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DESCARTES’ PRINCIPLES

You, the first who has been able to approach the sacred principles, from which reason dares to uncover the way of truth and to break itself free of the darkness, I approach your discoveries, great one, if any grace of the Muse I have invoked can with its warmth melt the hard-frozen heart and kindle deadened Nature with its great love.
In the beginning, slippery matter and the atoms of the raw universe everywhere occupied undifferentiated spaces, nor was their any void, but densely packed bodies were flying about. Then, driven with busy interactive movements, fluid morsels and thin vapors began to flow in different directions, a labyrinth unfolded itself into the vast sea and created a way whereby the falling atoms might come together and a solid world might coalesce.
Henceforward a superior aspect of things and a holier way of managing affairs arose, and God willed Nature to be animated in accordance with fixed law, turning herself in accordance with His just laws. He, its most assured Creator, stands in the middle, driving it from within, and He feeds the universe with His diffused godhead.
Wherefore that subtle flow surrounds the dark worlds, enveloping them with a sea of aether, and it nourishes them, lively, quivering on high, swept up in an eternal whirl, such as also be seen on a bright summer day when the sun's burning rays, the fine dews from above, and the intangible humor of the breeze intermingle and fight against each other under the open sky: we perceive these pure places to be stirred by the heat, and all the air throughout the field to shimmer and melt in the consuming light.
Moreover, the sun draws the boundless ocean's lovely tracts in eddies, and turns the planets about its shining axis. Each of these tirelessly plies its course through the lifeless universe: in fact a single concord and mobile ordering of things engenders harmony in the wandering sky.
Ardent Cyllenian Herme dulcus acts before all the others: it is credible that he, devoid of darkness and night, shines an everlasting day, so hot burns his temperature, and the proximity of the impetuous sun oppresses him. For Nature has granted the others changes and alternating respite from spells of heat, and has bid clouds to roam the sky and cool fountains to burst forth (whence comes flourishing strength and natural ability), and has poured liquid water into hollow valleys.
Next, bright Venus (your sister, Earth) possesses ample spaces in the Great Serene; for you she is the day's first herald, when in the new dawn this rosy star casts her gentle light and unlocks the wintry bars of night. Likewise in the summery times, as their companion she leads the rising stars.
Nor are you, Earth, fixed in the mid-arch of your universe, nor sit as queen of the stars, but you are borne aloft with him in the busy whirl, always swimming through the aetherial heights, the clear expanses of the heaven. As when a ship is borne past fragrant Pinaron or the Bay of Calycadnus, or glides past rich India's harbors, yielding to the West wind. All the sea is outstretched with its water at rest as it makes its silent way through gentle waves, leaving shores that have the appearance of slipping away.
But further out the parched places of Mars and its hollows wax fierce with a fiery face. Next, four stars burn bright, hovering around Jupiter as satellites, and Saturn, the most removed, shining with its sluggish light, ranges the outer limits beyond which run countless suns and shining stars, whether these be "the flaming walls of the universe," or are scattered through the vast Infinite, beyond the ken of our minds and the limits of our understanding.
Therefore we chase after the thin shadows and idle dreams of things: his sad sisters do not cry for Phaethon, dripping an acid rain from their weeping leaves after he has been hurled from his father's chariot, nor does the moon guiltily look on Latmius' groves, or the starry daughters of Atlas burn, possessed of girlish souls. A pure quietude is evident in high heaven, stars swimming in the liquid eddies of the universe, and a bright aether, widely diffused.
Blessed is he who has set free Philosophy's placid stream! He for whom wisdom, free from care, has revealed her sources! Indeed she does this for many, but the harsh sight of the Furies stands about them and prevents them from reaching the shore, as does anxiety, fierce Madness with her inane laughter, and whatever is added to the wearied heart as its companion; it comes to a halt, unfulfilled, and is feverish with a diseased mind.
Why is it so important for you, mortal man, to lead a life that complains of so much and is troubled with heavy fear? Why waste your days with a zeal for living? This is pointless, since time slips by, brief and uncertain, and already the unfinished hour, death, a rest from your toils and a respite from care, hangs over your head. But an incomprehensible greed for the light grips us, and shatters our mind with its bitter sweetness.

Finis