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Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [n2v p196]

Facundia difficilis.

Eloquence is hard

XXII.

Antidotum Aeaeae medicata in pocula Circes
Mercurium hoc Ithaco fama dedisse fuit.[1]
Moly vocant. id vix radice evellitur atra,
Purpureus sed flos, lactis & instar habet.
Eloquii candor facundiaque allicit omnes,
Sed multi res est tanta laboris opus.

According to the story, Mercury gave to the man from Ithaca this antidote to the poisoned cup of Aeaean Circe. They call it moly. It is hard to pull up by its black root. The plant is dark, but its flower is white as milk. The brilliance of eloquence and readiness of speech attracts all men, but this mighty thing is a work of much labour.

Notes:

1. See Homer, Odyssey, 10.270ff. for the story of the encounter of Ulysses (the man from Ithaca) and his crew with the sorceress Circe on the island of Aeaea. The plant moly is described ibid, 302-6. See Emblem 216 ([A56a216]), for the effect of Circe’s poisoned cup. Cf. Erasmus, De Copia (Loeb edition, 1.91 D), where moly is interpreted as wisdom rather than eloquence. Cf. Coustau, ‘In herbam Moly, ex Homero’ ([FCPb073]).


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    Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [B1v p18]

    Ad illustrem[1] Maximilianum ducem Mediolanensem.

    To the illustrious Maximilian, Duke of Milan.

    Emblema I.

    EXiliens infans sinuosi faucibus anguis,
    Est gentilitiis nobile stemma tuis.[2]
    Talia Pellaeum[3] gessisse nomismata regem,
    Vidimus, hisque suum concelebrasse genus.
    Dum se Ammone satum,[4] matrem anguis imagine lusam,
    Divini & sobolem seminis esse docet.
    Ore exit, tradunt sic quosdam enitier angues,[5]
    An quia sic Pallas de capite orta Iovis?[6]

    An infant bursting from the maw of a coiling serpent marks the noble lineage of your clan. We have observed that the Pellaean king had coinage with such a device and by it celebrated his own descent, proclaiming that he was begotten of Ammon, that his mother was beguiled by the form of a snake and the child was the offspring of divine seed. The infant emerges from the mouth. They say that some snakes come to birth that way. Or is it because Pallas sprang like this from the head of Jove?

    Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [B2r p19]

    An den durleuchtigen, etc. Maximilian
    Hertzogen
    zu Mayland.

    I.

    Ein kind au einer krummen schlang
    Entspringend, Hertzog ist dein schilt:
    Alexander fuert auch vorlang
    Zu sonder zeugnu sollich bild,
    Wie selbs der got Jupiter mild
    Sein vater wer, und solcher art
    Ir junge bringt die nater wild,
    Auch Pallas also gporen ward.

    Notes:

    1. Other editions expand this to ‘illustrissimum’.

    2. The Sforza family had ruled Milan since 1450, having assumed power through marriage (some said fraudulently) to a Visconti heiress, and taken their symbol as their own. They were chased out in 1499 by the French, but restored several times.

    3. Pellaeum...regem: ‘the Pellaean king’, i.e. Alexander the Great, born at Pella in Macedonia

    4. For the superhuman birth of Alexander, see e.g. Plutarch, Life of Alexander, 3 and 27: Jupiter in the form of a serpent mated with Olympias, wife of Philip of Macedon, and begat Alexander. Ammon, a north African deity, was identified with Zeus/Jupiter. When Alexander visited Ammon’s sanctuary, he was hailed as the son of the god.

    5. According to e.g.Pliny, Natural History 10.170, Aelian, De natura animalium 1.24, the viper, alone among snakes, produces not eggs but live young. See also Isidore, Etymologiae 12.4.10.

    6. The story of Pallas Athene springing complete and armed from the head of Jove is found in many sources; see e.g. Homer, Hymns 3.308ff; Hesiod, Theogony 923ff.


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