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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [P4v p232]

IGNORANCE.

Oster fault Ignorance.

DIALOGISME.

D. Quel monstre? R. (Sphinz[1].)
D. Pourquoy chef foeminin,
Aeles d’oyseau porte: & pied Leonin?
R. Telle figure ha l’ignorance: Pource
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [P5r p233]Que de ce mal si grand, telle est la source.
L’esprit legier, ou plaisir attirant,
Ou coeur trop fier, rendent l’homme ignorant.
Mais qui cognoist que peut lettre Delphicque[2],
Couppe la gorge au monstre mirificque.
Car à deux piedz, trois, quatre, on voit l’homme estre.
Tresgrand prudence est de l’homme cognoistre.

Sphinx monstre cauteleux, & cruel en ung destroict
habitant, proposoit à tous passans tel aenigme, c’est
à dire quaestion obscure. quel animant est
a quatre piedz, deux, et trois
? Et
occisoit tous les ignorans, qui rien n’en savoient.
Tant que Oedipe le sage divineur survint: qui re-
solut la quaestion, disant que c’estoit l’homme, lequel
en son enfance rampe à quatre piedz: en sa virilité
se soubstient droict sur deux piedz: en sa vieillesse
s’appuye sur ung baston, qui faict le troisiesme pied.
Or comme souveraine prudence est cognoistre soy
mesme: jouxte la lettre Delphicque escripte au tem
ple d’Apollon. cognoy toy mesme. Ainsi ne
cognoistre que c’est de l’homme, & se mescognoi-
stre: est souveraine ignorance, qui destruict plu-
sieurs gens: & provient ou de legiereté d’esprit: ou
de volupté, ou d’arrogance: figurées par les aeles
d’oyseau, face de pucelle, & piedz de Lyon estants
en ce monstre.

Notes:

1.  The Sphinx was a monster which lay in wait on the road to Thebes and killed all travellers who could not answer its riddle: What goes on four legs in the morning, two at mid-day, three at evening? Oedipus destroyed the monster by giving the correct answer, ‘Man’ (i.e the baby crawls on all fours , the youth walks upright on his two legs, the old man requires a stick). See below, 1.9 (Namque vir ipse...). See also Erasmus, Adagia 1209, Boeotica aenigmata.

2.  ‘the Delphic letter’, i.e. the letter E. See Plutarch, De E apud Delphos, an essay which discusses various explanations put forward for the ‘E’, a letter cast in bronze. At the end of the essay (392ff.), the letter is brought into connection with the inscription Gnothi sauton, ‘Know thyself’ (cf. 1.10), which greeted those who came to consult the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. See also Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.6.6.


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