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between the two, and live by turns six months with her husband and the other six with her mother.
Afterwards a very daring attempt to carry away the same Proserpina from the chamber of Dis was made by Theseus and Pirithous. But having sate down to rest by the way on a stone in the infernal regions, they were unable to rise again, and continued sitting there for ever. So Proserpina remained Queen of the under world where a great and new privilege was granted in honour of her; for whereas they who went down to the under world were not permitted to go back, a singular exception was made in favour of any who should bring a certain golden branch as a present to Proserpina; such present entitling the bearer to go and return. It was a single branch growing by itself in a vast and dark wood; neither had it a stock of its own, but grew like misseltoe upon a tree of different kind; and as soon as it was plucked off, another came in its place.
The fable relates, as I take it, to Nature, and explains the source of that rich and fruitful supply of active power subsisting in the under world, from which all the growths of our upper world spring, and into which they again return and are resolved. By Proserpina the ancients signified that ethereal spirit which, having been separated by violence from the upper globe, is enclosed and imprisoned beneath the earth (which earth is represented by Pluto); as was well expressed in those lines,
Whether that the Earth yet fresh, and from the deeps
Of heaven new-sundered, did some seeds retain,
This spirit is represented as having been ravished,
that is suddenly and forcibly carried off, by the Earth; because there is no holding it in if it have time and leisure to escape, and the only way to confine and fix it is by a sudden pounding and breaking up; just as if you would mix air with water, you can only do it by sudden and rapid agitation: for thus it is that we see these bodies united in foam, the air being as it were ravished by the water. It is prettily added that Proserpina was carried off while in the act of gathering flowers of Narcissus in the valleys: for Narcissus takes its name from torpor or stupor; and it is only when beginning to curdle, and as it were to gather torpor, that spirit is in the best state to be caught up and carried off by earthy matter. It is right too that Proserpina should have that honour, which is not conceded to the wife of any other God, to be called the Mistress or Queen of Dis: for the spirit does in fact govern and manage everything in those regions, without the help of Pluto, who remains stupid and unconscious.
The air meanwhile, and the power of the celestial region (which is represented by Ceres) strives with infinite assiduity to win forth and recover this imprisoned spirit again; and that torch which the air carries the lighted torch in Ceres's hand means no doubt the Sun, which does the office of a lamp all over the earth, and would do more than anything else for the recovery of Proserpina, were the thing at all possible. But Proserpina remains fixed where she is; the reason and manner whereof is accurately and admirably set forth in those two agreements between Jupiter and Ceres. For with regard to the first, most certain it is that there are two ways of confining and restraining spirit in solid and earthy matter: one by constipation.
For when the imprisnourish itself, it is no becomes settled as in
and obstruction, which is simple imprisonment and violence; the other by administering some suitable aliment, which is spontaneous and free. oned spirit begins to feed and longer in a hurry to escape, but its own land. And this is what is meant by Proserpina's tasting of the pomegranate; which if she had not done, she would have been long since carried off by Ceres as she traversed the globe with her torch in quest of her. For though the spirit which is contained in metals and minerals is prevented from getting out chiefly perhaps by the solidity of the mass, that which is contained in plants and animals dwells in a porous body, from which it could easily escape if it were not by that process of tasting reconciled to remain. As for the second agreement, that she should stay six months at a time with either party, it is nothing else but an elegant description of the division of the year; since that spirit which is diffused through the earth does (in regard to the vegetable kingdom) live in the upper world during the summer months, and retires to the under world in the winter months.
Now for that attempt of Theseus and Pirithous to carry Proserpina away, the meaning is that the subtler spirits which in many bodies descend to the earth often fail to draw out and assimilate and carry away with them the subterranean spirit, but contrariwise are themselves curdled and never reascend again, and so go to increase the number of Proserpina's people and the extent of her empire.
As for that golden branch, it may seem difficult for me to withstand the Alchemists, if they attack me from that side; seeing they promise us by that same stone
of theirs not only mountains of gold, but also the restitution of natural bodies as it were from the gates of the Infernals. Nevertheless for Alchemy and those that are never weary of their wooing of that stone, as I am sure they have no ground in theory, so I suspect that they have no very good pledge of success in practice. And therefore putting them aside, here is my opinion as to the meaning of that last part of the parable. From many figurative allusions I am satisfied that the ancients regarded the conservation, and to a certain extent the restoration, of natural bodies as a thing not desperate, but rather as abstruse and out of the way. And this is what I take them in the passage before us to mean, by placing this branch in the midst of the innumerable other branches of a vast and thick wood. They represented it as golden; because gold is the emblem of duration; and grafted, because the effect in question is to be looked for as the result of art, not of any medicine or method which is simple or natural.
THE ancient poets tell us that Jupiter took Metis, whose name plainly signifies Counsel, to wife; that she conceived by him and was with child; which he perceiving did not wait till she brought forth, but ate her up; whereby he became himself with child; but his delivery was of a strange kind; for out of his head or brain he brought forth Pallas armed.
This monstrous and at first sight very foolish fable contains, as I interpret it, a secret of government. It describes the art whereby kings so deal with the councils of state as not only to keep their authority and majesty untouched, but also to increase and exalt it in the eyes of their people. For kings by a sound and wise arrangement tie themselves to their councils with a bond like that of wedlock, and deliberate with them concerning all their greatest matters, rightly judging that this is no diminution to their majesty. But when the question grows ripe for a decision (which is the bringing forth) they do not allow the council to deal any further in it, lest their acts should seem to be dependent upon the council's will; but at that point, (unless the matter be of such a nature that they wish to put away the envy of it) they take into their own hands whatever has been by the council elaborated and as it were shaped in the womb; so that the decision and execution (which, because it comes forth with power and carries necessity, is elegantly represented under the figure of Pallas armed) may seem to emanate from themselves. Nor is it enough that it be seen to proceed from their free and unconstrained and independent authority and will, but they must have the world think that the decision comes out of their own head, that is out of their proper wisdom and judg