Jacob Cats (1577-1660) was a Dutch jurist, diplomat and poet. He was a prolific versifier, whose didactic yet homely works won him much respect and popularity (he became known, among his countrymen, as ’Father Cats’), but whose stolid humourlessness meanwhile attracted some ridicule. Cats was inspired by the international popularity of Andrea Alciati’s Emblematum Liber to produce an emblem-book of his own, but one in the vernacular, such that his less well-educated countrymen could still profit from the moral insights that emblems could encapsulate. Cats’ first emblem-book was published in 1618. The current images are lifted from a later publication (1627) entitled Proteus Ofte Minne-Beelden Verandert In Sinne-Beelden.
Helpfully, besides the usual Latin, and Cats’ Dutch, this 1627 edition also includes translations into French and, in a separate section, into English. Even supplied with the translations, though, it can still be difficult to figure out what is happening in some of the images, and just how they are supposed to complement the texts. For example, the Englished version of the motto for the first image, above, cryptically states:
In true love there is no lack
All is the bride nover so black
Presumably ‘nover’ is a misprint for ‘never’, but, even so, I have no idea what that means. This couplet from the accompanying verse seems to shed a little more light on the matter:
What blynd-folde doltinge love is this, appearinge in our sigt
How that the ape takes in her younge such wonderfull delight.
The second image, which depicts the God Pan recklessly embracing the flames, is complemented by texts advising against over-hasty marriage.
The English mottoes for two preceding emblems are as follows:
In outwarde show, appeares no wounde,
but inwardly, my grieffe is founde.
If that thyne eyes be conquered, sure,
Then loves torments thou must indure.
And, for the two emblems below:
T[h]ough clamorouse tongues both curse and blame,
A constant harte is stil the same.
Who unto Idlenesse doth yielde,
is as a but in Venus fielde.
A couplet from the relevant verse may help clarify this last motto a little:
The spyder will not once come neare the serpent him t’offend.
When she perceaves hee busie is, or watchfully doth tend.
The final two images below both strike me as quite obtuse. The motto of the first of them boils down to a simple ‘love conquers all’, but the image, with the piper and the dancing apes, seems to have nothing to do with that, but rather puts together some of the images in the final lines of the accompanying verse:
The Ape in dauncinge soone forgetts, true measure for to keepe,
As soone as he preceave the nutts came trinlinge too his feete.
Similarly, the motto for the second image below is a straightforward platitude:
True love increaseth day by day,
and knows no bounds whereat to stay.
So why the crocodile and the creepy guy? In this case, the verse more readily provides an explanation - just like true love, a crocodile will never stop growing, until, that is, it meets with Death…
My source for these images is yet another of the fine on-line editions presented by the Herzog August library in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, although this time around I arrived there via a different route, through the emblem-books indexed as part of the Mnemosyne project. See also my previous entries here, here and here.Posted by misteraitch at June 25, 2004 02:22 PM | TrackBack