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A picture of hope

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Quae dea tam laeto suspectans sydera vultu?
Cuius penniculis reddita imago fuit.
Elpidii[1] fecere manus, ego nominor illa,
Quae miseris promptam spes bona praestat opem.
Cur viridis tibi Palla? quod omnia me duce vernent,
Quid manibus mortis tela[2] refracta geris.
Quod vivos sperare decet, praecido sepultis,
Cur in dolioli tegmine pigra sedes,
Sola domi mansi volitantibus undique noxis,
Ascraei[3] ut docuit musa verenda senis.
Quae tibi adest volucris? cornix fidissimus oscen,[4]
Est bene cum nequeat dicere dicit erit.
Qui comites? bonus eventus[5], praecepsve cupido,
Qui praeeunt, vigilum somnia vana vocant,
Quae tibi iuncta astat, scelerum Rhamnusia[6] vindex,
Scilicet ut speres nil nisi quod liceat.[7]

What goddess is this, looking up to the stars with face so glad? By whose brush was this image depicted? - The hands of Elpidius made me. I am called Good Hope, the one who brings ready aid to the wretched. - Why is your garment green? - Because everything will spring green when I lead the way. - Why do you hold Death’s blunt arrows in your hands? - The hopes that the living may have, I cut short for the buried. - Why do you sit idle on the cover of a jar? - I alone stayed behind at home when evils fluttered all around, as the revered muse of the old poet of Ascra has told you. - What bird is at your side? - A crow, the faithful prophet. When it cannot say, ‘All’s well’, it says, ‘All shall be well’. - Who are your companions? - Happy Ending and Eager Desire. - Who go before you? - They call them the idle dreams of those who are awake. - Who stands close beside you? - Rhamnusia, the avenger of crimes, to make sure that you hope for nothing but what is allowed.


1. Elpidius is an invented name derived from Greek elpis, ‘hope’.

2. For Death’s arrows cf. [A31b066].

3. ‘the old poet of Ascra’, i.e. Hesiod. See Hesiod, Opera et dies 90ff. for the story of Pandora’s box or jar.

4. ‘a crow, the faithful prophet’. The crow was a bird of prophecy and an emblem of hope. Its caw was interpreted as cras, cras, ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’. Cf. the proverb, Quod hodie non est, cras erit: ‘What is not today shall be tomorrow.’

5. Bonus Eventus or Bonne Aventure, cf. Evento Buono in Ripa, Iconologia; also called ‘Success’ or ‘Happy Ending’.

6. Rhamnusia, i.e. Nemesis, who had a shrine at Rhamnus in Attica.

7. The woodcut is also used for Illicitum non sperandum ([A31b013]).

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