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Death and Love

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Errabat socio mors iuncta cupidine secum,
Mors pharetras parvus tela gerebat amor.
Divertere simul, simul una & nocte cubarunt,
Caecus amor, mors hoc tempore caeca fuit.
Alter enim alterius, male provida spicula sumpsit,
Mors aurata, tenet ossea tela puer.
Debuit inde senex qui nunc acheronticus[2] esse,
Ecce amat & capiti florea serta parat.
Ast ego mutato quia amor me perculit arcu,
Defficio [=Deficio] iniiciunt & mihi fata manum.
Parce puer, mors signa tenens victricia parce,
Fac ego amem subeat fac Acheronta senex.

Death was travelling in company with Cupid. Death was carrying the quivers, little Love the arrows. They turned aside together, and slept beside each other that night. Love was blind, and Death too was blind at this time, for each took the other’s heedless arrows. Death has the golden ones, the boy the ones of bone. As a result, an old man who ought by now to be in the grave is - lo and behold - in love, and gets garlands of flowers for his head. But I, since Love struck me with his substitute bow, I am failing - the Fates lay their hand on me. Boy, show mercy. Death, holding the symbols of your triumph, do you show mercy. Cause me to love; cause the old man to go down to Hades.


1. The iconography of the emblems ‘De morte et amore’ and ‘In formosam fato praereptam’ (next emblem) is confused in many editions.

2. Acheron was considered to be a river in Hades, but is used to mean the Underworld or the dead in general. Homer described it as a river of Hades, where Odysseus consulted spirits of Underworld (Odyssey 10.513). Vergil (Aeneid 6.297, with the note of Servius) describes it as the principal river of Tartarus, from which the Styx and Cocytus sprang.

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