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Title: An Essay on True and Apparent Beauty in which from Settled Principles is Rendered the Grounds for Choosing and Rejecting Epigrams
Author: Nicole, Pierre, 1625-1695
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Essay on True and Apparent Beauty in which from Settled Principles is Rendered the Grounds for Choosing and Rejecting Epigrams" ***

[Transcriber's Note: Every effort has been made to replicate this text
as faithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant spellings
and other inconsistencies. Text that has been changed to correct an
obvious error is noted at the end of this ebook.]

  The Augustan Reprint Society

  _An Essay on True and Apparent Beauty in Which From Settled
  Principles is Rendered the Grounds for Choosing and Rejecting

  by Pierre Nicole

  Translated by J. V. Cunningham

  Publication Number 24
  (Series IV, No. 5)

  Los Angeles
  William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
  University of California


  H. RICHARD ARCHER, _Clark Memorial Library_
  RICHARD C. BOYS, _University of Michigan_
  EDWARD NILES HOOKER, _University of California, Los Angeles_
  H. T. SWEDENBERG, JR., _University of California, Los Angeles_


  W. EARL BRITTON, _University of Michigan_
  JOHN LOFTIS, _University of California, Los Angeles_


  EMMETT L. AVERY, _State College of Washington_
  BENJAMIN BOYCE, _University of Nebraska_
  LOUIS I. BREDVOLD, _University of Michigan_
  CLEANTH BROOKS, _Yale University_
  JAMES L. CLIFFORD, _Columbia University_
  ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, _University of Chicago_
  SAMUEL H. MONK, _University of Minnesota_
  ERNEST MOSSNER, _University of Texas_
  JAMES SUTHERLAND, _Queen Mary College, London_


The following essay forms the introduction to a famous anthology of
the seventeenth century, the _Epigrammatum delectus_, a Port-Royal
textbook published at Paris in 1659.[1] The essay was twice translated
into French in the same century, but the use of the text in France did
not survive, apparently, the downfall of the Port-Royal movement. It
was, however, later adopted by Eton College, where it was used in the
sixth form.[2] The text went through thirteen English editions between
1683 and 1762. The author of the essay, and a collaborator with Claude
Lancelot in making the selections for the anthology, was Pierre
Nicole, who began teaching in the Little Schools around 1646. It has
been said that the essay was written at that time.[3]

The scope of the anthology is indicated on the title page, which I
translate: _A selection of epigrams carefully chosen from the whole
range of ancient and modern poets, and so on. With an essay on true
and apparent beauty, in which from settled principles is rendered the
grounds for choosing and rejecting epigrams. There are added the best
sententiae of the ancient poets, chosen sparingly and with severe
judgement. With shorter sententiae, or proverbs, Latin, Greek,
Spanish, and Italian, drawn both from the chief authors of those
languages and from everyday speech_.

The essay is preceded by a preface in which the origin, purpose and
method of the anthology is explained. The two ends of instruction, we
are told,[4] are learning and character, and of these the latter is
the more important. But there are many books, and especially books of
epigrams, that are quite filthy and obscene. Young people are led by
curiosity to read these, and losing all chastity of mind enter upon a
progressive corruption of life. It would be best if they could be kept
wholly from such books; but there is a good deal in them of genuine
profit and literary merit, which makes it difficult to keep them
wholly out of the hands of youth. Therefore the editor undertook to
expurgate the epigrammatists, especially Catullus and Martial. He was
horrified when he read over their works, but he found some good among
the bad, as in vipers not everything is poisonous but some things even
useful to health. His primary purpose, then, was to protect the good
young man from being harmed and to leave him no excuse for wishing to
have or peruse such books since the good in them had already been
extracted for him.

The difficulty then arose of making the selection serve the purposes
both of morality and of judgement. The editor could either gather
together all the epigrams that were not obscene, or he could choose
only the best. He took in fact both ways: he preserved everything of
Catullus and Martial except the cheapest odds and ends and filthiest
obscenities, and he applied strict standards of judgement to the rest
so that, unless an epigram had literary merit or contained something
worth knowing, he felt there was no reason to burden the book with it.

Nevertheless, some middling epigrams found entrance into the
anthology--he confesses the fact so the reader will not look for
excellence without flaw. The reasons were, first, that the complete
perfection he was looking for is seldom or never attained. Hence, if
he had admitted only those epigrams in which there was nothing to
censure, the task would not have been one of selecting some but rather
of rejecting almost all. Again, in epigrams dealing with memorable
events or in praise of famous men, sometimes he looked to the profit
of the work rather than to its polish, as in Ausonius' quatrains on
the Caesars. Finally, he will not deny that chance has played its part
against his will. As a judge after a series of severe sentences will
give a lighter one to a man no less guilty than the others, so after
rejecting a great number of epigrams by some writer a sense of pity
arose and a distaste with severity of judgement; then if anything that
seemed pointed turned up, though no better than what was rejected, he
could not bear to see it discarded. This has occasionally happened,
but hardly ever without a warning note to the reader.

He admits that some, perhaps quite excellent, epigrams have escaped
him, either because he never read them or because he was at the moment
of reading less attentive. But the paucity or lack of selections from
a given writer should not be taken as an indication of ignorance or
indiligence in that case. Rather, he confidently professes to have
exerted the greatest patience and industry--patience, since so many
were so bad. His hope was by his trouble to free others from so much
trouble. With this in mind he read countless authors of different ages
and countries, a total of around 50,000 epigrams, from most of which
nothing at all was worth excerpting. There is no point in
memorializing the names of the bad, except to note in passing that he
found hardly anything so inept as the _Delitiae_, as they call them,
of the German poets[5]--in this connection he gives special mention to
the book of Lancinus Curtius[6], which contains 2,000 epigrams.

He found some fairly tolerable epigrams in other books, which
nevertheless he excluded, for what is lacking in distinction is better
not known at all than learned at the expense of better things, not to
speak of its being a burden to the mind which gradually will lose the
ability to judge excellence, and so, becoming accustomed to
mediocrity, will be unable to attempt anything higher. There is no
more useful motto for a man in quest of solid learning than Grotius'
line: "Not to know some things is a large part of wisdom."[7]

The editor added to the epigrams a collection of sententiae since the
two forms are quite cognate, the sententia being a kind of shorter
epigram, for the principal part of an epigram, the conclusion, usually
consists in a sententia. It is true that such collections have come in
bad repute, and not wholly unjustly, but the thing itself is worth
doing. For what is our aim in reading books except to nourish and
fashion judgement? and what better serves this end than sententiae,
which furnish as it were the premises and axioms by which one is able
to form a just and true judgement on most of the duties and affairs of
human life? Hence he extracted these gems from the huge pile of
trifles in which they lay mixed. Perhaps they please less in isolation
than when one runs across them as he reads, and for this reason such
anthologizing should be contemned. But it would be precious to refuse
a great accession of profit because of a small dimunition of pleasure.

The editor thought that in many cases the selections should not be
published without notes, for epigrams have often some obscurity in
them and their whole charm is lost unless the light that would
illuminate it is at hand. The notes to the selections from Martial are
pretty largely taken from Farnaby. Elsewhere the editor has supplied
notes sparingly, at those points where the reader might be stuck. He
has also changed the titles of a good many pieces, especially where
the original involved the name of some fictitious or base person. The
purpose of a title is to recall the whole piece to memory or to
facilitate finding it in an index. Why, then, title an epigram _To
Gargilianus_ or _Cecilianus_, which gives no idea of what the epigram
is about? The editor, therefore, has substituted titles which express
as well as possible the force of the poem, a difficult task especially
when the meaning is compact, as only one who has tried it knows.

But that out of the brevity of this book the reader may get that
ability in judgement, which above all should be cultivated, the editor
thought it worth while to prefix to the anthology an exposition of the
norms of judgement used in selecting the epigrams. He drew these norms
not merely from his own wit or from the authorities of Antiquity, but
from the conversation of learned men experienced in civilized life.
Hence the reader will find here their judgements, not the editor's,
and will, if he is unbiased, perceive how just and accurate they are.

The preface is then followed by the essay. The principles of the
essay, as Nicole asserted above in the preface, are not peculiarly his
own but those of the group with which he was associated. They are the
principles, for example, of the _Port-Royal logic_: particularly 1),
"one of the most important rules of true rhetoric," "_that there is
nothing beautiful except that which is true_; which would take away
from discourse a multitude of vain ornaments and false thoughts;" and
2) the doctrine that "the figurative style commonly expresses, with
the things, the emotions which we experience in conceiving or speaking
of them," and hence in the light of the adjustment of feeling to the
situation "we may judge the use which ought to be made of it, and what
are the subjects to which it is adapted."[8]

The purpose of the book is to serve morality and to promote
judgement.[9] To this end the editor provides a check list of the
better epigrams, and affixes an asterisk to designate the best.[10]
Seventeen pieces are given the highest rating: thirteen of Martial's
(1.8, 1.21, 1.33, 2.5, 3.44, 3.46, 4.56, 4.69, 5.10, 5.13, 8.69,
10.53, and 12.13); the re-written epigram ascribed to Seneca and
discussed in the notes to the essay (note 32); Claudian on Archimedes'
sphere;[11] Boethius, _De cons. phil._ 1.m.4; and one modern poem,
Buchanan's dedication of the _Paraphrase of the psalms_ to Mary, Queen
of Scots.[12]

                                   _J. V. Cunningham_
                                   _The University of Chicago_


[1] This paragraph is based largely on James Hutton, _The Greek
anthology in France_, "Cornell studies in classical philology," XXVIII
(1946), p. 192, and _The Greek anthology in Italy_, "Cornell studies
in English," XXIII (1935), pp. 69-70.

[2] Sir H. C. Maxwell Lyte, _A history of Eton college_, London, 1911,
4th ed., p. 311.

[3] Nigel Abercrombie, _The origins of Jansenism_, Oxford, 1936, p.
246; no authority is there cited.

[4] The following paragraphs contain an abbreviated and paraphrastic
translation of the preface.

[5] Janus Gruter, _Delitiae poetarum germanorum_, 6 v., Frankfort,

[6] See Georg Ellinger, _Geschichte der neulateinischen literatur
Deutschlands_, I, "Italien und der Deutsche humanismus," Berlin, 1929,
pp. 115-7.

[7] The last line of an epigram on learned ignorance, _Poemata_,
Leyden, 1637, pp. 331-2, printed in the _Delectus_, p. 399.

[8] _The Port-Royal logic_, tr. Thomas Spencer Baynes, 8th ed.,
Edinburgh, n.d., Discourse 2, p. 17; Part 3. 20, p. 286; and 1. 14, p.

[9] _Ibid._, Discourse 1, p. 1, "Thus the main object of our attention
should be, to form our judgement, and render it as exact as possible;
and to this end, the greater part of our studies ought to tend."

[10] Lipsius had suggested some such procedure (Justus Lipsius,
_Epist. quaest._, 1.5, _Opera omnia_, Antwerp, 1637, I, p. 143): "He
would do a service to the world of letters who would make a selection
of Martial's epigrams in the fashion of the old critics and would
affix a mark of praise to the good and of blame to the bad."

[11] Shorter poems 51, _Claudian_, ed. Maurice Platnauer, 2 v., "Loeb
classical library," London, 1922, II, 278-81.

[12] _Poemata_, Amsterdam, 1687, p. 1; not in _Opera omnia_, Leyden,


_Why men's judgments on beauty differ so much._

I should say that the reason why even learned men differ so widely and
display so great a range of opinion in judging the excellence of
particular writers is that practically no one looks to reason and
weighs the matter in the light of true and settled principles. Indeed
everyone in the act of judging embraces a hastily conceived opinion
and follows his impressions without reflection or judgment. Thus it is
that few have made any attempt so far to arrive at an exact knowledge
of the nature of true beauty, by which in the last analysis all else
must be determined; rather, each has immediately pronounced that to be
beautiful which affected him with some sort of pleasure. Yet there is
no norm of judgment more misleading or more variable, for a false and
adulterate beauty will give pleasure to minds imbued with deformed
opinions whom a true and solid beauty often cannot affect. It follows
there is nothing so ugly that it will not please someone or other, and
nothing on the other hand so absolutely beautiful that it will not
displease someone. Farmers will be found to dance to absurd songs, and
whole theaters time and again roar at the tasteless jokes of the
actors. Similarly, there are a good many who find little or no delight
in Vergil or Terence, though there is nothing in the world of letters
more polished--such is the power of custom and preconceived opinion to
impart or preclude delight. Consequently, if we wish to dissociate
ourselves from the fickle mob of opinions, we must have recourse to
reason, which is single, fixed, and simple. We must discover by her
aid that true and genuine figure of beauty with which is marked
whatever is truly beautiful and finished, and from which whatever
departs is justly called ugly and repugnant to taste.

Reason leads us directly to nature and establishes that to be
generally beautiful which accords both with the nature of the thing
itself and with our own. For example, if an object that is excessive
or defective in some part is thought ugly, it is because it diverges
from nature which demands a completeness in the parts and despises
excess. Almost everything that is judged to be ugly is so judged for
the same reason: you will always observe that there is here some flaw
at variance with a rightly constituted nature. Nevertheless, for an
object to be declared beautiful it is not enough that it answer to its
own nature; it must also be congruent with ours. For our nature, being
invariable both in the soul and in the body endowed with senses, has
definite inclinations and aversions by which it is either attracted or
estranged. Thus our eye is moved with pleasure by certain colors, our
ear is drawn by a certain kind of sounds; one thing delights the soul,
one repels it, each in the measure that it corresponds or is repugnant
to our ways of feeling. However, what is meant by nature here is not
any nature at all, since some are misshapen, perverse, and corrupt.
What is meant is a nature corrected and well-ordered from whose
inclinations must arise the judgement of beauty and charm.

However, the essence of true beauty is such that it is not fugitive,
changeable, or of one time, but rather invariable, fixed, persistent
and such as pleases all times equally. And although there may be found
some men of so corrupt a nature that they despise beauty, nevertheless
they are but few. And even these may be recalled to truth by reason,
since false beauty though it may for a while have its admirers cannot
long hold them, for nature itself which cannot be erased will
gradually beget in them a distaste for it. For, as Cicero so notably
says, time that erases the fictions of opinion only confirms the
judgements of nature.[1]

If we may apply this maxim to literature we may say that that is truly
beautiful which agrees both with the nature of things themselves and
with the inclinations of our senses and of our soul. And since in a
work of literature one takes account of sound, diction, and idea, the
agreement of all these with nature in its two aspects is required for
beauty. Hence we will take these up one by one, beginning with sound.


_How seldom it charms in echoing the sense, how commonly by sweetness.
Its natural measure in the ear._

We have assigned the first division of natural beauty to sound, which
we distinguish from diction in that propriety and force of meaning are
looked to in this; in sound it is the pleasantness or harshness that
is regarded, flattering or offending the ear, or it is a kind of
imitation of the subject-matter--sad things recited tearfully, excited
rapidly, or harsh harshly. This is common enough in the spoken word;
in writing, however, with which we are chiefly concerned here, it is
uncommon, though Vergil sometimes quite happily represents the sound
of things themselves, their swiftness and slowness, in the sound of
his verse. When you hear, for example, the well-known _procumbit humi
bos_, do you not seem to hear the blunt sound of the falling bull? Or
when you read the line _Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula
campum_,[2] doesn't the sound of running horses strike your ears? But
this effect, as I said, is uncommon, and hardly to be found in any
other poet than Vergil. Thus the chief potentiality of sound, and the
most common, lies in charming the ear. It is a slight beauty, yet it
is of nature, and for this reason especially agreeable to all classes
of people. For there is scarcely any person so uneducated as not to
be naturally displeased at what is incomplete and botched, or not to
perceive what is full, ordered, and defined. Hence Cicero says justly
in the _Orator_:

     The ear, or the soul at the injunction of the ears, possesses a
     natural way of measuring sounds, by this judges some longer, some
     shorter, and ever anticipates the completion of a measure. It
     feels hurt when a rhythm is maimed or curtailed as if it had been
     defrauded of due payment. It dislikes even more whatever is
     prolonged and runs on beyond the proper bounds, since too much is
     more offensive than too little. Not that everyone knows the
     metrical feet, or understands anything about rhythm, or is aware
     of what offends him, or where, or why; it is rather that nature
     has set in our ears a power of judging the length and brevity of
     sound, as also the acute and grave accent of words.[3]

_Pleasantness of sound is justly exacted of poets. The harshness of
many poets, particularly the German. Some are too melodious._

Hence it is that anyone who wishes to conform to nature must
necessarily strive for pleasantness of sound. This is the more justly
exacted of poets since poetry itself is nothing other than measured
language, bound into fixed numbers and feet, for the purpose of
charming the ear. Consequently, those poets are justly censured who
rest content with rounding off their words in six feet and altogether
neglect to accommodate the ear. A good many epigrammatists are
constant offenders in this kind, especially those who have rendered
the Greek Anthology in Latin and the German poets.

For example, who can tolerate this German epigram?

    He who made all that nothing was of nothing,
    Who'll make that nothing that now something is,
    Made you who nothing were what you now are
    From nothing, will make nothing what you are--
    Yes, or if something, being but sin from sin,
    From sin must form something for heaven fit.

Again, what is harsher than this epigram?

    You from your soul could not but know mine that
    That gave up in your ghost but just now his:
    As soul is known from soul so is your ghost
    Known to the Muses by my muse that's yours.

Or than this distich?

    Forward, nor turn from the old path one bit:
    This that you are I while I live shall be.[4]

But just as it is a considerable fault in diction wholly to neglect
the pleasure of the ear, since verse, as we said, was devised to
flatter it, so on the other hand those writers make a grievous mistake
who have an immoderate regard for the ear, and pay no attention to the
thought so long as they are satisfied with the sound. Out of such
concern we get tuneful trifles and verses empty of substance. Writers
who have by an attentive consideration of the poets achieved the
faculty of poetic diction and rhythm quite often fall into this error.
They abound in choice phrases and so are in effect content to smooth
over the commonplace with a not indecorous make-up. You can see this
in many poems and epigrams of Buchanan, Borbonius, and Barleius. If
the reader is not quite attentive such poems will often deceive him,
but being re-read and examined they beget a kind of distaste because
of the thinness of the matter. Consequently, we have looked carefully
for this fault, and have eliminated many poems that are melodious in
this way and have nothing inside.

_How diction should be suited to subject-matter._

We come now to the question of conforming the diction and
subject-matter to nature, in which, as was said above, nature must be
considered in its double aspect: namely, in relation to the subjects
of which we speak, and in relation to the audience by whom we are
heard or read.

The agreement of words and subject consists in this: that lofty words
should be fitted to lofty subjects, and lowly to lowly. It is true, of
course, that every kind of writing demands simplicity, but the
simplicity meant is such as does not exclude sublimity or vehemence.
In fact, it is no less faulty to treat high and weighty subjects in a
slight and unassuming style than it is to treat what is slight and
unassuming in a high and weighty style. In both of these ways one
departs from that agreement with nature in which, we have said, beauty
resides. Therefore, not every piece of writing admits the rhetorical
figures and ornaments, and likewise not every one excludes them. The
answer lies wholly in whether there is throughout a complete harmony
between diction and subject.

In addition, I wish you would carefully observe something that few
do--namely, when you temper your diction to the subject, to regard it
not only as it is in itself or in the mind of the writer, but also as
it has been formed by your speech in the minds of your audience. Thus,
the reader is assumed to be unacquainted with what you have to say at
the beginning of a work, and hence you must use simple language to
initiate him into your lines of thought. Afterwards you may build upon
this foundation what you can. It follows that if you are to speak of
some outrageous crime, you should not inveigh against it with a
comparable violence of diction until your audience has achieved such a
notion of the crime as will not be at odds with such force and

Thus Vergil begins in the best way with simple diction:

    Arms and the man I sing who first from Troy
    Banished by fate came to the Italian shore.

And Homer, too, who was praised for this by Horace:

    Speak to me, Muse, of him, when Troy had fallen,
    Who saw the ways of many and their cities.

But Statius begins badly, and sweeps the reader away too suddenly in
these verses:

    Fraternal arms, and alternate rule by hate
    Profane contested, and the guilt of Thebes
    I sing, moved by the fiery Muse.

Claudian is even more at fault, and thrusts these bombastic lines on
our unprepared attention:

    The horses of Hell's rapist, the stars blown
    By the Taenarian chariot, chambers dark
    Of lower Juno ...

But this rule should particularly be observed in the use of
adjectives, which are always ill-joined with their noun when they
disaccord with the impression the reader has in his mind. I have seen
the opening of Lucan censured on this point:

    Wars through Emathian fields, wars worse than civil,
    And crime made legal is my song.

The critics urge that the epithet _worse than civil_ could justly be
employed after the depiction of the slaughter at Pharsalia, but that
here it is out of order and suddenly attacks the reader who was
thinking of no such thing. It offends against the precept of Horace:

    Not smoke from brightness is his aim, but light
    He gives from smoke.[5]

_In what way diction should answer to man's inner nature. First, the
grounds of the natural disaffection with unusual diction: how far this
should be observed._

But it is not sufficient that diction answer to the subject-matter
unless it also answers to the nature of man, in which may be discerned
a kind of aversion to obsolete, low, and inappropriate words. I prefer
to call this aversion a natural one rather than a result of opinion,
though it is in a way based on opinion. For although the feeling that
a particular word is more in common use and more civilized than
another is purely a matter of men's judgement, nevertheless it is as
natural to be displeased by the unusual and inappropriate as it is to
be pleased with the usual and proper. Whatever is contrary to reason
offends by the very fact that it is seen to lack reason. Certainly, to
leave aside familiar terms and to search out unusual ones is wholly
foreign to reason. However, there is added to this natural source of
offense another that proceeds from opinion. Since such words are
commonly condemned, there is associated with them a certain distaste
and contempt such that it is scarcely possible to pronounce them
without immediately arousing the associated feelings.

Consequently, the intelligent writer will willingly comply with usage
so as not to give grounds for displeasure--whether this displeasure
springs from nature or opinion. Though he is aware that usage is
unstable and changes day by day, nevertheless he will prefer rather to
please at one time than never. He will be careful, however, in his
written work not to make use of the current jargon, especially of the
French court and women's circles, or of any locutions that are not yet
generally received. For the life of such expressions is too short to
be bound into a lasting work--not to speak of the detestable
affectation which detracts from the weight and dignity of the writing.

To conclude, there is a beauty and charm in propriety and elegance of
diction which is not to be scorned, though it is but of a time, and,
since it rests on opinion, by which usage is determined, will pass
away with a change of opinion. Hence those who write not for an age
but for all time should try to attain something else, something that
has no admixture of opinion: Such is the agreement of words with
nature, which we will now explain.

_The inner and more intimate agreement of words and nature._

If one wishes to look deeply into the nature of the human mind and to
search out its inner sources of delight, he will find there something
of strength conjoined with something of weakness, and out of this
circumstance arises variety and irregularity. The mind's vexation with
a continual relaxation derives from its strength, while from its
weakness stems the fact that it cannot bear a continual straining.
Hence it is that nothing pleases the human mind very long, nothing
that is all of one piece. So in music it rejects a wholly perfect
harmony, and for this reason musicians deliberately intercalate
discordant sounds--what are technically called dissonances. So,
finally, it happens that physical exercise, even if it was at first
undertaken for pleasure, becomes a torture when continued without

This point has its pertinence to literature, the more so since in that
field nature reveals the greatest delicacy and cannot long endure what
is lofty and excited. Yet on the other hand, whatever creeps close to
earth and never lifts its head is, if it be prolonged, wearisome. To
stand, to rest, to rise up, to be thrown down, this is what every
reader or listener desires, and from this derives the driving
necessity for variety, for the mingling of the majestic and slight,
excited and calm, high and low. But it may seem that this
consideration has little pertinence to the epigram, which is brief and
so in less need of variety. However, I need not apologize for
introducing these more general considerations since others of more
immediate pertinence to the course of our discussion are derived from
them, and particularly the question of the discriminate use of
metaphors, which are of considerable effect in adorning or vitiating

For if we consider attentively why men are pleased with metaphors we
will find no other reason than that already stated: the weakness of
nature which is wearied by the inflexibility of truth and plain
statement and must be refreshed by an admixture of metaphors which
depart somewhat from the truth. This gives the clue to the proper and
legitimate use of metaphors; they are to be employed specifically, as
musicians employ discordant sounds, to relieve the distaste of perfect
harmony. But how frequently and at what point they should be
introduced is a matter of considerable caution and skill. One warning
will suffice for the present: that metaphors, hyperboles, and whatever
varies from the plain and natural way of saying something should not
be sought for their own sakes but as a kind of relief for nauseated
nature. They are to be accepted on grounds of necessity, and
consequently a good deal of moderation must be observed in their use.
Thus Quintilian rightly says, "A sparing and opportune use of these
figures gives lustre to speech; frequent use obscures and fills with
disgust."[6] You will discover this fault often in many epigrams,
especially in those of contemporary writers as I shall show by several
examples later on. However, lest this doctrine should issue in too
strict an austerity of diction, it should be noted that only those
expressions are to be taken as metaphors that are remote from ordinary
usage and offer the mind a double idea. Hence if a metaphor is so
commonplace that it no longer has a figurative connotation and
suggests nothing other than the notion itself for which it is used,
then it should be numbered among proper rather than metaphorical
expressions and does not fall in that class of tropes whose too
frequent use is here censured.

_On a too metaphorical style. Certain epigrams rejected for this

Though poets are granted a greater indulgence in the use of tropes,
nevertheless they have their own mean, or, as Cicero says, their own
modesty, and there is ever an especial ornament to be derived from
simplicity. Consequently those writers stray pretty far from beauty
for whom, as it were, all nature plays the ham to the point that they
say nothing in an ordinary way, imagine nothing in the way in which it
is perceived outside of poems, but instead elevate, debase, alter, and
clothe everything in a theatrical mask. For this reason we have
excluded from this anthology a number of epigrams as too metaphorical:
for example, these two by Daniel Heinsius, a man otherwise eminent in
scholarship and letters:

    Driver of light, courier of the bright pole,
    Surveyor of the sky, and hour-divider,
    Servant of time, circler perpetual,
    Cleanser of earth, disperser of the clouds,
    Ever your chariot, fiery four-in-hand,
    You curb fast; you who bear on the bright day
    Steal from the world once more your countenance
    And of your glowing hair conceal the flame;
    Tomorrow from the arms of Tethys you
    Return once more: but night has sealed my sun.

By my _sun_ he means Douza. And again:

    Sweet children of the night, brothers of fire,
    Small cohorts, citizens of the fiery pole,
    Who wandering through the cloudless fields of air
    Lead the soft choruses with a light foot
    When our tired bodies are stretched softly out
    And gentle sleep invades our conquered sense,
    Why now as then through the enamelled halls
    From the recesses, still, and the clear windows
    Of the gold arch bear off his hallowed face?
    Farewell, at last; you shall not see your Douza.[7]

In these epigrams, apart from the metaphors heaped up _ad nauseam_,
and each of them harsh and absurd, a keen critic has noted another
fault: namely, that nothing is more distant from the spirit of a man
grieving and mourning for the death of a friend--and this is what
Heinsius intended to depict--than such a wantonness of epithets. And
so much for diction.

_Truth, the primary virtue of ideas. How great a fault there is in
untruth. Thence, of false epigrams._

We take up now the question of ideas, and postulate again that these
too must conform both to the subject and to men's character. Ideas
agree with the subject if they are true, if they are appropriate, and
if they so to speak get into the insides of the thing. They are in
accord with men's character if they fit in with natural aversions or

The primary virtue of ideas is truth. Whatever is false is at variance
with external reality, nor is there any beauty in falsity except in so
far as it pretends to truth. From this you may gather that truth is
the source of beauty, falsity of ugliness. The latter, in fact, is out
of keeping not only with reality but also with human nature. For we
possess an innate love of truth and an aversion to falsehood, so that
what delights us when it seems to be true becomes disagreeable and
unpleasant when its falseness is made manifest. This principle applies
to those learned men whom we have mentioned several times now, and has
led to the exclusion from this anthology of many epigrams in which the
point rests on a falsehood: for example, there is the well-known one
by Grotius, though simply as a poem it is noble enough:

_On Joan of Arc, who is called "La pucelle d'Orleans"_

    French Amazon of never-dying fame,
    Virgin untouched by men and by men feared,
    Nor Venus in her eyes nor young Desire
    But Mars and Terror and the bloody Weird--
    France owes the Salic Law to her alone,
    And hers is the true king on the true throne.
    Let none lament her death who was all fire
    And never, or by fire alone, should die.[8]

I have ventured to cite this that the reader may see quite clearly
what is involved in this kind of falsehood and how much it is
repugnant to nature: namely, that something is alleged the contrary of
which might as plausibly be affirmed. For Grotius might have written
no less foolishly:

    Justly lament her death: she who was fire
    Should not by fire but by cold water die.

Actually, if we wish to get to the bottom of this fault we will find
that men are not led to it by nature but driven to it by lack of
skill. For they would not fly to the refuge of falsehood for any other
reason than that they are not vigorous enough to elicit beauty from
the subject itself. Truth, indeed, is limited and defined, but the
realm of lies is unlimited and undefined. Hence the one offers
difficulties for invention, the other is obvious and easy, and for
that reason also is to be scorned.

Moreover, falsehood occurs not only in propositions but also in the
delineation of feeling, as, for instance, when feelings are ascribed
to a character other than those which nature and the subject-matter
demand. You will find this fault in an epigram by Vulteius, which was
for this reason rejected:

    I viewed one day the marble stone
    That hides a man in sin well-known.
    I sighed and said, "What is the point
    Of such expense? This tomb might serve
    To house kings and the blood of kings
    That now conceals a villainous corpse."
    I burst in tears that copiously
    Flowed from my eyes down both my cheeks.
    A stander-by took me to task
    In some such words, I think, as these:
    "Aren't you ashamed, be who you may,
    To mourn the burial of this plague?"
    But I replied, "My tears are shed
    For the lost tomb, not his lost head."[9]

It was surely foreign to nature to represent a man weeping copiously
because a villain and scoundrel had been buried in a noble tomb, for
the funeral honors paid to scoundrels excite anger and indignation
rather than pity and tears. The poet, consequently, adopted an
erroneous feeling when he wept where he should have been angry and

_On mythological epigrams._

Untruth, then, is a considerable fault, one that is quite widespread
and one that embraces many sub-divisions. Under this category falls
especially the use of mythological propositions, the common vehicle of
poets when they have nothing to say. We have rejected many epigrams
that are faulty in this kind, as, for example, Grotius on the Emperor
Rudolph, which is too crowded with myths:

    Not Mars alone has favored you, Invincible,
    At whom as enemy barbarian standards shake,
    But the Divine Community with gifts adore you,
    And with this in especial from the wife of Zephyr:
    She to the Dutch Apelles did perpetual spring
    Ordain, and meadows living by the painter's hand.
    Alcinous' charm is annual, and Adonis' gardens,
    Nor do the Pharian roses bloom long in that air;
    Antique Pomona of Semiramis has boasted,
    And yet deep winter climbs the summit of her roof.
    How shall your honors fail? The garlands that you wear
    Beseem Imperial triumph, which time may not touch.[10]

I know there are other things to be censured in this epigram, but I
note here only that one fault which it was quoted to illustrate.

_On puns._

To the same general category may be referred most puns, the point of
which usually rises from some untruth. For example, in Sannazaro's
well-known epigram:

    Happy has built twin bridges on the Seine:
    Happy the Seine may call her Pontifex.[11]

If you take _Pontifex_ in the sense of "builder of bridges" the
thought is true, but pointless; consequently, for there to be a point
the word _Pontifex_ must be taken in the sense of "Bishop", and in
this sense it will be false that the Pontifex is happy. Similarly, in
another epigram of some reputation:

    They say you're treating Cosma for his deafness,
    And that you promised, French, a definite cure;
    But you can't bring it off for all your deftness:
    He'll hear ill of himself while tongues endure.[12]

Take _audire_ as referring to the sense of hearing and the thought is
false, since that physical defect is curable; take it as referring to
a good reputation, and the thought will again be false and inept, for
it is false and inept that a doctor will labor in vain to cure a
defect of the ears because he cannot medicine to a diseased

All puns are embarrassed by such faults, while on the other hand their
charm is quite thin, or rather nonexistent. Formerly, it is true, in
an earlier age there was some praise for that kind of thing, and so
Cicero and Quintilian are said to have derived polished witticisms
from the device of double-meaning; now, however, it is rightly held in
great contempt, so much so that men of taste not only do not hunt for
puns but even avoid them. They are, one must admit, more bearable, or
at least less objectionable when they come spontaneously; but anyone
who brings out ones he has thought up or indicates that he himself is
pleased with them is quite properly judged to be inexperienced in
society. Hence it is that epigrams whose elegance is derived from puns
are held of no account. For since verses are only composed by labor
and diligence he is justly considered to be a weak and narrow spirit
who wastes time in fitting such trivial wit into verse. One should
add, too, that there is another disadvantage in puns, that they are so
imbedded in their own language that they cannot be translated into
another. For these reasons we have admitted few punning epigrams into
this anthology, and those only as examples of a faulty kind.

_On hyperbolical ideas._

In the category of false ideas must be reckoned the hyperbolical.
These are not false in a given word, for we dealt with this above, but
false in the whole train of thought. Of this kind is that epigram of
Ausonius, the absurdity of which is unbearable:

    Riding in state, as on an elephant,
    Faustus fell backwards off a silly ant;
    Abandoned, tortured to the point of death
    By the sharp hooves, his soul stayed on his breath
    And his voice broke: "Envy," he cried, "begone!
    Laugh not at my fall! So fell Phaethon."[13]

Ausonius was imitating in this epigram the Greeks, who were quite open
to this sort of bad imitation, as may be seen in their Anthology which
is stuffed full of such hyperboles. A good many fall into the same
fault either because their talent is weak or because they write for
the unskilled--a consideration which should move those who have no
compunction about reading, let alone praising, the silly tales of
Rabelais which are filled with stupid hyperboles.

_On debatable and controvertible ideas._

Furthermore, debatable and double-edged ideas, about which the reader
is in doubt whether they be false or true, fall under the same
category of falseness. For this doubtfulness, since it takes away all
pleasure, removes also the beauty. For this reason I have never
approved the conclusion of Martial's epigram:

    Equal the crime of Antony and Photinus:
    This sword and that severed a sacred head--
    The one head laurelled for your triumphs, Rome!
    The other eloquent when you would speak.
    Yet Antony's case was worse than was Photinus':
    One for his master moved, one for himself.[14]

The reader is bothered by a sort of quiet annoyance that the poet
should so confidently take a dubious idea for a certain one. He might
easily argue against the poet that on the contrary it seemed to him
that a man who commits a crime for his master is more at fault than
one who commits it for himself, and he could support his position with
rational arguments. For one who sins for his own advantage is driven
to his deed by such emotions as rage, lust, and fear, and these as
they diminish the power of willing in like measure diminish the
magnitude of the offence. But one who effects a crime at another's
behest comes coldly to the deed, a fact that convicts him of a far
greater depravity. One could allege these and similar lines of
argument against Martial's position, and could reverse the sense of
his distich so that it read no less irrationally:

    Yet Antony's case was better than Photinus':
    One for his master moved, one for himself.

Hence this whole category of controvertible ideas lacks literary merit
and should be studiously avoided by those who aim at beauty, which in
the last analysis is to be found in truth alone, and in truth of such
a sort that as soon as it is proposed the reader recognises as true
and accepts it.

_The second virtue of ideas, that they should agree with the inner
nature of the subject; and thence on ideas foreign and accidental to
the subject._

The second virtue of ideas with respect to the subject-matter is that
they should agree with its inner nature: that is, that they should be
elicited out of the very inners of the subject and not far-fetched or
drawn from external accidents which are only the accompaniments of
things. By this rule we have been delivered from numerous frigid
epigrams, of which I subjoin a few examples:

Foreign and far-fetched is Owen's on a lyre:

    That there is concord in so diverse chords
    Discordant mankind some excuse affords.[15]

As if nothing were more pertinent for making men ashamed of their
discords than the concord of strings on a lyre.

From concomitant accidents, and not from the very heart of the subject
itself, is drawn this epigram of Germanicus Caesar, though the verses
are otherwise sufficiently polished:

    The Thracian boy at play on the stiff ice
    Of Hebrus broke the waters with his weight
    And the swift current carried him away,
    Except that a smooth sherd cut off his head.
    The childless mother as she burned it said:
    "This for the flames I bore, that for the waves."[16]

Certainly the mother had a deeper and more native cause of grief than
that her son was destroyed partly by water and partly by fire; she
would have grieved no less had he perished wholly in water or wholly
in fire. The whole reason for grief, then, ought not be sought in such
a slight circumstance, which was an accompaniment of and not the
grounds for grief.

Negative descriptions labor under the same fault, namely those in
which are enumerated not what the endowments of the subject are but
what they are not. This is justly censured in one of Barlaeus'
epigrams, which is in other respects quite polished:

    Of royal Bourbon blood, by whose aid once
    Belgium believed that God inclined to her;
    For sceptered fathers famed, more famed for war,
    And by Astraea's doom of rare renown;
    Whom War as general, Peace lauds unarmed,
    To whom so many lands and seas are slaves;
    Neither the fleece drinking barbarian dye
    I send you, nor Sidonian artifice,
    Nor Indian ivory, Dalmatian stone,
    Nor the choice incense that delights grave Jove,
    Nor warring eagles, no, nor cities stormed,
    Nor plundered canvas from the conquered sea;
    Louis, I give you Christ as King and Lord,
    Titles not foreign to the ones you bear:
    For I would send you, greatest of all kings,
    Than which I cannot more, I send you God.[17]

Surely it is a long way around to enumerate what you will not give the
King in order to make clear how slight your gift is. Besides, the
conclusion is harsh in that a book about Christ is called God and
Christ, as if Christ and a book about him were the same thing. But
this is a commonplace absurdity of what one may call the dedicatory
_genre_, in which writers almost always speak of their book as if
there were no difference between the book itself and its subject:
thus, if they write about Caesar or Cato, "Caesar and Cato," they
say, "prostrate themselves before you;" If about Cicero, "Look," they
say, "Cicero addresses you and takes you as patron:" all of which are
correctly to be reckoned in the category of false statements.

_In what way ideas are to be made agreeable to men's character. On
avoiding offense; and, first, on obscenity._

The harmony of idea and subject is a matter fairly easy to understand,
but the attuning of idea and men's character is more difficult to
grasp and requires more painstaking treatment. For in this inquiry the
whole scope of human nature must be thoroughly examined, and our
silent inclinations and aversions must be laid open so that we will
know how to avoid the one and comply with the other. For it cannot be
that anything should please that offends nature, or anything displease
that complies with natural inclinations. We will touch briefly on some
of these points, but only on those that suffice to our purposes.

In the first place, there is in the nature of man an aversion to the
shameful and the obscene, and this the more powerful in the best and
well-educated natures. All obscene ideas offend this sense of shame to
such an extent that they are regarded as alien to nature, ugly, and
uncivilised. Nor does it matter that some corrupt souls laugh at them.
For civilization, as we have said, does not consist in agreement with
a corrupt, but with a virtuous and moral, nature. Consequently,
absolutely nothing of this kind is to be found in the conversation of
respectable men, and is only resorted to by those who lack any feeling
for Christianity as well as for genuine society and civilization.

Therefore we have excluded all shameful and licentious epigrams not
only in deference to morals and religion but also to good taste and
civilization. Of this Catullus and Martial in Antiquity witness that
they had no perception at all, for they filled up their works with a
good deal of ill-bred filth, and on that account must be regarded not
only as dissolute but also as vulgar, uncultivated, and, to use
Catullus' own phrase, "goat-milkers and ditch-diggers."[18]

_On the cheap subject-matter of some epigrams._

But it is not only faulty and unpolished to offer the reader a
shameful and obscene picture but also in general to depict whatever is
cheap, ugly, and unwelcome. Hence those epigrams cannot be regarded as
beautiful and polished whose subject is a toothless hag, a poetaster
with a threadbare cloak, a rank old goat, a filthy nose, or a glutton
vomiting on the table--all of which are a fertile ground of jokes for
actors--since ugliness of that sort can never be redeemed by the

For this reason we have admitted none of such kind in the epigrams of
Martial which we have subjoined to this treatise, and a good many
epigrams that we have run across we have put aside, such as Buchanan's
in which he depicts the unattractive and unpleasant picture of a lank
old man:

    While Naevolus yells he can outbellow Stentor,
    And roars and roars, "All men are animals,"
    He has slipped by almost his ninetieth year
    And bent senility shakes his weak step.
    Now three hairs only cling to his smooth head,
    And he sees what a night-owl sees at dawn.
    The snot is dripping from his frosty nose,
    And stringed saliva falls on his wet breast--
    Not an odd tooth in his defenceless gums,
    Not an old ape so engraved with wrinkles.
    Naevolus, for shame leave this frivolity
    And no more cry, "All men," since you are none.[19]

Again, the baseness of the subject and the hardly pleasant or
civilized image of a hanging man is a fault in this epigram of
Sannazaro's, although it has an element of humor:

    In your desire to learn your fortune, sir,
    You questioned every tripod, every rune;
    "You'll stand out above gods and men," at last
    Answered the god in truth-revealing voice.
    What arrogance you drew from this! You were
    Immediately lord of the universe.
    Now you ascend the cross. God was no cheat:
    The whole world lies spread out beneath your feet.[20]

This is fairly respectable and merely low. But the cynical license of
Martial and Catullus, by which they speak of many things that are not
simply morally foul but such as decent society demands be removed from
sight and hearing, must be regarded as altogether shameless and
vulgar. For this reason men of taste never mention favorably Catullus'
_Annales Volusi cacata charta_, or Martial's

    et desiderio coacta ventris
    gutta pallia non fefellit una[21]

And there are many others a good deal more despicable which cannot be
adduced even as examples of a fault. Assuredly Antiquity was too
forbearing toward this sort of thing, and I have often wondered how
Cicero could have been tolerated in the Roman Senate when he inveighed
against Piso:

     Do you not remember, blank, when I came to see you about the
     fifth hour with Gaius Piso, you were coming out of some dirty
     shack, slippers on your feet and your face and beard covered; and
     when you breathed on us that low tavern air from your fetid
     mouth, you apologized on grounds of ill health, saying that you
     were taking a kind of wine treatment? When we had accepted your
     explanation--what else could we do?--we stood a while in the
     smell and fume of the joints you patronize until you kicked us
     out by the impudence of your answers and the stench of your

_On spiteful epigrams._

Men with some gentleness of nature have an inborn hatred of spite,
especially of such as mocks bodily flaws or reversals of fortune, or,
finally, anything that happens beyond the individual's responsibility.
For, since no man feels himself free of such strokes of chance, he
will not take it easily when they are torn down and laughed at. The
Vergilian Dido spoke with human feeling when she said: _Not unaware of
ill I learned to aid misfortune._[23] and the good will of the reader
rises quietly in her favor. Likewise, Seneca says nicely: _It is not
witty to be spiteful._[24] On the other hand they act inhumanely who
triumph over misfortune and upbraid what was not guiltily effected, to
such an extent that they arouse a feeling of aversion and alienation
in the hearts of their readers.

Accordingly we have admitted only a few of this kind, and have
rejected a great many, as, for example, Owen's frigid and spiteful

    Look, not a hair remains on your bright skull.
    The hairs on your inconstant brow are null.
    With every last hair lost behind, ahead,
    What has the bald man left to lose? His head.[25]

Nor do we greatly care for many of the same kind in Martial, which
nevertheless were not omitted for the reasons given above.[26]

_On wordy epigrams._

It would be a long task to assemble all the natural aversions,
nevertheless we may add a few more which have removed a whole host of
epigrams from this anthology. Beyond those already mentioned, nature
finds distasteful long circumlocutions and the piling up of a single
point with varying phrase; for nature burns with a desire to find out,
ever hastens to the conclusion, and is impatient at being detained by
much talk unless there is a special reward. Consequently wordy
epigrams beget a good deal of loathing, especially those that do not
sufficiently balance their length with the magnitude of the idea. Some
of Martial's are burdened with this fault; sometimes they accumulate
too many commonplace compliments or are too petty in enumeration. For
example, in this epigram to what point are so many trite similes piled

    Her voice was sweeter than the agëd swan,
    None would prefer the Eastern pearl before her,
    Or the new-polished tooth of Indic beasts,
    Or the first snow, lilies untouched by hand;
    She who breathed fragrance of the Paestan rose,
    Compared with whom the peacock was but dull,
    The squirrel uncharming, and unrare the phoenix,
    Erotion, is still warm on a new pyre.[27]

Similarly, why in another well-known epigram is the same idea repeated
again and again?

    Oh not unvalued object of my love,
    Flaccus, the darling of Antenor's hearth,
    Forego Pierian songs, the sisters' dances:
    No girl among them ever gave a dime.
    Phoebus is nought; Minerva has the cash,
    Is shrewd, is only usurer to the gods.
    What's there in Bacchus' ivy? The black tree
    Of Pallas bends with mottled leaves and weight.
    On Helicon there's only water, wreaths,
    The divine lyres, and profitless applause.
    Why do you dream of Cirrha, bare Permessis?
    The forum is more Roman and more rich.
    There the coins clink, but round the sterile chairs
    And desks of poets only kisses rustle.[28]

In the same way that nature is displeased with wordiness, she is
displeased with ideas that are too commonplace, for it is a kind of
loquacity to bubble on with the commonplace and trite, since it is the
purpose of speech to reveal what isn't known, not to repeat what is
known and worn-out. Countless epigrams have been excluded from this
selection for this fault, but since there is nothing more common I
will omit offering examples.

_On trifling wit, and plays on words._

Not a little displeasing, also, is an assiduity in trifling which
withdraws the mind from solid subject-matter out of which true beauty
springs. Plays on words, puns and other playing around of that kind,
unless they come to the judgement of the pen within the bounds of art,
are not so much figures of speech as faults of style, and in those
epigrams where the point rests solely in these there is nothing
thinner, especially when they are so peculiar to one language that
they cannot be translated into another. On this basis we have passed
over such frivolous witticisms as Owen's:

    Rope ends the robber, death is his last haul;
    The gallows gets the gangster--if not all,
    If many get away, God gives no hope:
    It's an odd thief dies with no coffin rope.[29]

A little more humorous is that of another poet on the Swiss killed at
night, though it too is faulty:

    Annihilated in night snow by a nut stick,
    I snow, night, nut, now, and annihilation know.[30]

_In what way natural inclinations are to be gratified._

We must carefully avoid all these natural sources of aversion and no
less gratify natural inclinations if we wish to attain that beauty we
aim at. For self-love is so strong in men that they can hear nothing
with pleasure unless it flatters them with their own feelings. For
which reason those epigrams have correctly been judged best that
penetrate deeper into those feelings and present to the reader's mind
an idea recognised not only by the interior light but also by the
interior feeling as quite true, so that he can be seduced into
embracing it: for example, Martial's:

    I scorn the fame purchased with easy blood
    And praise the man who can be praised alive.[31]

For, since everyone hates death and longs for praise and glory, there
is no one who would not be glad if he could be praised without dying.
Another example is that of the old poet:

    Put high disdain, deciduous hope put by:
    Live with yourself who with yourself must die.[32]

For nature has, as Quintilian said, a kind of elevation intolerant of
anything above it[33] that fawns on anyone who bids it be contemptuous
of a pride in riches.

This much on the general sources of beauty and ugliness will be
sufficient for passing judgement on any _genre_ of poems.
Nevertheless, this should be adapted to the particular nature, laws,
and principles of the epigram, and so it will not be out of point to
add a few remarks on the epigram itself.

_The origin of the name epigram. Its definition, form, and laws._

"Epigram", as Scaliger observes, is the same thing as "inscription";
but since there are inscriptions of a good many things the former word
has been applied to short poems inasmuch as epigrams of that sort used
to be inscribed on monuments and statues;[34] and from this the word
has been extended generally to short poems. The epigram is defined,
then, as a short poem directly pointing out some thing, person, or

There are those who locate its formal principle in the serious or
witty idea that forms the conclusion, and so insist on this that they
deny anything is an epigram that lacks such a conclusion.[36] But this
is an error. There are some epigrams, and highly cultivated ones, that
have an equable elevation throughout and nothing of especial note in
the conclusion, as in this of a contemporary writer:

    That on insurgent serpents breathing peace,
    On unplumed eagles trembling, on tame pards,
    And lions whose low necks accept the yoke,
    Louis looks out, sublime on a bronze horse,
    Nor fingers shaped this nor the craftsman's forge
    But worth and God's fortune accomplished it.
    The armed venger of faith, trustee of peace,
    Ordained, for all to reverence, this, and bade
    Rise in the royal place the reverend bronze,
    That, the long perils past of civil strife,
    And enemies subdued by prosperous arms,
    Louis should ever triumph in the master city.[37]

Again, in some epigrams there is a straightforward neatness and a
gentle and dry humor that pleases, as may be seen in some of Catullus'
epigrams which we have put in this anthology.

Some go to the contrary extreme and not only do not require such
conclusions but even scorn them. These are for the most part the
outrageous lovers of Catullus who, as long as they finish off some
limp little dirge in hendecasyllabics, feel that they are marvellously
charming and polished, although there is nothing more empty than such
verses or nothing easier to do if a man has acquired a little practice
in Latin.

How little effort, for instance, shall we imagine the conclusion of
this epigram cost Borbonius, fashioned as it is according to the model
of Catullus?

    Wherefore come, O Roman muses,
    Full of honey and of graces,
    Learned verses of good Pino;
    I embrace you, just Camenae,
    All day long I read you gladly
    In this mortifying season,
    Time of tears and time of penance,
    Harsh and troublesome, by Jupiter![38]

You can see where the perverse imitation of Catullus has conducted a
Christian, in other respects devout, so that in discussing a Christian
fast day he had no fear of using the profane name of Jove. But,
leaving this aside, what is more inept than the verse _Harsh and
troublesome, by Jupiter!_, however Catullan. Nevertheless, Borbonius
thought his epigram concluded elegantly in that line because he found
in Catullus a similar one.[39] But, leaving aside such spiritless
imitators, one can truly affirm of those ideas that conclude epigrams
that there is a good deal of elegance in them when they are themselves
distinguished and nicely cohere with the preceding chain of thought.
For, since nothing so sticks in the reader's mind as the conclusion,
what is better than to put there what especially you want to fix in
his soul. Consequently, those epigrams are rightly censured as faulty
that go in the order of anti-climax or in which the conclusion is sort
of added on or appended to the rest and does not neatly develop out of
the preceding verses. This fault is discernible in the following
epigram, though in other respects it is distinguished:

    You that a stranger in mid-Rome seek Rome
    And can find nothing in mid-Rome of Rome,
    Behold this mass of walls, these abrupt rocks,
    Where the vast theatre lies overwhelmed.
    Here, here is Rome! Look how the very corpse
    Of greatness still imperiously breathes threats!
    The world she conquered, strove herself to conquer,
    Conquered that nothing be unconquered by her.
    Now conqueror Rome's interred in conquered Rome,
    And the same Rome conquered and conqueror.
    Still Tiber stays, witness of Roman fame,
    Still Tiber flows on swift waves to the sea.
    Learn hence what Fortune can: the unmoved falls,
    And the ever-moving will remain forever.[40]

The last four verses are completely unnecessary and contain a frigid
point by which the lustre of the preceding is dimmed.

_The material of epigrams; thence the division into different kinds.
The first kind and the second._

The material of epigrams comprises any subject and anything that can
be said on it--in fact, there are as many kinds of epigrams as there
are kinds of things that can be said. We will notice here particularly
those kinds from which the special powers of each can be understood.

There is, then, a kind of epigram that is elevated, weighty, sublime,
pursuing a noble subject in noble lines and concluding with a noble
sentiment. Such is Martial's on Scaevola:

    That hand that sought a king and found a slave
    Was thrust to burn up in the sacred fire:
    So cruel a portent the good enemy
    Appalled, who bade him carried from the fire.
    The hand the regicide endured to burn,
    The king could not endure to see it done.
    Greater the glory of the hand deceived!
    Had it not erred it had accomplished less.[41]

Of the same sort are Grotius' epigrams on Ostend and on the sailing
carriages, and Barclay's on Margaret of Valois.[42]

There is another sort somewhat lower in style but weighty and
profitable in idea: for example, that truly distinguished one of

    In that you follow the strict rules of Cato
    And yet are willing to remain alive
    And will not run bare-breasted on the sword
    You do exactly as I'd have you do:
    I scorn the fame purchased with easy blood
    And praise the man who can be praised alive.[43]

And this:

    In private she mourns not the late-lamented;
    If someone's by her tears leap forth on call.
    Sorrow, my dear, is not so easily rented.
    They are true tears that without witness fall.[44]

And that genuinely golden epigram:

    That I now call you by your name
    Who used to call you sir and master,
    You needn't think it impudence.
    I bought myself with all I had.
    He ought to sir a sir and master
    Who's not himself, and wants to have
    Whatever sirs and masters want.
    Who can get by without a slave
    Can get by, too, without a master.[45]

However, of all kinds of epigram that kind is generally thought to be
most properly epigrammatic which is distinguished by a witty and
ingenious turn that deeply penetrates the soul. Martial excels in this
kind, as in this one:

    You serve the best wines always, my dear sir,
    And yet they say your wines are not so good.
    They say you are four times a widower.
    They say ... A drink? I don't believe I would.[46]

and in this:

    Though you send presents to old men and widows
    Why should I call you, sir, munificent?
    There's nothing lower, dirtier than you only
    Who can denominate enticements gifts.
    These are the sly hooks for the greedy fish,
    These are the clever baits for the wild beasts.
    I will instruct you what it is to give
    If you are ignorant: give, sir, to me. [47]

Some are lower in style but witty and pleasant, and have a glowing
simplicity, as can be illustrated by another of Martial's:

    "An epic epigram," I heard you say.
    Others have written them, and so I may.
    "But this one is too long." Others are too.
    You want them short? I'll write two lines for you:
      _As for long epigrams let us agree
      They may be skipped by you, written by me._[48]

And, indeed, of all the special capabilities of the epigram none is
more difficult to realise or more rarely achieved than the adroit
handling, the suitable and easy unfolding, of the subject so that
nothing is redundant, nothing wanting, nothing out of order, obscure,
or tangled up in verbiage, and yet at the same time nothing too
unexpected, nothing not adequately prepared for. Martial is
pre-eminent in this; he develops his subjects so aptly, clearly, and
perceptively that he obtains for ideas of no special note otherwise a
good deal of distinction by the charm of the handling. For example,
what could be more resourcefully developed than this epigram?

    Believe me, sir, I'd like to spend whole days,
    Yes, and whole evenings in your company,
    But the two miles between your house and mine
    Are four miles when I go there to come back.
    You're seldom home, and when you are deny it,
    Engrossed with business or with yourself.
    Now, I don't mind the two mile trip to see you;
    What I do mind is going four to not to.[49]

And what would the following epigram be if it had not been perfected
and prepared for by the handling?

    That no one meets you willingly,
    That where you come they go, that vast
    Areas of silence circle you--
    Why so? you ask. Too much the bard.
    This makes it terribly, terribly hard.
    Who would put up with what I do?
    You read verse if I stand or sit;
    You read it if I run or sing;
    And in the baths you read me verse;
    I try the pool, and swim in verse;
    I haste to dine, you go my way;
    I order, and you read me out;
    Worn out, I take my rest with verse.
    You want to know what harm you do?
    Just, upright, harmless, you're a pest.[50]

The conclusion is pleasantly witty, but the special charm of the poem
derives from the preceding enumeration.

This finishes the account of what we looked to in selecting these
epigrams. You will find what else is pertinent to this book in the


I have silently emended a few passages; otherwise the text translated
is that of _Epigrammatum Delectus_, Paris, 1659. It is regrettable
that the Latin text, at least of the poems cited, could not be printed
with the translation.

[1] _De nat. deor._ 2.2.5

[2] _Aen._ 5.481 and 8.596

[3] 177-8, 173

[4] All three passages are from epigrams by Gaspar Conrad in Janus
Gruter, _Delitiae poetarum germanorum_, 6 v., Frankfort, 1612: II,
1065-6, lines 1-6 of a twelve line epigram, "In symbolum Iacobi
Monavi"; II, 1077, the concluding lines of an eight line epigram, "Ad
Valentinum Maternum"; and II, 1079, the concluding couplet of a six
line epigram, "Ad Georgum Menhadum Philophilum." The second passage is
hardly construable.

[5] _Ars. poet._ 141-2, the paraphrase of Homer, and 143-4. The other
quotations in this passage are from the opening of the _Aeneid_,
_Thebaid_, _Rape of Proserpine_, and the _Pharsalia_.

[6] _Inst. orat._ 8.6.14

[7] "Manes Dousici," IV "Ad solem" and V "Ad sidera," _Poemata_,
Leyden, 1613, p. 166. Nicole reads _tandem_ for _rursus_ in the last
line of the second poem. Douza is the younger Janus Douza (1571-1596).

Nicole's criticism of these poems is just but superficial. The
difficulty with such poems lies in the method, which consists in the
establishment by amplification of one pole, followed by the briefest
statement of the contrary pole. But the latter is of personal concern
and is the essential subject of the poem. Thus the subject is
deliberately avoided for the greater part of the poem, and hence there
is in the amplification no principle of order to control the detail
and its accumulation. This accounts for the features Nicole censures;
however, he himself makes a similar point below in condemning negative

[8] I have been unable to find this among Grotius' poems.

[9] Joannes Vulteius (c.1510-1542), "De ignobili Aruerno in sepulchro
nobili posito," _Hendecasyllaborum libri iv_, Paris, 1538, Ni., p. 97.

[10] "Ad Rudolphum Imp. florum picturae dedicatio," _Poemata_, Leyden,
1637, p. 326.

[11] Epig. 1.50, "De Jucundo architecto," _Poemata_, Pavia, 1719, p.

[12] I have been unable to identify this epigram.

[13] A translation of _Anth. Pal._ 11.104 and printed as Ausonius in
the Renaissance, but probably by Girogio Merula (c.1424-1494): see
James Hutton, _The Greek Anthology In Italy to the year 1800_,
"Cornell Studies in English," XXIII (1935), pp. 23-4, 102-5, and
Ausonius, _Opuscula_, ed. Rudolphus Peiper, Leipzig, 1886, p. 428. The
younger Scaliger strongly condemns this epigram on the same grounds:
Joseph Scaliger, _Ausoniarum lectionum libri ii_, 2.20, Heidelberg,
1688, p. 204.

[14] 3.66

[15] Epig. libri tres, ad D. Mariam Neville, 2.211. _Epigrammata_,
Amsterdam, 1647, p. 47. Translated by Thomas Harvey, _John Owen's
Latin Epigrams_, London, 1677, p. 36: "Sith th' Harps discording
Strings concording be, / Is't not a shame for men to disagree?" and by
Thomas Pecke, _Parnassi puerperium_, London, 1659: "Can there be many
strings; and yet no Jars? / And are not men asham'd of dismal wars?"

[16] Nicole's text follows what are now regarded as inferior mss: see
Germanious Caesar, _Aratea_, ed. Alfred Breysig, 2nd. ed., Leipzig,
1899, p. 58. The poem corresponds to _Anth. Pal._ 7.542. Nicole's
comment recalls Dr. Johnson on Gray's cat.

[17] The dedicatory poem, addressed to Louis XIII, to Caspar Barlaeus'
_Poematum editio nova_, Leyden, 1631, sig.*8.

[18] 22.10

[19] Epig. 1.25, _Opera Omnia_, 2 v., Leyden, 1725, II, 365. Nicole's
text presents several variants and cuts the next to the last couplet,
which I translate: "Already at the tomb, He beats the gates / Of Dis,
and Libertina waits his torches."

[20] Epig. 3.5, _op. cit._, p. 233.

[21] Catullus 36 and Martial 1.109. 10-11

[22] _Pis._ 13

[23] _Aen._ 1.630

[24] _Anthologia Latina_, ed. Alexander Riese, 412.17, Leipzig, 1894,
I, 1, p.319. The epigram, from which this phrase is quoted, was
ascribed to Seneca by Pithoeus.

[25] Epig.... ad ... Neville, 2.126, _op. cit._, p. 38. Harvey, p. 36,
translates: "Lo, not an hair thine heads bald Crown doth crown: / Thy
Faithless Front hath not one hair thine own: / Before, Behind thine
hair's blown off with Blast, / What's left thee to be lost? thine Head
at last."

[26] In the preface, _Delectus_, Paris, 1659, ch. 2. The problem was
whether to print a large collection of epigrams, rejecting merely the
obscene ones, or to choose only the best. A middle way was taken for
these reasons: 1) there are so few first-class epigrams that a reader
who had his own opinions might think the selection too choosy; 2) the
best shines out only in comparison with what is not so good, and
examples of vice are as useful as examples of virtue, since judgement
in large measure consists in knowing what to avoid; 3) finally and
principally, the curiosity of young men would not be sufficiently
satisfied by the selection if they knew that a good many witty and
polished epigrams were to be found elsewhere. Since it was especially
necessary to keep youth from the unspeakable filth of Catullus and
Martial, who are at the same time the best writers, everything of
theirs is included except the cheapest odds and ends and filthiest
obscenities. For the writers after Martial stricter standards were
applied, for the book would have grown beyond bounds if everything
tolerable had been admitted.

[27] Martial 5.37, 1, 4-6, 9, 12-14. The lines that Nicole cuts
contain only more of the same.

[28] Martial 1.76

[29] Epig. libri tres ad Henricum ... ded. 1.67, _op. cit._, p. 131.

[30] Unidentified. The text reads: "In nive nocte vagans nuceo cado
stipite nectus, / Sic mihi nix, nox, nux, nex fuit ante diem."

[31] 1.8. 5-6.

[32] The conclusion of an epigram of ten lines, ascribed to Seneca in
_Delectus_, pp. 326-7. Lines 1-8 correspond to _Anth. Lat._, _op.
cit._, 407. 5-12. The younger Scaliger had begun a new epigram with
line 5, as also with lines 9 and 11 (ed., Vergil, _Appendix, cum
supplemento_ ..., Lyons, 1572, pp. 196-7.) The concluding sententia,
however, which Nicole quotes here and praises later in the notes to
the anthology, is from the conclusion of the next epigram, _Anth.
Lat._, 408. 7-8, which is a response to the preceding one. But the
first two-thirds of the couplet has been rewritten with the aid of
something like a _Gradus ad Parnassum_. The ms reads, "nunc et reges
tantum fuge! vivere doctus / uni vive tibi nam moriare tibi." Nicole
reads, "Mitte superba pati fastidia, spemque caducam / Despice: vive
tibi, nam moriere tibi." _superba pati fastidia_ corresponds to
Vergil, _Ecl._ 2.15; _spem ... caducam_ to Ovid, _Epist._ 15 (sive 16,
"Paris Helenae"). 169 (sive 171).

The epigram as it stands in the anthology, then, is a result of
Scaliger's disintegration of _Anth. Lat._ 407, which suggested
beginning with line 5 and adding 408. 7-8 from the responsory poem.
But this couplet is subjected to improvement to adjust it to the
sense, to sustain the level of feeling, and to enhance the sententious
point. Thus, with the aid of phrases from Vergil and Ovid, using
_mitte_ and _despice_ as fillers and helpers, the epigram is concluded
"with a noble, exalted and true thought," as the editor says in the

[33] _Inst. orat._ 11.1.16.

[34] J. C. Scaliger, _Poeticas libri vii_, 3.125, 5th. ed., 1607, p.

[35] _loc. cit._, p. 390: "An epigram, therefore, is a short poem
directly pointing out some thing, person, or deed, or deducing
something from premises. This definition includes also the principle
of division--so let no one condemn it as prolix." Nicole, however,
uses only the first half of the definition, since he rejects the
principle of division.

[36] _loc. cit._: "Brevity is a property; point the soul and, so to
speak, the form." For a full account of the Renaissance theory of the
epigram and the contemporary controversies, see Hutton, _op. cit._,
pp. 55-73, and _The Greek Anthology in France and in the Latin writers
of the Netherlands to the year 1800_, "Cornell studies in classical
philology," XXVIII (1946), _passim_.

[37] Anon., "In statuam equestrem Ludouici XIII positam Parisiis in
circo regali," _Delectus_, pp. 409-10.

[38] Nicolas Borbon, the younger, _Poematia exposita_, Paris, 1630,
pp. 144-5, the concluding lines (lines 23-30) of an epigram, "In
versus v.c. Iacobi Pinonis."

[39] Catullus 1.7

[40] Ianus Vitalis Panomitanus (c.1485-1560), "Antiquae Romae ruinae
illustres," _Delectus_, p. 366; see also _Delitiae delitiarum_, ed.
Ab. Wright, Oxford, 1637, p. 104, with textual variants.

[41] 1.21

[42] _Delectus_, pp. 396-7, 399-400, and 405. See Grotius, _op. cit._,
pp. 341-2, and 383.

[43] 1.8

[44] 1.33

[45] 2.68

[46] 4.69

[47] 4.56

[48] 6.65

[49] 2.5

[50] 3.44. 1-5, 9-18. The lines cut, 6-8, read in translation: "No
tigress wild for her lost cubs, / No viper burned by the noon sun, /
No scorpion begets such fear." In line 11, line 8 of the translation,
Nicole reads _canenti_ for the received _cacanti_. The latter reading
will yield in translation a rhyme with the preceding line.


_are pleased to announce that_


_of The University of California, Los Angeles_

will become the publisher of the Augustan Reprints in May, 1949. The
editorial policy of the Society will continue unchanged. As in the
past, the editors will strive to furnish members inexpensive reprints
of rare seventeenth and eighteenth century works.

All correspondence concerning subscriptions in the United States and
Canada should be addressed to the William Andrews Clark Memorial
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Correspondence concerning editorial matters may be addressed to any of
the general editors. Membership fee continues $2.50 per year ($2.75 in
Great Britain and the continent). British and European subscribers
should address B. H. Blackwell, Broad Street, Oxford, England.

Publications for the fourth year (1949-1950)

(_At least six items will be printed in the main from the following


  John Dryden, _His Majesties Declaration Defended_
  Daniel Defoe (?), _Vindication of the Press_ (1718)
  _Critical Remarks on Sir Charles Grandison, Clarissa,
  and Pamela_ (1754)


  Thomas Southerne, _Oroonoko_ (1696)
  Mrs. Centlivre, _The Busie Body_ (1709)
  Charles Johnson, _Caelia_ (1733)
  Charles Macklin, _Man of the World_ (1781)


  Andre Dacier, _Essay on Lyric Poetry_
  _Poems_ by Thomas Sprat
  _Poems_ by the Earl of Dorset
  Samuel Johnson, _Vanity of Human Wishes_ (1749),
  and one of the 1750 _Rambler_ papers.


  Lewis Theobald, _Preface to Shakespeare's Works_

  A few copies of the early publications of the Society
  are still available at the original rate.


  William Andrews Clark Memorial Library

  R. C. BOYS, University of Michigan

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First Year (1946-1947)

     1. Richard Blackmore's _Essay upon Wit_ (1716), and Addison's
     _Freeholder_ No. 45 (1716). (I, 1)

     2. Samuel Cobb's _Of Poetry and Discourse on Criticism_ (1707).
     (II, 1)

     3. _Letter to A. H. Esq.; concerning the Stage_ (1698), and
     Richard Willis's _Occasional Paper No. IX_ (1698). (III, 1)

     4. _Essay on Wit_ (1748), together with Characters by Flecknoe,
     and Joseph Warton's _Adventurer_ Nos. 127 and 133. (I, 2)

     5. Samuel Wesley's _Epistle to a Friend Concerning Poetry_ (1700)
     and _Essay on Heroic Poetry_ (1693). (II, 2)

     6. _Representation of the Impiety and Immorality of the Stage_
     (1704) and _Some Thoughts Concerning the Stage_ (1704). (III, 2)

Second Year (1947-1948)

     7. John Gay's _The Present State of Wit_ (1711); and a section on
     Wit from _The English Theophrastus_ (1702). (I, 3)

     8. Rapin's _De Carmine Pastorali_, translated by Creech (1684).
     (II, 3)

     9. T. Hanmer's (?) _Some Remarks on the Tragedy of Hamlet_
     (1736). (III, 3)

     10. Corbyn Morris' _Essay towards Fixing the True Standards of
     Wit, etc._ (1744). (I, 4)

     11. Thomas Purney's _Discourse on the Pastoral_ (1717). (II, 4)

     12. Essays on the Stage, selected, with an Introduction by Joseph
     Wood Krutch. (III, 4)

Third Year (1948-1949)

     13. Sir John Falstaff (pseud.), _The Theatre_ (1720). (IV, 1)

     14 Edward Moore's _The Gamester_ (1753). (V, 1)

     15. John Oldmixon's _Reflections on Dr. Swift's Letter to Harley_
     (1712); and Arthur Mainwaring's _The British Academy_ (1712).
     (VI, 1)

     16. Nevil Payne's _Fatal Jealousy_ (1673). (V, 2)

     17. Nicholas Rowe's _Some Account of the Life of Mr. William
     Shakespear_ (1709). (Extra Series, 1)

     18. Aaron Hill's Preface to _The Creation_; and Thomas Brereton's
     Preface to _Esther_. (IV, 2)

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

On p. 23, a letter was missing in one of the words; it was changed as

  From: "when they are  orn down and laughed at."
  To:   "when they are torn down and laughed at."

On p. 35, footnote #24, removed the repeated word "is":

  From: "from which this phrase is is quoted"
  To:   "from which this phrase is quoted"

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Essay on True and Apparent Beauty in which from Settled Principles is Rendered the Grounds for Choosing and Rejecting Epigrams" ***

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