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In Adulatores.[1]

Flatterers

Semper hiat, semper tenuem qua vescitur auram,
Reciprocat chamaeleon[2],
Et mutat faciem, varios sumitque colores,
Praeter rubrum vel candidum:[3]
Sic & adulator populari vescitur aura,[4]
Hiansque cuncta devorat,
Et solùm mores imitatur principis atros,
Albi & pudici nescius.

The Chameleon is always breathing in and out with open mouth the bodiless air on which it feeds; it changes its appearance and takes on various colours, except for red and white. - Even so the flatterer feeds on the wind of popular approval and gulps down all with open mouth. He imitates only the black features of the prince, knowing nothing of the white and pure.

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Flateurs.

Cameleon sousflant sans cesse,
Vivant dair, na fixes couleurs.
Adonc bleu, verd, ou jaulne, & laisse
Rouge & blanc, taincts de grandz valeurs.
Flateurs de Prince ont telz malheurs,
Mangeans peuple en ville & cite.
Des meurs du prince grands parleurs:
Fors de blancheur & purite.

Notes:

1.  Before the 1536 edition, Wechel editions used a different woodcut.

2.  This creature was supposed to feed only on air, keeping its mouth wide open to suck it in. See Pliny, Natural History 8.51.122. For the chameleon cf. Erasmus, Parabolae pp.144, 241, 252.

3.  ‘except for red and white’. See Pliny, ib.

4.  ‘the wind of popular approval’. This is a common metaphor in Latin, e.g. Horace, Odes 3.2.20, ‘at the behest of the wind of popular approval.’



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