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

Insani gladius.

The madman’s sword

XXIII.

Setigeri medius stabat gregis ensifer Aiax, [1]
Caede suum credens caedere Tantalidas.[2]
Hostia sic tanquam sus succedanea[3] poenas
Pro Laërtiade,[4] pro caveaque dabat.
Nescit obesse suis furor hostibus, errat ab ictu,
Consiliique impos in sua damna ruit.

Ajax was standing sword in hand in the midst of the bristled herd, thinking that in killing the pigs he was killing the descendants of Tantalus. The victim, like the substitute pig, was paying the penalty for the son of Laertes and for the assembled crowd. Madness does not know how to disadvantage its real foes; it misdirects its blows, and, lacking judgement, rushes headlong to its own destruction.

Notes:

1.  See Emblem 38 ([A56a038]) for Ajax’ madness and suicide. In his madness, he slaughtered a herd of sheep, thinking them to be the Greeks. The two largest rams he took to be Agamemnon and Menelaus. See Zenobius, Proverbs, 1.43; Horace, Satires, 2.3.197-8; Erasmus, Adagia, 646 (Aiacis risus) - Erasmus makes the animals pigs, which Alciato here follows.

2.  Tantalidas, ‘the descendants of Tantalus’ i.e. Agamemnon and Menelaus, whom Ajax blamed for his humiliation.

3.  A substitute animal was sacrificed when the first offering was rejected by the gods or, as here, in place of the proper victim. See Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 4.6.5.

4.  pro Laërtiade, ‘for the son of Laërtes’, i.e. Odysseus, to whom the Greek assembly awarded the splendid armour of the dead Achilles, not to Ajax.


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    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [Q8v f115v]

    EMBLEMA CLXXXV [=184] .

    In momentaneam felicitatem.

    Transitory success

    Aeream [=Aeriam] propter crevisse Cucurbita pinum
    Dicitur & grandi luxuriasse coma.
    Cur [=Cum] ramos complexa, ipsumque egressa cacumen,
    Se praestare aliis credidit arboribus.
    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [R1r f116r]Cui pinus. Nimium brevis est haec gloria, nam te
    Protinus adveniet quae malè perdat[1] hyems.

    A gourd, it is said, grew beside a lofty pine and flourished with abundant foliage. When it had enveloped the branches and grown taller than the tree-top, it then thought itself superior to the other trees. The pine said to it: This glory is exceedingly brief. For winter will shortly come which will utterly destroy you.

    Das CLXXXV [=184] .

    Von der vergenglichen glückse-
    ligkeit.

    Man sagt daß ein mal auff ein zeit
    Gewachsen sey ein Kürbs gar breit
    Nahend bey einer hohen Thann
    Und hab sich gwaltig auffgethan
    Dieweil sie aber umb all Est
    Und deß Baums gipffl hett gwickelt fest
    Meint sie sie wer herrlicher dann
    All ander Bäum im grünen Tham [=Thann]
    Zu dem sprach die Thann, heb gsell gut
    Diß dein hoffart und stoltzer mut
    Wirt nit lang wären, dann gar bald
    Dich auffreiben wirt der Winter kalt.

    Notes:

    1.  Textual variant: ‘perdet’.


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