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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [n3v p198]

Sapientia humana stultitia
est apud Deum.[1]

The Wisdom of Man is folly to God

XXVII.

Quid dicam? quonam hoc compellem nomine monstrum?
Biforme quod non est homo, nec est draco:[2]
Sed sine vir pedibus, summis sine partibus anguis,
Vir anguipes dici, & homiceps anguis potest.
Anguem pedit homo, hominem eructavit & anguis,
Nec finis hominis est, initium nec est ferae.
Sic olim Cecrops[3] doctis regnavit Athenis,
Sic & gigantes terra mater protulit.
Haec vafrum species, sed relligione carentem,
Terrena tamtum quique curet,[4] indicat.

What shall I say? By what name call this monster? a two-fold thing that is neither man nor snake? A man without feet, a snake without its upper parts - this can be called a snake-footed man, a man-headed snake. The man farts a snake, the snake has vomited a man, the man has no end, the beast no beginning. In such a form did Cecrops once rule in learned Athens, in such a form did Mother Earth once bring forth the Giants. This is an image of clever men, but indicating one without religion, who cares only for the things of the earth.

Notes:

1.  This epigram is based on Anthologia Graeca, 16.115-6, descriptions of a hippocentaur, the second of which was translated by Alciato at Sel. Ep. p.335. Metre: dactylic hexameters paired with iambic senarii.

2.  Variant reading, ‘monstrum Biforme quod...’, ‘ two-fold monster that is neither ...’.

3.  Cecrops, the mythical wise first king of Athens, the city of Pallas Athene, the goddess of wisdom. Cecrops, like the Giants (l.8) was born of the earth and was represented as half-man, half snake.

4.  Terrena tantum quique curet, ‘who cares only for the things of earth’. See Macrobius, Saturnalia, 1.20.9: the fact that the Giants’ bodies terminated as snakes shows that they had not a single thought that was right or elevated, but that their life in all its comings and goings tended to what was base.


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    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [M8v p192]

    La sagesse humaine est folie devant
    Dieu.[1]

    XXVII.

    Comme aura nom ce monstre à double forme,
    Qui homme n’est, ny serpent, mais difforme?
    Homme sans pieds, & un serpent sans teste,
    Pieds serpentins, mais homme par le reste.
    Homme petant le serpent, & serpent
    Qui rotte l’homme, & n’a commencement,
    Non plus que n’a fin aucune cest homme.
    Tel fut Cecrops[2] Athenien: en somme
    Tels les geants, que la terre produist.
    Semblable forme aux fins & rusés duit,
    Qui, sans souci de paradis acquerre,
    Ne pensent rien qu’aux choses de la terre.[3]

    Commentaires.

    Je croirois volontiers, qu’Alciat par cest emble-
    me a voulu pinser quelcun de ceux de son temps.
    L’embleme n’est pas sans obscurité. Par ce monstre
    difforme, (qui n’est du tout homme, ny du tout ser-
    pent, mais de nature double, & auquel on n’a peu en-
    cor bonnement trouver nom propre,) sont designés
    ceux, qui ayans receu de Dieu une ame raisonnable,
    ne pensent neantmoins qu’à la terre: & ne tenans
    compte de leur meilleur & principale partie, rampent
    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [N1r p193] icy bas, & degenerent en nature bestial. Car ce mon-
    stre ne finit pas en homme, & le serpent n’a point de
    commencement. Aussi les disciples d’Epicure ne re-
    gardent aucunement à la fin, pour laquelle Dieu les
    a creés participans de raison: ains abusent miserable-
    ment de la vraye raison, l’emprisonnans avec leur
    raison sensuelle & pernicieuse. Cecrops fut le premier
    Roy d’Athenes, & qui y bastit la forteresse. Les fa-
    bulateurs tiennent que luy le premier institua le ma-
    riage, & pourtant fut surnommé, de double nature:
    pource que par le mariage il avoit conjoint deux e-
    speces en une. Autres, & peut estre plus sainement,
    disent qu’il a esté ainsi nommé, pource qu’il a esté le
    premier inventeur de la superstition & de l’idola-
    trie.

    Notes:

    1.  This epigram is based on Anthologia Graeca, 16.115-6, descriptions of a hippocentaur, the second of which was translated by Alciato at Sel. Ep. p.335.

    2.  Cecrops, the mythical wise first king of Athens, the city of Pallas Athene, the goddess of wisdom. Cecrops, like the Giants (l.9) was born of the earth and was represented as half-man, half snake.

    3.  See Macrobius, Saturnalia, 1.20.9: the fact that the Giants’ bodies terminated as snakes shows that they had not a single thought that was right or elevated, but that their life in all its comings and goings tended to what was base.


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