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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [n3v p198]

Sapientia humana stultitia
est apud Deum.[1]

The Wisdom of Man is folly to God

XXVII.

Quid dicam? quonam hoc compellem nomine monstrum?
Biforme quod non est homo, nec est draco:[2]
Sed sine vir pedibus, summis sine partibus anguis,
Vir anguipes dici, & homiceps anguis potest.
Anguem pedit homo, hominem eructavit & anguis,
Nec finis hominis est, initium nec est ferae.
Sic olim Cecrops[3] doctis regnavit Athenis,
Sic & gigantes terra mater protulit.
Haec vafrum species, sed relligione carentem,
Terrena tamtum quique curet,[4] indicat.

What shall I say? By what name call this monster? a two-fold thing that is neither man nor snake? A man without feet, a snake without its upper parts - this can be called a snake-footed man, a man-headed snake. The man farts a snake, the snake has vomited a man, the man has no end, the beast no beginning. In such a form did Cecrops once rule in learned Athens, in such a form did Mother Earth once bring forth the Giants. This is an image of clever men, but indicating one without religion, who cares only for the things of the earth.

Notes:

1.  This epigram is based on Anthologia Graeca, 16.115-6, descriptions of a hippocentaur, the second of which was translated by Alciato at Sel. Ep. p.335. Metre: dactylic hexameters paired with iambic senarii.

2.  Variant reading, ‘monstrum Biforme quod...’, ‘ two-fold monster that is neither ...’.

3.  Cecrops, the mythical wise first king of Athens, the city of Pallas Athene, the goddess of wisdom. Cecrops, like the Giants (l.8) was born of the earth and was represented as half-man, half snake.

4.  Terrena tantum quique curet, ‘who cares only for the things of earth’. See Macrobius, Saturnalia, 1.20.9: the fact that the Giants’ bodies terminated as snakes shows that they had not a single thought that was right or elevated, but that their life in all its comings and goings tended to what was base.


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    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [n3v p198]

    In detractores.

    Against his detractors

    XXVIII.

    Audent flagriferi matulae, stupidique magistri
    Bilem in me impuri pectoris evomere:
    Quid faciam? reddamne vices? sed nónne cicadam
    Ala una obstreperam corripuisse[1] ferar?
    Quid prodest muscas operosis pellere[2] flabris?
    Negligere est satius, perdere quod nequeas.

    Those cane-wielding, empty-headed, thick-skulled teachers dare to spew out on me the bile of their foul minds. What am I to do? Return like for like? But surely I would then be said to have seized the dinning cicada by the wing. What is the good of driving flies away with tiresome swipes? It is better to ignore what you cannot get rid of.

    Notes:

    1.  cicadam / Ala una...corripuisse, ‘to have seized the...cicada by the wing’. See Erasmus, Adagia, 828 (Cicadam ala corripuisti): if you hold a cicada by the wing, it will only chirp more loudly.

    2.  muscas...pellere, ‘driving flies away’. See Erasmus, Adagia, 2660 (Muscas depellere): driving flies away is a waste of effort as they simply return.


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