Sed quibus ipse malis careas quia cernere suavest
And here’s the Epicurean definition, distilled: it’s sweet (“suave” again) to sense that one lacks the pains—or is free from the evils (“malis”)—that beset another.
It’s not easy to imagine just what seeing (“cernere”) that you lack (“careas”) entails. What payoff or positive feeling would be left or produced by the negative discernment that Lucretius proposes here? He’s not, after all, offering any names for good affects; his is, at least here, a minimalist account of sweetness, one that anticipates, as one scholar has proposed, Keats’s “feel of not to feel it” in its “promise of an altered sensitivity” (that’s the scholar), made by acknowledging the numbness of “numbed sense” (that’s Keats), rather than denying it, as maximalist poets might. (Note too that, like Keats, Lucretius works to translate into verse things previously “never said in rhyme”.)
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