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potui. Deus Illustrissimam Dominationem tuam manu ducat. Illustrissimæ Dominationis tuæ Servus Devinctissimus et Fidelis. FR. S. ALBAN.
In the year 1618, the Essays, together with the Wisdom of the Ancients, was translated into Italian, and dedicated to Cosmo de Medici, by Tobie Mathew; and in the following year the Essays were translated into French by Sir Arthur Gorges, and printed in London.
Wisdom of the Ancients.
In the year 1609, as a relaxation from abstruse speculations, he published in Latin his interesting little work, De Sapientia Veterum.
This tract seems, in former times, to have been much valued. The fables, abounding with a union of deep thought and poetic beauty, are thirty-one in num of which a part of The Sirens, or Pleasures, may be selected as a specimen.
In this fable, he explains the common but erroneous supposition that knowledge and the conformity of the will, knowing and acting, are convertible terms. Of this error, he, in his essay of Custom and Education, admonishes his readers, by saying: "Men's thoughts are much according to their inclination; their discourse and speeches according to their learning and infused opinions, but their deeds are after as they have been accustomed; Esop's Damsel, transformed from a cat to a woman, sat very demurely at the board-end till a mouse ran before her." In the fable of the Sirens, he exhibits the same truth, saying: "The habitation of the Sirens was in certain pleasant islands, from whence, as soon as out of their watchtower they discovered any ships approaching, with their sweet tunes they would first entice and stay them, and, having them in their power, would destroy them; and, so great were the mischiefs they did, that these isles of the Sirens, even as far off as man can ken them, appeared all over white with the bones of unburied carcasses; by which it is signified that albeit the examples of afflictions be manifest and eminent, yet they
do not sufficiently deter us from the wicked enticements of pleasure."
The following is the account of the different editions of this work: The first was published in 1609. In February 27, 1610, Lord Bacon wrote to Mr. Mathew, upon sending his book De Sapientia Veterum:
Mr. Mathew: I do very heartily thank you for your letter of the 24th of August, from Salamanca; and and in recompense therefore I send you a little work of mine that hath begun to pass the world. They tell me my Latin is turned into silver, and become current: had you been here, you should have been my inquisitor before it came forth; but, I think, the greatest inquisitor in Spain will allow it. But one thing you must pardon me if I make no haste to believe, that the world should be grown to such an ecstasy as to reject truth in philosophy, because the author dissenteth in religion; no more than they do by Aristotle or Averroes. My great work goeth forward; and after my manner, I alter even when I add; so that nothing is finished till all be finished. This I have written in the midst of a term and parliament; thinking no time so possessed, but that I should talk of these matters with so good and dear a friend. And so with my wonted wishes I leave you to God's goodness.
"From Gray's Inn, Feb. 27, 1610."
And in his letter to father Fulgentio, giving some account of his writings, he says: "My Essays will not only be enlarged in number, but still more in substance. Along with them goes the little piece De Sapientia Ve
In the Advancement of Learning, he says: "There remaineth yet another use of poesy parabolical, opposite to that which we last mentioned; for that tendeth to demonstrate and illustrate that which is taught or delivered, and this other to retire and obscure it; that is, when the secrets and mysteries of religion, policy, or philosophy, are involved in fables or parables. Of this in divine poesy we see the use is authorized. In heathen poesy we see the exposition of fables doth fall out some
times with great felicity; as in the fable that the giants being overthrown in their war against the gods, the earth, their mother, in revenge thereof brought forth Fame:
Illam Terra parens, irâ irritata Deorum, Extremam, ut perhibent, Coo Enceladoque sororem Progenuit,
expounded, that when princes and monarchs have suppressed actual and open rebels, then the malignity of the people, which is the mother of rebellion, doth bring forth libels and slanders, and taxations of the State, which is of the same kind with rebellion, but more feminine. So in the fable, that the rest of the gods having conspired to bind Jupiter, Pallas called Briareus, with his hundred hands, to his aid; expounded, that monarchies need not fear any curbing of their absoluteness by mighty subjects, as long as by wisdom they keep the hearts of the people, who will be sure to come in on their side. So in the fable, that Achilles was brought up under Chiron, the centaur, who was part a man and part a beast, expounded ingeniously, but corruptly by Machiavel, that it belongeth to the education and discipline of princes to know as well how to play the part of the lion in violence, and the fox in guile, as of the man in virtue and justice. Nevertheless, in many the like encounters, I do rather think that the fable was first, and the exposition then devised, than that the moral was first, and thereupon the fable framed. For I find it was an ancient vanity in Chrysippus, that troubled himself with great contention to fasten the assertions of the stoics upon the fictions of the ancient poets; but yet that all the fables and fictions of the poets were but pleasure, and not figure, I interpose no opinion. Surely, of those poets which are now extant, even Homer himself, (notwithstanding he was made a kind of scripture by the latter schools of the Grecians,) yet I should without any difficulty pronounce that his fables had no such inwardness in his own meaning; but what they might have,
upon a more original tradition, is not easy to affirm; for he was not the inventor of many of them."
In the treatise De Augmentis, the same sentiments will be found, with a slight alteration in the expressions. He says: "There is another use of parabolical poesy opposite to the former, which tendeth to the folding up of those things, the dignity whereof deserves to be retired and distinguished, as with a drawn curtain; that is, when the secrets and mysteries of religion, policy, and philosophy are veiled and invested with fables and parables. But whether there be any mystical sense under the ancient fables of the poets, may admit some doubt; and, indeed, for our part, we incline to this opinion, as to think that there was an infused mystery in many of the ancient fables of the poets. Neither doth it move us that these matters are left commonly to school-boys and grammarians, and so are embased, that we should therefore make a slight judgment upon them; but contrariwise, because it is clear that the writings which recite those fables, of all the writings of men, next to sacred writ, are the most ancient; and that the fables themselves are far more ancient than they (being they are alleged by those writers, not as excogitated by them, but as credited and recepted before) seem to be, like a thin rarefied air, which, from the traditions of more ancient nations, fell into the flutes of the Grecians."
Of this tract, Archbishop Tenison, in his Baconiana, says: "In the seventh place, I may reckon his book De Sapientia Veterum, written by him in Latin, and set forth a second time with enlargement; and translated into English by Sir Arthur Gorges; a book in which the sages of former times are rendered more wise than it may be they were, by so dextrous an interpreter of their fables. It is this book which Mr. Sandys means, in those words which he hath put before his notes on the Metamorphosis of Ovid. Of modern writers, I have received the greatest light from Geraldus, Pontanus, Ficinus, Vives, Comes, Scaliger, Sabinus, Pierius, and the crown of the latter, the Viscount of St. Albans.'
"It is true, the design of this book was instruction in natural and civil matters, either couched by the ancients
under those fictions, or rather made to seem to be so by his lordship's wit, in the opening and applying of them. But because the first ground of it is poetical story, therefore, let it have this place till a fitter be found for it."
The author of Bacon's Life, in the Biographia Britannica, says: "That he might relieve himself a little from the severity of these studies, and, as it were, amuse himself with erecting a magnificent pavilion, while his great palace of philosophy was building; he composed and sent abroad, in 1610, his celebrated treatise of the Wisdom of the Ancients, in which he showed that none had studied them more closely, was better acquainted with their beauties, or had pierced deeper into their meaning. There have been very few books published, either in this or any other nation, which either deserved or met with more general applause than this, and scarce any that are like to retain it longer, for in this performance Sir Francis Bacon gave a singular proof of his capacity to please all parties in literature, as in his political conduct he stood fair with all the parties in the nation. The admirers of antiquity were charmed with this discourse, which seems expressly calculated to justify their admiration; and, on the other hand, their opposites were no less pleased with a piece, from which they thought they could demonstrate that the sagacity of a modern genius had found out much better meanings for the ancients than ever were meant by them."
And Mallet, in his Life of Bacon, says: "In 1610, he published another treatise, entitled, Of the Wisdom of the Ancients. This work bears the same stamp of an original and inventive genius with his other performances. Resolving not to tread in the steps of those who had gone before him, men, according to his own expression, not learned beyond certain commonplaces, he strikes out a new tract for himself, and enters into the most secret recesses of this wild and shadowy region, so as to appear new on a known and beaten subject. Upon the whole, if we cannot bring ourselves readily to believe that there is all the physical, moral, and political meaning veiled under those fables of antiquity, which