Friday, October 13, 2006

Did Lucan Understand Condensation and Evaporation?

We report. You decide. Here is Housman's text, followed by Braund's traslation.

iamque polo pressae largos densantur in imbres
spissataeque fluunt; nec seruant fulmina flammas
quamuis crebra micent: extinguunt fulgura nimbi.
hinc inperfecto conplectitur aera gyro
arcus uix ulla uariatus luce colorem
Oceanumque bibit raptosque ad nubila fluctus
pertulit et caelo defusum reddidit aequor. (Bellum Civile 4.76-82)

And now, they [i.e., the clouds] are squeezed and thickened by the sky into abundant rains
and pour down condensed; thunderbolts cannot preserve their flames;
although they flash incessantly, the rain-clouds quench the lightning-flashes.
Then the rainbow embraces the air with its hoop
incomplete, its colour hardly varied by light,
and drank the Ocean and swiftly carried up the waves
to the clouds and restored the water which had flooded from the sky.

1 comment:

postblogger said...

Well, I'm not sure that anybody understands condensation yet; our theories on how, for example, cloud condensation nuclei form are still a little shaky. Also, as I understand it, the rainbow is formed in the condensed water coming down, not the evaporating water going back up, so to say that the rainbow 'carried up the waves to the clouds' may not be strictly accurate. Don't quote me on that, 'though.

Lucan does seem to have described the general water cycle fairly well, 'though. And Housman's translation is a lot nicer than the account in most textbooks!