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games, in honour of Prometheus, or human nature, were again restored ; and that matters should receive success by combat and emulation, and not hang upon any one man's sparkling and shaking torch. Men therefore are to be admonished to rouse up their spirits, and try their strengths and turns, and not refer all to the opinions and brains of a few.
And thus have I delivered that which I thought good to observe out of this so well known and common fable; and yet I will not deny but that there may
be some things in it which have an admirable consent with the mysteries of Christian religion; and especially that sailing of Hercules in a cup to set Prometheus at liberty, seems to represent an image of the divine word, coming in flesh, as in a frail vessel, to redeem man from the slavery of hell. But I have interdicted my pen all liberty in this kind, lest I should use strange fire at the altar of the Lord.
SCYLLA AND ICARUS, OR THE MIDDLE
WAY. Mediocrity, or the middle-way, is most commended in moral actions; in contemplative sciences not so celebrated, though no less profitable and commodious; but in political employments to be used with great heed and judgment. The ancients by the way prescribed to Icarus, noted the mediocrity of manners; and by the way between Scylla and Charybdis, so famous for difficulty and danger, the mediocrity of intellectual operations.
Icarus being to cross the sea by flight, was commanded by his father that he should fly neither too high nor too low, for his wings being joined with wax, if he should mount too high, it was to be feared lest the wax would melt by the heat of the sun, and if too low, lest misty vapours of the sea would make it less tenacious: but he in a youthful jollity soaring too high, fell down headlong and perished in the water.
The parable is easy and vulgar : for the way of virtue lies in a direct path between excess and defect. Neither is it a wonder that Icarus perished by excess, seeing that excess for the most part is the peculiar fault of youth, as defect is of age ; and yet of two evil and hurtful ways youth commonly makes choice of the better, defect being always accounted worst: for whereas excess contains some sparks of magnanimity, and, like a bird, claims kindred of the heavens, defect only like a base worm crawls upon the earth. Excellently therefore said Heraclitus, “ Lumen siccum, optima anima ;” a dry light is the best soul; for if the soul contract moisture from the earth it becomes degenerate altogether. Again, on the other side, there must be moderation used, that this light be subtilized by this laudable siccity, and not destroyed by too much fervency: and thus much every man for the most part knows.
Now they that would sail between Scylla and Charybdis must be furnished as well with the skill as prosperous success in navigation : for if their ships fall into Scylla they are split on the rocks ; if into Charybdis they are swallowed up of a gulf.
The moral of this parable, which we will but briefly touch, although it contain matter of infinite contemplation, seems to be this, that in every art and science, and so in their rules and axioms, there be a mean observed between the rocks of distinctions and the gulfs of universalities, which two are famous for the wreck both of wits and arts.
SPHYNX, OR SCIENCE. They say that Sphynx was a monster of divers forms, as having the face and voice of a virgin, the wings of a bird, and the talons of a griffin. His abode was in a mountain near the city of Thebes ; he kept also the highways, and used to lie in ambush for travellers, and so to surprise them: to whom, being in his power, he propounded certain dark and intricate riddles, which were thought to have been given and received of the Muses. Now if these miserable captives were not able instantly to resolve and interpret them in the midst of their difficulties and doubts, she would rend and tear them in pieces. The country groaning a long time under this calamity, the Thebans at last propounded the kingdom as a reward unto him that could interpret the riddles of Sphynx, there being no other way to destroy her. Whereupon Edipus, a man of piercing and deep judgment, but maimed and lame by reason of holes bored in his feet, moved with the hope of so great a reward, accepted the condition, and, determined to put it to the hazard, and so with an undaunted and, bold spirit presented himself before the monster
who asked him what creature that was, which after his birth went first upon four feet, next upon two, then upon three, and lastly upon four feet again ; answered forth with that it was man, which in his infancy, immediately after birth, crawls upon all four, scarce venturing to creep, and not long after stands upright upon two feet, then growing old he leans upon a staff, wherewith he supports himself ; so that he may seem to have three feet, and at last, in decrepid years, his strength failing him, he falls groveling again upon four, and lies bed-rid. Having therefore by this true answer gotten the victory, he instantly slew this Sphynx, and, laying her body upon an ass, leads it as it were in triumph ; and so, according to the condition, was created king of the Thebans.
This fable contains in it no less wisdom than elegancy, and it seems to point at science, especially that which is joined with practice, for science may not absurdly be termed a monster, as being by the ignorant and rude multitude always held in admiration. It is diverse in shape and figure, by reason of the infinite variety of subjects, wherein it is conversant. A maiden face and voice is attributed unto it for its gracious countenance and volubility of tongue. Wings are added, because sciences and their inven. tions do
and fly from one to another, as it were, in a moment, seeing that the communication of science is as the kindling of one light at another. Elegantly also it is feigned to have sharp and hooked talons, because the axioms and arguments of science do so fasten upon the mind, and so strongly
apprehend and hold it, as that it stir not or evade, which is noted also by the Divine Philosopher, Eccles. xii. 11. “ Verba sapientum," saith he, “sunt
tanquam aculei et veluti clavi in altum defixi," The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails driven far in.
Moreover, all science seems to be placed in steep and high mountains ; as being thought to be a lofty and high thing, looking down upon ignorance with a scornful
It may be observed and seen also a great way, and far in compass, as things set on the tops of mountains. .
Furthermore, science may well be feigned to beset the highways, because which way soever we turn in this progress and pilgrimage of human life, we meet with some matter or occasion offered for contemplation.
Sphynx is said to have received from the muses, divers difficult questions and riddles, and to propound them unto men, which remaining with the muses, are free, it may be, from savage cruelty; for so long as there is no other end of study and meditation, than to know, the understanding is not racked and imprisoned, but enjoys freedom and liberty, and even in doubts and variety, finds a kind of pleasure and delectation ; but when once these ænigmas are delivered by the muses to Sphynx, that is, to practice, so that it be solicited and urged by action, and election, and determination; then they begin to be troublesome and raging; and unless they be resolved and expedited, they do wonderfully torment and vex the minds of men, distract