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IN ADULATORES.

Flatterers

De Chameleonte vide Plinium naturalis Historia
libro VIII. Cap. XXXIII.

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Semper hiat, semper tenuem qua vescitur aura [=auram] ,
Reciprocat chamaeleon[1].
Et mutat faciem, varios sumitque colores,
Praeter rubrum vel candidum.[2]
Sic & adulator populari vescitur aura,[3]
Hiansque cuncta devorat.
Et solum mores imitatur principis atros.
Albi & pudici nescius.

The Chameleon is always breathing in and out with open mouth the bodiless air on which it feeds; it changes its appearance and takes on various colours, except for red and white. - Even so the flatterer feeds on the wind of popular approval and gulps down all with open mouth. He imitates only the black features of the prince, knowing nothing of the white and pure.

Notes:

1. This creature was supposed to feed only on air, keeping its mouth wide open to suck it in. See Pliny, Natural History 8.51.122. For the chameleon cf. Erasmus, Parabolae pp.144, 241, 252.

2. ‘except for red and white’. See Pliny, ib.

3. ‘the wind of popular approval’. This is a common metaphor in Latin, e.g. Horace, Odes 3.2.20, ‘at the behest of the wind of popular approval.’


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    DULCIA QUANDO-
    que amara fieri.

    Sweetness turns at times to bitterness

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    Matre procul licta paulum secesserat infans,
    Lydius[1], hunc dirae sed rapuistis apes.
    Venerat hic ad vos placidas ratus esse volucres,
    Cum nec ita imitis vipera saeva foret.
    Que [=Quae] datis ah dulci stimulos pro munere mellis,
    Proh dolor, heu sine te gratia nulla datur.[2]

    A Lydian babe had strayed some way off, leaving his mother at a distance, but you made away with him, you dreadful bees. He had come to you, thinking you harmless winged creatures, yet a merciless viper would not be as savage as you. Instead of the sweet gift of honey, ah me, you give stings. Ah pain, without you, alas, no delight is granted.

    Notes:

    1. This is based on Anthologia graeca 9.548 , where a baby, called Hermonax, is stung to death. See also Anthologia graeca 9.302 for another epigram treating the same incident.


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