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Insani gladius.

The madman’s sword

Emblema clxxv.

Setigeri medius stabat gregis ensifer Aiax,[1]
Caede suum, credens caedere Tantalidas.[2]
Hostia sic tamquam sus succedanea,[3] poenas
Pro Laërtiade,[4] pro caveáque dabat.
Nescit obesse suis furor hostibus: errat ab ictu,
Consiliique impos in sua damna ruit.

Ajax was standing sword in hand in the midst of the bristled herd, thinking that in killing the pigs he was killing the descendants of Tantalus. The victim, like the substitute pig, was paying the penalty for the son of Laertes and for the assembled crowd. Madness does not know how to disadvantage its real foes; it misdirects its blows, and, lacking judgement, rushes headlong to its own destruction.

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AIax, quòd Achillis arma, non sibi, sed Ulyssi ces-
sissent, ex iniquo Graecorum iudicio, in furorem
versus insilit in porcorum gregem, quos omnes in-
terfecit, duobus exceptis, quos de trabe suspensos
putabat esse Agamemnonem & Ulyssem indignis
modis affecit. Sed ubi ad se rediisset, cognitis iis
quae per insaniam fecerat, gladio incubuit. Hoc
quidem arguit temerarium furentium impetum,
qui non adversariis, sed sibi nocent ipsis, quòd ni-
miae irae permittant omnia, adeò ut saepe in ferrum
ruant, seséque ipsos miserè confodiant.

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Le glaive du furieux.

LE porte-espee Ajax insensé qu’il estoit,
Emmy un grand troupeau de porcs se tempestoit,
Et d’extreme furie à l’encontre se rue:
Or Grecs les pensoit ils [=il] & à grands coups les tue:
Ainsi en lieu d’Ulysse & du Conseil estroit,
Le Porc estoit victime où il se rencontroit.
“La fureur ne peust faire aux ennemis nuisance,
Ains faulte de conseil, soymesmes elle offence.

LEs armes d’Achilles, ayans esté adjugees
plustost à Ulysses que non à Ajax, par l’i-
nique jugement des Princes Grecs, il en de-
vint furieux, & ainsi se jetta sur une trouppe
de pourceaux, tous lesquels il mit à mort,
exceptez deux, lesquels il pendit à un tra-
neau, ayant en opinion que ce fussent Aga-
memnon
& Ulysses, lesquels il injuria à tou-
tes restes. Mais comme il fut retourné à soy,
ayant entendu ce qu’il avoit fait pendant sa
follie, il se tua soy-mesme. Cela montre com-
bien grande est la vehemence de ceux qui
sont en furie, qui ne nuisent point à leurs
ennemis, mais à eux-mesmes, à cause qu’ils
se sont du tout abbandonnez à leur passion
de cholere, de maniere que souvent ils se
deffont eux-mesmes & se donnent la mort.

Notes:

1.  See Emblem 28 ([FALc028]) for Ajax’ madness and suicide. In his madness, he slaughtered a herd of sheep, thinking them to be the Greeks. The two largest rams he took to be Agamemnon and Menelaus. See Zenobius, Proverbs, 1.43; Horace, Satires, 2.3.197-8; Erasmus, Adagia, 646 (Aiacis risus) - Erasmus makes the animals pigs, which Alciato here follows.

2.  Tantalidas, ‘the descendants of Tantalus’ i.e. Agamemnon and Menelaus, whom Ajax blamed for his humiliation.

3.  A substitute animal was sacrificed when the first offering was rejected by the gods or, as here, in place of the proper victim. See Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 4.6.5.

4.  pro Laërtiade, ‘for the son of Laërtes’, i.e. Odysseus, to whom the Greek assembly awarded the splendid armour of the dead Achilles, not to Ajax.


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