisverbis praesertim cumsit agendum

propteregestatemlinguae et rerum novitatem;


suavisamicitiae quemvisefferre laborem

suadetetinducitnoctes vigilare serenas

quaerentem dictis quibusetquo

mevirtustamenet speratavoluptas


clara tuae possim praepandere lumina menti, res quibus occultas penitus convisere possis.


44Seethe article cited above in note 5. 45Deutsch 1-3; G. L. Hendrickson, "Ancient Reading,"

C7 25 (1929) 182-196,

answered by W. P. Clark in C7 26 (1931) 698-700. I would agree with Dr Deutsch's

view that Clark fails to refuteHendrickson's arguments.

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There are also expressions such as



nunc age dicta meodulci quaesita labore percipe




conquisita diu dulcique reperta labore digna tua pergamdisponere carmina vita.



indicate the

effortthat went into his exposition of Greek Epi-

cureanismin Latin

suggest necessary to surmounttwo major difficulties.As the

Latin is smaller than that of Greek, therewas the considerable problem


findingequivalents once the

them into Latin hexameters.It was here that the repetitions assisted the poet to compose. This can be easily demonstratedin his treatment

ofone ofthemost importantconcepts ofall the Graiorum obscura reperta, that of the atom. The Greek philosophers had used the word &royos, for

which Lucretius had several

seminarerum. Taking the last wordsas an example, we findthiscolloca-


position,namelyoccupying thefinaltwo

Thereforewhen his

had a readyequivalent aroundwhichhe could build therestofhis verse

or which he could use to complete the line afterthe bucolic diaeresis.

Similarly the Greek word oLbos, which

natura, occurs in two or threefixed positionsgovernedby the metrical

shape that the words take as

metrical position is established fora

collocation in that position most of the time.

occurrencesofthe twowordsrerumnaturawithnaturain the nominative

singular, four occupy thesame position in the line, one is a slightvariant,


Lucretius translated as rerum

verse. These verses also

that his effortwas


vocabulary of

forGreektermswherenone existedin Latin. But,

equivalents were found, thereremainedthe problem of fitting

equivalents, such as primordia rerumand

of cases in one metrical

recurring in the overwhelmingmajority


a&rouos, Lucretius

Epicurean source used the word

natura changes its case. Again,

once a

givenshape, the poet will repeat the

For example, of the six

the otheris quite different. Occupying the line end, they are:

naturaque rerum rerumnatura creatrix rerumnaturacreatrix rerumnatura repente rerumnatura novarum







finally the variant:

rerum primum naturacreatrix


Thus we can see how the poet employed formulaeto assist him to over- come the difficulty he found in expressing in Latin verse the subtle conceptsof Greek philosophy.

46Semina rerumoccurs finally in the following lines: 1.59, 176; 2.755, 678, 833, 1059, 1072; 5.916; 6.789, 1093.

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It is also possible to demonstratehow a formulatakes shape in the

poet's mindand is subsequentlyemployed to assist his composition. Let us take for example the whole line

quae variaeretinent gentes et saeclaferarum


Near the end of Book 2, in Lucretius' description of the products of our alma mater earth, we firstfindthe antithesisbetweenthe genus humanum and the saecla ferarum in the line

et genushumanum,parit omnia saeclaferarum



the poet praised Ennius, who won fame forhis poetryper gentesItalas hominum (1.119), but this is the firstoccurrenceof the much used and fineformulasaecla ferarum. Further on, the poet repeats the antithesis in the verse

almostidenticalwords gens and hominumhad occurredearlierwhen

et varias hominum gentis et saeclaferarum


and here he introducesinto the formulathe concept of the diversity of the nationsof man, whichhe first expressed in the famous magna mater

passage in Book 2 withthe wordshanc variae gentes(610).

we can now see how the formula

to the original verse in question,

facilitatedLucretius' task. In the context he

apparent optical illusions.He observes that the rising

to touch the mountainsfrombehindwhichit


as the"vast levelsofocean"

thousandsof lands" (terrarummilia multa) he adds the formulaicanti-

thesisbetweenmenand beasts. The lineis not absolutelynecessaryhere,

but it

easily adaptable to the context by

forhominum.Such examples could be multiplied to illustratehow the



is discussing the many

sun oftenseems

rises,though in facta vast

poetically described

and to the



them.To this distance, whichis

(immaniaponti/ aequora),

subtly and almost subconsciouslyaugments the vastness, and was



of quae foret and retinent

poet employed formulaeto assist his composition. To say that Lucretius employed formulaeto assist his composition in

or implies thathe was forcedto use formu- with the formula genus humanumwhat an

effectthe poet could achieve when he broke with his normalformular


in Book 5 the poet employs the formula genus humanumaftera

initial syllable (e.g., at lines 925, 1014, 1026, 1057, and 1145). Then

suddenly in the with the words

no way depreciates his genius lae, forit is possible to show

Several timesin the description of the rise of human civilization


midstof the section dealing with religion he burstsout

O genus infelixhumanum


By thrusting thewordinfelixbetweenthetwomembersofthe frequently

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repeated formulaLucretius effectively underlinesthe wretchedstate in

religion. So farwas the

poet from being

difficultfor the reasons he states.


findsthe genus humanumas a resultof

constrainedto use formulae.

Neverthelesshe found his task

Formulae helped him to overcome part of this difficulty. But this emphatically was not the only reason why he chose to employ them. There were two otherfactorswhichmust have influencedhis decision. Firsttherewas thedidacticvalue ofthe formulae, whichwehave already discussed. The otherconsiderationwas the fact that formulaewere an

integralpart of the epic style in whichhe chose to writethe De Rerum Natura.

Lucretius followed the example of Empedocles in

setting fortha

philosophicalsystem(or at least the physical theoriesof a philosophical

system) in epic verse. The poet's highregard forhis Greek predecessor is apparent in the lines which precede his criticismof Empedocles' philosophy:

carmina quin etiamdivini pectoriseius vociferantur et exponuntpraeclara reperta, ut vixhumana videatur stirpe creatus.

Such praise Lucretiusotherwisereservedfor Epicurus. However, our poet did not follow Empedocles too closely, for his

language was different, and so was his philosophy. For the epic qualities

of his work he ratherimitated the

knownto that date, and the

as "redolentof Ennius."4' Othershave dealt with Ennius' influenceon

Lucretius' language and metre, and there is no need to repeat their

whichresultedhas beenwell described

greatestepic poet that Rome had


observations here.48 Our focusof attentionis upon the

I thinkthat the most important considerationwhich led Lucretius to employ formulaewas the factthatEnnius had done so beforehim.In the

remains of Ennius I was able to findthe followingrepeated phrases:

lupusfemina (Ann. 68, 70), divumquehominumque(Ann. 249, 580, 581),

et simul (Ann. 91, 128, 352),

and cf. stellis ardentibus apta [Ann. 339]), in alto (Ann. 378, 380), summa

nituntur opum vi (Ann. 161, 412), cordesuo

repetitions, and

stellis fulgentibusaptum (Ann. 29, 159,

(Ann. 175, 548), haec effatus

(Ann. 47, 59), nox intempesta(Ann. 102, 167), in bello (Ann. 287, 327),

Romana iuventus (Ann. 469, 537, 550), ad caelum (Ann. 282, 531), labitur uncta carina (Ann. 386, 478), olli respondit(Ann. 33, 119),

iamqueferre (Ann. 282, 593), o genitor(Ann.

terram (Ann. 224, 277, and cf. concutit ungula terrain[Ann. 439]), est

113, 456), quatitungula

47Maguinnessop. cit. (above, n. 3) 84. 48See in particular W. A. Merrill, "Parallelisms and Coincidences in Lucretius and

Publications in Classical Philology 3 (1919) 249-254,

Ennius," Universityof California

and Maguinness op. cit. (above, n. 3) 84 ff.

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operae (Ann. 16, 465), permensaperumper(Ann. 71, 455), Poenos


oriundos (Ann. 220, 229), and finally the most interestingphrase luminisoras (Ann. 114, 131).49 The final expressionis, of course, one Lucretius' best known formulae,s0 and shows that Lucretius adopted

least one of his predecessor's formulaeas his own. That this was the




formulawhich Lucretius borrowedfromEnnius is unlikely, since

our poet repeats an astonishing

writer.51Indeed no fewerthan thirteenEnnian phrases are repeated in

among most memorable formulae, such as

somnoquesepultis.52Thus, ifLucretius employed his predecessor's formu- lae, I thinkhis decisionto employ formulaewas primarilystylistic, and

followed necessarily fromhis decision to adopt a style

Ennius." To sum up. We have seen that formulaeconstitutean importantpart

of Lucretius'

influenced by two entirelypractical considerations, the didactic value

of repetition and the assistanceit would affordhimin

were not, however, the main reason why the poet employedrepetition, forformular composition was an aspect of the epic style whichLucretius adopted fromEnnius to writethe greatest monumentto Epicurus that

survives, the De RerumNatura.

number of phrases fromthe earlier

them are foundsome of Lucretius' lumina solis, Acherusiatempla, and

"redolent of

the De Rerum Natura, and

style. In deciding

to use formulaethe poet was no doubt

composing. These





49This list was compiled fromthe Index sermonisof Ennianae Poesis Reliquiae ed.

J. Vahlen (reprinted Amsterdam 1963) and is restrictedto repetitions in the

The following are repeated in other works: arboresventovacant-Varia 12, Sc. 185; ex ore--Ann. 578, Sc. 306; monstrantviam-Sc. 321, 398 (monstrat); in somnis-Ann. 219, Sc. 36; horrescunt tela-Sc. 140, Ann. 393 (-cittelis); mari magno-Ann. 445, Sc.

65, which is employed by Lucretius in 2.1.


60Used four times; 1.22,

"6Merrill op. cit. (above, n. 48).

62They are: lumina solis

179; 5.224, 781.

(Ann. 283; Lucr. 1.5, 989; 2.108, 162, 654; 5.462); Acherusia

templa (Sc. 107; Lucr. 1.120, 3.25, 86); somnoquesepulti(s) (Ann. 292; Lucr. 1.133, 5.975); sufferre laborem (Ann. 425; Lucr. 3.999, 5.1272, 1359); virum vi(s) (Ann. 276;

Lucr. 1.728, 2.326); caeli templa (Ann. 65, Lucr. 1.1064, 6.1228); aetherisoris (Sat. 4;

Lucr. 2.1000, 3.835, 5.143, 683); fortis equi vis (Ann. 374-fortis equus, Ann.

equos vi; Lucr. 3.8, 764); media regione(Ann. 505, 481-mediis regionibus; Lucr. 3.140,

6.732); duri

Lucr. 3.431, 4.34, 770, 789, 965, 972, 988, 1006, 1012, 1097; 5.62, 885, 1171, 1181); tollitur in (Ann. 442; Lucr. 5.265, 6.507);fit copia (Ann. 407; Lucr. 5.359 [Lachmann, mss. sit],6.829).

laboris (Ann. 345; Lucr. 3.999, 5.1272, 1359); in somnis (Ann. 219;


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