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Lascivia.

Wantonness

LXXI [=72] .

Delicias, & mollitiem mus creditur albus
Arguere, at ratio non sat aperta mihi est.[1]
An qud ei natura salax, & multa libido est?
Ornat Romanas an quia pelle nurus?
Sarmaticum murem vocitant plerique zibellum,[2]
Et celebris suavi est unguine muscus Arabae.[3]

The white mouse is supposed to represent self-indulgence and licentiousness, but the reason is not very clear to me. Is it because it is highly sexed and has strong sexual appetities? Or because it adorns Roman women with its fur? Many people call the civet-cat the Sarmatian mouse, and famous for its sweet oil is the Arabian musk.

Notes:

1. The white mouse was a proverbial example of the effeminate and the promiscuous. See the Suda s.v. mus, and Apostolius, Proverbs, 11,87, who also reports its sexual proclivities.

2. zibellum, ‘civet cat’, one source of musk, an ingredient in many perfumes. Sarmatia was the region north of the Black Sea.

3. murem...muscus, ‘mouse...musk’. The words ‘mouse’ and ‘musk’ (late Latin muscus) are connected, from the mouse-shaped sac of the male animals which produce musk. Some plants have a musky smell. Muscus also means ‘moss’ - Arabia was famous for plants which produced aromatic gums (e.g. incense and nard).


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    Philautia.

    Self-satisfaction.

    LXX [=71] .

    Qud nimium tua sorma [=forma] tibi Narcisse placebat,
    In florem, & noti est versa stuporis olus.[1]
    Ingenii est marcor, cladesque philautia, doctos
    Quae pessum plures datque deditque viros,
    Qui veterum abiecta methodo, nova dogmata quaerunt
    Nilque suas praeter tradere phantasias.

    Because your beauty gave you too much satisfaction, Narcissus, it was turned both into a flower and into a plant of acknowledged insensibility. Self-satisfaction is the rot and destruction of the mind. Learned men in plenty it has ruined, and ruins still, men who cast off the method of teachers of old and aim to pass on new doctrines, nothing more than their own imaginings.

    Notes:

    1. For the story of Narcissus, see Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.344ff. On the flower, see Pliny, Natural History, 21.75.128: “there are two kinds of narcissus... The leafy one ... makes the head thick and is called narcissus from narce (‘numbness’), not from the boy in the story.” (cf. ‘narcotic’).


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