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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  [R1v f116v]

    EMBLEMA CLXXXVII [=186] .

    In occasionem.

    Opportunity.

    Διαλογιστικῶς

    In dialogue form.

    Iysippi[1] hoc opus est, Sycion[2] cui patria. Tu, quis?[3]
    Cuncta domans capti temporis articulus:
    Cur pennis[4] stas? usque rotor. Talaria plantis
    Cui [=Cur] retines? Passim me levis aura rapit.
    In dextra est tenuis dic unde novacula? Acutum
    Omni acie hoc signum me magis esse docet.
    Cur in fronte coma? Occurrens ut prendar. At heus tu
    Dic cur pars calva est posterior capitis?
    Ne [=Me] semel alipedem si quis permittat abire,
    Ne possim apprehenso postmodo crine capi.
    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [R2r f117r]Tali opifex nos arte, tui causa, edidit hospes:
    Utque omnes moneam: pergula aperta tenet.

    This image is the work of Lysippus, whose home was Sicyon. - Who are you? - I am the moment of seized opportunity that governs all. - Why do you stand on points? - I am always whirling about. - Why do you have winged sandals on your feet? - The fickle breeze bears me in all directions. - Tell us, what is the reason for the sharp razor in your right hand? - This sign indicates that I am keener than any cutting edge. - Why is there a lock of hair on your brow? - So that I may be seized as I run towards you. - But come, tell us now, why ever is the back of your head bald? - So that if any person once lets me depart on my winged feet, I may not thereafter be caught by having my hair seized. It was for your sake, stranger, that the craftsman produced me with such art, and, so that I should warn all, it is an open portico that holds me.

    Das CLXXXVII [=186] .

    Die Gelegenheit.

    Diß Bild hat der Meister erdacht
    Iysipp von Sycion und gmacht
    Wer bistu aber mir das sag?
    Die Gelegenheit der zeit on zag.
    Warumb stehst auffs Rads Felgen rund?
    Weil ich alles verker zur stund.
    Was thun dFlügel an Füssen dein?
    Dmit ich belder von hin köndt seyn.
    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [R2v f117v] Warumb helst in der rechten Hand
    Ein scharpffen Scharsach one band?
    Damit gib ich zuverstehn ja
    Das ich scherpffer sey dann diß da.
    Was thust an der Stirn mit dem Har?
    Das man mich kommend greiffe zwar.
    Warumb ist aber hinden sGnick
    So kal? Und hast kein Haar zu rück?
    So einer mich last also schnell
    Wegfahren, und ficht nicht auff hell
    Derselbs kan nachmal mich nit mehr
    Greiffen und zu rück ziehen her.
    Also hat der Meister kunstrich
    Gemacht und außgestrichen mich
    Damit ich jederman verman
    So thu ich auff den Felgen stan.

    Notes:

    1.  Greek sculptor, 4th century BC.

    2.  A town west of Corinth.

    3.  This is a translation of Anthologia graeca 16.275. See also Erasmus, Adagia 670, Nosce tempus, where Erasmus too gives a verse translation of the Greek epigram.

    4.  ‘on points’. Alciato here agrees with Erasmus, who similarly translates the phrase ep’ akra, ‘on tiptoe’, in the Greek original. Thomas More translates more obviously with summis digitis. See Selecta epigrammata (Cornarius, ed.) p. 372ff.


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