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Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [C3r p37]


Idem salutis & exitii fons.

The same thing is a source of health and of death.

Ad Antonium Hofslach Advocatum.[1]

Nos necat elleborus; capris adipem auget, avique:
Idem ignis fomes, & populator opum est.
Insontem & sontem facundia praestat eundem:
Nunc est exitium, nunc medicina salus.

The hellebore is poisonous to us: but it builds up the fat of a goat or a bird: The same thing that kindles fire is also a destroyer of wealth. Eloquence proves the same thing to be harmless and harmful: at one time it spells death, at another a life-giving cure.

Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [H3v p118]

Symbolum istud ingenios & luculenter Nasone li
bro Tristium secundo explicatur, ibi.[2]

Nil prodest, quod non laedere possit idem.
Igne quid utilius? si quis tamen urere tecta
Comparat, audaces instruit igne manus.
Eripit interdum , mod dat medicina salutem,
Quaeque, iuvant monstrat, quaeque sit herba nocens.
Et latro, & cautus praecingitur ense viator:
Ille sed insidias; hic sibi portat opem.
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [H4r p119]Discitur, innocuas ut agat facundia caussas:
Protegit haec sontes, immeritosque premit.

Usus rei salutem praestat, abusus necem aut detri
mentum saltem adfert: cert ita demum unum-
quodque aut commodat aut officit, prout eo vel
utare vel abutaris. Lex eadem alio atque alio
sensu accepta, quem gravaret, reum absolvit, inno-
centem involvit. Qum saepe scripturae membra
luxata & veluti assulatim convulsa, aut in partes
consecta, aut commate interstincta, haereticos ar-
mant, caussa casuros, ubi loci, unde petita sunt, te-
nor expendatur aut attentis consideretur. ita [=Ita] fit
ut eundem locum pro sui defensione Marcion &
Valentinus adducant;[3] Christianus eundem rectis
indubitatiusque pro se alleget: hinc tot schismata,
tot pestilentes factiones et prioribus saeculis & his
nostris inconsutilem illam Christi vestem lacera-
runt.[4] Terra & venenorum & omnis boni parens
ac alumna, tot pernicies protulit, quot species: tot
dolores, quot colores, ut inquit Tertullianus, lib.
adversus Gnosticos. ita [=Ita] Lucretius inquirens caussam
cur idem alii sit cibus; alii venenum,
Praeterea, inquit, nobis veratrum est acre venenum:
At capris adipes & coturnicibus auget,[5]
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [H4v p120]quod & Plinius non tacuit, lib. 10. cap. 72. Ve-
nenis, inquiens, caprae, & coturnices pinguescunt:
(ea est enim verior lectio, qum quae habet, capreae.)
Quin & Aristoteli idem non fuit ignotum. Ad
picturae varietatem pingi potest Helleborus niger,
sive, veratrum, quam herbam hinc depasti homi-
nes exspirent ac vitam cum morte commutent:
inde coturnices aves & caprae eo pabulo usae, ve-
getae sint et agiles. Altrinsecus pingatur ignis cui
assideat aliquis, ut rigorem expellat: & in proxi
mo, domus incendio conflagrans.

This emblem is cleverly and brilliantly explained by Ovid in Book Two of the Tristia, in these lines: “There is nothing of use that cannot also do harm. What is more useful than fire? But if someone wants to burn a house down, He equips his too daring hands with fire. In one case the art of medicine robs one of one’s health, in another it restores it; And it can tell us which herb is good for us, and which will be harmful. Both the robber and the careful traveller are armed with a sword: But the one carries it for ambushes, the other to defend himself. [p.119] Eloquence teaches how to defend the innocent in court; But it protects the guilty too, and prosecutes the blameless.”
The use of a thing works for our welfare, nevertheless the abuse of it brings death or harm. To be sure, anything whatever can either help or harm, entirely according to whether you use or abuse it. The same law, interpreted in different ways, will find different men guilty; it can free a criminal and bind an innocent one in chains. How frequently do the bones [lit. limbs] of Scripture, put out of joint and as it were shattered in pieces, or chopped up into bits, or bespattered with mispunctuation, arm the heretics, when their case is about to be lost, with a place to look for a quotation which will require its meaning to be re-evaluated or given closer attention. This is how it came about that Marcion and Valentinus both cited the same passage in their defence, which a Christian may correctly and incontrovertibly use in his own. This is why so many schisms, so many pestilential factions, both in earlier days and in our own time have torn apart that seamless cloak of Christ. The Earth is the mother and foster-mother of poisons and of all good things too; as many deadly things as there are varieties of things; as many beasts as beauties,* as Tertullian put it in Against the Gnostics. Similarly Lucretius, examining the reason why one man’s meat should be another man’s poison, says: “Besides, to us the hellebore is a bitter poison: But it provides goats and quails with a feast,” [p.120] about which Pliny also has something to say (bk. 10, ch. 72), to wit: “Goats and quails grow fat on poison” (that being a better reading than the one that has ‘capreae’ [she-goats]). Nor was Aristotle ignorant of this. For the sake of variety in the picture, the black Hellebore or veratrum can be depicted, which some men have eaten; they are expiring and exchanging life for death: by contrast some quails and goats have had it for food, and they are sprightly and energetic. On the other side should be depicted the fire, at which someone is sitting, in order to keep away the cold: and nearby there is a house on fire.
* Lit. ‘as many tribulations as colours [complexions, kinds of things, beautiful appearances]’; the rhyme of course makes it hard to find an equivalent for Tertullian’s wordplay.


1. The lawyer Antony Hofslach has not been identified.

2. Ovid, Tristia, 2.266-74.

3. Marcion and Valentinus were both heretic writers of the 2nd century.

4. Referring to John 19:23, in the Vulgate, which according to Lewis & Short is the only known ancient occurrence of the word inconsutilis. The Roman soldiers at the Crucifixion cast lots rather than tear up Christ’s tunic because it was woven in one piece.

5. De Rerum Natura, 4.640-1.

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