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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [n3r p197]

XII. certamina Herculis[1]

The twelve labours of Hercules

ἀλληγορικῶς.

An allegorical treatment.

XXV.

Roboris invicti superat facundia laudes:
Dicta Sophistarum laqueosque resolvit inanes.
Non furor, aut rabies virtute potentior ulla est:
Continuum ob cursum sapienti opulentia cedit:
Spernit avaritiam, nec rapto aut foenore gaudet:
Vincit, foemineos spoliatque insignibus astus:
Expurgat sordes, & cultum mentibus addit:
Illicitos odit coitus, abigitque nocentes:
Barbaries feritasque dat impia denique poenam:
Unius virtus collectos dissipat hostes:
Invehit in patriam externis bona plurima ab oris:
Docta per ora virūm volat[2] et non interit unquam.

Eloquence surpasses the fame of untamed strength and unravels the sayings of sophists and their vain tricky problems. No rage nor madness of any sort has more power than virtue. Because of his continual exertion, wealth comes the way of the wise. Virtue scorns avarice and takes no pleasure in theft or usury. It overcomes the wiles of women and robs them of their triumph. It cleans out filth and brings culture to the mind. It hates illicit unions and repels them, with all their harm. Barbaric acts and godless savagery in the end pay the penalty. The virtue of one man scatters massed enemies. Virtue brings many good things from abroad to its own country. It passes from one man’ learned lips to another’s and does not perish ever.

Notes:

1.  Hercules was accredited with many victories over men and monsters, but eventually a list of twelve major ones was compiled. See e.g. Anthologia Graeca, 16.92. These ‘Labours’ he carried out at the behest of Eurystheus, incited by Hera (see next emblem, note 2). Alciato’s epigram follows this order: i. the Nemean lion; ii. the Hydra; iii. the Erymanthean boar; iv. the golden-antlered Arcadian stag; v. the birds of the Stymphalian Marsh; vi. the belt of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons; vii. the Augean stables; viii. the Cretan bull; ix. the mares of Diomedes; x. the cattle of the three-bodied giant Geryones (see Emblem 218 [A56a218]); xi. the golden apples of the Hesperides; and xii. the three-headed watchdog Cerberus. The Labours were given various allegorical interpretations both in antiquity and later, and Hercules himself becomes a wise man and philosopher, overcoming folly and sin. See Emblem 093 ([A56a093]).

2.  docta per ora virum volat, ‘It passes from one man’s learned lips to another’s’. Cf. the epitaph of the poet Ennius (Epigrams, Loeb edition, p. 402): ‘volito vivus per ora virum’ (still living, from one man’s mouth to another I fly).


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    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [n5r p201]

    Hedera.

    Ivy

    XXXVIII.

    Haudquaquam arescens hederae est arbuscula, Cisso[1]
    Quae puero Bacchum dona dedisse ferunt:
    Errabunda, procax, auratis fulva corymbis,
    Exterius viridis, caetera pallor habet.
    Hinc aptis vates cingunt sua tempora sertis:[2]
    Pallescunt studiis, laus diuturna viret.

    There is a bushy plant which never withers, the ivy which Bacchus, they say, gave as a gift to the boy Cissos. It goes where it will, uncontrollable; tawny where the golden berry-clusters hang; green on the outside but pale everywhere else. Poets use it to wreathe their brows with garlands that fit them well - poets are pale with study, but their praise remains green for ever.

    Notes:

    1.  Κισσός is the Greek word for ‘ivy’. For the story of Cissos, beloved of Bacchus, and his transformation into the ivy, see Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 12.188ff.

    2.  vates cingunt sua tempora, ‘Poets use it to wreathe their brows’. See Pliny, Natural History, 16.62.147: poets use the species with yellow berries for garlands.


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