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with himself) but only speeches, which (if plain) may be intimated by the nymph Echo, or if more quaint by Syrinx. It is an excellent invention that Pan or the world is said to make choice of Echo only (above all other speeches or voices) for his wife for that alone is true philosophy, which doth faithfully render the very words of the world; and it is written no otherwise than the world doth dictate, it being nothing else but the image or reflection of it, not adding anything of its own, but only iterates and resounds. It belongs also to the sufficiency or perfection of the world, that he begets no issue; for the world doth generate in respect of its parts, but in respect of the whole how can it generate, seeing without it there is nobody? Notwithstanding all this, the tale of that tattling girl faltered upon Pan, may in very deed with great reason be added to this fable; for by her are represented those vain and idle paradoxes concerning the nature of things which have been frequent in all ages, and have filled the world with novelties, fruitless if you respect the matter, changelings if you respect the kinds, sometimes creating pleasure, sometimes tediousness with their overmuch prattling.
Another of the interpretations repeated with enlargements in the De Augmentis is that of the fable of Perseus, or War: "
Perseus is said to have been employed by Pallas for the destroying of Medusa, who was very infestuous to the western parts of the world, and especially about the utmost coasts of Hyberia. A monster so dire and horrid, that by her only aspect she turned men into stone. This Medusa alone of all the Gorgons was mortal, the rest not subject to death. Perseus therefore preparing himself for this noble enterprise, had arms and gifts bestowed on him by three of the gods. Mercury gave him wings annexed to his heels, Pluto a helmet, Pallas a shield and a looking-glass. Notwithstanding (although he were thus furnished) he went not directly to Medusa, but first to the Greæ, which by the mother's side were sisters to the Gorgous. These Gree from their birth were hoar-headed, resembling old women. They had but one only eye, and one tooth among them all, both which, she that had occasion to go abroad was wont to take with her, and at her return to lay them down again. This eye and tooth they lent to Perseus: and so finding himself thoroughly furnished for the effecting of his design, hastens towards Medusa. Her he found sleeping, and
yet durst not present himself with his fare towards her, lest she should awake; but turning his head aside beheld her in Pallas's glass, and (by this means directing his blow) cut off her head; from whose blood gushing out, instantly came Pegasus the flying horse. Her head thus smote off, Perseus bestows on Pallas her shield, which yet retained this virtue, that whatsoever looked upon it should become as stupid as a stone, or like one planet-strucken.
This fable seems to direct the preparation and order, that is to be used in making of war; for the more apt and considerate undertaking whereof, three grave and wholesome precepts (favouring of the wisdom of Pallas) are to be observed.
First-That men do not much trouble themselves about the conquest of neighbour nations, seeing that private possessions and empires are enlarged by different means; for in the augmentation of private revenues, the vicinity of men's territories is to be considered: but in the propagation of public dominions, the occasion and facility of making war, and the fruit to be expected ought to be instead of vicinity. Certainly the Romans, what time their conquests towards the west scarce reached beyond Liguria, did yet in the east bring all the provinces as far as the mountain Taurus within the compass of their arms and command: and therefore Perseus, although he were bred and born in the east, did not yet refuse to undertake an expedition even to the uttermost bounds of the west.
Secondly-There must be a care had that the motives of war be just and honourable, for that begets an alacrity, as well in the soldiers that fight, as in the people that pay, it draws on and procures aids, and brings many other commodities besides. But there is no pretence to take up arms more pious, than the suppressing of Tyranny; under which yoke the people lose their courage, and are cast down without heart and vigour, as in the sight of Medusa.
Thirdly-It is wisely added, that seeing there were three Gorgons (by which wars are represented) Perseus undertook her only that was mortal; that is, he made choice of such a kind of war as was likely to be effected and brought to a period, not pursuing vast and endless hopes.
The furnishing of Perseus with necessaries was that which only advanced his attempt, and drew fortune to be of his side; for he had speed from Mercury, concealing of his counsels from Orcus, and Providence from Pallas.
Neither is it without an allegory, and that full of matter too, that those wings of celerity were fastened to Perseus his heels,
and not to his ancles, to his feet and not to his shoulders; be cause speed and celerity is required, not so much in the first preparations for war, as in those things which second and yield aid to the first; for there is no error in war more frequent than that prosecutions and subsidiary forces do fail to answer the alacrity of the first onsets.
Now for that helmet which Pluto gave him, powerful to make men invisible, the moral is plain; but that twofold gift of providence (to wit the shield and looking-glass) is full of mortality; for that kind of providence which like a shield avoids the force of blows is not alone needful, but that also by which the strength and motions, and counsels of the enemy are descried, as in the looking-glass of Pallas.
But Perseus albeit he were sufficiently furnished with aid and courage, yet was he to do one thing of special importance before he entered the lists with this monster, and that was to have some intelligence with the Greæ. These Greæ are treasons which may be termed the Sisters of War, not descended of the same stock, but far unlike in nobility of birth; for wars are general and heroical, but treasons are base and ignoble. Their description is elegant, for they are said to be grayheaded, and like old women from their birth; by reason that traitors are continually vexed with cares and trepidations. But all their strength (before they break out into open rebellions) consists either in an eye or in a tooth; for every faction alienated from any state contemplates and bites. Besides, this eye and tooth is as it were common; for whatsoever they can learn and know is delivered and carried from one to another by the hands of faction. And as concerning the tooth, they do all bite alike, and sing the same song, so that hear one and you hear all. Perseus therefore was to deal with these Greæ for for the love of their eye and tooth. Their eye to discover, their tooth to sow rumours and stir up envy, and to molest and trouble the minds of men. These things therefore being thus disposed and prepared, he addresses himself to the action of war, and sets upon Medusa as she slept; for a wise captain will ever assault his enemy when he is unprepared and most secure, and then is there good use of Pallas her glass. For most men, before it come to the push, can acutely pry into and discern their enemy's estate; but the best use of this glass is in the very point of danger, that the manner of it may be so considered, as that the terror may not discourage, which is signified by that looking into this glass with the face turned from Medusa.
The monster's head being cut off there follow two effects. The first was the procreation and raising of Pegasus, by which may evidently be understood Fame, that (flying through the world) proclaims victory. The second is the bearing of Medusa's head in his shield; to which there is no kind of defence for excellency comparable; for the one famous and memorable act prosperously effected and brought to pass, doth restrain the motions and insolencies of enemies, and makes envy herself silent and amazed.
A third of these expositions inserted in the De Augmentis is that entitled "Dionysus [the Greek name for Bacchus], or Passions." It is said that Jupiter's paramour, Semele, having bound him by an inviolable oath to grant her one request, desired that he would come to her in the same form in which he was accustomed to visit Juno; the result of which was that the miserable wench was consumed with lightning.
But the infant which she bare in her womb, Jupiter the father took out, and kept it in a gash which he cut in his thigh, till the months were complete that it should be born. This burden made Jupiter somewhat to limp, whereupon the Ichild (because it was heavy and troublesome to its father, while it lay in his thigh) was called Dionysus. Being born, it was committed to Proserpina for some years to be nursed, and being grown up, it had such a maiden-face, as that a man could hardly judge whether it were a boy or a girl. He was dead also, and buried for a time, but afterward revived. Being but a youth, he invented and taught the planting and dressing of vines, the making also, and use of wine, for which becoming famous and renowned, he subjugated the world even to the uttermost bounds of India. He rode in a chariot drawn with tigers. There danced about him certain deformed hobgoblins called Cobali, Acratus, and others, yea even the Muses also were some of his followers. He took to wife Ariadne, forsaken and left by Theseus. The tree sacred unto him was the ivy. He was held the inventor and institutor of sacrifices, and ceremonies, and full of corruption and cruelty. He had power to strike men with fury or madness; for it is reported, that at the celebration of his orgies, two famous worthies, Pentheus and Orpheus, were torn in pieces by certain frantic women, the one because he got upon a tree to behold their
ceremonies in these sacrifices, the other for making melody with his harp. And for his gests, they are in manner the same with Jupiter's.
There is such excellent morality couched in this fable, as that moral philosophy affords not better; for under the person of Bacchus is described the nature of affection, passion, or perturbation, the mother of which (though never so hurtful) is nothing else but the object of apparent good in the eyes of appetite. And it is always conceived in an unlawful desire rashly propounded and obtained, before well understood and considered; and when it begins to grow, the mother of it, which is the desire of apparent good by too much fervency, is destroyed and perisheth: nevertheless (whilst yet it is an imperfect embrio) it is nourished and preserved in the humane soul (which is as it were a father unto it, and represented by Jupiter), but especially in the inferior part thereof, as in a thigh, where also it causeth so much trouble and vexation, as that good determinations and actions are much hindered and lamed thereby, and when it comes to be confirmed by consent and habit, and breaks out, as it were, into act, it remains yet a while, with Proserpina as with a nurse, that is, it seeks corners and secret places, and as it were, caves under ground, until (the reins of shame and fear being laid aside in a pampered audaciousness) it either takes the pretext of some virtue, or becomes altogether impudent and shameless. And it is most true, that every vehement passion is of a doubtful sex as being masculine in the first motion, but feminine in prosecution.
It is an excellent fiction that of Bacchus's reviving: for passions do sometimes seem to be in a dead sleep, and as it were utterly extinct, but we should not think them to be so indeed, no, though they lay, as it were, in their grave; for, let there be but matter and opportunity offered, and you shall see them quickly to revive again.
The invention of wine is wittily ascribed unto him; every affection being ingenious and skilful in finding out that which brings nourishment unto it: and indeed of all things known to men, Wine is most powerful and efficacious to excite and kindle passions of what kind soever, as being in a manner common nurse to them all.
Again his conquering of nations, and undertaking infinite expeditions is an elegant device; for desire never rests content with what it hath, but with an infinite and unsatiable appetite still covets and gapes after more.