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Atalanta fugiens emblems 1 - 5Michael Maier's alchemical emblem book Atalanta fugiens was first published in Latin in 1617. It was a most amazing book as it incorporated 50 emblems with epigrams and a discourse, but extended the concept of an emblem book by incorporating 50 pieces of music the 'fugues' or canons. In this sense it was an early example of multimedia.
An English tanslation exists in the British Library MS. Sloane 3645, and Clay Holden has been kind enough to allow his transcription of emblems 1 to 10 to be shown here. [There is another English translation in Mellon MS. 48 at Yale in the USA.]
Secrets of Nature
M...D... Eq: ex: &c.
Hesperii precium juvenis tulit impiger horti
The Author's Epigram
Three Golden Apples from the Hesperian grove.
Portavit eum ventus in ventre suo.
Embryo ventosâ BOREAE qui clauditur alvo
If BOREAS can in his own Wind conceive
Now from fumes or winds (which are nothing else but Air in Motion) being coagulated, Water is produced, & from Water mixed with earth all minerals & metals do proceed. And even these last are said to consist of & be immediately coagulated from fumes, so that whether He be placed in Water or fume the thing is the same; for one as well as the other is the master of Wind. The same the more remotely may be said of Minerals & Metals, but the Question is: Who is He that ought to be carried by Winds? I answer: Chymically it is Sulphur which is carried in Argent Vive (contained in quicksilver), as Lully in his Codicill cap. 32 & all other Authors attest. [Marginal note: "Lully ibid: 'The wind carries him in his belly;' That is, sulphur is carried by Argent Vive; & Ch. 47: 'The Stone is Fire carried in the Belly of Air.'"] Physically it is the Embryo, which in a little time ought to be borne into the light. I say also that Arithmetically it is the Root of a Cube; Musically it is the Disdiapason; Geometrically it is a point, the beginning of a continued running line; Astronomically it is the Center of the Planets Saturn, Jupiter & Mars.
Now although these are different Subjects, Yet if they be well compared together they will easily demonstrate what the offspring of Wind must be. But this enquiry must be left to every man's own Industry, be it remembered. But I shall point out the matter more plainly thus: All Mercury is composed of fumes, that is of Water elevating Earth together with itself into an aerial rarity or thinness, & of Earth forcing Air to return into Watery Earth or Earthy Water; for when the Elements are in it altogether & mixed throughout & mutually blended, subdued & reduced to a certain Viscous Nature, they do not easily recede from one another, but either follow the Volatile flying upwards, or remain below with those that are fixed.
Nor is it indeed without reason that Mercury is called the Messenger or Interpreter & as it were the running intermediate Minister of the other Gods & has Wings fitted to his head & feet; for He is Windy & flies through the air as wind itself, which many Persons are really & experimentally convinced of, to their great damage. But because he carries a Rod or Caduceus about which two serpents are twined across one the other, by which he can draw souls out of bodies & bring them back again & effect many such contrarities, He is a most Excellent figure or representation of the Philosophical Mercury. Mercury, therefore, is Wind, which takes Sulphur, or Dionysius, or (if You please so to call it) Asculepius, being yet an imperfect Embryo out of the Mother's belly or out of the Ashes of the Mother's body burned, & carries it thither where it may be brought to maturity.
And the Embryo is Sulphur, which by the celestial Sun is infused into the Wind of Boreas, that he may bring it forth in maturity. Who, after the complete time of his Teeming, does bring forth twins, one with white Hair, Called Calais, the other with Red, named Zethes. These Sons of Boreas (as Orpheus the Chymick Poet writes) were Companions to Jason amongst the set of the Argonauts when he went to fetch the Golden Fleece from Colchis, for Phineas the blind Prophet, being infested by the Harpies, could not be freed from them but by these Sons of Boreas, & for so great a benefit obtained by their means, He out of gratitude showed the whole course of their way to the Argonauts. These Harpies are nothing else but corrupting Sulphur which is driven away by the Sons of Boreas when they come to full age, & from a thing imperfect and molested with noxious and hurtful Volatiles becomes perfect & not subject to that Evil, & afterwards shows Jason its Physician the way how to obtain the Golden Fleece.
Basil [Valentine] as well as other Authors takes Notice of these Winds & in his sixth Key says thus: "For there ought to come a double Wind named Vulturnus & a single Wind called Notus which will blow impetuously from the East & the South, upon the cessation of whose motion so that Water is made of their Air. You may confidently believe that a Corporeal thing will be made of a Spiritual." & Ripley, Gate 8th, says that our infant ought to be born again in Air, that is, in the Belly of the Wind. In the same sense may that be taken which we find in Scala Philosophorum Degree the 6th: "You must know that the Son of the Wise is born in the Air," & Degree 8th: "Airy Spirits ascending together into the Air do love one another; as Hermes said, 'the Wind carried him in his Belly,' because the generation of our Son is made in the Air, & being born in the Air is born Wisely, for he ascends from Earth to Heaven, & again descends to Earth acquiring both the superiour & inferiour Virtue."
Nutrix ejus terra est.
Romulus hirt a lupae pressisse, sed ubera caprae
But for an infant newborn to be nourished with the Milk of Animals is a thing not repugnant to Nature, for milk will become of the like substance with it, but more easily if it be sucked from the Mother than any other Creature. Wherefore Physicians conclude that it conduces to the health & strength of an infant as likewise to the conformity of temper & manners if it is always fed & nourished by the milk of its own Mother, & that the contrary happens if it is done by that of a Stranger. This is the Universal Harmony of Nature: That Like delights in its Like & as far as it can possibly follows its footsteps in everything by a certain tacit consent & agreement. The same thing happens of course in the Natural work of the Philosophers, which is equally governed by Nature in its Formation as an Infant in its Mother's womb. And although as Father, Mother & even a Nurse be ascribed to it by way of similitude, Yet it is not more Artificial than the generation of every Animal.
Two seeds are by a pleasurable Artifice joined together by Animals & both the Human sexes which being united by successive Alteration produce an Embryo which grows & is increased, acquires life & motion, & then is nourished by Milk. But it is necessary for a Woman in the time of Conception & impregnation to be very temperate in heat, Food, drink, Motion, Rest & all things else; otherwise Abortion will follow & destruction of the conceived Embryo, which Observation in the six non-naturals because it is prescribed by the Physicians according to their Art is also Artificial. After the same manner, if the seeds be not joined together in the Philosophical Work, they ought to be joined, but if they could anywhere be found joined together as the seed of a Cock & Hen do subsist together & are contained in one Egg, then would the Philosophers' work be more natural that the generation of Animals.
But let us grant (as the Philosophers do assert) that one comes from the East & the other from the West & are made one: what more is as ministered to 'em than mixture in their own Vessel, Temperate Heat, and Nutriment. The Vessel is indeed Artificial, but in this there is no more difference than if the nest were made by the Hen herself or made for her by the Country Dame in some convenient place as commonly it is. The Generation of Eggs & Hatching of Chickens from them will be the same. Heat is a Natural thing, whether it proceed from the Temperate Heat of furnaces, putrefaction of Dung, from the Sun & Air, from the Bowels of the Mother, or otherwise. Thus the AEgyptian from his Furnaces does by Art Administer a Natural Heat for the Hatching of Eggs. The seeds of Silk worms & even Hens' Eggs are said to have been Hatched by the Warmth of a Virgin's breasts. Art, therefore, & Nature, do mutually join hands & officiate one for the other. Nevertheless, Nature is always the Mistress & art the Handmaid.
But a doubt may [be] raised how the Earth may be said to be the NURSE of the Philosophical Infant, seeing it is the Element which is most dry & void of Juice, insomuch that Dryness appertains to it as its proper quality. It may be answered that Earth Elemented is to be understood, & not the Element of Earth, whose Nature we have fully explained in the first day of our Philosophical Week. This Earth is the Nurse of Caelum or Heaven, not by opening, washing, or moistening the Infant, but by coagulating, fixing, coloring and converting it into more Juice & Blood. For Nutrition implies an Augmentation in length, breadth & Depth which extends itself through all the Dimensions of a Body, & seeing this can be afforded & administered to the Philosophical Infant by Earth only, it can in no wise be improper to call the Earth by the name of his NURSE. But this admirable Juice of Earth has a quality different from other kinds of Milk which are converted & do not convert for this by reason of its most efficacious Virtue does mightily alter the Nature of the thing Nourished, as the Milk of the Wolf is believed to have disposed the Body of Romulus to a Nature that was Magnanimous & prepense to War.
Vade ad mulierem lavantem pannos,
Abdita quisquis amas serutari dogmata, ne sis
As for the Calc Vive or Quicklime & Ignis Graecus, we know that they are kindled by Water & cannot be extinguished by it contrary to the Nature of other things that will take Fire; so it is affirmed that Camphor over-kindled will burn in Water. And Ansel. de Bood says that the Stone Gagates being set on Fire is more easily quenched by Oil than Water, for Oil will mingle with it and choke the fiery body. Whereas Water not being able to mix with the fatness yields the the fire unless it totally covers & overwhelms it, which it cannot easily do, because although it be a Stone, it swims upon the top of the Water like Oil; so Naptha, Petroleum & the like are not easily quenched by Water. Some write that there are Subterranean Coals in the Country of Liege which, taking Fire under the earth, cannot be extinguished by water, by by Earth thrown in upon them. Cornelius Tacitus mentions such a sort of Fire which cannot be quenched but by Clubs & Clothes taken from the Body & thrown upon it.
There is, therefore, great diversity in Fires, both in their being kindled & extinguished, & there is no less in Liquors, for Milk, Vinegar, Spirits of Wine, aqua fortis, aqua Regia and Common Water differ very much when they are thrown upon Fire; sometimes the matter itself will endure Fire, as those fine Linen Clothes which were of great Esteem among the Ancients & were cleaned by Fire, their dirt being burned away. What is said of the Hairs of a Salamander, that they will make the wick of a Lamp that shall be incombustible is not to be Credited. But there are persons who really affirm that there was a contexture prepared from Talc, Plumous Alumine & other materials by a Cunning Woman of Antwerp which she said to cleanse by Fire, but that she of envy suffered that Art to die with Her, & the Temperament could never be found out afterwards. We do not speak here of combustible matters.
The Philosophical Subject, whenever it is prepared, must be considered under all these differences, for their Fire, Water & Matter itself is not Common. But their Fire is Water & their Water is Fire. Their Water at the same time washes & calcines, & so does their Fire.; & the Clothes which must be washed have the same nature with the Fine linen before mentioned or Talk prepared; but the Tempering of it & the Art in its preparation is not known to everyone. For the washing of this Linen, a Lye must be made, not of Oak ashes or their Salt, but from Metals, which is more durable than any other; and it must not be Common Water, but Water Congealed into Ice & snow under the sign Aquarius, for this has finer Particles than the standing Waters of Fens and Marshes, & consequently can better penetrate into the Recesses of the Philosophic Body to wash and purge it from filth & Blackness.
Conjunge fratrem cum sorore
Non hominum foret in mundo nunc tanta propago,
But the number of men increasing & being distributed into innumerable families, the true & just Cause was found, why Brothers & Sisters should not marry. The Philosophers have a different reason why the Brother should marry the Sister, which is the similitude of their Substance, that Like may be joined to its Like. Of this kind, there are two which are alike in Specie but different in Sex. One of which is called the Brother, the other the Sister. These therefore being in the same liberty & Condition as the first kindred of men, are Lawfully indeed, & by an inevitable necessity to be joined together in Matrimony.
The Brother is hot & dry, & therefore very Cholerick. The Sister is cold & moist, having much Phlegmatick matter in her. Which two Natures, so different in their Temper, agree best in fruitfulness, Love, & Propagation of Children. For as Fire will not easily be struck out of the hardest Bodies, Steel & Steel, nor out of those brittle Bodies, Flint & Flint, but from the hard & brittle, that is, Steel & Flint, so neither from a burning Male & Fiery Female, nor from both of 'em being cold (for cold is the unfruitfulness of the Male) can a living offspring be produced. But he must be hot & she more cold than he, for in Human Temperament, the hottest Woman is colder that the coldest Man, supposing him to be in Health, as Levinus Semnius, in his book of the Hidden Miracles of Nature affirms. The Sister, therefore, & Brother are rightly joined by the Philosophers.
If a man desire offspring from a Hen, Bitch, or Ewe, or other animal, He joins it to a Cock, Dog, or Ram, every animal to that species to which it is most like, & so he obtains his End. For he does not regard the Consanguinity of these Brutes, but the generosity of each & agreement of their Natures. The same may be said of the body of a Tree & the Hip that is to be ingrafted into it. So the Metallic Nature, which above all things has a likeness or Homogeneity of Substance, desires its like when any thing is to be joined to it. But the Brother & Sister being married will not be fruitful or long persist in their Love, unless a Philothesium or Cup of Love be drunk to 'em as a Philtre. For by this, their minds being composed & united, they become drunk, & (like Lot) all shame being banished, they are joined & produce an offspring that is Spurious but Legitimate.
Who can be ignorant that Mankind is very much obliged to Medicine, & that there are thousands of persons in the World who had not existed unless their Parents had been freed from Barrenness, either by removing the Cause, or taking away the impediment, either near or remote, and preserving the Mother from Abortion. Therefore the Cup of Love is given to the new-married Pair for these reasons which are three: the Constancy of Love, the Removal of Barrenness, & the Hindrance of Abortion.
Appone mulieri super mammas bufonem,
Foemineo gelidus ponatur pectore Bufo,
But here the Philosophers say that a Toad must be put to the Woman's breasts, that she may Nourish him as an infant with her Milk. This is a miserable & horrid spectacle, & indeed, an impious thing, that milk designed for an infant should be given to a Toad, being a Venomous beast & contrary to the Nature of Man. We have heard & read of serpents and Dragons sucking the Teats of Cows, & Toads perhaps might do the like if they could gain an opportunity.
There is a noted story of a Toad that fixed himself upon the mouth & outside of the lips of a Country man that was asleep, & could not be removed by any contrivance unless by Violence, which could not be attempted without the hazard of the man's life, for he would then have spit his poison, which he uses as his offensive & defensive weapon. A Remedy was found for this miserable man, from that Antipathy which the Spider bears for the Toad, for they hate one the other mortally. He was carried to the place where an overgrown Spider had made his web, who, as soon as he saw the Toad, he let himself down upon his back & pinched him with his sting; but this doing no hurt, the Spider came down the second time, & struck him more violently, upon which the Toad immediately swelled & fell dead from the man's mouth without any harm to him.
But here the contrary happens, because the Toad does not seize the mouth, but the Breast of the Woman, by whose milk he increases so much that he becomes of an extraordinary strength & bigness; but the woman, having her spirits exhausted, consumes & dies, for poison is easily communicated to the Heart by the pectoral Veins, & infects & destroys it, as it is evident in Cleopatra, who applied vipers to her breasts, that by a Voluntary death she might prevent her coming into the hands of her enemies & being led in Triumph by them. [In margin: 'Theophilus in Turba makes mention of a Dragon joined to a woman.']
But, lest any man should think the Philosophers so cruel as to fasten a Venomous reptile to a woman's breast, it must be known that this Toad is the offspring or Son of this woman, brought forth by a monstrous birth, & therefore by Natural Right must be fed with his Mother's Milk, & that it is not the Son's desire that his mother should die; for he could not infect his mother, seeing he was formed in her Bowels & nourished with her blood 'till the time of his birth. It is indeed a thing ominous for a Toad to be born of Woman, which in our knowledge hath happened otherwise: William of Newberry, an English writer, saith (how truly let others judge) that in a certain Quarry in the Diocese of Vintonia, a great stone being split, there was a living Toad found in it, with a golden Chain, & it was by the Bishop's command, hidden in the same place & buried in perpetual darkness, lest it might bear an ill omen with it. Such also is this Toad, for it is embellished, although not outwardly, with an artificial chain, but inwardly with natural Gold, to wit: that of the Stone which some call Borax, Chelonitus, Batrachites, Crapaudina, & Garatronium, for this far excels Gold in Virtue against the poison of all animals, & is commonly set in Gold as a case or Cover, that it may not be hurt or lost. Regularly it ought to be had out of an Animal.
But if the Stone be taken out of subterranean Caverns, as it is commonly, it may be neatly contrived in that shape & used instead of it, being chosen from the best minerals & most relevant to the Heart. For in these the Philosophical Toad is really found, not in the Quarry (as that fabulous author asserts), & has Gold in itself, though its pomp does not outwardly appear. For to what end should a Toad adorn himself, seeing he lurks in darkness & secret places? Perhaps that he might be very magnificently accosted by the Beetle, if by chance he should meet him in the Twilight. What Subterranean Goldsmith should make him that Golden Chain? Perhaps that Father of the Green children, that came out of the Land of St. Martin, or rather from the Earth itself, as the two Dogs came out of a Quarry, according to the same Author.
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