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This interview is taken from PN Review 39, Volume 11 Number 1, July - August 1984.

C.H. Sisson in Conversation Michael Schmidt

Schmidt - What induced you to translate Lucretius?


Sisson - I've long had an interest in him. Indeed, I had before tried to do bits of him without success and one day, coming back on the bus from Avignon to Tarascon, I found that I could translate him. The first lines formed in my head and I went on. It is not a reason for translating Lucretius, but it's the way Lucretius got translated.


Why did you keep coming back to him?


Well, I never really knew, truth to tell, until I did translate him and lived with him week after week, month after month, how good he was. It was really the quality of Lucretius as a poet. After all, the philosophy so-called is reproduced in various forms in antiquity, but what Lucretius had was a vision of the world which is so impelling in itself that one really swallows his theories for the sake of it.


You don't find the structure of his thought and of his poem mechanically pre-conceived?


Not at all. In fact I'd say that Lucretius is more than most others a poet who pours out his thoughts. The fact that those thoughts owe a lot to a philosophy ready-made is neither here nor there. That philosophy struck him as true and what's so impressive is his passionate desire for truth and his passionate ...


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