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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [A7v p14]

EMBLEMA VIII.

Calumnia dira pestis.

Slander is a terrible plague.

Hîc radio laetifero tacta, velut sidere, Pastinacae,
Exuitur celsa pirus deciduam luxuriem comarum.
Haud aliter vipereo vaniloquus dente calumniator
Attalicas[1] vertere opes, conditionemque potest superbam.

Here, touched by the electrifying [lit. joy-bringing] sting of a ray, as if by a star [of ill fortune], The tall pear-tree drops its deciduous abundance of leaves [lit. hair]. No differently can the slanderer, speaking falsehoods, with viperish tooth Overthrow the riches of an Attalus and all his proud condition.


Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [E8r p79]

Carmen est Choriambicum Callimachium, constans
tetrametro & amphibrachy sive bacchio, quale
est illud:

Armipotens Mars genitor Romulida, te, venias, precamur.

Pastinaca is piscis est, quem Graeci τρύγο-
να
, interpretes plerique omnes Turturem[2] perperam
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [E8v p80]appellant: Hollandis nostratibus, ab aculeata ia-
culi in modum cauda, Pylstaert nominatur. huius
radius (aculeum ita vocat Plinius) tam letalem
praesentaneique veneni vim habet, ut arboris
quantumvis ramosae, ac vegetae, & amoenissimo
frondium virore florentis caudici infixus, mox
folia defluere faciat: quo amisso honore, truncus
quoque celerrimè exarescit; neque multò post side
ratae, atque è solis immenso ardore, solique squal-
lore exsiccatae arbor fit similis. Plinius lib. 9. cap.
48. & lib. 32. cap. 2. huiusce rei fidem facit, nul-
lum usquam exsecrabilius venenum esse asserens,[3]
quam sit radius in cauda pastinacae eminens, qui
radici infixus arbores necet. hoc telo patrem Ulys
sem
interemit Telegonus, accepto à Circe matre
exitii indicio. quam rem graphicè describit Op-
pianus
in Halieuticis,[4] in hanc fermè sententiam
utcunque versibus à me expressam.
Nil Trygonis diro radio exitialius usquam est:
Martia non tela, aut nigri quae lacte veneni
Spicula Achaemenidum tinxit gens aspera bello.
Ubere stet quamvis foetu, & frondentibus arbos
Luxuriet ramis, vernoque virescat honore;
Vulnere si tristi radicem punxeris imam,
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [F1r p81]Mox labat omnis honos, coma defluit, ipsa de-
corem
Exuit hinc viridem crudeli saucia tabe.
Non minùs praesens virus habet exitialis ac pe-
stifera delatoris lingua; quae florentes dignitati-
bus evertere, fortunisque omnibus exutos, ad in-
citas redigere potest. Pingatur itaque pirus flo-
rens eiusque trunco affixa adhaereat pastinaca:
sed ita ut radius ille, de quo diximus, caudici
impressus clarè videri queat.

The verse-form is a Callimachian choriambic, consisting of a choriambic tetrameter and an amphibrach or a bacchius, as in the line: “Arms-bearing Mars, father of the Roman race, we pray you, come.”
The Pastinaca [Sting-ray] is that fish which the Greeks call trugôn, and almost all commentators call it Turtur [the turtle-dove] in error. [p.80] In our native Holland, it is called Pylstaert on account of its stinging tail, like a javelin. The sting of this creature (Pliny calls the sting aculeus) has a poison of such a lethal and fast-working potency* that if it is thrust into the trunk of a tree, no matter how many branches it has and how strong it is, or how much it flourishes with the most delightful vigorous foliage, it will soon make its leaves fall off - and when the decoration has fallen, the trunk too shrivels up in a flash, and not long after the tree will resemble one blasted and dried up from the great heat of the sun and the poor quality of the soil. Pliny (ix, 48 and xxxii, 2) testifies to this, stating that no poison anywhere is more detestable than is the sting at the end of the tail of the sting-ray, which kills trees when stuck into the root. With this weapon did Telegonus kill his father Ulysses, having received the token of the death from his mother Circe. Oppian writes graphically about this matter in the Halieutica, with almost the same meaning as I expressed in one way or another in my verses:
Nothing anywhere is more deadly than the dreadful sting of the Ray:
Not weapons of war, nor the darts which the race of the Achaemenids [i.e. Persians], fierce in war, moistened with the juice of black poison.
A tree can be standing, as rich as you like in fruit, and with abundant leafy
Branches, and vigorous with the decorations of spring:
If you puncture its root deep with a terrible wound,
[p.81] Soon all the decoration falls, the foliage drops, the tree puts aside its green beauty, afflicted with cruel disease.
No less of a sickness is present in the deadly and plague-ridden tongue of the slanderer, for it can overthrow those whose honours are flourishing, and stripping them of all their fortune, bring them down to the lowest extremity. And so a pear-tree is shown flourishing, and a sting-ray is attached to its trunk which it has pierced: but in such a way that that sting, about which we have talked, can clearly be seen sticking into the trunk.
* Lit. ‘a strength so lethal and of instantaneous poison’.

Notes:

1.  Attalus: legendarily wealthy king of Pergamum in Asia Minor (Attalicus refers to his dynasty collectively).

2.  τρυγών in Greek also signifies turtle-dove.

3.  Pliny, Natural History, 9.48.72.155

4.  A poem on fishing, by the 2nd-century Greek poet; also the title of a work by Ovid.



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