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FIRMISSIMA CONVELLI
non posse.

The firmest things cannot be uprooted

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Occeanus quamvis fluctus pater excitet omnes,[1]
Danubiumque omnem barbare Turca bibas,[2]
Non tu[3] irrumpes perfracto limite, Caesar
Dum Charolus populis bellica signa dabit.[4]
Sic sacrae quercus[5] firmis radicibus adstant.
Sicca licent [=licet] venti concutiant folia.

Though Father Ocean rouses all his waves, though, barbarous Turk, you drink the Danube dry, yet you shall not break through the boundary and burst in, while Emperor Charles shall give to his peoples the signal for war. Even so, holy oaks stand firm with tenacious roots, though the winds rattle the dry leaves.

Notes:

1.  This poem is based on Anthologia graeca 9.291, which refers to a threat to ancient Rome from invading German tribes.

2.  The Turks invaded along the Danube and reached Hungary, winning the battle of Mohacs in 1526. When Alciato was writing, they continued to threaten Vienna and Central Europe.

3.  Later editions correct to tamen, no doubt to improve the scansion.

4.   Caesar...Charlus, i.e. Emperor Charles V, led the charge to recover the lost territory.

5.  ‘holy oaks’. Oaks were holy because sacred to Zeus, especially at his sanctuary at Dodona in Greece ([A50a199]). The image of the dry leaves is already present in the Greek poem, but see also Vergil, Aeneid 4.441-4.


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  • withering, leaves or flowers falling off [25G(+35)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • trees: oak (+ withering, leaves or flowers falling off) [25G3(OAK)(+35)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Asiatic races and peoples: Turks [32B33(TURKS)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Constancy, Tenacity; 'Costanza', 'Tenacità' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [53A21(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Stability, Firmness; 'Fermezza', 'Stabilimento', 'Stabilità' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [53A22(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Invincibility (+ emblematical representation of concept) [54A71(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • historical person (with NAME) other representations to which the NAME of a historical person may be attached (with NAME of person) [61B2(CHARLES V [of Holy Roman Empire])3] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • geographical names of countries, regions, mountains, rivers, etc. (names of cities and villages excepted) (with NAME) [61D(DANUBE)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • (story of) Oceanus [91B112] Search | Browse Iconclass

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CUM LARVIS NON LU-
CTANDUM.[1]

Do not wrestle with the dead

Aeacidae[2] moriens percussu cuspidis Hector[3],
Qui toties hosteis vicerat ante suos.
Comprimere haud potuit vocem insultantibus illis,
Dum curru & pedibus nectere vincla parant.
Distrahite ut libitum est sic cassi luce leonis,
Convellunt barbam vel timidi lepores.[4]

When he was dying from the wound dealt by the spear of Aeacus’ descendant, Hector, who had so often before defeated his own enemies, could not keep silent as they triumphed over him, while preparing to tie the ropes to chariot and feet. Tear me as you will, he said; when the lion is deprived of the light of life, even cowardly hares pluck his beard.

Notes:

1.  Cf. Erasmus, Adagia 153, Cum larvis luctari.

2.  ‘of Aeacus’ descendant’, i.e. ‘of Achilles’. Textual variant: Aeacidae.

3.  Hector was the greatest warrior on the Trojan side in the Trojan War, killed in single combat by Achilles, the Greek champion. See Homer, Iliad 22.367ff. and 24.14ff. for Achilles’ desecration of Hector’s body, dragging it, tied by the feet behind his chariot, round the tomb of Patroclus.

4.  The last two lines are a translation of the two-line epigram Anthologia graeca 16.4, where, in Planudes’ text, the words are attributed to Hector in the heading.


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