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The impossible

Abluis Aethiopem quid frustra? ah desine, noctis
Illustrare nigrae nemo potest tenebras.[1]

Why are you washing an Ethiopian in vain? Oh, do stop. No one can turn the shades of black night into light.

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Il est ung milier de negoces,
Ou lon ne peult remede mettre.
Et quoy que ardemment ten courrouces,
Si nen seras tu ja le maistre.
Parquoy si tu quiers hors blasme estre,
Ne prans peine a blanchir ung More.
En la nuict, ne peult clarte naistre.
Ung vice invetere demoure.


1. This is a translation of Anthologia graeca 11.428. See also Aesop, Fables 11; Erasmus, Adagia 350, Aethiopen lavas.

Iconclass Keywords

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Relating to the text:

  • (personifications of) 'Vanitas', the vanity of human life; Fragilit� humana, Fugacit� delle grandezze & della gloria mondana, Meditatione della morte, Opera vana, Piacere vano, Vana gloria, Vanit� (Ripa) [11R5] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • day and night [23R] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Impossibility (+ emblematical representation of concept) [52BB42(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass

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