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Section: PERFIDIA (Treachery). View all emblems in this section.

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In adulatores.

Flatterers

Semper hiat, semper tenuem qua vescitur auram,
Reciprocat Chamaeleon[1],
Et mutat faciem, varios sumitque colores,
Praeter rubrum, vel candidum:[2]
Sic & Adulator populari vescitur aura,[3]
Hiansque cuncta devorat.
Et solm 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. 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.

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

3. ‘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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In receptatores sicariorum.

Those who harbour cut-throats

EMBLEMA LII.

Latronum, furumque manus tibi, Scaeva[1], per urbem
It comes, & diris cincta cohors gladiis:
Atque ita te mentis generosum prodige censes,
Qud tua complures allicit olla malos.
En novus Actaeon, qui postqum cornua sumpsit,
In praedam canibus se dedit ipse suis.[2]

An evil-minded band of ruffians and thieves accompanies you about the city, a gang of supporters armed with lethal swords. And so, you wastrel, you consider yourself a fine lordly fellow because your cooking pot draws in crowds of scoundrels. - Here’s a fresh Actaeon - he, after he grew his horns, became the prey of his own hunting dogs.

Notes:

1. Scaeva, ‘evil-minded’. The capital letter suggests that the Latin word could be taken as a proper name in the vocative case, i.e addressing one Scaeva.

2. For the story of Actaeon turned into a stag and killed by his own hounds, see Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.138ff. Similarly, the hangers-on will destroy the one who has fed them.


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