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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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    Single Emblem View

    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [R1r f116r]

    EMBLEMA CLXXXVI [=185] .

    Bonis auspiciis incipiendum.

    Begin with good auspices

    Auspiciis res cepta malis, bene cedere nescit,
    Felici quae sunt omine facta iuvant.
    Quicquid agis, mustella tibi si occurrat, omitte:
    Signa malae haec sortis bestia prava gerit.[1]

    A business begun with bad auspices cannot turn out well. Things done with good omens bring happiness. Whatever you are doing, if a weasel crosses your path, abandon it. This evil creature bears signs of ill luck.

    Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [R1v f116v]

    Das CLXXXVI [=185] .

    Man sol alle ding mit Glück an-
    fahen.

    Die sach so hat ein bösn anfang
    Kan nicht haben ein guten gang
    So aber ein gut zeichn erstlich
    Erscheint, geraht es gern glücklich
    Was du anfachst so dir bekompt
    Ein Wisel so laß ab zu stund
    Dann diß unzifer gwiß bedeut
    Das nicht vil glück sey in der beut.

    Notes:

    1.  For the weasel as a creature of ill omen, see Erasmus, Adagia, 173, (Mustelam habes).



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