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Gratiae.

The Graces

VI.

Tres Charites Veneri assistunt, dominamque sequuntur.
Hincque voluptates, atque alimenta parant.
Laetitiam Euphrosyne, speciosum Aglaia nitorem.
Suadela est Pithus, blandus & ore lepos.[1]
Cur nudae? mentis quoniam candore venustas
Constat, & eximia simplicitate placet.
An quia nihil referunt ingrati atque arcula inanis,[2]
Est Charitum? qui dat munera, nudus eget.
Addita cur nuper pedibus talaria? bis dat
Qui cito dat,[3] minimi gratia tarda pretii est.
Implicitis ulnis cur vertitur altera? gratus
Foenerat, huic remanent una abeunte duae.[4]
Iuppiter iis genitor, coeli de semine divas
Omnibus acceptas edidit Eurynome.

The three Graces are attendant on Venus and follow their mistress. So they provide pleasures and pleasure’s nourishment. Euphrosyne brings gladness, Aglaia bright beauty; persuasion belongs to Peitho with winsome charm in speech. Why are they naked? Because loveliness consists in innocence of mind and commends itself by great simplicity. Or is it because the ungrateful make no return and the Graces’ treasure-chest is empty? He who gives gifts is stripped and needy. Why are there wings newly fastened to their feet? He gives twice who gives quickly. A favour granted late is of little value. Why does the second one link arms but turn her back to us? The man who shows gratitude gets more than he lays out; as one goes, two remain for him. Jupiter was their begetter; and Eurynome bore them, the divine offspring of the heavenly seed, goddesses loved by all mankind.

Notes:

1.The Latin words laetitia (gladness), nitor (beauty) and suadela (persuasion) are translations of the Greek names of the Graces, Euphrosyne, Aglaia and Peitho.

2.arcula inanis, ‘treasure-chest is empty’. See Erasmus, Adagia, 1812 (Simonidis cantilenae).

3.bis dat / Qui cito dat ‘He gives twice who gives quickly’. See Erasmus, Adagia, 791 (Bis dat qui cito dat).

4.Lines 9-12 express common sentiments, found e.g. in Seneca, De Beneficiis, passim. For the Graces especially, see Ibid., 1.3-4. See also Erasmus, Adagia, 1650 (Nudae Gratiae), where Erasmus associates the Graces with both friendship and ingratitude.


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    Scyphus Nestoris.

    Nestor’s cup

    Nestoreum geminis cratera hunc accipe fundis, [1]
    Quod gravis argenti massa profudit opus.
    Claviculi ex auro: stant circum quattuor ansae:
    Unam quanque super fulva columba sedet.
    Solus eum potuit longaevus tollere Nestor.
    Maeonidae doceas quid sibi musa velit.
    Est coelum scyphus ipse. color argenteus illi est:
    Aurea sunt coeli sidera claviculi.
    Pleiadas esse putant, quas dixerit ille columbas.[2]
    Umblici [=Umbilici] gemini,[3] magna minorque fera est.[4]
    Haec Nestor longo sapiens intelligit usu.
    Bella gerunt fortes, callidus astra tenet.

    Receive this bowl of Nestor with its double support, a work which a heavy mass of silver shaped. Its studs are of gold. Four handles stand about it. Above each one sits a yellow dove. Only aged Nestor was able to lift it. Do tell us what Homer’s Muse intended. The cup itself is the heavens; its colour is silvery; the studs are the golden stars of heaven. They think that what he called doves are the Pleiades. The twin bosses are the great and lesser beast. The wise Nestor understood this by long experience: the strong wage war, the wise man grasps the stars.

    Notes:

    1.Nestor’s bowl is described at Homer, Iliad, 11.632-7. Only Nestor, for all his great age could lift it when full. For the interpretation of Nestor’s cup (or mixing bowl) given here, see Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, 11.487 F ff.

    2.The Greek word for ‘doves’ is πελειάδες.

    3.‘twin bosses’, i.e. possibly the protuberances inside the bowl where it was joined to the two supports.

    4.‘great and lesser beast’, i.e. the Great and Little Bear, a phrase based on Ovid, Tristia, 4.3.1: ‘magna minorque ferae’.


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