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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [Q4v p248]

Antiquissima quaeque commentitia.

The oldest things are all invented


Pellenaee senex cui forma est histrica Proteu,[1]
Qui modō membra viri fers, modō membra ferae.
Dic age quae species ratio te vertit in omnes,
Nulla sit ut vario certa figura tibi?
Signa vetustatis, primaevi & praefero secli,[2]
De quo quisque suo somniat arbitrio.

Proteus, old man of Pallene, whose outward appearance changes like an actor’s, assuming sometimes the body of a man, sometimes that of a beast, come, tell me, what is your reason for turning into all kinds of shapes, so that you have no permanent form as you constantly alter? I offer symbols of antiquity and the very first times, concerning which everyone dreams up what he will.

Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [Q5r p249]

Les devis de l’ancien temps.


Protheus, dou est la raison,
Que jamais n’as mesme figure?
Oire es ung homme en ta maison,
Oire ung thoreau de aspre nature.
Je suis en ce la portraicture
Du passé, dont souvent parlez,
Duquel songez a l’adventure:
Et tient telle forme que voulez.


1.  Proteus was ‘the Old Man of the Sea’, who evaded capture by constantly changing his shape. See e.g. Homer, Odyssey, 4.400ff.; Vergil, Georgics, 4. 405-10, 440-2; Erasmus, Adagia, 1174 (Proteo mutabilior). Vergil (Georgics, 4.391) describes him living near the headland of Pallene (on the Macedonian coast). The idea of Proteus as a gifted actor or mime-artist is taken from Lucian, Saltatio, 19.

2.  signa vetustatis primaevi et...secli, ‘symbols of antiquity and the very first times’. Pallene (see n.1.) suggested a connection with the Greek word παλαιός ‘ancient’, as the name Proteus was supposedly connected with πρώτιστος, ‘the very first’.

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