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In literam Pythagorae.

On the letter of Pythagoras.


Y [Upsilon].

Monstrat iter duplex, totidem distincta lituris,
Quam cernis Samii litera docta senis.[2]
Huius & alterius lateris se ianua pandit,
Et facilem ingressum callis uterque facit.
Quisquis es in cursu vitae qui lampada poscis,
Elige, sunt animo libera cuncta tuo.
Desine contortam fatis ascribere culpam,
Sed refer in tabulas acta nephanda tuas.

The letter you see [i.e. in the pictura], learnt from the old man of Samos [Pythagoras], shows a forked [lit. double] road, separated [or decorated] by the same number [i.e. two] of crossings out. The door to either side lies open, and each path is easily entered upon. Whoever you are who look for illumination on the path of life, choose: your soul [heart or mind] has free choice [lit. everything is freely available to your soul]. Leave off putting tortuous blame on the Fates, but put the blame for your sins on your writing-tablets.


1.  i.e. the Greek capital upsilon, said by some to have been introduced from the Phoenician to the Greek alphabet by Pythagoras; the Pythagorean symbolism of the letter was that it represented a fork in the road, or a choice (at adolescence) between vice and virtue (cf. the choice of Hercules); see also Erasmus, Adagia, 1.1.2; the upsilon can also be compared with the Christian choice as in Matthew 7:13-14. See Boissard, La fin couronne l’oeuvre ([FBOa006]).

2.  The choice of word seems curious. Litura signifies a rubbing out, an erasure, or a blot made in writing.

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