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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [M3v p182]

Impossibile.

The impossible

Abluis Aethiopem quid frustrà? ah desine, noctis
Illustrare nigrae nemo potest tenebras.[1]

Why are you washing an Ethiopian in vain? Oh, do stop. No one can turn the shades of black night into light.

Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [M4r p183]

Impossible.

Il est ung milier de negoces,
Ou lon ne peult remede mettre.
Et quoy que ardemment ten courrouces,
Si nen seras tu ja le maistre.
Parquoy si tu quiers hors blasme estre,
Ne prans peine a blanchir ung More.
En la nuict, ne peult clarte naistre.
Ung vice invetere demoure.

Notes:

1.  This is a translation of Anthologia graeca 11.428. See also Aesop, Fables 11; Erasmus, Adagia 350, Aethiopen lavas.


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  • (personifications of) 'Vanitas', the vanity of human life; Fragilit� humana, Fugacit� delle grandezze & della gloria mondana, Meditatione della morte, Opera vana, Piacere vano, Vana gloria, Vanit� (Ripa) [11R5] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • day and night [23R] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Impossibility (+ emblematical representation of concept) [52BB42(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass

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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [F7r p93]

In Adulatores.[1]

Flatterers

Semper hiat, semper tenuem qua vescitur auram,
Reciprocat chamaeleon[2],
Et mutat faciem, varios sumitque colores,
Praeter rubrum vel candidum:[3]
Sic & Adulator populari vescitur aura,[4]
Hiansque cuncta devorat,
Et solùm mores imitatur principis atros,
Albi & pudici nescius.

The Chameleon is always breathing in and out with open mouth the bodiless air on which it feeds; it changes its appearance and takes on various colours, except for red and white. - Even so the flatterer feeds on the wind of popular approval and gulps down all with open mouth. He imitates only the black features of the prince, knowing nothing of the white and pure.

Notes:

1.  From 1536 onwards, Wechel editions used a different woodcut which looks slightly more like a chameleon and has a castle in the background.

2.  This creature was supposed to feed only on air, keeping its mouth wide open to suck it in. See Pliny, Natural History 8.51.122. For the chameleon cf. Erasmus, Parabolae pp.144, 241, 252.

3.  ‘except for red and white’. See Pliny, ib.

4.  ‘the wind of popular approval’. This is a common metaphor in Latin, e.g. Horace, Odes 3.2.20, ‘at the behest of the wind of popular approval.’


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