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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [m8r p191]

Antiquissima quaeque com-
mentitia.

The oldest things are all invented

VII.

Pellenaee senex, cui forma est histrica, Proteu, [1]
Qui modō membra viri fers, modō membra feri.
Dic agč 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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    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [Bbb8r p767]

    Insignia Poetarum.

    Insignia of poets

    EMBLEMA CLXXXIV.

    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [Bbb8v p768]

    Gentiles clypeos sunt qui in Iovis alite gestant;
    Sunt quibus aut serpens, aut leo, signa ferunt.
    Dira sed haec vatum fugiant animalia ceras,
    Doctaque sustineat stemmata pulcher Olor.
    Hic Phoebo sacer[1], & nostrae regionis alumnus:
    Rex olim[2], veteres servat adhuc titulos.

    Some have a family crest distinguished by the bird of Jove, for others the serpent or the lion provides the sign. But let these dread beasts flee from poets’ images; let the lovely swan support their learned clan. This bird is sacred to Phoebus and is a nursling of my homeland. A king once, it still preserves its ancient titles.

    Notes:

    1.  ‘sacred to Phoebus’, i.e. to the god of music and poetry (Apollo).

    2.  ‘a king once’. See Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.367ff. for the story of Cycnus, king of Liguria, turned into a swan and inhabiting the marshes and lakes of the plain of the Po (Alciato’s homeland).


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