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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [I1v p130]

Insignia Mercurii quid?

What are the insignia of Mercury?

Ad Adrianum Turnebum.[1]

Haec insignia nuncii Deorum
Sunt, quem Maia tulit, citum & volucrem.
Est caduceus anguiger, crumena,
Cancer & lyra, vespa, gallus, alae,
Hircus & canis, haec notent quid audi:
Promptus ingenio satis, memorque est.
Prudentem eloquio, vagum, sagacem
Et furem, vigilem, ille fraudulentum
Dat rebus temerarium, ac severis.
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [I2r p131]Hircus vim eloquii monet stupendam,
Serpentes, lyra, pacis atque alumnum.
Ne damnis cumulet canis loquelam:
Reddat, est trutina, ut suum cuique:
Est ferrum, insidias necemque vitet:
Caussis eloquio locus, foroque:
Punitur gladio scelus, nefasque.
Concors ut lyra, veritatis eius
Verba ut consona sint, loquantur apta.
Haec Atlantiadis feruntur ortu
Natis munera parte non petenda.
His mercator habens opus fruatur.
Credo Mercurium praeesse multis:
Namque haec symbola habent suos sequaces,
Et possunt studiis simul dicari,
Quod Turnebe facis, tuos monesque.

These are the insignia of the herald of the gods, whom Maia bore to be swift and winged: the snake-bearing caduceus, the money-bag, the crab, the lyre, the wasp, the hen, the wings, the goat, and the dog. Hear, now, what they mean: he is pretty quick in mind and long in memory. That makes him prudent in speech, a wanderer, canny; a thief, vigilant, tricky and rash in serious matters. The goat reminds you of the stupendous force of his eloquence, the snakes and the lyre make him the foster child of peace. The dog is quick talk, so as not to increase his losses. The scales signify that he is to give his due to each person; the sword that he is to avoid plots and death. There is a place for eloquence in legal matters and business; while sin and wrongdoing are punished by the sword. As the lyre is harmonious, so his words are to be concordant with truth and to speak what is appropriate. These gifts of the grandson of Atlas are bestowed on children at their birth and are not to be acquired by inheritance. The merchant enjoys these, who does his work. Mercury, I believe, is greater than many: for these symbols have many who follow them, and they can be dedicated, too, to human studies, as you, Turnebus, do, and tell your friends to do.


1.  Adrien Turnèbe (Turnebus, Tournebus), French philologist, hellenist, printer (d. 1565).

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