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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [n2v p196]

Insani gladius.

The madman’s sword

XXIII.

Setigeri medius stabat gregis ensifer Aiax, [1]
Caede suum credens caedere Tantalidas.[2]
Hostia sic tanquam sus succedanea[3] poenas
Pro Laërtiade,[4] pro caveaque dabat.
Nescit obesse suis furor hostibus, errat ab ictu,
Consiliique impos in sua damna ruit.

Ajax was standing sword in hand in the midst of the bristled herd, thinking that in killing the pigs he was killing the descendants of Tantalus. The victim, like the substitute pig, was paying the penalty for the son of Laertes and for the assembled crowd. Madness does not know how to disadvantage its real foes; it misdirects its blows, and, lacking judgement, rushes headlong to its own destruction.

Notes:

1.  See Emblem 38 ([A56a038]) for Ajax’ madness and suicide. In his madness, he slaughtered a herd of sheep, thinking them to be the Greeks. The two largest rams he took to be Agamemnon and Menelaus. See Zenobius, Proverbs, 1.43; Horace, Satires, 2.3.197-8; Erasmus, Adagia, 646 (Aiacis risus) - Erasmus makes the animals pigs, which Alciato here follows.

2.  Tantalidas, ‘the descendants of Tantalus’ i.e. Agamemnon and Menelaus, whom Ajax blamed for his humiliation.

3.  A substitute animal was sacrificed when the first offering was rejected by the gods or, as here, in place of the proper victim. See Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 4.6.5.

4.  pro Laërtiade, ‘for the son of Laërtes’, i.e. Odysseus, to whom the Greek assembly awarded the splendid armour of the dead Achilles, not to Ajax.


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    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [M5v p186]

    Eloquence s’acquiert avec diffi-
    culté.

    XXII.

    Pour Ulysse sauver de l’enchanté bruvage
    Mercure luy donna l’herbe moly sauvage,[1]
    Ayant noire racine, & fleur blanche & pourprine,
    Difficile à trouver, & à tirer de terre.
    L’eloquence est aussi malaisee à acquerre:
    Mais elle attrait chacun par sa douceur divine.

    Commentaires.

    Ciceron dit que l’eloquence est difficile à acquerir
    sur toutes autres possessions: car pour y parvenir, il
    faut avoir appris beaucoup de belles choses. L’herbe,
    appellee moly, est fort malaisee à trouver, & plus mal-
    aisee encor à arracher de terre. Sa fleur est belle &
    aggreable. Ainsi il faut tuer & travailler beaucoup
    pour acquerir eloquence: mais en fin elle rend des
    fruicts fort plaisans & de bon goust.

    Notes:

    1.  See Homer, Odyssey, 10.270ff. for the story of the encounter of Ulysses (the man from Ithaca) and his crew with the sorceress Circe on the island of Aeaea. The plant moly is described ibid, 302-6. See Emblem 16 ([FALe016]), for the effect of Circe’s poisoned cup. Cf. Erasmus, De Copia (Loeb edition, 1.91 D), where moly is interpreted as wisdom rather than eloquence. Cf. Coustau, ‘In herbam Moly, ex Homero’ ([FCPb073]).


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