Ovid Illustrated: The Renaissance Reception
of Ovid in Image and Text
George Sandys, Ovid's Metamorphosis (1632)
An Online Edition
Daniel Kinney, Director
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VPON THE FOVRTH BOOKE
OF OVIDS METAMORPHOSIS.
Alcithoe and her sisters will neither acknowledge the deity of Bacchus, nor partake in his solemnities; which now are celebrated by the Theban women. Who hang the skinnes of spotted beasts on their shoulders, to expresse not only the varietie of colour, but the nature of wine; which makes the Saluage ciuill, and the ciuill Saluage, by the moderate, or immoderate vse thereof. They dissheuell their haire, as suting with the furious effects of wine, and crowne it with Iuy: in that Iuy resembleth the vine, affording garlands, when the other is naked. Besides, the berries and leaues inebriate alike, through their hot and dry quality: although others write that they preserue from drunkennesse, resisting the fume of [w]ine by their naturall coldnesse, and that therefore they were worne. Each held a Thyrsis in her hand (a Iauelin wreathed about with Iuy) to take away terror from their friends, and couertly to wound their enimies: or in that wine deluding with its naturall suauity and specious apparance, ere aware ouerthrowes the senses, and debilitates the body. Superstitious Antiquitie did belieue that the Gods reioyced in multiplicity of names: either for their greater glory, or to expresse the variety of their faculties. As called in this hymne Lyaeus, because liberall cups exhilerate the heart, and free it from sorrow.
The Satyres follow in the Reare: lasciuiousnesse (for so the name signifies) perpetually attending on wine and effeminate immodesty. They are described to differ from the shapes of men in the lower parts only, which resembles a Gotes, with long tailes, and hornes on their heads, their bodies all hairy. Pliny affirmes that there were of them in the Indian mountaines: and Euphemus of Caria; how that sailing into Spaine he was born by the extremity of weather through the wide Ocean to certain Ilands which were called the Iles of the Satyres: that the people were red of colour, and had long tayles like horses; who comming aboard, without speaking one word offered violence to their women: when the terrified Marriners turned a shore a Barbarian wench; whom the Satyres following, contaminated with all variety of beastlinesse. Some deny that such euer were. Although Hierome and Athanasius report that one appeared to S. Paul the hermet; who said he was mortall, and an inhabiter of those Deserts. Esay, prophesying of the desolation of Babylon, saies that their houses shall be full of dolefull creatures, and that Satyres shall daunce therein. So Faiery Rounds haue therefore beene much spoken off. I haue heard of some who trade to Ginny, that they haue seene, and had a board, a beast (if I may so tearme it) that would goe on his hinder leggs, and vse his former as hands: that it fed as wee feede, would greiue, and weepe, and could not indure to be laught at. The Moores would say that they would assaile them in the woods, and beat them with cudgells. And perhaps the Baboone for his vp-right posture, and witty imitation of man, might be mistaken for a Laplander. But I am confident that this conception of Satyres proceeded chiefly from saluage and wild men, discouered a farre off in the woods by the ciuill: wearing skinnes of beasts on their tawny bodies, with the taile hanging downe behind, and hornes on their heads for ornament or terror; euen yet in vse among the West-Indians. Ignorance and Feare hauing anciently attributed to such a terrestiall Deity.
The Silenij were no other then old Saytres: but one here mentioned more famous then the rest: borne in Indian Nysaea, and tutor vnto Bacchus. Lucian describes him to be old and bald, riding for the most part on an Asse: low of stature, vnwildy fat, with an ouer growne belly; his eares long and erected; neuer sober, and euer accompanied by the Satyres:
The daughters of Mineus follow their worke in contempt of this festiuall, and lighten their labours by telling of stories. The eldest beginning, toucheth by the way the transformations of Dercetis, of her daughter Semiramis, and the transforming of Nais. Dercetis, the Syrian Goddesse, is said to haue falne in loue with a beautifull youth as he sacrificed vnto her; and by him had a daughter: when she, ashamed of her incontinency, put the youth away, exposed the infant in the deserts, and ouercome with sorrow, threw her selfe into a lake neere Ascalon; there changed into a fish, as beleiued by the inhabitants: for which cause the Syrians did abstaine from fishes; erecting hard by a magnificent temple, with her image in the likenesse of a fish from the nauill downeward. But the report of Theon is more probable, how that falling into the sea she was supported by fishes to the shore, and therefore worshipped in that forme. This was that Dagon the Idoll of the Ascalonites: according to S. Hierome, (by interpretation the fish of sorrow) which fell before the Arke of God; the head and hands broken off on the threshold (for which cause neither the priests nor those who entred the Temple would tread thereon euer after) so that nothing but the shape of the fish remained. At the shrine of this Idoll, they offered fishes of gold and siluer. Moreouer, the Syrians would eat no fish, in that they held it iniustice to kill those creatures which did them no harme, and were fed on rather for luxury then necessity: from which, for the same cause the Grecian army on the Hellespont, and Phaeacians, thought dainty in their diet, abstained. Withall, conceiuing the sea to be the originall and father of all that had life; & that man was ingendred of a liquid substance, they adored fishes, as being of their owne generation and substance.
Her exposed daughter in that fed by doues was called Semiramis, which signifies a Doue in the Syrian language: who after became the wife of Ninus, and Queene of Assyria. Now when she could no longer detaine the Empire from her son (which she had managed during his minority, and infinitely enlarged it by her conquests) not induring to suruiue her glory, she with-drew her selfe; and being seene no more, was said to haue beene translated to the Gods, according to the Oracle. Others faine, as here our Poet, that she was turned into a Doue: in memoriall whereof, or rather of her name, the Babylonians diuinely honoured that bird, and gaue it in their ensignes. Besides they expressed the aire by the Doue, as by fish, the water: reuerencing both as comprizing the nature of all things.
Of this Nais there is elsewhere no mention, but only in Arianus: who writes of an Iland in the Erithraean sea, called [Nosala] a hundred furlongs distant from the shore, which those inhabitants affirmed to be sacred to the Sun, and how none sailed thither who euer made returne, in that possessed by a Nais, who hauing satiated her selfe with all that arriued, converted them into fishes; for which the incensed Sun expeld her the Iland, yet graunted her request in the cure of her inexpleable lust: converting those, whom she had changed by her enchantments, againe into men; from whom proceeded that race of people called Ichthiophagi. But Ouid here writes that she her selfe in the end was transformed into a fish whereby her burning desires were extinguished. For persecuted Venus is else-where said to haue hid her selfe in that forme: and where can that vanquished ardor be better concealed, then in a creature of so cold a constitution, which affords neither foode nor heat to reincense it? Whereupon perhaps these vowers of chastity are tied to that diet. From which rule all shell-fish is to be excepted: and therefore perhaps an abhomination to the Israelites.
She resolues on the story of Pyramus and Thisbe: whose wretched ends vpbraid those parents, who measure their childrens by their owne out-worne and deaded affections; in forcing them to serue their auarice or ambition in their fatall mariages (aptly therefore compared to the tyranny of Mezentius, who bound the liuing to the dead till they perished by the stench) more cruell therein to their owne, then either the malice of foes or fortune: yet vndoing, are vndone; and share in the generall calamity. Not considering that riches cannot purchase loue; nor threats or violence either force or restraine it: which free by nature, as proceeding from the freedome of the will, disdaines compulsion; subduing all, vnsubdued by any: and so generous, that whereas all other affections and actions aime at different rewards; loue only is contented with loue, holding nothing else a sufficient recompence. On the other side this exemplifies the sad success of clandestine loues, and neglected parents: to whom obedience is due, and the disposure of that life which they gaue them. The white Mulberies are turned into black by the blood of Pyramus and Thisbe. Yet are of both sorts, the leaues of the white sustaining those little worms which apparell the World in such brauery. The Aegyptians expressed Wisdome by this tree: for whereas others allured by the flattery of the inconstant weather, thrust forth their buds and blossoms, which after are nipt and violated by a sudden alteration: the Mulbery knowing the frost for her enemy, will not sprout till it be vtterly subdued by a more certaine temper; then budds almost in one night, and quickly brings her fruite to maturity least the violent feruor should likewise indamage it.
The second Sister relates the loue of the Sun; inflicted by Venus for his discouery of her adultery with Mars. Which carries this astrologicall sense: that those who are borne in the Coniunction of Mars and Venus are prone to inordinate affections. Mars sometimes descendeth beneath the Sun, and Venus for a part of the yeare ascendeth aboue him, as it were to meete with each other: whose coniunction may then be said to be discouered by the Sunne, when he ceaseth to obscure them by the proximity of his greater splendor. Vulcan bindes them in a net: that is, with too much feruor subdues their operations. For the star of Mars is hot; and that of Venus moderate moist; and whereof generation consists: and therefore mutuall louers: by Neptune vnbound; in that water extinguisheth fire, which is Vulcan. This fable therefore was invented to expresse the sympathy that is necessary in nature. Proceede we a little with the influencies of these Plannets: Mars is malignant, but aproaching Venus subdues his malignity: Mars exciteth greatnesse of spirit and wrath in those in whose natiuity he predominates; Venus impeacheth not that virtue of magnanimity, but the vice of anger: Venus ruling infuseth the effects of loue; and Mars conioyning, makes the force of that loue more ardent: wherefore those that are borne vnder that coniunction are most feruently amorous. Mars followes Venus: because audacity is the page vnto loue; not loue to audacity: for none, in that valiant are taken with loue; but wounded with loue become so, and vndauntedly vndergoe all dangers for the beloued. Mars likewise signifies strife, and Venus friendship; which, as the ancient held, were the parents of all things. But morally adulteries are taxed by this fable: which how potent soeuer the offenders, though with neuer so much art contriued, and secrecy concealed, are at length discouered by the eye of the Sun, and exposed to shame and dishonour.
Venus revengeth her disgrace on the discouerer. The coelestiall heat is inflamed by a terrestiall: and he who should looke indifferently on all, now onely lookes on Leucothoe: and descends so low as to assume the shape of a mortall. Loue is a desire of beauty; implyed by Leucothoë, Beauty, a beame of the diuine refulgency: and therefore no maruell if the louer neglect all things for the beloued; without whom there is nothing but darknesse and discomfort. His lookes wax pale; a colour sutable to that disease; by which Erasistratus the Phisitian discouered the concealed affection of Antiochus. This palenesse proceeds from a defect of heat and scarcity of blood, when nature is too weake to performe at once two seuerall duties. For the intention of a louers mind is continually exercised in contemplating the beloued; with it all the powres of the naturall complexion: which, besides the restlesse emission of the spirits, doth cause an ill digestion in the stomack, and as bad a concoction in the liuer: so that the blood is but little and crude which flowes in their veines. The Sun now neglecteth the rest of his loues: all former affections are buried in a new. But passionate Clytie repines to be thus despised. Iealousy rouseth at once affection and enuy. She discouers Leucothoës scapes to her father, who buries her aliue. When the Sun vnable to relieue her, besprinkles the place and her body with Nectar; from whence a frankincense tree ascendeth: aptly is he famed to be the author of this transformation. To haue sprinkled her with Nectar, in regard of the sweete odor of incense, which feasts the Gods with perfumes: and to haue produced that tree, because it growes in Sabaea, as naturally affecting immoderate feruor; and thereupon happily fained reciprocall louers. Moreouer, in that it delights in open places, and yeelds a gum so vsefull in physick: nor sweete vnlesse it be melted by the Sunne or fire; like praiers which in themselues haue no sauour, vnlesse inflamed with zeale and deuotion; which in the Ceremonial law was expressed by the Censor. But historically Leucothoe perhaps was some vowed Virgin, buried aliue, as the Vestals at Rome, for infringing her chastity.
Clytie, rejected for this discouery, pines away with griefe; and is changed into a flower which turnes about with the Sun: (because that part of the stalke is enfeebled whereon his beames beateth) who retaining still her former affection, closeth her leaues when he sets, as bemoaning his absence. Wherein the nature of the Heliotrope is described, whose feeble leaues are shut vp by the moisture and coldnesse of the night; but opened and cherished by the drynesse and warmth of the Sun, dispersed from the center to the circumference, receiuing thereby an addition of lustre: which shewes the concinnity and temperature of earthly bodies with the Heauenly. So saith Lactantius, should wee fix our thoughts vpon Heauen, and follow the guide of the Coelestiall light, by farre more glorious then that of the Sun; which will without error direct vs to the port of eternall felicity.
Now Alcithoë begins her story; first passing ouer certaine obscure fables. As that of Daphnis turned into a stone by a Nymph inraged with iealousy: so fained in that she stupefied his senses with a loue-cup. Such an one was giuen to the Emperour Caligula. Of this thus Iuuinall.
The fine Nymph Salmacis delighting only to adorne her person, to couch in shades, and bath in her owne fountaine, burnes in desire with the son of Hermes and Aphrodite partaking the names and beauties of either: Mercury being called Hermes, as the messenger of the Gods; and Venus Aphrodite, in that supposed to spring from the froth of the Ocean. Sensuall loue is the deformed issue of sloth and delicacy: and seldome suruiues his inglorious parents. Of which our Physition.
But now approacheth the fate of the Mineides. These are named in history Leucippe, Arsione, & Alcithoë; who longing in their distraction to feed vpon human flesh, cast lots among themselues who should kill her child; which fell on Leucippe, who rendred her sonne Hippasus to the slaughter. For this their husbands putting on blacke and sordid attire, were called Phosoles, which signifies smokie; and the women Oeonoloae, that is distempered in senses; and so were their posterity long after: whom the Priest of Bacchus in his festiuals accustomed to chase with curses in his mouth and a sword in his hand; nor held vnlawfull to kill, if hee ouer-tooke any of them. One slaine by Zoilus in the daies of Plutarch, as himselfe affirmeth; but not vnreuenged with sundry calamities. To this the fable may haue some allusion: the process whereof, with their conversion into Bats may informe vs, how the diuine vengeance pursues the irreligious and profaners of sanctified dayes, with vaine discourse, or interdicted labours. Their flying in the twi-light deciphers such as shun the light of truth to liue in the ambiguity of error. The Bat is the only foure-footed creature which flies: and therefore yet disputable whether a bird or a beast, by which the Aegyptians presented Neutralitie; hated, and not seldome obnoxious to both parties. Bats are chased away, or killed with the smoake of Iuy, which is consecrated to Bacchus: and therefore here introduced as an Antipathy in nature.
Still Iuno pursues the House of Cadmus with inexpiable hatred: and now, to excite the Furies to the ruine of Athamas and Ino, descends vnto Hell. The way thither, steepe, too easie; and gloomy with shades of Ewe: a fatall and venomous tree; in so much as in sundry countries they die that either solace or sleepe vnder it. Silence, Palenesse, Cold, and Stupidity (the symptomes of Death) haue here their residence. But those Ghosts only passe the riuer of Styx whose bodies haue their sepulture; and are restored againe to their first Originall.
Cerberus, the three-headed Hell-hound; barkes at the approaching Goddesse. Belike contrary to his custome: for it is said that he vsed to fawne on all that came thither; but assailed such, with horrible yellings, as endeauoured to returne. Cerberus signifies the earth, which deuoureth all flesh, and from thence receaueth his name: said to haue three heads, in regard of the triple diuision thereof: to flatter all commers, in that it giueth sepulture to all; but to resist their retreat, since no traueller returnes from that silent Region. For this fained a three-headed Dog, & the infernall Porter.
Consonant to the truth was that opinion of the Poets, how virtue and vice in another world had their rewards and punishments: although erronious in the distinction of the latter, that some were temporary, and others eternall. From whence sprung their fictions of the infernall riuers, and abysse of Tartarus. Acheron (according to Ficinus) corresponding with the ayre and Meridian, purging by sorrow and anxiety: Phlegeton with fire and the Orient, punishing wrath and concupiscence, by a more violent feruor: Styx and Cocytus with the Earth and Occident afflicting hatred by teares and lamentations. These were only to purifie; but the paines of Tartarus serued not for phisicke but example; from whence there was no redemption. Before this Dungeon sate the daughters of Night; seuere and implacable Deities, therefore named Eumenides; of their indignation: Erinnyes, and Furies of the terrors wherewith they afflicted the guilty. These were said to bee the Ministers of Diuine vengeance vpon flagitious offenders; pursuing them not only in this world but the other.
Among these the Gyant Tytius, whose extended body couered nine acres; his liuer still fed on by Vultures, and neuer diminishing, for offering violence to Latoma. But Strabo converts this fable to a history; how Tytius was a tyrant of Panopaea, cruell, lustfull, and outragious, whom Apollo slew, as before he had Python: when to deterre others from like violence and impiety, it was fained that hee suffered this infernall punishment. A conception translated from the fire of hell; that euer feeds on the bodies of the damned, which suffer no diminution; but afford vnconsumable nourishment. He is said to be the sonne of the Earth of his earthly affections; and in opposition to the heauenly seed, As the sonnes of men, in the Scripture; Of so vast a proportion, in regard of the large extension of lust.
Tantalus, a friend to the Gods, admitted to their counsells and festiualls, was thrust downe into Hell for reuealing their secrets; where he hungers and thirsts in the midst of abundance, and as Lucretius faines, hath a massy stone hanging ouer his head, whose fall he continually feareth (like the sword which Dionysius with a slender thread, at a royall feast, hung ouer his flatterer Damocles); Declaring hereby, how dangerous to knowe, and how fatall to discouer the secrets of Princes.
Sisyphus, the most subtil of men, and one who infested the Corinthian Isthmos with his robberies; being slaine by Theseus, was fained in Hell to roule a massy stone against a steepe hill; which neere the top, tumbled downe againe, and eternally renued his labour. The reward of treachery, iniustice, and oppression.
So Ixion, a fauorite of Iupiters, for attempting Iuno, (who insteed of her, imbraced a clowd in her likenesse) is turned on a restlesse wheele, in perpetuall memory of such treason and ingratitude. But histories report, how Ixion hauing slaine his father in law; detested and auoided of all men; forsooke his country, and came to a certaine King, by whom he was receaued with bounty, and made of his Councell. When Ixion, not long after attempted the chastity of his Queene; wherewith shee acquainted her husband. Who hard of beliefe, made her seeme to consent: and caused a wench called Nephele (her name signifying a clowd) to supply her place: where-vpon he was said to haue imbraced a clowd for Iuno. For this, cast out of fauour, and afflicted with the horror of so foule an offence, hee was fained to suffer those infernall torments.
Lastly the Belides, so called of their grandfather Belus, for killing their cosen germans and husbands the first night they lay with them, by the instigation of their father Danaus, are here made for euer to powre water into a vessell full of holes: to shew that the obedience to our parents will not excuse vs, when they command vniust things. These sisters are resembled to the life of man, and vanity of all humane endeauours; which leaue behinde them no impression, but are done and demolished together.
But all these forementioned punishments are allegorically referred to the perturbations of the minde. As the Vulture which feeds on Tityus liuer to the cares of loue (since loue proceeds from the Liuer, whose expense is daily repaired) or irreconcilable hatred. The famine of Tantalus to Couetousnesse, which starues it selfe in the midst of plenty, and may enuy more happy Pouerty. Ixions wheele, to the desperate remembrance of perpetrated crimes, which circularly pursue, and afflict the guilty. Sisyphus stone, to still-toyling and miserable Ambition: and the leaking vrne of the Belides, to the inexpliable desires of the soule. And although Lucretius, a Pagan, and of the sect of Epicurus, held, as the Sadduces among the Iewes, that the soule of man was annihilated by death, together with his body: yet may we recite his verses, as conducing to the interpretation of these fables.
Tysiphone, one of the Furies, ascending from Hell to execute the wrath of Iuno: carries Sorrow, Terror, Feare, and Frenzie along; who with snakes and infused poyson excites accursed mortals to horrible actions: scourging the guilty with whips, and affrighting with flaming torches. All well deuised by the wiser Poets, from the contemplation of the diuine anger, and causes of humane calamities. For what are the Furies but the wicked desires and commotions of the minde ? Not vnaptly expressed in their names. For Megera signifies Enuy; Tysiphone, a desire of reuenge; and Alecto, a mouer of sedition and discord. These rages of the soule are therefore those Furies who inflict so many calamities vpon man; attended by eternall feares, by sorrow, horror, and distraction. The Serpents, whips, and torches, are the stings and affrights of the afflicted conscience; which is her owne accuser, Iudge, and Executioner. And therefore our Ouid:
Infuriated Athamas, now mistaking his wife for a Lyonesse, and his children for her whelpes, dasheth out the braines of Clearchus: when Ino; distracted with feare or fury, threwe her selfe with Melicertes from a Rocke into the Iönian Sea. Thus farre is in substance historicall. For Ino, a cruell stepmother to Phryxus and Helle, by laying many traynes for their liues, inforced them to seeke for safety by flight. Her treachery discouered by Athamas, supposing the absent to be made away, in a rage slew his son Clearchus, & pursued the Queen with the other in her armes: who to auoide his fury, threw her selfe with her burthen into the Sea; from the rock Moluris. The body of Ino was taken vp on the coasts of Megara, and intombed by the daughters of Celsus: That of Melicertes being driuen to the Corinthian Isthmos where Sisyphus his vnkle then Raigned; who dedicated those games; which before were sacred to Neptune, vnto the honour of his kinsman; and therevpon fained to haue beene translated into a Marine deity. So was his mother: it being the ambition of ancient times to deify their dead ancestors, as the flattering Romans did their liuing Princes. But our Poet faines that this honour was giuen them at the sute of their Grandmother Venus; who the more to insinuate with her vnkle Neptune, professeth her selfe to be borne of the froath of the Sea, and thereof named Aphrodite: so said to be, in that the sperme of man is no other then the spume of the blood; and because that salt so much conferrs to fecundity, prouoking by the naturall heat, vnto Venus, in this respect they anciently erected her Temples on the shore of the sea. Melicertes was called Palaemon and Ino, Leucothea. For it was their custome saith Lactantius, to change the names of such as they defied, least in future times they should be thought to haue beene mortals. Whom the Grecians named Palaemon, the Latines called Portunus: painted with a key in his hand, as the protector of harbors: so called they Leucothea, Matuta, or the Morning. Allegorically Palaemon is taken for the force of Tempests: the sonne of Leucothea, in that the windes begin to arise with the Morning, and then descending from the mountaines are said to haue throwne themselues headlong into the sea: the Morning also, by her ouer-red complexion fore-showing succeeding tempests. These were held for the fautors of Seafaring men, in that they so much depend on the fauour of the windes. This fable may likewise remember vs to fortify our selues in our afflictions with patience and expectance: when Ino so persecuted by Iuno for her naturall affection and piety to Bacchus, was after receiued vnto the number of the Gods, and made a partaker of their felicities. The transformation of the Theban Ladyes, some into statues, and some into foule; declare that neither our affections nor sorrowes, should vrge vs to blaspheme, or censure of their actions, whose displeasure is an implacable Nemesis.
Cadmus, after so many calamities sustained in his Family, as ominous abandons his citty of Thebes (or expulsed from thence, as others write, by Amphion) wanders with his wife Hermione to the confines of Illyria: there resting where the streames of Drilo diuide it from Liburnia. The Enchilenses, then infested by the Illyrians, had an answere from the Oracle: that they should then proue victorious, when they were conducted by Cadmus and Hermione: who sent vnto, accepted of the charge; and gaue the enimy a finall ouer-throw. So Cadmus raigned in Illyria: till changing his publique life for a priuate; by his obscure retirement, and politick submission to the lawes and customes of those barbarous nations, hee was fained with his wife to haue beene turned into Serpents. And the rather in that the Illyrians were said to haue two balls to one eye, and to be as sharpe sighted as dragons; in so much as they killed, whom they long and fiercely beheld in their anger. It is fained that these Serpents were after transported into Elizium by Iupiter: intimating the excellency of Wisdome and fortitude, which not only carry vs through the troubles and dangers of this miserable life, but rewards their dependants with eternall felicity.
Here end the disasters of Cadmus, and now convert we to the exploits of Perseus; begotten by Iupiter on Danaë. For Acrisius the Argiue king, being told by the Oracle that he should be slaine by the son of his daughter; inclosed her to preuent his destiny, together with her nurse, in a tower of brasse: when Iupiter descending in a golden shoure, was receaued into her lap, and then into her imbracements. Iupiter, saith Lactantius, endeauoring to violate Danaë, with store of gold corrupted her chastity. When the Poets to preserue the dignity of Princes, attributed that to the Gods which was done by men; and fained that he approacht her in a golden showre; as we say a showre of steele, when darts and arrowes fall together in multitudes. Who with the like prodigality of gifts made all passages fly open.
Now with Mercuries wings on his heeles, & girt with his fauchion; defensiuely armed with Pluto's helmet, and the shield of Pallas, he flyeth ouer the Lybian Desarts: the blood that dropt from Medusa's head converting into Serpents; so wittily fained of the infinity of Serpents which infest those Climats. Perseus is said to be the sonne of Iupiter, for his atchieuements and perpetuall felicity: the wings of Mercury signifie celerity; which are tied to his feet, and not to his shoulders, to declare that in warlike affaires men should deliberate in the beginning, but be swift in the prosecution: his fauchion expresseth policy and circumuention: Pluto's head-peece, a concealement of counsells; and the shield of Pallas a prouident preseruation: being all the necessary accomplishments of a Souldier.
Atlas the sonne of Iapet, inhabiting those westerne parts of Africa which bound on the great Ocean, being told by Themis that the sonne of Iupiter (prophesied by Hercules) should carry away the golden apples, which grew in his Hesperian Hortyard; inclosed the same with a mighty wall, and committed it to the custody of a sleeplesse Serpent: driuing all forrainers from his confines. And now vnhospitable vnto Perseus, was at the sight of Medusa's head converted into that Mountaine which carries his name, on whose high shoulders the starres are fained to take their repose. Some alluding this to a history, report that those apples were flocks of large and beautifull sheep belonging to Atlas, whose fleeces were of the colour of gold: and because a riuer enuironed those pastures, they were said to be guarded by a Serpent: or in that they were kept by one Ladon, a churlish and inhumane sheepheard. Or fained perhaps of the store of gold wherewith Mauritania aboundeth, digg'd vp at the foot of that mountaine: the wakefull Dragon those restlesse cares which afflict the couetous in the tuition of their riches: a blessing to the liberall, but to the miser a punishment. Now Atlas flying thither from the inuasion of Perseus, and there lurking, was said to haue beene converted into that mountaine; and in regard of the altitude thereof, to haue sustained the heauens on his shoulders. But astronomically those apples are taken for starres, shining like gold, and in figure orbicular; said to grow in the West, in that they appeare not before Sun-set; the Zodiack, or our Hemispheare, being the Serpent: all of them supported, in regard of his excellency in Astronomy, by Atlas. Some say, that ascending aloft, the better to obserue the course of the starres, he fell headlong into the sea from this mountaine; called for this by his name, as of that aspiring heigth the celestiall Columne.
Perseus mounting through the ayre, at length arriueth where the faire Andromeda was chained to a rocke; who at the first sight is enamoured. For certaine subtill rayes expiring from within the heart, where the hottest and sweetest of the vitall blood hath a residence, dart from the eyes of the beautifull, into the eyes of the admiring beholder; and penetrating from thence into the heart, inflames it forthwith with ardent affection; wherein the sudden glances and dartings of the eye are more powerfull then long gazing. Andromeda was here bound for the pride of her mother Cassiope, who durst contend in beauty with the Nereides: for which a sea-monster was sent by Neptune to infest that country, deuouring both men and cattle. In so much as Cepheus consulting with the Oracle of Iupiter Hammon (which signifies sand, in that his Temple stood in the Libyan Desart) to know the cause of that calamity, and way to remoue it: was answered, how the daughter of Cassiope was first to be deuoured by that monster: whom Perseus now slew, and freed the Lady; the cause and reward of his danger. By this the ancient reproued their pride and ambition, who would be thought more then mortall; when all humane beauty is worse then deformity, and all glory despicable, compared with the coelestiall: declaring besides that the offences of Princes are not seldome punished in their subiects and posterity. Yet Andromeda, innocent Virtue, shall neuer misse of that sacred succour, which will not only deliuer her from the present danger, but match her to Perseus, that is, vnto Honour and Felicitie: both after converted into glorious constellations. So Cephus, in that obedient vnto the heauenly Oracle: and so Cassiope, but with her heeles vpward, to deterre from the like preposterous arrogancy. Ioppa, a citty of Palestine, is said by Pliny and Mela to be the sceane of this tragi-comedy. A citty as supposed, more ancient then the Flood: where Cepheus raigned, as diuers old Altars inscribed with his title (there preserued by the inhabitants) did testifie. Scaurus in his Aedilship produced the bones of that monster, which he brought from thence, being forty foot long, the ribs larger then an Elephants, and the back-bone a foot and a halfe thicker. Ouid here feares not to call Iupiter vniust, for so dooming the innocent Andromeda. Such estimation had the wiser Pagans of their deified Diuels: nay many preferring mortalls before them. And surely Socrates would haue made a better God of wisdome, Aristides of Iustice, Themistocles of warre, or Cato Vtican then the whole rabble; with whom he is parallell'd by Lucan.
Those sea-weeds turned into Corall alludes to the nature of that plant; soft vnder water, but hard aboue: and therefore called Gorgonia, as if transformed by the head of Medusa growing likewise in greatest plenty by those Ilands where the Gorgons were said to inhabit. A greene shrub with white berries; which forthwith hardens in the ayre and changes into red. They write that if it bee but touched by man when it growes vnder water, it will turne to stone: and therefore they cut it vp with Sharpe hookes of iron; whereof it is called Corall. Of this plant thus writeth, I knowe not what Poet
Perseus hauing sacrifized to his father Iupiter, his sister Pallas, and his brother Mercury, by whose aid he had obtain'd so many, & so great victories; now celebrates his nuptiall feast in the court of Cepheus. Who importuned, relates his beheading of Medusa; sent thither by the treacherous Polidectes; or rather by the compassionate Pallas, in that she transformed who soeuer she lookt on, into marble. By the way he came to the Graeae, or Phorcides; two sisters, the daughters of Phorcus, both hauing but one eye, which they vsed in common: by the help whereof (hauing gotten it as they past it from one to another) he came to the habitation of the Gorgons: where spying Medusa a sleepe in the mirror of his shield, he cut off her head before her sisters could awake; from whose blood vp-sprung Crysaor, and the winged horse Pegasus. This fable declares that no great action should be taken in hand without the aduice of Pallas, which is wisdome. That the equity of the cause is chiefly to be considered: for what more wicked then an vnjust war? or more noble then to suppresse a tyranny; vnder which the people lie prostrate; depriued of life and vigour, as vnder the aspect of Medusa? He attempts her alone; in that she of all the Gorgons was only mortall: to show that we should pursue what is fecible; and not such designes as are vast and endlesse. Yet first he diuerts to the Graeae, interpreted for Conspirators; so named, in that old from their infancy; by reason of the cares and feares which accompany traitors. From these he takes their one eye, the secret intelligence that is betweene the factious, which showes him sleeping Medusa, or how to surprize his suspectles enemy: who striking lookes on the sheild of Pallas; by prouidence preuenting the instant danger and terror. Pegasus, a flying horse, ascends from the blood of Medusa: expressing that fame, which flyes through the mouthes of men, and celebrates victorious virtue. Perseus is also taken for the reasonable soule: the Graeae, for that knowledge and wisdome which is acquired by experience; without whose eye or conduction, Medusa, lust and the inchantments of bodily beauty, which stupifies our senses, make vs altogether vnusefull, and convert vs as it were into marble, cannot be subdued. Perseus is furnished with the sheild of Pallas, the helmet of Pluto, the fauchion and wings of Mercury; because in all great difficulties perspicacity, policy, a quicknesse of wit, and deepe apprehension is required; without which no glorious action can be atchieued. Thus prouided, Perseus kills Medusa, reason corporall pleasure: yet lookes not on her, but only sees her deformity in the shield of Pallas (as we view without preiudice to our sight the eclyps of the sun in the water) since it is not safe to behold what our hearts are so prone to consent too. From this subduing of our affections, an honest fame, our winged Pegasus, is produced. Pausanias reports this Medusa to be the daughter of Phorbus; who after the death of her father raigned ouer those people who border on the lake of Triton: whom she accustomed, with the neighboring Africans, to conduct to the warrs; as then she did against the army of Perseus, & was slaine in the night by a stratagem. Perseus admiring her beauty in death, cut off her head, and carried it with him into Greece for a spectacle: when such as beheld it, in that astonisht with the sight, were said to haue been turned into marble.
It is here fained that Pallas converted her faire haire into Serpents, for being vitiated by Neptune in her temple: declaring how infamy is the vgliest of deformities, especially in the beautifull. She therefore carries that figure in her shield, to affright such offendors. But her head is held by Perseus in the constellation: called the Diuells head by the Hebrews, and Caput Algol by the Arabians: fatall in natiuities, as too truly fore-told to the Duke of Biron.