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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [B2v p20]

Malum interdum simili arcendum.

Fight fire with fire.

Quae mutatio, quae vicissitudo
Rerum & mixtio? frigus en calorem
Gignit, humidaque igne sicciora
Nobis è pelago feruntur. ingens
Amorum Dea Cypris extitisse
Undis dicitur, haec Iovem, poloque
Quotquot numina, vertit in furores:
Gnati tot properis, focoque
Accensis[1] leviter suis sagittis.
Num tale Affrica prodidisse monstrum
Quivit?[2] si soboles potest aquarum
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [B3r p21]Tantùm, quid facient foci perennes?
Quaenam frigora sopient perustum
Cor, & membra liquore temperabunt?
Sed nunc consilium patet roganti,
Exortum unde malum est, levationem
Quaeras, haec medicina tot periclis
Multos, atque siti levavit olim.
Ignis nam perimit, se editque tandem,
Quando pabula non habet suprema.
Amores igitur regas amore,
Flammas & facibus neces severas.[3]
Sic ortam Venerem mari fatebor,
Et contraria noxiis fugari.

What change, what shifting promiscuity of fate is this? Cold begets heat, and from the humid sea things drier than fire are born. For they say that Cypris, the great Goddess of love, rose from the waves. She turns Jove and all the Gods in heaven to madness easily with the swift hearth-fired arrows of her son. Could Africa really have given birth to such a monster? If the offspring of the waters is so powerful, what will eternal hearths accomplish? What chills will put the burned-out heart to sleep and calm the limbs with liquid? But now a plan is given to the clueless: whence came the evil itself, there seek the cure; this medicine saved many from danger, and helped them in their thirst. For fire consumes and destroys itself when it has no further source of sustenance. Therefore rule, therefore, loves with love, and strangle tough flames with torches. Thus I will say that Venus was born from the sea, and flees the opposites of the harm she does.

Cur Venus è spuma?
Sunt bilis atrae flamina,
Quae nos cient Venerem, sed in brevissimam.
Sic bulla gignit cypridem,
Brevis est enim cupidinis fruitio.
Vel salsa, quòd salacia,
Vel quòd venustum, ac elegans salsum vocant.[4]

Why Venus [is born] of foam?
There are surges of black bile which stir us to lust, but not for long. In the same way a bubble begets the Cyprian goddess is born from a bubble, for the enjoyment of lust is brief. As they say, either a thing is salty because it’s salacious, or because it is lovely, and they also calls things that are nice salty.
The meaning of the final couplet is uncertain, but depends on a double pun on salsa and salacia, and on Venus and venustus.


1.  ‘focoque accensis’ is simply a pleasurably obscure way to say ‘burning’ (sc. with desire).

2.  A frequent rhetorical turn in Classical poetry, see e.g. Dido’s famous words to her unfaithful lover in Vergil, Aeneid 4.365.

3.  An uncharacteristic incitement to fornication; but not alien, at least, to Sambucus’s occasionally Horatian/Ovidian literary persona.

4.  The little poem is not in the French edition.

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