« VorigeDoorgaan »
slavery of hell. But I have interdicted my pen! all liberty in this kind lest I should use strange
SPHYNX, OR SCIENCE. fire at the altar of the Lord.
They say that Sphynx was a monster of divers
forms, as having the face and voice of a virgin, SCYLLA AND ICARUS, OR THE MID
the wings of a bird, and the talons of a griffin. DLE WAY.
His abode was in a mountain near the city of
Thebes; he kept also the highways, and used to MEDIOCRITY, or the middle-way, is most com- lie in ambush for travellers, and so to surprise mended in moral actions; in contemplative sci- them: to whom, being in his power, he proences not so celebrated, though no less profitable pounded certain dark and intricate riddles, which and commodious; but in political employments were thought to have been given and received of to be used with great heed and judgment. The the Muses. Now if these miserable captives ancients by the way prescribed to Icarus, noted were not able instantly to resolve and interpret the mediocrity of manners; and by the way be- them, in the midst of their difficulties and doubts, tween Scylla and Charybdis, so famous for dif- she would rend and tear them in pieces. The ficulty and danger, the mediocrity of intellectual country groaning a long time under this calamity, operations.
the Thebans at last propounded the kingdom as Icarus being to oss the sea by flight, was com- a reward unto him that could interpret the riddles manded by his father that he should fly neither of Sphynx, there being no other way to destroy too high nor too low, for his wings being joined her. Whereupon (Edipus, a man of piercing with wax, if he should mount too high, it was to and deep judgment, but maimed and lame by be feared lest the wax would melt by the heat of reason of holes bored in his feet, moved with the the sun, and if too low, lest misty vapours of the hope of so great a reward, accepted the condition, sea would make it less tenacious : but he in a and determined to put it to the hazard, and so youthful jollity soaring too high, fell down head with an undaunted and bold spirit, presented long and perished in the water.
himself before the monster, who asked him what The parable is easy and vulgar: for the way creature that was, which after his birth went first of virtue lies in a direct path between excess and upon four feet, next upon two, then upon three, defect. Neither is it a wonder that Icarus and lastly upon four feet again ; answered forthperished by excess, seeing that excess for the with that it was man, which in his infancy, immost part is the peculiar fault of youth, as defect mediately after birth, crawls upon all four, scarce is of age; and yet of two evil and hurtful ways, venturing to creep, and not long after stands upyouth commonly make choice of the better, de- right upon two feet, then growing old he leans fect being always accounted worst: for whereas upon a staff, wherewith he supports himself; so excess contains some sparks of magnanimity, that he may seem to have three feet, and at last, and, like a bird, claims kindred of the heavens, in decrepid years, his strength failing him, he defect only like a base worm crawls upon the falls grovelling again upon four, and lies bedrid. earth. Excellently therefore said “Heraclitus, Having therefore by this true answer gotten the “ Lumen siccum, optima anima;” a dry light is victory, he instantly slew this Sphynx, and, laythe best soul; for if the soul contract moisture ing her body upon an ass, leads it as it were in from the earth it becomes degenerate altogether. triumph; and so, according to the condition, was Again, on the other side, there must be modera- created king of the 'Thebans. tion used, that this light be subtilized by this This fable contains in it no less wisdom than laudable siccity, and not destroyed by too much | elegancy, and it seems to point at science, espefervency: and thus much every man for the most cially that which is joined with practice, for scipart knows.
ence may not absurdly be termed a monster, as Now they that would sail between Scylla and being by the ignorant and rude multitude always Charybdis must be furnished as well with the held in admiration. It is diverse in shape and skill as prosperous success in navigation : for if figure, by reason of the infinite variety of subtheir ships fall into Scylla they are split on the jects, wherein it is conversant. A maiden face rocks; if into Charybdis they are swallowed up and voice is attributed unto it for its gracious of a gulf.
countenance and volubility of tongue. Wings The moral of this parable, which we will but are added, because sciences and their inventions briefiy touch, although it contain matter of infinite do pass and fly from one to another, as it were, contemplation, seems to be this, that in every art in a moment, seeing that the communication of and science, and so in their rules and axioms, science is as the kindling of one light at another. there be a mean observed between the rocks of dis- Elegantly also it is feigned to have sharp and tinctions and the gulfs of universalities, which hooked talons, because the axioms and argutwo are famous for the wrecks both of wits ments of science do so fasten upon the mind, and arts.
and so strongly apprehend and hold it, as that it
Hæ tibi erunt artes.
stir not or evade, which is noted also by the Di- “Tu regere imperio populos, Romane memento
Thy realms thou rul'st. These arts let be thy rule. like goads, and like nails driven far in.
It was, therefore, very apposite, that Augustus Moreover, all science seems to be placed in Cæsar, whether by premeditation, or by a chance, wteep and high mountains; as being thought to bare a sphynx in his signet; for he, if ever any, be a lofty and high thing, looking down upon was famous not only in political government, but ignorance with a scornful eye. It may be ob- in all the course of his life; he happily discovered served and seen also a great way, and far in com- many new enigmas concerning the nature of pass, as things set on the tops of mountains. man, which if he had not done with dexterity
Furthermore, science may well be feigned to and promptness, he had oftentimes fallen into beset the highways, because which way soever imminent danger and destruction. we turn in this progress and pilgrimage of human Moreover, it is added in the fable, that the life, we meet with some matter or occasion offered body of Sphynx, when she was overcome, was for contemplation.
laid upon an ass; which indeed is an elegant Sphynx is said to have received from the fiction, seeing there is nothing so acute and abmuses divers difficult questions and riddles, and struse, but, being well understood and divulged, to propound them unto men, which remaining may be apprehended by a slow capacity. with the muses, are free, it may be from savage Neither is it to be omitted, that Sphynx was cruelty; for so long as there is no other end of overcome by a man lame in his feet; for when study and meditation, than to know, the under- men are too swift of foot, and too speedy of pace standing is not racked and imprisoned, but enjoys in hasting to Sphynx's enigmay, it comes to pass, freedom and liberty, and even in doubts and that, she getting the upper hand, their wits and variety finds a kind of pleasure and delectation; minds are rather distracted by disputations, than but when once these enigmas are delivered by that ever they come to command by works and the muses to Sphynx, that'is, to practice, so that effects. it be solicited and urged by action, and election, and determination, then they begin to be trouble
PROSERPINA, OR SPIRIT. some and raging; and unless they be resolved and expedited, they do wonderfully torment and Pluto, they say, being made king of the infervex the minds of men, distracting, and in a man- nal dominions, by that memorable division, was ner rending them into sundry parts.
in despair of ever attaining any one of the supe. Moreover, there is always a twofold condition rior goddesses in marriage, especially if he should propounded with Sphynx's enigmas: to him that venture to court them, either with words, or with doth not expound them, distraction of mind; and any amorous behaviour; so that of necessity he to him that doth, a kingdom; for he that knows was to lay some plot to get one of them by rathat which he sought to know, hath attained the pine: taking, therefore, the benefit of opportunity, end he aimed at, and every artificer also com- he caught up Proserpina, the daughter of Ceres, mands over his work.
a beautiful virgin, as she was gathering Narcissus Of Sphynx's riddles, they are generally two flowers in the meadows of Sicily, and carried her kinds; some concerning the nature of things, away with him in his coach to the subterranean others touching the nature of man. So also dominions, where she was welcomed with such there are two kinds of empires, as rewards to respect, as that she was styled the Lady of Dis. those that resolve them. The one over nature, But Ceres, her mother, when in no place she the other over men; for the proper and chief end should find this her only beloved daughter, in a of true natural philosophy is to command and sorrowful humour and distracted beyond measure, sway over natural beings; as bodies, medicines, went compassing the whole earth with a burning mechanical works, and infinite other things; torch in her hand, to seek and recover this her although the school, being content with such lost child. But w she saw that all was in things as are offered, and priding itself with vain, supposing peradventure that she was carried speeches, doth neglect realities and works, tread- to hell, she importuned Jupiter with many tears ing them as it were under foot. But that enigma and lamentations, that she might be restored unto propounded to Edipus, by means of which he her again: and at length prevailed thus far, that obtained the Theban empire, belonged to the if she had tasted of nothing in hell, she should nature of man: for whosoever doth thoroughly have leave to bring her from thence. Which consider the nature of man, may be in a manner condition was as good as a denial to her petition, the contriver of his own fortune, and is born to Proserpina having already eaten three grains of command, which is well spoken of the Roman a pomegranate. And yet for all this, Ceres gave arts:
not over her suit, but fell to prayers and moang afresh ; wherefore it was at last granted that, the and get again: for that brand or burning torch year being divided, Proserpina should, by alternate of æther which Ceres carried in her hand, doth courses, remain one six months with her husband, doubtless signify the sun, which enlighteneth the and other six months with her mother. Not long whole circuit of the earth, and would be of the after this, Theseus and Perithous, in an over- greatest moment to recover Proserpina, if poshardy adventure, attempted to fetch her from sibly it might be. Pluto's bed, who, being weary with travel and But Proserpina abides still, the reason of which sitting down upon a stone in hell to rest them- is accurately and excellently propounded in the selves, had not the power to rise again, but sat condition between Jupiter and Ceres: for first it there forever. Proserpina therefore remained is most certain there are two ways to keep spirit queen of hell, in whose honour there was this in solid and terrestrial matter: the one by constipagreat privilege granted ; that, although it were tion and obstruction, which is mere imprisonment enacted that none that went down to hell should and constraint; the other by administration or prohave the power ever to return from thence; yet portionable nutriment, which it receives willingly was this singular exception annexed to this law, and of its own accord; for after that the included that if any presented Proserpina with a golden spirit begins to feed and nourish itself, it makes bough, it should be lawful for him to go and no haste to be gone, but is, as it were, linked to its come at his pleasure. Now there was but one earth : and this is pointed at by Proserpina her only such a bough in a spacious and shady grove, eating of pomegranate; which, if she had not which was not a plant neither of itself, but bud- done, she had long since been recovered by Ceres ded from a tree of another kind, like a rope of gum, with her torch, compassing the earth. Now, as which being plucked off, another would instantly concerning that spirit which is in metals and spring out.
minerals, it is chiefly perchance restrained by soThis fable seems to pertain to nature, and to lidity of mass : but that which is in plants and dive into that rich and plentiful efficacy and va- animals inhabits a porous body, and hath open riety of subalternal creatures, from whom what-passage to be gone in a manner as it lists, were it soever we have is derived, and to them doth not that it willingly abides of its own accord, by again return.
reason of the relish it finds in its entertainment. By Proserpina, the ancients meant that ethe- The second condition concerning the six months' real spirit, which being separated from the upper custom, it is no other than an elegant description globe, is shut up and detained under the earth, re- of the division of the year, seeing this spirit mixed presented by Pluto, which the poet well express- with the earth appears above ground in vegetable
bodies during the summer months, and in the “Sive recens tellus, seductaque nuper ab alto
winter sinks down again. Æthere, cognati retinebat semina cæli."
Now as concerning Theseus and Perithous, Whether the youngling Tellus (that of late
and their attempt to bring Proserpina quite away; Was from the high-rear'd æther separate)
the meaning of it is, that it oftentimes comes to Did yet contain her teeming womb within
pass that some more subtle spirits descending The living seeds of heaven, her nearest kin.
with divers bodies to the earth, never come to This spirit is feigned to be rapted by the earth, suck of any subalteran spirit, whereby to unite because nothing can withhold it, when it hath it unto them, and so to bring it away. But, on time and leisure to escape. It is therefore caught the contrary, are coagulated themselves, and never and stayed by a sudden contraction, no otherwise rise more, that Proserpina should be by that means than if a man should go about to mix air with augmented with inhabitants and dominion. water, which can be done by no means, but by a All that we can say concerning that sprig of gold speedy and rapid agitation, as may be seen in is hardly able to defend us from the violence of froth, wherein the air is rapted by the water. the chymists, if in this regard they set upon us,
Neither is it inelegantly added that Proserpina seeing they promise by that their elixir to effect was rapt as she was gathering Narcissus flowers golden mountains, and the restoring of natural in the valleys, because Narcissus hath his name bodies, as it were from the portal of hell. But, from slowness or stupidity : for, indeed, then is concerning chymistry, and those perpetual suitors this spirit most prepared and fitted to be snatched for that philosophical elixir, we know certainly by terrestrial matter, when it begins to be coagu- that their theory is without grounds, and we suslated, and become as it were slow.
pect that their practice also is without certain reRightly is Proserpina honoured more than any ward. And therefore, omiting these, of this last of the other god's bed-fellows, in being styled the part of the parable, this is my opinion, I am inLady of Dis, because this spirit doth rule and duced to believe by many figures of the ancients, sway all things in those lower regions, Pluto that the conservation and restoration of natural abiding stupid and ignorant.
bodies, in some sort, was not esteemed by them This spirit, the power celestial, shadowed by as a thing impossible to be attained, but as a thing Ceres, strives with infinite sedulity, to recover abstruse and full of difficulties, and so they seem
to intimate in this place, when they report that like the grapes ill pressed; from which, though this one only sprig was found among infinite other some liquor were drawn, yet the best was left betrees in a huge and thick wood, which they feign- hind. These Sirens are said to be the daughters ed to be of gold, because gold is the badge of of Achelous and Terpsichore one of the muses, perpetuity, and to be artificially as it were insert- who in their first being were winged, but after ed, because this effect is to be rather hoped for rashly entering into contention with the muses, from art, than from any medicine, or simple or na- were by them vanquished and deprived of their tural means.
wings: of whose plucked out feathers the muses made themselves coronets, so as ever since that
time all the muses have attired themselves with METIS, OR COUNSEL.
plumed heads, except Terpsichore only, that was The ancient poets report that Jupiter took Me- mother to the Sirens. The habitation of the Sitis to wife, whose name doth plainly signify coun- rens was in certain pleasant islands, from whence sel, and that she by him conceived. Which when as soon as out of their watch-tower they discohe found, not tarrying the time of her deliverance, vered any ships approaching, with their sweet devours both her and that which she went withal, tunes they would first entice and stay them, and by which means Jupiter himself became with having them in their power would destroy them. child, and was delivered of a wondrous birth; Neither was their song plain and single, but confor out of his head or brain came forth Pallas sisting of such variety of melodious tunes, so fitting armed.
and delighting the ears that heard them, as that it The sense of this fable, which at first appre- ravished and betrayed all passengers: and so hension may seem monstrous and absurd, con- great were the mischiefs they did, that these isles tains in it a secret of state, to wit, with what po- of the Sirens, even as far off as man can ken licy kings are wont to carry themselves towards them, appeared all over white with the bones of their counsellors, whereby they may not only pre- unburied carcasses. For the remedying of this serve their authority and majesty free and entire, misery a double means was at last found out, the but also that it may be the more extolled and dig- one by Ulysses, the other by Orpheus. Ulysses, nified of the people: for kings being as it were tied to make experiment of his device, caused all the and coupled in a nuptial bond to their counsellors, ears of his company to be stopped with wax, and do truly conceive that communicating with them made himself to be bound to the mainmast, with about the affairs of greatest importance, do yet de- special commandment to his mariners not to be tract nothing from their own majesty. But when loosed, albeit himself should require them so to any matter comes to be censured or decreed, which do. But Orpheus neglected and disdained to be is a birth, there do they confine and restrain the so bound, with a shrill and sweet voice singing liberty of their counsellors ; lest that which is praises of the gods to his harp, suppressed the done should seem to be hatched by their wisdom songs of the Sirens, and so freed himself from and judgment. So as at last kings, except it be their danger. in such matters as are distasteful and maligned, This fable bath relation to men's manners, and which they always will be sure to put off from contains in it a manifest and most excellent parathemselves, do assume the honour and praise of ble: for pleasures do for the most proceed out of all matters that are ruminated in council, and as it the abundance and superfluity of all things, and were, formed in the womb, whereby the resolu- also out of the delights and jovial contentments tion and execution, which, because it proceeds of the mind : the which are wont suddenly, as it from power and implies necessity, is elegantly were with winged enticements to ravish and rap shadowed under the figure of Pallas armed, shall mortal men. But learning and education brings seem to proceed wholly from themselves. Nei- it so to pass, as that it restrains and bridles man's ther sufficeth it, that it is done by the authority of mind, making it so to consider the ends and the king, by his mere will and free applause, ex- events of things, as that it clips the wings of pleacept withal, this be added and appropriated as to sure. And this was greatly to the honour and issue out of his own head or brain, intimating, renown of the muses; for after that, by some exthat out of his own judgment, wisdom, and ordi- ample, it was made manifest that by the power of nance, it was only invented and derived. philosophy vain pleasures might grow contempt
ible; it presently grew to great esteem, as a thing
that could raise and elevate the mind aloft, that THE SIRENS, OR PLEASURES.
seemed to be base and fixed to the earth, make the The fable of the Sirens seems rightly to have cogitations of the men, which do ever reside in the been applied to the pernicious allurements of plea- head, to be æthereal, and as it were winged. But sure, but in a very vulgar and gross manner. that the mother of the Sirens was left to her And, therefore, to me it appears, that the wisdom feet, and without wings, that no doubt is no otherof the ancients have, with a farther reach or in- wise meant than of light and superficial learning, sight, strained deeper matter out of them, not un- appropriated and defined only to pleasures, as
were those which Petronius devoted himself unto | philosophy, and one from religion. The first after he had received his fatal sentence ; and, means to shun these inordinate pleasures is, to having his foot as it were upon the threshold of withstand and resist them in their beginnings, death, sought to give himself all delightful con- and seriously to shun all occasions that are offertentments; insomuch, as when he had caused con- ed to debauch and entice the mind, which is signisolatory letters to be sent him, he would peruse fied in that stopping of the ears; and that remedy none of them, as Tacitus reports, that should give is properly used by the meaner and baser sort of him courage and constancy, but only read fantas- people, as it were Ulysses's followers or maritical verses such as these are.
ners, whereas more heroic and noble spirits may “ Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
boldly converse even in the midst of these seducRumoresque senum severiorum,
ing pleasures, if with a resolved constancy they Omnes unius æstimemus assis."
stand upon their guard and fortify their minds, My Lesbia, let us live and love: Though wayward dotards us reprove,
and so take greater contentment in the trial and Weigh their words light for our behove.
experience of this their approved virtue; learning And this also:
rather thoroughly to understand the follies and
vanities of those pleasures by contemplation than " Jura senes norint, et quid sit fasque nefasque,
by submission. Which Solomon avouched of Inquirant tristes, legumque examina servent.
himself, wh he reckoned up the multitude of Let doting grandsires know the law, And right and wrong observe with awe:
those solaces and pleasures wherein he swam, Let them in that strict circle draw.
doth conclude with this sentence: This kind of doctrine would easily persuade to “ Sapientia quoque perseverabat mecum." take these plumed coronets from the muses, and
Wisdom also continued with me. to restore the wings again to the Sirens. These Therefore these heroes and spirits of this excelSirens are said to dwell in remote isles, for that lent temper, even in the midst of these enticing pleasures love privacy and retired places, shun- pleasures, can show themselves constant and inning always too much company of people. The vincible, and are able to support their own virSirens' songs are so vulgarly understood, together tuous inclination against all heady and forcible with the deceits and danger of them, as that persuasions whatsoever; as by the example of they need no exposition. But that of the bones Ulysses, that so peremptorily interdicted all pesappearing like white cliffs, and decried afar off, tilent counsels and flatteries of his companions, as hath more acuteness in it: for thereby is signifi- the most dangerous and pernicious poisons to caped, that albeit the examples of afflictions be mani- tivate the mind. But of all other remedies in this fest and eminent, yet do they not sufficiently case that of Orpheus is most predominant; for deter us from the wicked enticements of pleasures. they that chaunt and resound the praises of the
As for the remainder of this parable, though it gods confound and dissipate the voices and incanbe not over-mystical, yet it is very grave and ex- tation of the Sirens; for divine meditations do not cellent: for in it are set out three remedies for only in power subdue all sensual pleasures, but this violent enticing mischief; to wit, two from also far exceed them in sweetness and delight.