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Prudentes.

The Wise.

VIII.

Iane bifrons, qui transacta futuraque calles,
Quique retro sannas sicut & ant vides, [1]
Tot te cur oculis, tot fingunt vultibus? an qud
Circunspectum hominem forma fuisse docet?

Two-headed Janus, you know about what has already happened and what is yet to come, you see the jeering faces behind just as you see them in front. Why do they represent you with so many eyes, why with so many faces? Is it because this form tells us that you were a man of circumspection?

Notes:

1. quique retro sannas, sicut et ante, vides, ‘you see the jeering faces behind just as you see them in front’, a line based on Persius, Satirae, 1.58-62.


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    QUID EXCESSI? QUID
    Admisi?

    Where have I transgressed? What have I committed?

    Emblema. 17.

    Italicae Samius sectae celeberrimus auctor[1]
    Ipse suum clausit carmine dogma brevi.
    Qu praetergressus? quid agis? quid omittis agendum?[2]
    Hanc rationem urgens reddere quenque sibi.
    Quod didicisse gruum volitantum ex agmine fertur,
    Arreptum gestant quae pedibus lapidem.[3]
    Ne cessent, neu transversas mala flamina raptent.
    Qua ratione hominum vita regenda fuit.

    The famous Samian founder of the Italian sect himself put his essential teaching into a short verse: Where have you overstepped the mark? What are you doing? What are you leaving undone that ought to be done? - urging each man to make this reckoning in his own mind. He is said to have learnt this from a skein of flying cranes, which seize a stone and carry it in their claws, to prevent themselves from making no headway, and to stop adverse gusts of wind carrying them off course. Man’s life was ever to be lived on this principle.

    Notes:

    1. Italicae Samius sectae...autor, ‘Samian founder of the Italian sect’, i.e. Pythagoras. Born in Samos, he emigrated in 531 BC to Croton in South Italy, where he founded a religious/philosophical sect.

    2. This is a version of the Greek text in the motto, which is recorded in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, 8.20.

    3. Cranes wisely carrying stones as ballast are likened to men of foresight in Suidas (i.e, the Suda), s.v. geranos. Other reasons were suggested by ancient writers for this habit.


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