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Insegna de Poeti.

Insignia of Poets.


Chi per insegna di sua gente pone
L’uccel, che rap in Ida Ganimede.
Chi prende il fiero Serpe, e chi’l Leone,
E chi Animal, che pi leggiadro vede,
Al Poeta lodato con ragione
E a i dotti e rari il Cigno si conviene,
Ch’; sacro a Phebo, e gi fu Re, & anchora.
Serba gliantichi progi, ond’altri honora.


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ANTIQUISSIMA QUAEQUE
commentitia.

The oldest things are all invented

Emblema 181.

Pallenaee senex, cui forma est histrica Proteu,[1]
Qui modo membra viri fers, modo membra feri:
Dic age, quae species ratio te vertit in omnes,
Nulla sit ut vario certa figura tibi?
Signa vetustatis, primaevi & praefero secli,[2]
De quo quisque suo somniat arbitrio.

Proteus, old man of Pallene, whose outward appearance changes like an actor’s, assuming sometimes the body of a man, sometimes that of a beast, come, tell me, what is your reason for turning into all kinds of shapes, so that you have no permanent form as you constantly alter? I offer symbols of antiquity and the very first times, concerning which everyone dreams up what he will.

Notes:

1. Proteus was ‘the Old Man of the Sea’, who evaded capture by constantly changing his shape. See e.g. Homer, Odyssey, 4.400ff.; Vergil, Georgics, 4. 405-10, 440-2; Erasmus, Adagia, 1174 (Proteo mutabilior). Vergil (Georgics, 4.391) describes him living near the headland of Pallene (on the Macedonian coast). The idea of Proteus as a gifted actor or mime-artist is taken from Lucian, Saltatio, 19.

2. signa vetustatis primaevi et...secli, ‘symbols of antiquity and the very first times’. Pallene (see n.1.) suggested a connection with the Greek word παλαιός ‘ancient’, as the name Proteus was supposedly connected with πρώτιστος, ‘the very first’.


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