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Che la lettera occide, e lo spirito porge vita.

The letter kills and the spirit gives life


I fratelli, che nacquer de la terra
D’i denti seminati del Serpente,
Fecero insieme l’uno a l’altro guerra.
E s’occisero molti parimente,
Palla serbonne alcun, che su la terra
Diposer l’arme, e unirsi finalmente.
Cadmo trovò le lettre, ond’è; inquieta
L’alma, se la prudenza non l’acqueta.


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  • 'litterae', symbolic representations, allegories and emblems ~ literature; 'Lettere' (Ripa) [48C90] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • symbolic representations, allegories and emblems ~ science, 'Scientia'; 'Scienza', 'Studio' (Ripa) [49C0] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • invention of letters [49L10] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • Wisdom; 'Sapienza', 'Sapienza humana', 'Sapienza vera' (Ripa) (+ emblematical representation of concept) [52A51(+4)] Search | Browse Iconclass
  • proverbs, sayings, etc. (with TEXT) [86(LITERA OCCIDIT: SPIRITUS VIVIFICAT)] Search | Browse Iconclass

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EI QUI SEMEL SUA PRO-
degerit aliena credi non
oportere.

Others’ property should not be entrusted to a person who has once squandered his own

Cholchidos in gremio nidum quid congeris? heu
Nescia cur pullos tam male credis avis.
Dira parens Medaea suos saevissima natos
Perdidit, & speras parcat ut illa tuis.[1]

Why do you build your nest in the bosom of the woman from Colchis? Alas, ignorant bird, why do you entrust your nestlings so mistakenly? That frightful mother, Medea, in her savagery slew her own children. Do you expect her to spare yours?

Notes:

1.  This is based on Anthologia graeca 9.346, a much-translated epigram, on the subject of a swallow that built her nest on a representation of Medea. Colchidos, ‘of the woman from Colchis’, refers to Medea, from Colchis on the Black Sea, who slew her children by Jason, leader of the Argonauts, to avenge his unfaithfulness. See further [A31a034].


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