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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [C1r p33]


Sermo de Deo apertus, mens sit occulta.

Talk openly about God, but keep your thoughts to yourself.

Ad Iohannem Becanum Medicum clarissimum.[1]

Persea fert linguae similes, sacra Isidi, frondes:
Typumque cordis poma turgida exprimunt.
Sermo, index animi, de numine sentit apertè;
Cor caeco operculo intus arcanum tegit.

The Persea tree, sacred to Isis, bears leaves like our tongue: The swollen fruit show a likeness to the heart. Talk, the witness of the mind, declares itself openly on the subject of religion: The heart within keeps itelf under wraps with a blind covering.

Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [H1v p114]

Heroicum est carmen cum trimetro Iambico assecla.
Perseam arborem esse Aegypti peculiarem
scribit Theophrastus lib. 4. de plantis, aspectu ve-
nustam, ingentem, pyro assimilem cùm foliis, tum
floribus, ramisque: cuius etiam poma, quae copiosè
fundit, magnitudine pyrum repraesentant, specie
oblonga, amygdalacea[2], colore herbido, nuce intus
pruno non dissimili, sed minore multo ac molliore,
carne dulci admodum ac suavi. Qua ex descri-
ptione deprehendere licet Perseam, nostrae Persico
esse congenerem, specie tamen dissidentem. Nican
interpres[3] apud Persas letalem priùs, transla-
tam in Aegyptum, terrae mangonio[4] salubrem eva
sisse scribit: cuius dictis attestatur non uno in lo-
co Galenus, & locuples testis Iunius Columella
lib. 9. iis versibus:

Stipantur calathi pomis quae barbara Persis
Miserat (ut fama est) patriis armata venenis.
At nunc expositi parvo discrimine leti
Ambrosios praebent succos, oblita nocendi.
Quin etiam eiusdem gentis de nomine dicta
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [H2r p115]Exiguo properant mitescere Persica malo.

Quibus ex verbis facilè agnoscitur discrimen
inter has arbores. Porrò nux huiusce arboris du-
ra, turbinata, cordis figurae non absimilis nucleum
operit: innuente symbolo sapientiam nucleo assi-
mulatam, operculo duro, reseratu difficili esse oper
tam debere. De hac Plutarchus, lib. de Iside, in
hunc modum. Inter plantas quas fert Aegyptus,
Perseam eximiè prae ceteris Isidi sacram esse vo-
luerunt, quòd eius fructus, cordis speciem, folium,
linguae repraesentet: nihil enim inter omnia, quae
homini à Deo data sunt, divinius est sermone,
praesertim qui de Deo instituitur, neque maius ad
veram felicitatem momentum obtinet. Haec ille.

The verse-form is a heroic hexameter with an Iambic trimeter attendant upon it.
Theophrastus writes in On Plants, bk. 4, that the Persea is a sacred tree unique to Egypt, of attractive appearance, enormous in stature, similar to a pear-tree in its foliage as well as in its blossom and branch-structure. Its fruit, too, which it produces in abundance, looks like a pear in size, of rather elongated appearance, almond-like, grass-green in hue, with a stone inside not unlike a plumstone, but much smaller and softer, with extremely sweet and smooth flesh. From this description one could take the Persea to be akin to our Persicus [peach-tree], but of a distinct variety. The commentator on Nicander writes that previously, in the land of the Persians, it had been deadly, but, brought to Egypt, it had turned out to be wholesome when it was restored by the earth there; his words are confirmed in several places by Galen, and Junius Columella is a valuable witness in these lines from bk. 9:
“The baskets are crammed with the fruits that barbarous Persis, Armed with ancestral poisons, deplores (so it is said). But now, after exposure to a small risk of destruction, They produce heavenly juice, and have forgotten how to do harm. On the contrary indeed, known by the name of that people, [p.115] The Persica [peaches] swiftly ripen into a small fruit.”
From these words the distinction between these trees can be easily recognised. Moreover the hard, conical stone of this tree conceals a kernel not dissimilar to a heart in appearance; this emblem implies that wisdom is comparable to a kernel with a hard shell, which should only be openable with difficulty. Plutarch writes about this in his book On Isis in the following way: Among the plants that Egypt produces, they hold the Persea to be above all others particularly sacred to Isis, in that its fruit manifests the appearance of a heart, and its leaf, of a tongue: for nothing is more divine, of all the things which are given to mankind by God, than speech, and especially that which is spoken about God, nor is their any greater impetus towards true happiness. This is what he says.


1.  Johannes Becanus [Goropius], aka Jan Gerartsen, from Gorp in Hilvarenbeek (latinised to Goropius Becanus): Dutch physician, linguist, and humanist. He worked as physician to the sisters of Charles V, then for the city of Antwerp (d. 1572).

2.  The word amygdalaceus is used by Pliny to refer to a tree’s foliage being ‘like an almond-tree’s’. Junius’ exact point of comparison is not wholly clear.

3.  Nicander of Colophon, Greek poet, physician and grammarian, from the 2nd century BC. He was respected as an authority on poisons, and was drawn from and commented upon by numerous scholars, including Pliny, Galen, Athenaeus, Dioscorides and Plutarch - so to whom Junius is referring here as the ‘commentator on Nicander’ is unclear.

4.  Mangonium is a rare word found in Pliny, meaning ‘meretricious display’, from the root word mango, a monger or dealer who dresses his wares up to look better than they are (cognate to, or derived from various Greek words such as manganon, meaning ‘trickery’). Mango and some related words do seem to have acquired a less negative sense (e.g. displaying of wares, polishing, adorning), and it is assumed that Junius has picked up on this and applied it to mangonium, so that he intends its meaning to be something like the ‘refurbishment given it by the earth’.

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