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In statuam Bacchi.[1]

A statue of Bacchus

Bacche pater, quis te mortali lumine novit,
Et docta effinxit hinc[2] tua membra manu?
Praxiteles[3], qui me rapientem Gnosida[4] vidit,
Atque illo pinxit tempore qualis eram.
Cur iuvenis, teneraque etiam lanugine vernat
Barba? queas Pylium cm superare senem.[5]
Muneribus quandoque meis si parcere disces,
Iunior & forti pectore semper eris.
Tympana non manibus, capiti non cornua desunt,[6]
Quos nisi dementeis talia signa decent?
Hoc doceo, nostro qud abusus munere sumit
Cornua, & insanus mollia sistra[7] quatit.
Quid vult ille color membris pen igneus? omen
Absit, an humanis ureris ipse focis?
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [K1v p146]Cm Semeles de ventre[8] parens me fulmine traxit
Ignivomo, infectum pulvere mersit aquis.
Hinc sapit hic liquidis qui nos bene diluit undis,
Qui non, ardenti torret ab igne iecur.
Sed nunc me doceas qui vis miscerier? & qua
Te sanus tutum prendere lege queat?
Quadrantem addat aquae, calicem sumpsisse falerni[9]
Qui cupit, hoc sumi pocula more iuvat.
Stes citra[10] heminas[11], nam qui procedere tendit
Ultr, alacer, sed mox ebrius, inde furit:
Res dura haec nimium, sunt pendula guttura, dulce
Tu fluis, heu facile commoda nulla cadunt.

Father Bacchus, who set mortal eyes upon you and accordingly fashioned your limbs with skilful hand? - It was Praxiteles, who saw me carrying off the girl from Knossos and represented me as I was at that time. - Why are you young, and why is your beard fresh with tender down, though you can surpass the old man of Pylos? - Because you will always be young and of a brave heart, if you will learn to use my gifts sparingly. - Drums are not absent from your hands, horns are not missing from your head. Whom but the mad do such symbols fit? - I teach men that anyone who abuses my gifts grows horns and in madness shakes unmanly rattles. - What is the meaning of the colour like fire upon your limbs? Perish the thought - do you yourself burn with mortal fires? When my father drew me with his flaming lightning-blast from Semele’s womb, he dipped me in water, all marked with ash as I was. And so that man is wise who dilutes me well with water. He who does not, gets his liver scorched from the raging fire. - But now, tell me how you wish to be mixed, and under what conditions a sensible man can take you in safety. - The man who desires to take a cup of Falernian should add a quadrans of water. It is good when cups are taken like this. You should keep within small measures. Anyone who pushes on further is first merry, soon drunk and then mad. - This is a very hard thing. Our tongues hang out, you flow sweetly down. Alas, nothing good for us comes easy.

Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [K1r p145]

A la Statue de Bacchus.

Pere Bacchus, qui est ce qui ta congneu?
Et par saige art a painct ton corps tout nud?
Praxiteles le painctre florissant,
Quand il me vit Gnosis seul ravissant.
Mais il ta painct avec jeune visage,
Quoy que soys vieulx plus que Nestor le sage.
Il a ce faict, pour tout homme asseurer,
Que qui scaura mes dons bien mesurer,
Sante aura, & lestat de Jeunesse.
Cela te dis pour verite, jeu nest ce.
Et ce tabour, & cornes quil ta faict,
A mon advis, nont marque en ton effect:
Telz signes sont enseignes de folye:
Monstrans que vin par trop prins le fol lye
Et rend moque, comme sil labouroit
Fluter par rue, ou que sil tabouroit.
Que veult noter ceste rouge couleur?
As tu sentu quelque rude chaleur?
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [K2r p147] Quand tire fus de Semele ma mere,
Par Jupiter en fouldre estant mon pere,
Gette par luy prestement dans leau fus,
Pour me garder du dommage des feus.
Sur quoy je dis, que celluy est prudent,
Qui avec eau lave mon corps ardent.
Car tel secours a moy qui estoffoye,
Faict, que plusieurs nont point brusle le foye
Je te requiers que me donnes doctrine,
Comment tu doibs entrer en ma poictrine:
Et combien deau, avec toy doibs mesler:
Pour seurement par ton Royaulme aller.
Ayder te peulx de moy, sans que te offence,
Quand le quart deau, metz avec mon essence
A demye pinte, aura ton past mesure.
Cela te rend la sante longue & seure.
Et qui sera sur le plus curieulx,
yvre sera, en cerveau furieux.
Helas vecy ung dur enseignement:
Veu que tu scais coler si doulcement
Par noz gosiers, qui ont de toy besoing.
Proffit ne vient, sans porter peine & soing.


1. For a description of Bacchus, see Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.4ff.

2. Textual variant: quis.

3. Praxiteles. This artist fashioned a famous group of statues in bronze depicting Bacchus/Dionysus with Drunkenness and a Satyr. See Pliny, Natural History 34.19.69.

4. Gnosida, ‘the girl from Knossos’, i.e. Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Knossos, who helped Theseus destroy the Minotaur, was taken by him to Naxos and there abandoned. Dionysus, the young, exotic and beautiful god of wine, rescued her and made her his bride. See Philostratus, Eikones 1.15.

5. Pylium...senem, ‘the old man of Pylos’, i.e. Nestor, king of Pylos, who had outlived three generations of men and was a proverbial example of age.

6. ‘horns are not missing from your head’. The god was represented with ram’s or bull’s horns, symbolising power and virility. Under the influence of wine the weak imagine themselves strong and powerful: see Horace, Odes 3.21.18.

7. mollia sistra, ‘unmanly rattles’. Small percussion instruments (see l.9) were used in the wild rites of Bacchus, mainly celebrated by women.

8. Semeles de ventre, ‘from Semele’s womb’. Semele, pregnant with Bacchus by Jove, desired to see Jove in his full glory, and the ensuing lightning-blast consumed her. Jove rescued the foetus and enclosed it in his thigh until it was full-grown, whereupon he entrusted the baby to the nymphs (i.e. water-spirits) to bring up. For the content of ll.15-18 compare Anthologia graeca 9.331.

9. calicem...Falerni, ‘cup of Falernian’. Wine from Falernum was one of the best in ancient Italy, but here stands for wine in general.

10. Textual variant: intra.

11. As a hemina measures six cyathi and a quadrans (l.21) contains three cyathi, this suggests that the wine should be at two-thirds strength. For diluting wine, see Erasmus, Adagia 1196, Perdidisti vinum infusa aqua. The ancients normally diluted their wine.

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