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depths of obscurity, and that false things were wonderfully joined and intermixed with true, as for the new academy, that exceeded all measure, than of the confident and pronunciative school of Aristotle. Let men therefore be admonished, that by acknowledging the imperfection of nature and art, they are grateful to the gods, and shall thereby obtain new benefits and greater favours at their bountiful hands; and the accusation of Prometheus, their author and master, though bitter and vehement, will conduce more to their profit, than to be effuse in the congratulation of his invention; for, in a word, the opinion of having enough, is to be accounted one of the greatest causes of having too little.
Now, as touching the kind of gift which men are said to have received in reward of their accusation, to wit, an ever-fading flower of youth, it is to show, that the ancients seemed not to despair of attaining the skill, by means and medicines, to put off old age, and to prolong life, but this to be numbered rather among such things, having been once happily attained unto, are now, through men's negligence and carelessness, utterly perished and lost, than among such as have been always denied and never granted; for they signify and show, that by affording the true use of fire, and by a good and stern accusation and conviction of the errors of art, the divine bounty is not wanting unto men in the obtaining of such gifts; but men are wanting to themselves in laying this gift of the gods upon the back of a silly slow-paced ass, which may seem to be experience, a stupid thing, and full of delay; from whose leisurely and snail-like pace proceeds that complaint of life's brevity, and art's length; and to say the truth, I am of this opinion, that those two faculties, dogmatical and empirical, are not as yet well joined and coupled together, but as new gifts of the gods imposed either upon philosophical abstractions, as upon a flying bird, or upon slow and dull experience, as upon an ass. And yet methinks I would not entertain an ill conceit of this ass, if it meet not for the accidents of travel and thirst: for I am persuaded, that whoso constantly goes on, by the conduct of experience, as by a certain rule and method, and not covets to meet with such experiments by the way, as conduce either to gain or ostentation, to obtain which, he must be fain to lay down and sell this burden, may prove no unfit porter to bear this new addition of divine munificence.
Now, in that this gift is said to pass from men to serpents, it may seem to be added to the fable for ornament sake, in a manner, unless it were inserted to shame men, that having the use of that celestial fire and of so many arts, are not able to get unto themselves such things as nature itself bestows upon many other creatures.
But that sudden reconciliation of men to Prometheus, after they were frustrated of their hopes, contains a profitable and wise note, showing the
levity and temerity of men in new experiments: for if they have not present success answerable to their expectation, with too sudden haste desist from that they began, and with precipitancy returning to their former experiments, are reconciled to them again.
The state of man, in respect of arts, and such things as concern the intellect, being now described, the parable passeth to religion: for, after the planting of arts, follows the setting of divine principles, which hypocrisy hath overspread and polluted. By that twofold sacrifice therefore is elegantly shadowed out the persons of a true religious man and a hypocrite. In the one is contained fatness, which by reason of the inflammation and fumes thereof, is called the portion of God, [by which his affection and zeal, tending to God's glory, and ascending, towards heaven, is signified. In him also are contained the bowels of charity, and in him is found that good and wholesome flesh; whereas in the other there is nothing but dry and naked bones, which nevertheless do stuff up the hide, and make it appear like a fair and goodly sacrifice: by this may be well meant those external and vain rites, and empty ceremonies, by which men do oppress and fill up the sincere worship of God; things composed rather for ostentation than any way conducing to true piety. Neither do they hold it sufficient to offer such mock-sacrifices unto God; except they also lay them before him, as if he had chosen and bespoke them. Certainly the prophet, in the person of God, doth thus expostulate concerning this choice: Esa. viii. 5, "Num tandem hoc est illud jejunium, quod ELEGI, ut homo animam suam in diem unum affligat, et caput instar junceti demittat?" Is it such a fast that I have chosen, that a man should afflict his soul for a day, and to bow down his head like a bulrush?
Having now touched the state of religion, the parable converts itself to the manners and conditions of human life: and it is a common but apt interpretation by Pandora, to be meant pleasure and voluptuousness, which, when the civil life is pampered with too much art, and culture, and superfluity, is engendered, as it were, by the efficacy of fire, and therefore the work of voluptuousness is attributed unto Vulcan, who also himself doth represent fire. From this do infinite miseries, together with too late repentance, proceed and overflow the minds, and bodies, and fortunes of men; and that not only in respect of particular estates, but even over kingdoms and commonwealths: for from this fountain have wars, tumults, and tyrannies derived their original.
But it would be worth the labour to consider how elegantly and proportionably this fable doth delineate two conditions, or, as I may say, two tables or examples of human life, under the person of Prometheus or Epimetheus: for they that are of Epimetheus's sect are improvident, not fore
man frailty and divine security to be one and the selfsame time, in one and the selfsame subject.
seeing what may come to pass hereafter, esteem- | ble of this fortitude and constancy. Of which ing that best which seems most sweet for the very thing Seneca well conceived, when he said, present; whence it happens that they are over-"Magnum est habere simul fragilitatem hominis, taken with many miseries, difficulties, and cala- et securitatem Dei." It is a great matter for humities, and so lead their lives almost in perpetual affliction; but yet, notwithstanding, they please their fancy, and out of ignorance of the passages of things, do entertain many vain hopes in their mind, whereby they sometimes, as with sweet dreams, solace themselves, and sweeten the miseries of their life. But they that are Prometheus's scholars, are men endued with prudence, foreseeing things to come, warily shunning and avoiding many evils and misfortunes. But to these their good properties they have this also annexed, that they deprive themselves and defraud their genius of many lawful pleasures, and divers recreations; and, which is worse, they vex and torment themselves with cares and troubles, and intestine fears; for being chained to the pillar of necessity, they are afflicted with innumerable cogitations, which, because they are very swift, may be fitly compared to an eagle; and those griping, and, as it were gnawing and devouring the liver, unless sometimes as it were by night, it may be they get a little recreation and ease of mind, but so, as that they are again suddenly assaulted with fresh anxieties and fears.
Therefore this benefit happens to but a very few of either condition, that they should retain the commodities of providence, and free themselves from the miseries of care and perturbation; neither indeed can any attain unto it but by the assistance of Hercules, that is, fortitude and constancy of mind, which is prepared for every event, and armed in all fortunes; foreseeing without fear, enjoying without loathing, and suffering without impatience. It is worth the noting also, that this virtue was not natural to Prometheus, but adventitial, and from the indulgence of another, for no inbred and natural fortitude is able to encounter with these miseries. Moreover this virtue was received and brought unto him from the remotest part of the ocean, and from the sun, that is, from wisdom as from the sun; and from the meditation of inconstancy, or of the waters of human life, as from the sailing upon the ocean; which two, Virgil hath well conjoined in these verses:
"Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas: Quique metus omnes, et inexorabile fatum Subjecit pedibus, strepitumque Acherontis avari. " Happy is he that knows the cause of things, And that with dauntless courage treads upon All fear and fates, relentless threatenings, And greedy throat of roaring Acheron. Moreover, it is elegantly added for the consolation and confirmation of men's minds, that this noble hero crossed the ocean in a cup or pan, lest, peradventure, they might too much fear that the straits and frailty of their nature will not be capa
But now we are to step back a little again to that, which by premeditation we past over, lest a breach should be made in those things which were so linked together: that therefore which I could touch here is that last crime imputed to Prometheus, about seeking to bereave Minerva of her virginity: for, questionless, it was this heinous offence that brought that punishment of devouring his liver upon him; which is nothing else but to show, that when we are puffed up with too much learning and science, they go about oftentimes to make even divine oracles subject to sense and reason, whence most certainly follows a continual distraction, and restless griping of the mind; we must therefore, with a sober and humble judgment, distinguish between humanity and divinity, and between the of sense and the mysteries of faith, unless a tical religion and
a commentitious philosophy be pleasing unto us.
Lastly, it remains that we say something of the games of Prometheus, performed with burning torches, which again hath reference to arts and sciences, as that fire, in whose memory and celebration these games were instituted; and it contains in it a most wise admonition, that the perfection of sciences is to be expected from succession, not from the nimbleness and promptness of one only author: for they that are nimblest in course, and strongest in contention, yet happily have not the luck to keep fire still in their torch, seeing it may be as well extinguished by running too fast as by going too slow. And this running and contending with lamps seems long since to be intermitted, seeing all sciences seem even now to flourish most in their first authors, Aristotle, Galen, Euclid, and Ptolemy; succession having neither effected, nor almost attempted any great matter; it were therefore to be wished that these games, in honour of Prometheus, or human nature, were again restored; and that matters should receive success by combat and emulation, and not hang upon any one man's sparkling and shaking torch. Men therefore are to be admonished to rouse up their spirits, and try their strengths and turns, and not refer all to the opinions and brains of a few.
And thus have I delivered that which I thought good to observe out of this so well known and common fable; and yet I will not deny but that there may be some things in it which have an admirable consent with the mysteries of Christian religion; and especially that sailing of Hercules in a cup to set Prometheus at liberty, seems to represent an image of the divine word, coming in flesh, as in a frail vessel, to redeem man from the
slavery of hell. But I have interdicted my pen all liberty in this kind lest I should use strange fire at the altar of the Lord.
SCYLLA AND ICARUS, OR THE MIDDLE WAY.
MEDIOCRITY, or the middle-way, is most commended in moral actions; in contemplative sciences not so celebrated, though no less profitable and commodious; but in political employments to be used with great heed and judgment. The ancients by the way prescribed to Icarus, noted the mediocrity of manners; and by the way between Scylla and Charybdis, so famous for difficulty and danger, the mediocrity of intellectual operations.
Icarus being to cross the sea by flight, was commanded by his father that he should fly neither too high nor too low, for his wings being joined with wax, if he should mount too high, it was to be feared lest the wax would melt by the heat of the sun, and if too o low, lest misty vapours of the sea would make it less tenacious: but he in a youthful jollity soaring too high, fell down headlong and perished in the water.
The parable is easy and vulgar: for the way of virtue lies in a direct path between excess and defect. Neither is it a wonder that Icarus perished by excess, seeing that excess for the most part is the peculiar fault of youth, as defect is of age; and yet of two evil and hurtful ways, youth commonly make choice of the better, defect being always accounted worst: for whereas excess contains some sparks of magnanimity, and, like a bird, claims kindred of the heavens, defect only like a base worm crawls upon the earth. Excellently therefore said Heraclitus, "Lumen siccum, optima anima;" a dry light is the best soul; for if the soul contract moisture from the earth it becomes degenerate altogether. Again, on the other side, there must be moderation used, that this light be subtilized by this laudable siccity, and not destroyed by too much fervency: and thus much every man for the most part knows.
Now they that would sail between Scylla and Charybdis must be furnished as well with the skill as prosperous success in navigation: for if their ships fall into Scylla they are split on the rocks; if into Charybdis they are swallowed up of a gulf.
The moral of this parable, which we will but briefly touch, although it contain matter of infinite contemplation, seems to be this, that in every art and science, and so in their rules and axioms, there be a mean observed between the rocks of distinctions and the gulfs of universalities, which two are famous for the wrecks both of wits and arts.
SPHYNX, OR SCIENCE.
THEY say that Sphynx was a monster of divers forms, as having the face and voice of a virgin, the wings of a bird, and the talons of a griffin. His abode was in a mountain near the city of Thebes; he kept also the highways, and used to lie in ambush for travellers, and so to surprise them: to whom, being in his power, he propounded certain dark and intricate riddles, which were thought to have been given and received of the Muses. Now if these miserable captives were not able instantly to resolve and interpret them, in the midst of their difficulties and doubts, she would rend and tear them in pieces. The country groaning a long time under this calamity, the Thebans at last propounded the kingdom as a reward unto him that could interpret the riddles of Sphynx, there being no other way to destroy her. Whereupon (Edipus, a man of piercing and deep judgment, but maimed and lame by reason of holes bored in his feet, moved with the hope of so great a reward, accepted the condition, and determined to put it to the hazard, and so with an undaunted and bold spirit, presented himself before the monster, who asked him what creature that was, which after his birth went first upon four feet, next upon two, then upon three, and lastly upon four feet again; answered forthwith that it was man, which in his infancy, immediately after birth, crawls upon all four, scarce venturing to creep, and not long after stands upright upon two feet, then growing old he leans upon a staff, wherewith he supports himself; so that he may seem to have three feet, and at last, in decrepid years, his strength failing him, he falls grovelling again upon four, and lies bedrid. Having therefore by this true answer gotten the victory, he instantly slew this Sphynx, and, laying her body upon an ass, leads it as it were in triumph; and so, according to the condition, was created king of the Thebans.
This fable contains in it no less wisdom than elegancy, and it seems to point at science, especially that which is joined with practice, for science may not absurdly be termed a monster, as being by the ignorant and rude multitude always held in admiration. It is diverse in shape and figure, by reason of the infinite variety of subjects, wherein it is conversant. A maiden face and voice is attributed unto it for its gracious countenance and volubility of tongue. Wings are added, because sciences and their inventions do pass and fly from one to another, as it were, in a moment, seeing that the communication of science is as the kindling of one light at another. Elegantly also it is feigned to have sharp and hooked talons, because the axioms and arguments of science do so fasten upon the mind, and so strongly apprehend and hold it, as that it
stir not or evade, which is noted also by the Divine Philosopher, Eccl. xii. 11: "Verba sapientum," saith he, "sunt tanquam aculei et veluti clavi in altum defixi." The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails driven far in.
Moreover, all science seems to be placed in steep and high mountains; as being thought to be a lofty and high thing, looking down upon ignorance with a scornful eye. It may be observed and seen also a great way, and far in compass, as things set on the tops of mountains.
Furthermore, science may well be feigned to beset the highways, because which way soever we turn in this progress and pilgrimage of human life, we meet with some matter or occasion offered for contemplation.
Sphynx is said to have received from the muses divers difficult questions and riddles, and to propound them unto men, which remaining with the muses, are free, it may be from savage cruelty; for so long as there is no other end of study and meditation, than to know, the understanding is not racked and imprisoned, but enjoys freedom and liberty, and even in doubts and variety finds a kind of pleasure and delectation; but when once these enigmas are delivered by the muses to Sphynx, that is, to practice, so that it be solicited and urged by action, and election, and determination, then they begin to be troublesome and raging; and unless they be resolved and expedited, they do wonderfully torment and vex the minds of men, distracting, and in a manner rending them into sundry parts.
Moreover, there is always a twofold condition propounded with Sphynx's enigmas: to him that doth not expound them, distraction of mind; and to him that doth, a kingdom; for he that knows that which he sought to know, hath attained the end he aimed at, and every artificer also commands over his work.
Of Sphynx's riddles, they are generally two kinds; some concerning the nature of things, others touching the nature of man. So also there are two kinds of empires, as rewards to those that resolve them. The one over nature, the other over men; for the proper and chief end of true natural philosophy is to command and sway over natural beings; as bodies, medicines, mechanical works, and infinite other things; although the school, being content with such things as are offered, and priding itself with speeches, doth neglect realities and works, treading them as it were under foot. But that enigma propounded to Edipus, by means of which he obtained the Theban empire, belonged to the nature of man for whosoever doth thoroughly consider the nature of man, may be in a manner the contriver of his own fortune, and is born to command, which is well spoken of the Roman
Roman remember, that with sceptre's awe
Thy realms thou rul'st. These arts let be thy rule. It was, therefore, very apposite, that Augustus Cæsar, whether by premeditation, or by a chance, bare a sphynx in his signet; for he, if ever any, was famous not only in political government, but in all the course of his life; he happily discovered many new enigmas concerning the nature of man, which if he had not done with dexterity and promptness, he had oftentimes fallen into imminent danger and destruction.
Moreover, it is added in the fable, that the body of Sphynx, when she was overcome, was laid upon an ass; which indeed is an elegant fiction, seeing there is nothing so acute and abstruse, but, being well understood and divulged, may be apprehended by a slow capacity.
Neither is it to be omitted, that Sphynx was overcome by a man lame in his feet; for when men are too swift of foot, and too speedy of pace in hasting to Sphynx's enigmas, it comes to pass, that, she getting the upper hand, their wits and minds are rather distracted by disputations, than that ever they come to command by works and effects.
PROSERPINA, OR SPIRIT.
PLUTO, they say, being made king of the infernal dominions, by that memorable division, was in despair of ever attaining any one of the superior goddesses in marriage, especially if he should venture to court them, either with words, or with any amorous behaviour; so that of necessity he was to lay some plot to get one of them by rapine: taking, therefore, the benefit of opportunity, he caught up Proserpina, the daughter of Ceres, a beautiful virgin, as she was gathering Narcissus flowers in the meadows of Sicily, and carried her away with him in his coach to the subterranean dominions, where she was welcomed with such respect, as that she was styled the Lady of Dis. But Ceres, her mother, when in no place she should find this her only beloved daughter, in a sorrowful humour and distracted beyond measure, went compassing the whole earth with a burning torch in her hand, to seek and recover this her lost child. But when she saw that all was in vain, supposing peradventure that she was carried to hell, she importuned Jupiter with many tears and lamentations, that she might be restored unto her again: and at length prevailed thus far, that if she had tasted of nothing in hell, she should have leave to bring her from thence. Which condition was as good as a denial to her petition, Proserpina having already eaten three grains of a pomegranate. And yet for all this, Ceres gave not over her suit, but fell to prayers and moans
whole circuit of the earth, and would be of the greatest moment to recover Proserpina, if possibly it might be.
But Proserpina abides still, the reason of which
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 after this, Theseus and Perithous, in an overhardy adventure, attempted to fetch her from Pluto's bed, who, being weary with travel and 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 there forever. Proserpina therefore remained queen of hell, in whose honour there was this great privilege granted; that, although it were enacted that none that went down to hell should have the power ever to return from thence; yet was this singular exception annexed to this law, that if any presented Proserpina with a golden bough, it should be lawful for him to go, and come at his pleasure. Now there was but one only such a bough in a spacious and shady grove, which was not a plant neither of itself, but budded from a tree of another kind, like a rope of gum, which being plucked off, another would instantly spring out.
condition between Jupiter and Ceres: for first it is most certain there are two ways to keep spirit in solid and terrestrial matter: the one by constipation and obstruction, which is mere imprisonment and constraint; the other by administration or proportionable nutriment, which it receives willingly and of its own accord; for after that the included spirit begins to feed and nourish itself, it makes no haste to be gone, but is, as it were, linked to its earth: and this is pointed at by Proserpina her eating of pomegranate; which, if she had not done, she had long since been recovered by Ceres with her torch, compassing the earth. Now, as concerning that spirit which is in metals and minerals, it is chiefly perchance restrained by solidity of mass: but that which is in plants and animals inhabits a porous body, and hath open
This fable seems to pertain to nature, and to dive into that rich and plentiful efficacy and variety 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 again return.
not that it willingly abides of its own accord, by reason of the relish it finds in its entertainment. The second condition concerning the six months' custom, it is no other than an elegant description of the division of the year, seeing this spirit mixed
By Proserpina, the ancients meant that ethereal spirit, which being separated from the upper globe, is shut up and detained under the earth, represented by Pluto, which the poet well express-with the earth appears above ground in vegetable thus:
"Sive recens tellus, seductaque nuper ab alto
This spirit is feigned to be rapted by the earth, because nothing can withhold it, when it hath time and leisure to escape. It is therefore caught and stayed by a sudden contraction, no otherwise than if a man should go about to mix air with water, which can be done by no means, but by a speedy and rapid agitation, as, may be seen in froth, wherein the air is rapted by the water.
Neither is it inelegantly added that Proserpina was rapt as she was gathering Narcissus flowers in the valleys, because Narcissus hath his name from slowness or stupidity: for, indeed, then is this spirit most prepared and fitted to be snatched by terrestrial matter, when it begins to be coagulated, and become as it were slow.
Rightly is Proserpina honoured more than any of the other god's bed-fellows, in being styled the Lady of Dis, because this spirit doth rule and sway all things in those lower regions, Pluto abiding stupid and ignorant.
This spirit, the power celestial, shadowed by Ceres, strives with infinite sedulity, to recover
bodies during the summer months, and in the winter sinks down again.
Now as concerning Theseus and Perithous, and their attempt to bring Proserpina quite away; the meaning of it is, that it oftentimes comes to pass that some more subtle spirits descending with divers bodies to the earth, never come to suck of any subalteran spirit, whereby to unite it unto them, and so to bring it away. But, on the contrary, are coagulated themselves, and never rise more, that Proserpina should be by that means augmented with inhabitants and dominion.
All that we can say concerning that sprig of gold is hardly able to defend us from the violence of the chymists, if in this regard they set upon us, seeing they promise by that their elixir to effect golden mountains, and the restoring of natural bodies, as it were from the portal of hell. But, concerning chymistry, and those perpetual suitors for that philosophical elixir, we know certainly that their theory is without grounds, and we suspect that their practice also is without certain reward. And therefore, omiting these, of this last part of the parable, this is my opinion, I am induced to believe by many figures of the ancients, that the conservation and restoration of natural bodies, in some sort, was not esteemed by them as a thing impossible to be attained, but as a thing abstruse and full of difficulties, and so they seem