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they are delivered and brought to our hands, my mind gives me there could be no great or high matter expected, or supposed to proceed from them in respect of these originals. But if with attention we consider the matter, it will appear that they were delivered and related as things formerly believed and received, and not as newly invented and offered unto us. Besides, seeing they are diversely related by writers that lived near about one and the self same time, we may easily perceive that they were common things derived from precedent memorials; and that they became various by reason of the divers ornaments bestowed on them by particular relations; and the consideration of this must needs increase in us a great opinion of them, as not to be accounted either the effects of the times or inventions of the poets, but as sacred relics or abstracted airs of better times, which, by tradition from more ancient nations, fell into the trumpets and flutes of the Grecians. But if any do obstinately contend, that allegories are always adventitially, and as it were by constraint, never naturally and properly included in fables, we will not be much troublesome, but suffer them to enjoy that gravity of judgment which I am sure they affect, although indeed it be but lumpish and almost leaden. And, if they be worthy to be taken notice of, we will begin afresh with them in some other fashion.
There is found among men, and it goes for current, a twofold use of parables, and those, which is more to be admired, referred to contrary ends, con
ducing as well to the folding up and keeping of things under a veil, as to the enlightening and laying open of obscurities. But, omitting the former, rather than to undergo wrangling, and assuming ancient fables as things vagrant and composed only for delight, the latter must questionlesss till remain as not to be wrested from us by any violence of wit, neither can any (that is but meanly learned) hinder, but it must absolutely be received as a thing grave and sober, free from all vanity, and exceeding profitable and necessary to all sciences. This is it, I say, that leads the understanding of man by an easy and gentle passage through all novel and abstruse inventions which any way differ from common received opinions. Therefore, in the first ages, (when many human inventions and conclusions, which are now common and vulgar, were new and not generally known,) all things were full of fables, enigmas, parables, and similes of all sorts; by which they sought to teach and lay open, not to hide and conceal knowledge, especially seeing the understandings of men were in those times rude and impatient, and almost incapable of any subtilties, such things only excepted as were the objects of sense; for, as hieroglyphics preceded letters, so parables were more ancient than arguments: and in these days also, he that would illuminate men's minds anew in any old matter, and that not with disprofit and harshness, must absolutely take the same course, and use the help of similes. Wherefore after all that hath been said, we will thus conclude, the wisdom of the ancients,
it was either much or happy much, if these figures and tropes were invented by study and premeditation; happy, if they, intending nothing less, gave matter and occasion to so many worthy meditations. As concerning my labours, if there be any thing in them which may do good, I will on neither part count them ill bestowed, my purpose being to illustrate either antiquity or things themselves. Neither am I ignorant that this very subject hath been attempted by others: but to speak as I think, and that freely, without ostentation, the dignity and efficacy of the thing, is almost lost by these men's writings, though voluminous and full of pains, whilst not diving into the depth of matters, but skilful only in certain common places, have applied the sense of these parables to certain vulgar and general things, not so much as glancing at their true virtue, genuine propriety, and full depth. I, if I be not deceived, shall be new in common things; wherefore, leaving such as are plain and open, I will aim at fur
ther and richer matters.
WISDOM OF THE ANCIENTS.
CASSANDRA, OR DIVINATION.
The poets fable, that Apollo being enamoured of Cassandra, was, by her many shifts and cunning sleights, still deluded in his desire; but yet fed on with hope until such time as she had drawn from him the gift of prophecying; and having by such her dissimulation, in the end attained to that, which from the beginning she sought after, at last flatly rejected his suit who, finding himself so far engaged in his promise, as that he could not by any means revoke again his rash gift, and yet inflamed with an earnest desire of revenge, highly disdaining to be made the scorn of a crafty wench, annexed a penalty to his promise, to wit, that she should ever foretel the truth but never be believed; so were her divinations always faithful, but at no time regarded, whereof she still found the experience, yea, even in the ruin of her own country, which she had often forewarned them of, but they neither gave credit nor ear to her words.
This fable seems to intimate the unprofitable liberty of untimely admonitions and counsels: for