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seeing what may come to pass hereafter, esteeming that best which seems most sweet for the present; whence it happens that they are overtaken with many miseries, difficulties, and calamities, 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

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ble of this fortitude and constancy. Of which very thing Seneca well conceived, when he said, Magnum est habere simul fragilitatem hominis, et securitatem Dei." It is a great matter for human frailty and divine security to be one and the selfsame time, in one and the selfsame subject.

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 oracles of sense and the mysteries of faith, unless an heretical 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.


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.


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

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 the Muses. Now if these miserable captives ancients by the way prescribed to Icarus, noted the mediocrity of manners; and by the way beween Scylla and Charybdis, so famous for dificulty 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 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.

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.

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, | Having therefore by this true answer gotten the “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 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.

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.

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.

ence 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 argu ments 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 dipus, 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


"Tu regere imperio populos, Romane memento Hæ tibi erunt artes

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.


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

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 sitting down upon a stone in hell to rest themselves, 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.

This fable seems to pertain to nature, and to dive into that rich and plentiful efficacy and variety of subalternal creatures, from whom whatsoever we have is derived, and to them doth again return.

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But Proserpina abides still, the reason of which is accurately and excellently propounded in the 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 passage to be gone in a manner as it lists, were it 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, refresented by Pluto, which the poet well express-with the earth appears above ground in vegetable thus:

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"Sive recens tellus, seductaque nuper ab alto
Æthere, cognati retinebat semina cœli.'
Whether the youngling Tellus (that of late
Was from the high-rear'd æther separate)
Did yet contain her teeming womb within
The living seeds of heaven, her nearest kin.

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

to intimate in this place, when they report that this one only sprig was found among infinite other trees in a huge and thick wood, which they feigned to be of gold, because gold is the badge of perpetuity, and to be artificially as it were inserted, because this effect is to be rather hoped for from art, than from any medicine, or simple or natural means.


THE ancient poets report that Jupiter took Metis to wife, whose name doth plainly signify counsel, and that she by him conceived. Which when he found, not tarrying the time of her deliverance, devours both her and that which she went withal, by which means Jupiter himself became with child, and was delivered of a wondrous birth; for out of his head or brain came forth Pallas armed.

like the grapes ill pressed; from which, though some liquor were drawn, yet the best was left behind. These Sirens are said to be the daughters of Achelous and Terpsichore one of the muses, who in their first being were winged, but after rashly entering into contention with the muses, were by them vanquished and deprived of their wings: of whose plucked out feathers the muses made themselves coronets, so as ever since that time all the muses have attired themselves with plumed heads, except Terpsichore only, that was mother to the Sirens. The habitation of the Sirens was in certain pleasant islands, from whence as soon as out of their watch-tower 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. Neither was their song plain and single, but consisting of such variety of melodious tunes, so fitting 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 and coupled in a nuptial bond to their counsellors, do truly conceive that communicating with them about the affairs of greatest importance, do yet detract nothing from their own majesty. But when any matter comes to be censured or decreed, which is a birth, there do they confine and restrain the liberty of their counsellors; lest that which is done should seem to be hatched by their wisdom and judgment. So as at last kings, except it be in such matters as are distasteful and maligned, This fable hath 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 issue out of his own head or brain, intimating, that out of his own judgment, wisdom, and ordinance, it was only invented and derived.

to make experiment of his device, caused all the ears of his company to be stopped with wax, and made himself to be bound to the mainmast, with special commandment to his mariners not to be loosed, albeit himself should require them so to do. But Orpheus neglected and disdained to be so bound, with a shrill and sweet voice singing praises of the gods to his harp, suppressed the songs of the Sirens, and so freed himself from their danger.

sure. And this was greatly to the honour and renown of the muses; for after that, by some example, it was made manifest that by the power of philosophy vain pleasures might grow contemptible; 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 veen 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

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