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Morus.

The mulberry

EMBLEMA CCX.

Serior at Morus nunquam nisi frigore lapso
Germinat:[1] & sapiens nomina falsa[2] gerit.

On the other hand, the mulberry is late, and never until the frost is past does it shoot; though wise, it bears a false name.

Notes:

1. See Pliny, Natural History, 16.25.102: “the mulberry is the last of domesticated trees to shoot, and only does so when the frosts are over; for that reason it is called the wisest of trees”.

2. nomina falsa, ‘a false name’, reference to a supposed ‘etymology by opposites’: Latin morus ‘mulberry’ was equated with Greek μῶρος ‘fool’, but the tree was considered wise: see note 1.


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Nupta contagioso.

A woman married to a diseased man

L.

Dii meliora piis,[1] Mezenti. cur ag sic me
Compellas?[2] emptus qud tibi dote gener,
Gallica quem scabies,[3] dira & mentagra perurit.
Hoc est quidnam aliud, dic mihi saeve pater,
Corpora corporibus qum iungere mortua vivis,
Efferaque Etrusci facta novare ducis?[4]

O Mezentius, God grant a better fate to the dutiful! - Now why do you address me by that name? - Because with a dowry you have purchased a son-in-law seared by the Gallic scab and the dreaded sore on the face. What else is this - o tell me, cruel father - but to join corpses to living bodies and repeat the savage deeds of the Etruscan leader?

Notes:

1. Vergil, Georgics, 3.513.

2. sic me compellas, ‘address me by that name’, i.e. Mezentius. This is explained below, note 4.

3. Gallica...scabies, ‘the Gallic scab’: Osseous lesions caused by syphilis, which was epidemic in Europe following Charles VIII’s first Italian war. Spreading to the French army following its occupation of Naples (February 1495), it became known to the French as “the Neapolitan sickness”, to the Italians as “the French sickness.” It acquired its modern name from a mythological Latin poem on the subject by Girolamo Fracastoro, “Syphilis sive morbus gallicus”, a popular favourite first published in 1530. Fracastoro later used the name Syphilus (a mythical shepherd) when he contributed to the scientific literature on the disease (Liber I de sympathia et antipathia rerum, de contagione et contagiosis morbis, 1550). Note that here the French uses ‘un villain Podagre’ instead, which Cotgrave lists as the gout. Of the two corresponding emblems with this one, the 1549 edition uses verolle (pox), and 1615 uses podagre in the title and verolle in the verse.

4. See Vergil, Aeneid, 8.483-88, for the crimes of Mezentius, the Etruscan king who opposed Aeneas on his arrival in Italy. He inflicted a dreadful fate on his victims by tying them face to face with a corpse and leaving them to die.


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